TABR Day 11: In the thick of Kansas
Advice for anyone thinking of racing TransAm: go to your dentist before and get a really good cleaning... and then go back immediately after the race for another one. The combination of heightened calories, especially sugars, and lowered hygiene practices will put a hurting on your teeth. I was starting to feel the film layer accumulate by now.
With an early end to yesterday, I was determined to make up more ground today. The alarm went off at 2am. The mornings were starting to get a little warmer, which made it more comfortable to get out the front door. Yes, the front door of your motel- TransAm is a pretty expensive endeavor if you're staying in hotels/motels, so trying to find the cheapest options is key. That typically lends itself to a questionable, dingy establishment with people yelling outside your window, etc. The quick hotel departures don't leave time to make coffee either, nor do you likely want to make a pot of the instant coffee in your room, which has likely been there for a year or two.
The first 10 miles out of Pueblo was on a 4 lane highway that had a few 24 hour gas stations. Less than an hour into riding, I made the stop to grab that coffee and wake myself up, along with a few snacks. The subway foot longs I was having before leaving the motels were being consumed by my stomach almost instantly now. The phenomenon was impressive- I could put down 2,000 calories and my stomach would take it on the chin, and then simply ask "whats next?". I was also becoming pretty good at riding while drinking coffee, and was enjoying a soft pedal with some scolding hot gas station liquid between my mitts.
The highway shrunk to a rural two lane road with only a few trucks. It was peaceful, winds were low and temps were relatively comfortable. Mornings like these were a good opportunity to check in on trackleaders. Stephen Haines had left Pueblo only about an hour after me and was making good progress this morning. Just as perception of speed was different with this race, so was racer proximity. A rider within 50 miles of you felt really close, and Stephen's presence kept me attentive for the morning. Only a little bit behind that was Jason, who again was making good progress through the dark hours of the day.
I do remember this day as it was the first dog encounter so far. Around Boone, there were a few large white dogs- BIG white dogs, roaming the middle of the highway. The sun was peaking out into the distance, so there was enough visible light to make them out down the road. I remember this because it was such a jolt of a wake up call on a sleepy morning. Outrunning these big boys really got my blood moving and changed the tone and focus for the next few hours. I did have a small bottle of pepper spray with me, but didn't feel like this was the right time to crack it out- I knew I would need it much more in the days to come.
As I continued to ride, the hunt for breakfast (now just referred to as "second meal") began. This task was becoming a game in of itself. First, you had to make sure you didn't target a stop when a restaurant wouldn't be open, but also that you didn't push further into a large gap of nothingness. It was a process of searching google maps, calculating distance and evaluating speed, all while riding your bike. You also wanted to peruse the map of the town and assess if it was actually a town worth stopping in. I recall passing a town in this day that was a town sign and one dilapidated structure- that was it, nothing else. I was getting good at using my phone while in aerobars, and found I would save a good bit of time doing these chores while making forward progress.
This morning my calculations were telling me Ordway was my breakfast stop. Google had me looking for a cozy small town diner, but instead I found a convenience store with a "restaurant" section. The restaurant side ended up being closed, which left me to fend with what was located on the grab-n-go side. From a few aisles away, I could see the glow of a heating lamp. Mmmmmm, more questionable sausage breakfast sandwiches! Two of these will do, along with another coffee and a chocolate milk. I remember sitting out on the curb eating one of the sandwiches, and the sausage patty slowly slid out of the biscuit onto the ground. I casually picked it up, put it back on the biscuit and proceeded on with consuming it. I couldn't be bothered with caring about something as trivial as dirt right now. It was calories, I was hungry and too tired to really care.
I needed to keep moving as Stephen was now within ~25 miles or so. He was having a good morning of riding and I was having trouble getting into a solid rhythm. I needed sunshine, and some heat. I don't mind riding in all conditions, but I really favor hot weather. I built my cycling legs in rural Georgia and Florida, suffering through scorching summers to get in long miles. I relocated to Utah a few years ago where summers hover in the mid 90s, with lots of slow steep climbing. I had grown accustomed to stifling heat, and was really missing it at this moment in the race.
And just like that, I had transitioned into barren, straight roads. There is nothing on these roads. No cars, no people, no trees, no animals. No souls. I couldn't imagine getting stuck out here in a storm.
It was straight line riding, in the aerobars, hold your power and stay as alert as you can. It felt like the good ol' Ironman training days of consistent aero position and steady cadence. With the right soundtrack and mindset, I hunkered down and started clicking out the miles.
That sidewalk-sausage patty was one of the first occurrences of the "lack of caring" starting to creep in. The reapplication of chamois cream was next. Several times through this day, I pulled over on the shoulder and took the opportunity for reapplication. There are no trees or signs to hide yourself behind. Once or twice a passing car would catch me in the process, my hands down by bibs. I made a point to try and lock eyes with them in the process, you know, for entertaining value.
The long boring roads started far before the Kansas state sign, but like any other state transition the border provided a renewed energy and sense of optimism. It was also nice to get off Colorado roads, which were riddled with chip seal. Kansas definitely takes are of their roads!
I had decided to mail back some of my cold weather gear in Tribune, along with a portion of the camping gear I was no longer using. I mailed home the bivy and inflatable pillow, but kept the sleeping bag just in case. I also kept my convertible jacket/vest, as I knew we could still have some brisk riding ahead, especially if rain came into the picture.
The remainder of the day was uneventful, as most of Kansas was. Staring at a straight line on the horizon and on your GPS.
I pushed into Dighton about 9pm and felt it was a good place to crash for the night. There was a boutique hotel that had just changed ownership, and was focused on trying to accommodate touring cyclist. I think I paid $40 for the room, which was a score to end the day!
A quick wash of the chamois, eat some food, check in with family and then lights out. A solid day's progress.