When I signed up for Dirty Kanza, I knew that I didn’t have the proper training for the race, but that’s kind of what I do…jump headlong into things that are way bigger than I am, regardless of my ability to actually do said things. Of course, in addition to lacking the bike miles that might give me a chance of completing a 200-mile endurance gravel bike race, I also come up way short in the gear department, as well as the money-to-buy-the-gear department.
Granted, these aren’t small problems, but I’ve always held that if I waited until I had all the “right” stuff to do something cool, I might never get around to the doing part. Kind of like waiting til you lose weight before you go to the gym. Or worrying about what other people think. I figured I had things that would do, and I’d just do the best I could with what I had and live with the results. One suggestion was that I beg, borrow, or steal a cross bike, but there were a couple problems with that (besides the obvious legal ones).
It’s a pretty big thing to ask someone if you can take their beloved bike and ride it 200 miles around Kansas. Also, I wanted to be able to train on what I was going to ride; it’s a really big thing to ask if you can borrow someone’s bike for a few weeks. Finally, it’s hard for me to ask people for things (unless I’m asking for a place to stay. I’m pretty good at inviting myself to stay with friends. :D). I reached out in one direction that I thought was a possiblity for a borrowed cross bike, and when I didn’t get a response I accepted that I was going to ride my mountain bike.
Even making use of what I already have was going to require some expense. My mountain bike tires are way more aggressive than necessary for the race and a cross-style tire would be better. Other suggestions were to run bigger wheels and switch out my front suspension fork with a rigid front fork to save some weight and energy loss. Potentially riding 200 miles is epic enough without adding on another level of effort, so the tire thing was definitely going to happen, but I didn’t want to have to fork out (see what I did there?) the money for the other stuff if I could avoid it. I turned, as usual, to Facebook.
And then the strangers stepped in. Well, let me back up on that term “strangers”. The most I’ve met any of them in person is maybe 5 times. Two of them I’ve never met, and two I’ve met on one occasion; however, thanks primarily to facebook and also through common interests, friends, and blogging, I’ve formed very real friendships with these people who I likely never would have met without the ability to connect that the internet affords us.
Almost immediately after I registered for the race, Wendy-Living Out Loud stepped in to be a sponsor. I first met Wendy through the Team Virtus website, and have followed her blog and facebook page since. Though we’ve only met in person a handful of times, she’s been a huge supporter of my mountain bike dreams, having travelled a similar path herself. She raced Dirty Kanza 2011 (and will be back again this year for revenge), so she has a much better idea than I of what it will require. I can’t tell you how cool it is to have someone believe in me and support me like that.
And she wasn’t alone.
I met Kube at the crit last August, and besides being FB friends we’ve been part of the same rides/races another 4-5 times. And she was volunteering to let me use her bike! This was actually a great solution to my problems until we realized that there was a conflict between my race date and hers. Still, it was so awesome that she was willing to let me take her bike for 200 miles of Kansas gravel.
And it didn’t end there.
Though we were at the same race and they met the Team Virtus guys there, I’ve never actually met Bethany OR her husband (granted, judging from our mountain bike feelings, Bethany and I might just be the same person, but my husband would consider us strangers), yet again they were offering his bike if it would make my race better. Too cool.
I met Sarah’s husband at the Berryman ride, and she and I rode together at Middlefork. That is, she rode circles around me at Middlefork. And while she probably knows me well enough to know I wouldn’t be jumping at any bike that’s a single speed, the offer was still on the table. After we’d met once in person.
Um, hello…bike people are completely awesome! But wait, there’s more!
I knew that Jim owns Monster Bicycle Co., which specializes in custom titanium frames. Having already checked out the website and Monster facebook page, and knowing that titanium = light, something my mountain bike is NOT, I was very interested. Things worked out, and look what I got to bring home today:
Titanium is super strong, and light, and those qualities don’t come at Wal-Mart prices. Despite that, Jim was willing to let me use a bike that’s vastly better than anything I have to use…even though he’s met me once. And in return? I’ll wear this sweet jersey.
The bike and I (I’m trying not to name it so I don’t get too attached :D) went out for a 50-mile shakedown cruise today, and I’m in love. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to ride something that’ll make my race that much better.
All of this is in addition to the people who’ve offered me spots in their hotel rooms in Kansas, advice/encouragement about the race, and who are letting me sponge off of their support crews. I’m truly humbled by the generosity of my friends, and while I’ve spent little enough time with most of them that we could almost be considered strangers, I count all of them as friends.
Friends, and an integral part of whatever Dirty Kanza holds for me. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m ridiculously undertrained for this race and that I fully expect to DNF; however, I’ll let you in on something that is a bit of a secret: I would really, really like to finish. And whatever I do accomplish, well, all these people will be a part of it.
Thanks for believing in me…or for supporting me even if you don’t believe in me, which is pretty cool, too.