Race Against Time
September 21, 2017
The Dirty Kanza is a race going through the Flint Hills for a certain amount of miles on a bike. There’s the 200, 100, 50, and 20 mile bike races. If you’re new to the Dirty Kanza, then you should start with the 20 miles just to see how it works out. If you want to do it again, then the next year do the 50, 100, and then the 200. The Dirty Kanza is definitely a workout. You can’t just wake up one day and decide that you want to do the 200 mile bike race. You need to train, eat healthy, and get the right equipment! If you’re interested in learning more about the Dirty Kanza, just keep on reading!
Dirty Kanza Promotions was founded in 2006 by Jim Cummins, with the assistance of fellow cyclist Joel Dyke. Cummins was inspired by earlier gravel grinder races, so he and Dyke thought that the Flint Hills was a perfect place to hold the Dirty Kanza. And that’s when the idea for the Dirty Kanza 200 was born! If you want to know more, go to the Dirty Kanza promotions website here. Before the Dirty Kanza, bikers didn’t come to Emporia yearly to see thousands of riders take off at six in the morning, cheering, and chatting with their friends. It’s a great way to make new friends and get out there.
Ever wonder what it’s like to ride in the DK200? Bike rider Tom Taylor has been through the long and tiring journey. Taylor says that around mile 70, his spirits started to drop. It was a long and tiring race, yet he still had 130 miles left. By 11 A.M; Taylor’s bike was heavy and slow. Taylor also said that lead racers take [around] 11 hours to finish. Tom Taylor also states; “Some riders bring music and plug in headphones to break the monotony. Others ride in groups with friends, or even with a partner on a tandem bicycle. Unwilling to dilute the difficulty, I opted for none of those distractions, seeking to stay in the moment, even if that moment might last 20 hours.” As you can see, the Dirty Kanza isn’t something you would want to mess with.
Have you ever been to the Dirty Kanza yourself? Well, you are lucky if you find a good parking space, because it’s packed with fans and cyclists. Once you walk in, you can see bikers in the middle of the road. For the day, most of Commercial Street (where the DK launch is set off) is filled with people. The 200 mile racers are let off first. When everyone is given the signal that all of the 200 milers are off, the 100 milers get ready. Then, they are off. After waiting for a while, the 50 mile racers are off. Then, the 20 milers. People have cookouts, games, food trucks come, and an entire finish line is set for finishing racers. A metal barred fence is separating the lane from the people, so people don’t get into the way of oncoming racers. You can also purchase cow bells. You shake them when a rider comes in, congratulating them on their finish!
My family always goes to watch and it’s always fun! You can see friends there and hang out. I interviewed a friend, Jonathan Laudie, and my mom, Terri Weast who works at ESU. My friend Jonathan Laudie said his father and his father’s friend participated in the Dirty Kanza. Jonathan did not say which races his father and his father’s friend did, but I’m guessing it was either the 100 or the 200. I also interviewed my mother, Terri Weast, who has been to the DK multiple times. I asked my mom if she knew anyone who has been in the DK. She said, “Yes, I know several friends, neighbors, and colleagues who have ridden in the full 200-mile race as well as the shorter races.” I also asked if Terri had ever been to the DK and/or recommend anyone to go: “Yes, I try to make it to the DK launch every year. (A few years ago I was the anchor for the web broadcast of the launch; if you want to be really embarrassed, you can look it up on YouTube.) I would encourage people to attend the launch and the celebration later in the day as people complete the DK. It’s such a tremendous effort of will power – to train for months for it as well as to participate and actually complete the full race” was her response.
Lastly, I asked Terri how she thought that the DK impacted Emporia. “The DK has heightened Emporia’s profile as a place to visit. There’s at least one bike club that comes here on a weekly basis to train and there’s lots of visitors throughout the year scoping out what the city’s like, what the course is like, and for every visit they’re staying in a motel room, getting food at a local restaurant, or buying something from a local merchant and the city benefits from the taxes made off of those transactions. I hope it shows people you don’t have to live in a big city to have something to do, somewhere to go; you make your fun where you are.” The Dirty Kanza is a fun and entertaining experience you will want to try out for yourself. Even if you don’t like to bike, you should come and watch the launch; all you have to do is cheer and have a good time!