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DK The Official Magazine of the Dirty Kanza 200

True Grit

Three-time DK winner Dan Hughes has what it takes PaGe 2

Finish-line thirst Free State Brewery has a special recipe just for race fans PaGe 6

a Disc Golf Community The Glass Blown Open has grown into a world class event PaGe 40

North america’s Premier annual Ultra Distance Gravel Grinder

DK The Official Magazine of the Dirty Kanza 200

Publisher Chris Walker Art Director Justin Ogleby

True Grit, by Morgan Chilson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Page 2 Working Up a Thirst, by Regina Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 6 Gravel Grinding in the Flint Hills,by Eric Benjamin . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 12

Designers Dan Ferrell Margie McHaley Phillip Miller Bradley Rice

Looking Back by Bobby Thompson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Page 16 Donated Bicycles Making Life Easier, by Morgan Chilson . . . .Page 20 Bike Trails of the Emporia Area . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Page 24 Rebecca Rusch Profile, by Morgan Chilson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Page 26 DK Tips from Top Riders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Page 28 Wendy Davis Profile, by Wendy Davis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Page 30 Rider Profiles, by Morgan Chilson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Page 34 A Disc Golf Community, by Zack Hacker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Page 40 Dynamic Discs, by Morgan Chilson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Page 44

contributing Writers Eric Benjamin Morgan Chilson Wendy Davis Zach Hacker Regina Murphy Bobby Thompson contributing PhotogrAPhers Eric Benjamin Matthew Fowler ADvertising Dave Harding Ronda Henery Leann Sanchez For more information, please contact: 517 Merchant Street Emporia, KS 66801 620.342.4800 Dirty Kanza is a publication of

Cover Photo by Eric Benjamin


Welcome Dirty Kanza

1114 Commercial St. (The Kellogg Plaza) Orange Leaf Emporia


716 Commercial St. • Emporia, KS 620-343-9649 • towncrierbookstore.com

Dirty Kanza 200 | 1

Books, Magazines, Gifts and Local Interest

Dan Hughes relaxes in his store, Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop, on April 22 in Lawrence.

PHOtO By MAttHew FOwLer

By Morgan Chilson


ansan Dan HugHes tackles the Dirty Kanza 200 almost every year with what he figures is an advantage – he’s from Kansas and he knows how to ride through wind and heat. But during last year’s race, he was hit with a different world.

But those excellent conditions are part of the reason Hughes thinks he and biker Rusty Folger, Colorado springs, Colo., rolled over the finish

line side by side with a record-breaking time of 11:56:01. Winning the race for the third time definitely puts Hughes in the position as the biker to beat for the DK200. But every year, he’s not sure he’ll race, although every year, he finds himself at the starting line, facing 200 brutal miles of gravel road. “I’m getting pretty old. I’m 44 this year. I tell the promoters every year, this is my last year, I’m not coming back,” he said. “and then I always have such a great experience that a week later, yeah, I’ll come back.” The rugged 200 miles on gravel roads through Kansas prairie plays to his strengths, Hughes said.

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2 | Dirty Kanza 200

“I remember waking up on the morning of and it was cold, and it wasn’t windy, and the gravel was in great shape,” he said. “all the competitive advantages us Kansans have just went out the window. ‘Cause it wasn’t hot with wind blowing 30 miles a minute, and dusty.”

was an endurance kind of dork, if you will, at a very young age.”

“To be clear, my strength is that it’s just got to be a really long event so other people get tired, and I’m just the last one tired. That’s the only strategy I have,” he said. “I’m not fast for 100 miles. I have to find events that are long enough that they allow me to use my copious reserves of back fat for fuel, and just keep going all day.” Hughes may joke about his age or condition, but when he’s on a bike, his mental game is all there, pushing him toward the finish line. “There’s always a time in the Kanza, between mile 120 and 160, that I just don’t want to do it anymore. It’s not fun anymore. I’m done. I’m tired, and there’s still a long way to go,” Hughes said. “That’s the wall for me. Once you get past that and you can start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and you start kicking down the miles to the finish, you get a second wind. God, I survived. The beer just tastes that much sweeter.” Hughes’s desire to push himself began at a young age. He started out as a runner, and did his first marathon when he was 15. “I was an endurance kind of dork, if you will, at a very young age,” he said. “I remember after that marathon in ’84, just being hurt, physically, shin splits and not really having any fun. I thought I need to come up with some sort of sport where I can coast every once in awhile. Cycling was what I landed on.” Not one to do things halfway, Hughes rode a few double-century

road rides while still in high school. He loves being outdoors for long periods of time, and cycling fit his personality. In several ways. “I also like the techy, dorky, nerdy nature of bikes,” Hughes said, once more poking fun at himself. “There’s a whole bunch of stuff you can fiddle with until late in the evening. It’s a good combination for me of being able to go out and exert myself for great periods of time, and having toys to play with too.” His passion for biking translated into a career when Hughes began working at Lawrence’s Sunflower Outdoor and Bike shop during college. He’s gotten a degree in anthropology from KU (which “wasn’t going anywhere,” he said), and was working part-time at Sunflower. “I was the nerd on staff that knew the cubic inch capacity of every backpack,” he said. “I filled my head up with those trivial facts.” When the owners decided to sell 12 years ago, Hughes and his wife, Karla, were happy to buy the store. For Hughes, it’s the opportunity to promote the outdoor recreational opportunities in Kansas. “Kansas is unique in the sense that we have, on a percentage basis, the least amount of public space in the nation,” he said. “Something like 99.9 percent is privately owned. So if you’re going to paddle a river, only five in Kansas are legally navigable. The

flatirons of Boulder aren’t right out our backdoor. We have to experience every natural resource in multiple ways.” As an example, he talks about using Clinton Lake, west of Lawrence, to paddle, to hike and to ride his mountain bike. Helping his customers take advantage of the outdoors makes his job a pleasure. Hughes will be outdoors for at least 11 hours on June 1, tackling this year’s DK200. Taking on those challenges feeds the part of him that likes to see where his limits are. “Always wanting to push to see where the edge of the envelope is,” he said. “I wonder how far out I can go and still be alive on the other side. Or in a good mood.” Biking fulfills other needs, too, something that Hughes sees all the time with his customers. It’s a social activity where people can get out and ride together. “I think you take that and you layer in some environmental awareness, and you layer in some economics of, ‘I don’t have to drive my car a mile to pick up a gallon of milk; I can hop on my bike and go get it,’” he said. “The bike ends up being a pretty fun, kind of elegant, solution for a lot of life’s little deals.” For someone as dedicated to riding as Hughes, it’s great to see an event out his backdoor like the DK200 achieving national attention. “I was there for the first year when it started in the hotel parking

lot,” he said. “Other than one year where I had a broken collar bone and didn’t start, and another year when I crashed out on little Egypt road, up there near Alma, I’ve ridden five out of seven. It’s been an event that’s gotten bigger and better every year. “First and foremost, I think the fact that the city of Emporia has gotten behind it — starting and finishing in front of the Granada Theater is huge, and that just adds to the ambiance,” he said of the race’s success. “(The organizers) work really, really hard to make it a memorable experience, kind of along the lines of the Leadville 100 and other big events that are out there and on people’s bucket lists of things they have to accomplish before the end of their competitive days.” Pulling in world-renowned endurance athlete Rebecca Rusch for the event last year was something else that helped spiral the race’s popularity, Hughes said. “She’s the real deal,” he said. “She came to the Kanza and I think had some low expectations of what Kansas was. We’re a flyover state. In off road or any kind of competitive things, Kansas probably doesn’t even rank in the top 50. She came and I think was blown away by the ambiance of the city and the beauty of the Flint Hills and the toughness of the event, and everything that native Kansans know about Kansas was brought to her attention in a big way.”

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Dan Hughes crosses the finish line after completing the Dirty KANZA 200 on June 2, 2012. Rusty Folger, left, came in second.

By Regina D. Murphy


when it opened in 1989. In addition to the restaurant and brewery in downtown Lawrence, the company also has a bottling facility. Chuck Magerl is the owner. He is proud of the Dirty Kanza RyePA. “This is basically a dark amber rye — it sounds like an oxymoron — a dark-amber, pale-ale style,” he said. “It’s going to have a lot of hops emphasis with a couple of different varieties of hops. It’s going to be real crisp and dry, which is what the rye malt will contribute.” It is called Dirty Kanza RyePA and for people wanting to try the beer it will be for sale at the finish line celebration party in the beer garden. The entire 800 block will be turned into a beer garden with four serving stations. The “RyePA” is a play on the use of rye malts and the standard beer type known as an IPA, or India Pale Ale. “Beers usually have barley malt — crisp, dry slightly peppery — but we’ve also used a darker chocolate rye malt, which will give it a roasted character,” Magerl said. “It’s going to have gravel and dirt road character too it. A little more rugged … just like the race.” Deman, a Lawrence native

and KU grad, has been brewing for 16 years. “I knocked on a lot of doors,” he said. “I was a home brewer, and moved to Seattle, brewed there professionally for about five years, then came back to Lawrence in 2002 and have been at Free State ever since.” Deman even spent some time in Emporia when he was young. “My Dad was in the Army in Alaska during the Vietnam Era and then attended Kansas State Teachers College.” His zymurgical awards include the 2006 William A. Hipp Scholarship recipient at the Master Brewers Association of America’s (MBAA) Concise Course in Brewing and Malting Science. He passed the Institute for Brewing and Distilling’s General Certification in Brewing with distinction in 2008 and has been invited to judge at the Great American Beer Festival, the nation’s largest and most prestigious beer festival and competition three times, and also at the World Beer Cup. Deman was a contributing writer to “The Oxford Companion to Beer.” “This has been five months in the planning,” Deman said. “This recipe came about because apparently one of the organizers had two requests: That it not be a Belgian beer and that it have a

rye character. “With that in mind, we drew upon our past experiences. We have several ryes that we do here, from a light refreshing lemon rye, to a hoppier Castlerock, to a maltier blue sky rye.” Amarillo and Simcoe hops are the bittering agents, and provide the aroma of the brew. Hops are cone-shaped flowers that grow on the hop plant, which is a fast-growing vine. The flowers are picked and dried for use. Hops are antiseptic and inhibit the growth of unwanted organisms. In the 13th century, brewers notice hopped beer didn’t spoil as quickly, and up until the early 20th century beer was safer to drink than water or milk. Simcoe is a recent American hybrid by Yakima Chief Ranches (Washington State) and was first released in 2000. According to brewersconnection.com, it has a clean, pine-like aroma and a taste with a slight hint of citrus. Amarillo was discovered by Virgil Gamache Farms in one of their hop yards in Washington state, and they have exclusive access and rights to its use. It’s described as flowery, spicy and citrus-like with a distinct orange bouquet. Deman didn’t have to make

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his will be the second year Emporia is the recipient of special made-to-order beer specifically for the Dirty Kanza 200 bike race. Free State Brewery in Lawrence christened a new recipe in 2012, a “RyePA” just for the event. It was the featured beer — and quickly consumed beer — at last year’s Finish Line party in front of the Granada Theatre. Biermeister Geoff Deman is at it again. The kegs were tapped at the Lawrence brewpub April 10. “We will bring plenty of kegs!” he promised. A second beer will be on that delivery truck: the Konza Prairie Kölsch. “This ale/lager hybrid uses a lager yeast, but ferments at temperatures more typical of an ale,” Deman explained. “It then undergoes an extended period of conditioning, or lagering. The resulting beer is a crisp, refreshing, light-bodied, slightly hoppy, straw-colored beer with significant carbonation. Hopped with New Zealand Motueka hops that contribute a hint of lime-like citrus.” Free State Brewing Co., located at 636 Massachusetts St., became the first legal brewery in Kansas in more than 100 years

any practice batches. “When you’ve brewed as long as I have, you know what the ingredients do,” he said. “We brew a full size batch, 15 barrels. That works out to 30 kegs.” He said the beers always turn out right. “It’s exactly akin to cooking; when you know what your ingredients are, you have a good idea about what you can put together and have it turn out alright.” Deman started brewing the Dirty Kanza RyePA about three weeks ago. “The ales, we tend to give about 10 to 20 days of conditioning. Lagers and pilsners get longer.” In addition to the two tanks visible on the main floor, there are three more upstairs for dry hopping or lagering. “We taste on a daily basis,” Deman said. “We want to make sure the product is progressing the way we want it to. We familiarize ourselves with the brew at every stage so we can see if there are any sign of contamination, off flavors, flat yeast ...” The statistics, for those who homebrew, are: OG 13.9 degrees P, /1055. Hops 57 IBUs. “It’s fairly complex. It’s got some chocolatiness, a little pepperiness from the rye, a nice

Free State’s Masie French draws a pint of RyePA at the brew pub in Lawrence. citrusy aspect,” he said. “Even though it has all those hops, it has a fairly dry finish, so you’re not bogged down with all that.” The beer opened with a flash of bitterness, then a rich, roasted character with some citrus

along the back of the tongue. The roasted flavor mellowed in a few moments, leaving a softer mouth-feel. It had a very quick, clean finish — dry and thirstquenching. This is the one and only

seasonal opportunity to try Freestate’s Dirty Kanza RyePA, so don’t miss out. (Portions of this interview were published previously in The Emporia Gazette.)

Welcome Dk200 participants anD fans!

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2716 W. 12th st. emporia, ks 66801

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8 | Dirty Kanza 200



Gravel Grinding in the Flint Hills:

The DK200 Story and Photos by Eric Benjamin

magical place. There’s no other place like it.” Yes, there is something magical and mysterious about the Flint Hills. It can’t be experienced in a car driving down the highway at 75 miles an hour either. It is best experienced while powering yourself on a bicycle. Some may agree that the land is beautiful, full of history, even a bit mysterious in its vastness, but they cannot understand why anyone in their right mind would want to ride a bicycle out there for even one mile let alone two hundred. The area was named after the sharp flint rock Native Americans used to create deadly arrowheads. Ranchers and cyclists alike have been found on the side of a Flint Hills road changing a flat tire because of it. The limestone protruding through the soil thwarted the attempts of settlers to farm the land and abandoned structures from

These aren’t everyday cyclists. These are gravel grinders. Bike races on gravel have been called gravel grinders. They bring together everyone from frugal dirtbaggers to hard core, Lycra clad racers and everyone in between. Mountain bikes, cross bikes, fatbikes and single speeds all line up on the starting line. Registration at the events is like a family reunion. The camaraderie is thick and shows itself on the course where it is competitive yet people help each other make it to the finish line for a celebratory cold beverage. Jim Cummins, race director of the DK200, says, “Cyclists are looking for more of an adventure than what can be found in traditional racing formats. Ultra-distance gravel grinders, particularly those that get their participants away from civilization give today’s cyclists the opportunity for adventure they are seeking.” Cummins goes on to say, “Evidence of this can be found at the finish line of events like Dirty Kanza 200. Grown men and women are often reduced to tears as they

cross the finish line.” What is the reason for this? Tim Ek, a well-seasoned and accomplished ultra-endurance racer explains it like this: “Some may think that emotion comes from the release of being done with such an intense experience, and while that may be true, I think it comes from something much more significant. It is a result of that racer having the opportunity to go deep inside to a place one rarely gets to visit and being OK with what is found in there.” That’s why we do these races. It’s not so much about crossing the race’s finish line but more to see what we are made of. We can only find that out by digging into the recesses of our souls and discovering what’s there. My best mental digging is done on gravel. I have found myself and lost pieces of myself on those lonely roads. I can honestly say, finishing the Dirty Kanza 200 changed me as a person. In fact, after crossing the finish line at 1:50 a.m. after one of my worst days on the bike, riding through high winds, 100+ temperatures and debilitating muscle cramps, I swore to never attempt that race again. That is until the next morning when I swear I heard the gravel call to me, whispering the words, “You can do better.”

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hat is it that will bring people from all over the country, no the world to our neck of the woods in small town Emporia, Kansas? Why in the world will over a thousand cyclists be lined up in downtown Emporia on June 1? They are headed our way for a taste of the most punishing yet beautiful miles of gravel grinding that can only be found in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Our own “backyard” is home to a mysterious, beautiful and life changing event that calls to cyclists from across the globe. That event is the Dirty Kanza 200.

What do we have here in the Flint Hills that calls to cyclists? Is the Dirty Kanza 200 really the best gravel grinder in the world? It may not be the longest and it may not have the most climbing but there is something about the vast, rolling Flint Hills that brings people in and calls them to return. The Kansas tourism website (www.travelks.com/flint-hills) reads “Soaring and diving from hilltop to valley along one of the quiet country highways through the Flint Hills will quickly challenge your notions of prairie. Flat? Not here. Empty? Not if you look closely. The continent’s largest remaining tract of tallgrass is also one of America’s unique places, harboring a wealth of adventure, beauty, and history. The region’s sweeping horizons and carpets of wildflowers captivate artists and enchant visitors.” Naturalist Jan Jantzen says, “The Flint Hills are an incredible, wonderful, almost

times past can still be seen today. The trees bend in the direction of the strong, constant winds. The rocky soil may have kept farmers from taming the land but it is the perfect place for tallgrass to thrive and has become known as one of the best cattle grazing lands in the world. Many sections of the Dirty Kanza run through lands marked with signs reading, CAUTION OPEN RANGE. This is where cyclists and cattle share the land and the road without those pesky fences to separate them. This may not seem like a place for a bike ride, but the Dirty Kanza 200 is known as the best gravel grinder in the country. The type of cyclist wanting to ride this is one of a different breed. He or she is looking for a challenge, something different from everyday life. A place to leave the everyday behind and perhaps find him or herself in those hills. Or perhaps they turn the pedals trying to leave the past behind.

Emily Brock, 2009 women’s winner, describes the Dirty Kanza 200 course: “Kanza, the Kaw Nation, have inhabited the plains and understood their austere beauty longer than any. Waves of people have hurried across this landscape since Coronado, cursing its vastness, but Dirty Kanza is about loving this place. Look at the immense sky, and the people patient and brave enough to live under it. 200 miles is just far enough to feel how strange and fierce this nation once was, and still is. I come back to Kanza because I want to be present in the wild center of America.�

photos by eric benjamin

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By Bobby Thompson

In 2010, the DK200 start and finish line were moved from a hotel parking lot to the Granada Theatre - 807 Commercial The fastest finish was posted in 2012 - at 11 hours, 56 minutes, Dan Hughes and Rusty Folger crossed the line together, with course conditions nearly perfect. The average winning time is 13 hours and 30 minutes. The last finishers usually just make the final cut-off in 22-23 hours. You must maintain a 10 mph pace to stay in the race. Checkpoints are every 5060 miles. Racers can meet their support crew at these points only. For the 2013 event, the field limit has been increased to 1,000 riders. As of 04-0213, we have a total of 928 preregistered entrants, representing 42 U.S. States, Canada and Australia.

In 2012, Dirty Kanza 200 and Emporia, KS were featured by VeloNews in their “2012 Ultimate Ride Guide”, as one of nine “must do North American cycling destinations.” In 2010, Dirty Kanza 200 was listed in Bicycling Magazine’s “Top 10 Rides You Must Do.” Dirty Kanza 200 has its own beer - brewed by Free State Brewery.


38 entrants, 18 finishers


50 entrants, 19 finishers


75 entrants, 42 finishers


100 entrants, 19 finishers


200 entrants, 65 finishers


350 entrants, 68 finishers*


450 entrants, 267 finishers


field is open to 1000 racers *tornados, hail, wind - oh my!

Photo by Eric Benjamin

And she’s right. The terrain and remoteness of the region promise participants something that no other bicycle race can. Combining that terrain with DK’s signature “Welcome home” finish line has proven a great success. Where did this event come from? Back in 2005, Kansas City cyclist and endurance enthusiast Joel Dyke raced the 350 mile Trans Iowa. He was moved. “I wanted to do something that was the best of Kansas. Kansas has some of the sweetest gravel. Somehow we got together (Dyke and fellow cofounder Jim Cummins) and it was magic. We wanted to do a Trans Kansas. That idea was not doable for us, so we started thinking Flint Hills. We rode the first 100 miles of gravel ride in 2004. It was a natural fit - the beautiful Flint Hills, Emporia, the best gravel in the world!” The skeletons of the Dirty Kanza had taken shape. At the time TI (Trans Iowa) was a point-to-point race, where the finish line was 350 miles away from where racers began. “We knew some of the logistical difficulties of the TI were

something we wanted to avoid. The idea of a single loop, starting and ending in Emporia, really took shape and felt right” stated Jim Cummins. “And capturing the self-supported aspect added to the feel of the event.” In early 2006, after planning and discussing, the first DK200 was on paper and a date decided - June 3. Knowing how much each other loved racing, they “divided” the promoter duties. One would race one year while the other promoted, only to switch roles the following year. That didn’t last long. No one can dismiss the success of the first Dirty Kanza. Remote and rugged, it was everything Cummins and Dyke were hoping for. “That first year (2006) we had no preregistration. We simply set a date and got the word out as best we could. Then we set up a table in a hotel lobby the night before the race and hoped a few riders would show up. Well, 38 riders did show up. And everyone had a blast. In the weeks that followed, I received email after email from riders telling me how Dirty Kanza 200 had changed their lives. Facing down

the challenge of riding 200 miles of gravel roads in an unforgiving environment has a way of giving a bike rider an opportunity to learn something about themselves that few other experiences can. I still receive these types of emails from riders every year. It’s the most rewarding aspect of my job as Race Co-Director.” From the race support side, Kristi Mohn had been taking mental notes. “I referred to myself as a bike widow” laughed Mohn. “Tim (her husband) would head out for long solo rides and other races that just weren’t conducive to the family. It’s not the easiest spectator sport. The DK changed that for us. We would meet Tim at the checkpoints and help him reload supplies. It feels like you are part of a team, to some extent.” She combined that experience with her background with Emporia Main Street, and felt the Dirty Kanza had something to offer Emporia. “I first approached Jim and Joel after talking about it with Tim. I pitched my thoughts to them in our living room.” Mohn felt a finish line celebrating the

Dirty Kanza 200 Rider Checklist 1. Hydration System 2. Energy/Food 3. Sunscreen 4. Headlights 5. Phone Number of Someone With an F-150. 3002 W Us Highway 50 (620) 342-1700 www.jnford.com

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16 | Dirty Kanza 200

Dirty Kanza 200 has been featured in Bicycling Magazine, Cyclocross Magazine, DirtRag Magazine, Mountain Bike Magazine, VeloNews, XXC Magazine.

Field size at close to 1000. Relay dropped and the DK Half Pint added, DK ESU Scholarship established, ESU Race the Sun challenge introduced

DK200 by the numbers

The race is the first Saturday after Memorial Day - moving the race between the last Saturday in May and first Saturday in June.

Field size expanded, Free State Brewery brews the first DK200 beer. Finish line sees record crowds. First overseas racer attends. Men’s and Women’s records fall


Rider registration and Emporia Farmers Market Pasta Palooza added. 20 and 50 mile DKLite added, DK200 Relay and Tandem class added.


Moved start and finish line to 807 Commercial, Emporia Main Street, Emporia Granada, and Emporia CVB help with planning. Partnering with IM Design moves marketing to a new level


Moved finish to Bruff’s parking lot


first DK200 parking lot start and finish


The course, historically, changes every 2 years. The first year of a course, the racers learn as they go. The second year is a “revenge year” - racers can come back to conquer a course that may have beat them.


Some DK200 facts

happier with the way Emporia has gotten behind this event.” While each year has seen the numbers and support for the event grow, Dirty Kanza Promotions has worked to add different components to the race. “Trading cards were probably one of the first things we added. We wanted to get the racers’ faces in front of community members while also giving the racers something to shoot for,” said Kristi Mohn. “We’ve continued with that tradition and this year’s cards will be the 3rd edition.” To keep the race growing and to encourage cycling for everyone, the crew added a 20 and 50 mile fun ride as well as a relay in the 200 field. “We did the relay for 2 years. After last year’s relay, it was decided to replace that with what we call the DK Half-Pint.” According to Tim Mohn, the Half Pint will be a 100 mile loop for the up and coming endurance athlete and will pound many of the same roads as its big brother, the DK200. “We really believe we offer something for every level of cyclist to shoot for. But we will

always focus on that DK200 rider - the finish line celebration, the trading card, the prizing - it’s all for those going all in.” The threesome take this business very seriously, and look for ways to improve each year. “With the numbers we are looking at, we knew that hotel occupancy would be at a premium. That led to Kristi working with ESU to secure dorm rooms,” said Cummins. “We were already working with ESU for a new scholarship we have established there, and the fit seemed natural.” With Carmichael Training Systems coming on as a sponsor, the trio felt that some of the support money would be put to good use by establishing a scholarship in the HPER programs. They also saw another unique opportunity to partner with ESU. “I was brainstorming with Rob Gilligan” Mohn said, “when the idea of using ESU’s engraving program came up.” After reading a racer’s blog about his DK experience, Kristi saw the opportunity to create a challenge within the challenge of the DK.

“Tim Ek is a repeat finisher of not only the DK200, but other endurance events. He talked in his DK blog about a tough day on the bike. When he realized he wasn’t going to finish on the podium, he decided to race the sun. It resonated with me, and I thought we could really turn that into something.” This year’s DK200 will award any finisher crossing the finish line by 8:42pm, the official time of sunset on June 1, with a custom autographed and numbered print designed just for them. “James Ehlers and ESU President Shonrock have really stepped up to the plate, and this is going to be something really cool for the racers to strive for.” The Dirty Kanza 200 is quite the story. An event that has always pushed boundaries, it has seen growth because of so many individuals, organizations and sponsors. DK200 can’t be described as just a bike race anymore. Although braving 200 miles will always be the driving force, participants know that they are part of something much bigger.

TOW N R OY A L Est. 1992

HOME OF Warm Beer, Weak Drinks, High Prices & Surly Bartenders 405 Commercial St. in Historic Downtown Emporia

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18 | Dirty Kanza 200

accomplishments of the riders could be really special. She also thought that getting different Emporia organizations involved could give families things to do while waiting for their rider to complete the 200+ miles. In 2009, the finish line was moved, slightly, from a hotel parking lot to right outside of Bruff ’s. “That was a transition year,” remarks Cummins. “Joel raced that year, and when the race was done, it was becoming apparent that we’d both need to promote the following year.” 2010 saw the event move to its current venue in front of the Granada Theatre. Dyke decided to step down as an official member of the promoting team. However, he still returns each year as a key volunteer. Cummins then joined forces with the Mohns and Dirty Kanza Promotions LLC was formed. Dirty Kanza 200 has been expanding ever since. “The venue change was huge,” remembers Cummins. “Comments on the Theatre, the celebration, the community and the course are echoed by so many. We couldn’t be

“A“Abicycle bicycleisisan anindustrial industrialrevolution revolutionininan anindividual’s individual’slife. life. ””

An Industrial Revolution

—— F.K. F.K. Day Day | President, | President, Co-Founder, Co-Founder, World World Bicycle Bicycle Relief Relief

Wheels of Life By Morgan Chilson

By giving out bicycles built especially to handle the rugged African terrain, WBR says school attendance by girls, who often had to drop out to stay home and haul water or take care of the sick, has risen 20 percent. Healthcare workers have been able to travel farther to meet with patients.

Entrepreneurs transport goods and are able to expand their businesses. At Emporia’s High Gear Cyclery, owners Matt and Stephanie Brown learned several years ago about the work done by WBR, and they’ve supported it in multiple ways since. “During our racing season, if we win a race, all our funds are sent to World Bicycle Relief,” Stephanie said. Last Christmas, $10 of every bike they sold went to support WBR. Their passion for helping Africans struggling in poverty extends past bicycle relief efforts. The business also sells coffee that is a fundraiser for Rwanda and Bead for Life beads, which support the women of Rwanda. “We want to help cultures that need help,” she said. “We’ve always had a passion for Africa.” That passion to reach out and make changes through access to bicycles is felt by three-time champion endurance mountain bike racer Rebecca Rusch, who competed in last year’s DK200. One of her professional sponsors is the bicycling company Sram, and they’re heavily involved in with World Bicycle Relief, Rusch said. “I remember I was at a bike trade show in Las Vegas a few years back, and right across from the gigantic Sram booth was this

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Donated bicycles ease burden for africans

orld Bicycle Relief is a non-profit foundation working to get sturdy bicycles into the hands of Africans to give them access to education, work opportunities and healthcare. The bikes help to improve quality of life in a land where water often has to be transported for miles.

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Data collected from five schools after children received bicycle donations from WBR found that attendance increased by 22 percent after the children were able to use bikes to ride to school. Many of the children travel long distances to school, often after doing chores such as collecting water. One young girl said she normally spent three hours hauling water before going to school. With a bicycle, she was able to complete her chore in 45 minutes, and then have energy left to learn. Visit World Bicycle Relief’s fundraising page online to contribute to the DK200 team, which includes Rebecca Rusch, that is trying to raise $36,800 for World Bicycle Relief – enough to buy 200 bikes and 200 toolkits. Donations can be made on the page http:// action.worldbicyclerelief.org/page/outreach/view/individual/DK200. The team is made up of riders teamed with The Service Course, a Boulder, Colo., based bicycle service shop. Source: World Bicycle Relief (www.worldbicyclerelief.org)

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little tiny booth,” she said. “There was this cool black, really industrial looking bike; it looked like a little tank. That’s one of the super industrial bikes they provide for people in Africa. I started hearing their story.” That story – of providing bikes that changed lives and also of training African people to be mechanics to take care of those bikes – convinced Rusch to get involved. “It’s a whole infrastructure,” she said of the work WBR does. “All the programs they have out there train mechanics and create jobs. It’s opening so many doors.” Rusch said she was moved by how many girls have been affected by access to bicycles. With bicycles, they can gather water faster and get their chores done, allowing them to get to school and continue their education. “It’s changing the world, basically, with a simple twowheeled machine,” she said. While Rusch encourages everyone to help through monetary donations to get more bikes to Africans, she also said it’s important to watch all the videos on the WBR website (www.worldbicyclerelief.org) to learn about the organization’s impact and to become more personal with the issues. “I have a dream of going and visiting one of the warehouses in Africa and being a part of helping deliver the bikes to some of these communities,” she said. “The more personally involved you get, on top of donating time or money, I think that really grabs at your heartstrings.” WBR has donated more than 120,000 bikes to Africans in need and trained over 200 field mechanics.

Bike Trails of the Emporia Area Camp Alexander Pioneer Trail This 4 mile trail is easy to moderate in skill level from twisty single track to open double track but will challenge even the most physically fit rider. This trail system is made up of two short loops both easy in skill level. The outer loop is newer single track with a few challenging parts. The inner loop is flat twisty double track that takes you through an old train box car. These are ideal trails for beginners to learn the basic off-road skills. These trails are located just 2 miles east of Emporia on Old Hwy. 50. You will see a red gate on the north side of the road before you cross the Neosho River.

ESU Trails

Enjoy biking the Emporia Area Trails!

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These trails are located just North of the Emporia State University Campus and I-35. These are Emporia’s oldest single track trails and consist of a network of winding trails that run next to the Neosho River. The riding ability is easy to moderate but still fun for an expert rider to rip through.

Rebecca Rusch – by Morgan chilson


But it’s not enough that Rusch conquers the world on a bike. She led professional adventure racing teams for 10 years at the international level, including a team that took the win at the 2003 Raid Gauloises Adventure Racing World Championships. In 2008, Rusch won the Masters Cross Country Skiing World Championship. It’s a resume that makes it clear where her nickname was born, and Rusch brought all that energy and talent to the Dirty Kanza 200 for the first time last year. Sh e nabbed third place, and she’ll be

back t h i s year, gunning for first. “It was much better than I thought it was going to be,” she ad-

mitted in a telephone interview. “I was actually dreading going to the race. I didn’t want to go. Two hundred miles through Kansas sounded like hell to me. I have to admit, I didn’t really know Kansas very well. I guess I was being a snob about it because I live in the mountains. I was afraid I was going to be bored. No mountain views, no desert. I’ve traveled all around the world.” And yet. . . “It turned out to be one of my favorite events of the whole year,” Rusch said. “It really took me by surprise. Not only because I had a good race, it was just a really beautiful place and a great vibe. And obviously a huge challenge. It was really well run, really fun.” Rusch said she’s gearing up for a different race this year. She’s friends with last year’s winner Dan Hughes, and he’s warned her that the weather conditions were perfect – which is unusual in Kansas. “I think I got a little lucky last year,” she said, “because apparently the conditions were perfect. There was no wind, it was not too hot, so I might have gotten a little spoiled the first year.” Not that tougher conditions would deter her. “I got lucky. I guess it’s like anything. You bite off something that big, and the harder it is, sometimes the more rewarding it is,” she said. “That’s what I’m go-

ing to tell myself when we have headwind.” Rusch said the race is nicely broken into about 60-mile segments, which aren’t too bad on a bike. Her approach was to mentally break it into fours, and think of it one step at a time. “Really, the last segment was probably the hardest for me because I was . . . I had already gone 160 miles, this last 40 felt like the biggest uphill, the biggest challenge of the whole day,” she said. “The closer you get to the finish, the miles tick off more slowly, and probably you’re riding more slowly because you’re so fatigured. It’s a mental game.” “I kept looking at my odometer, and was like okay, if I can try to average 15 miles an hour or better, this will be my finishing time,” Rusch said. “I really just stayed in the moment and kept looking at my little Garmin. Oh, I’m flagging, can I go .1 mile an hour faster, or can I maintain this level? I have to really break it down. It’s going to take you more than 12 hours; I have to break it down into smaller more manageable bits.” It’s the challenge, though, that makes the DK200 worthwhile. “Really something this big, it’s an adventure for me and for the last place person,” she said. “It’s going to be super hard, but we pay good money to go do this and it’s supposed to be fun. Try to find some fun out there, too.”

Courtesy Photo

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he internet is full of the accomplishments of world-famous endurance athlete Rebecca Rusch, who has been nicknamed the “Queen of Pain.” Three-time winner of the 24-hour Solo Mountain Bike World Championships; four straight wins on the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race, setting a new record in 2012; 2010 World Champion for Master’s XC mountain biking; 2011 National XC single speed champion; and on and on.

Hints on Tackling the DK200 from Top Racers: Dan HugHes

RusTy FolgeR

Equipment: “It’s always possible to go a little heavier and a little bit more robust, in terms of tire choice or bike choice. I ask, ‘How can I go as fast as possible and not have equipment problems?’ I would say, when in doubt, go a little fatter and a little bit more comfortable and beefier in your equipment choice and realize that will be better for your overall state of mind at the end of the race.” Hughes said that a biker from St. Louis had eight flats last year and ended his race. Skinny tires may help you go faster with less energy, but on Kansas terrain, they can cause problems. Nutrition and hydration – Riders have to experiment with what works for them, Hughes said. “In a group of people who don’t finish or get the results they want, it’s probably related to hydration or nutrition,” he said, adding people end up with a locked stomach because they can’t get any more water in or food in. “You’ve got to do a lot of trial and error, and do some long rides before the Kanza, not 200 but multihour rides and experiment with the foods; what works for a 40-mile ride might not be the same thing that works at 140,” Hughes said.

The Bike: “I don’t like to experiment very much,” Folger said. “I’ve been riding bikes a long time, and I know what works well, and I’ve been a mechanic forever, so I’ve seen all the stuff that breaks, and I try never to put that stuff on my bike.” “It’s silly trying to save a little bit of weight here and there if you’re sacrificing durability,” he added. “I’d stick with something that has some miles on it. I wouldn’t put a brand new saddle on your bike.”

Three-time DK200 winner

Carmichael Training, Colorado springs, Colo.

RebeCCa RusCH

World champion endurance racer Equipment – “Being prepared is always really important,” Rusch said. “Every 50 miles, hopefully you’ve got a support group person.” Like Hughes, Rusch recommends a tough tire. “Go with a little bit beefier tire because flat tires are a big part of this event,” she said. “I ran a little heavier, little thicker tire because that’s what Kansas doles out to people. There were multiple flats. Between these two guys, they had six flats between them. Sometimes the uber-light racing, top of the line stuff is not always the best for an endurance event. A little more comfortable saddle, things like that are maybe worth their weight in comfort. You’re going to be on

the bike longer than you spend in the office every day. Comfort is really important. Saddle, handlebars, any place that your body touches the bike needs to be extra worn in and extra comfortable for you.” Hydration: “I rode with a hydration pack last year. Dan (Hughes) made fun of me. I had a Camelback on, because I didn’t have three water bottle holders. I was worried; I felt like it was actually a really big bonus for me. It was easier than reaching down and grabbing water bottles. When in doubt, err on the side of being a little conservative. I throw a rain jacket in my pocket. All these other racers were freezing cold and had to stop, and I had a rain jacket.” Focus: “Music is a good one for this ride. I normally don’t ride with music. It was nice for some of those really long, solitary moments, just put in the music for half an hour. That’s something different I did for Dirty Kanza that I don’t normally do,” Rusch said. “I put them in and out. Obviously, there are cars, people, you need to pay attention to.” Nutrition: “I think the biggest thing that people need to plan for this event really is their nutrition. Counting out per hour to get to the next aid station – making sure you’re on a really rigid schedule of how many ounces of water you’re going to drink per hour,” she said. “You won’t really be hungry – but you’re going to be burning a lot. You can’t wait until you’re empty to put in. Keep a regimented nutrition plan from the start. You’ll feel it in hour 10 if you didn’t eat for the first two hours.”

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by Wend y D av In late is fall 2009, I overheard


my teammate talking about The Dirty Kanza 200, The Premiere Endurance Gravel Road Race. I was intrigued even further when he described it as “this ridiculously long gravel grinder in Kansas in June”. New to cycling, I had no idea what this was. So, I googled it. My heart beat rapidly in my chest. I started to feel my hands sweat. Why? Furthermore, why was I smiling? Within a year I convinced myself I could ride the DK200. It would not be pretty and was going to take a long time but I could complete it. I started researching cross bikes. My husband supported my crazy idea and presented me with a brand new 2011 Kona JTS. By January he decided he would join me and he purchased his own Kona. We signed up on the opening day of registration. I remember there were very few women signed up, it didn’t surprise me. Was this really a good idea? On race day 2011, I gave it everything I had and then some. Unfortunately Mother Nature had other ideas. I was stopped at mile 110 when she let loose some insane wind, and fierce rain accompanied by hail that left a mark. My race was over. Done. I was so disappointed. The very next day I began planning for DK2012. I had unfinished business and no one would be able to stop me, not even Mother Nature. I read everything I could find about the Dirty Kanza. Blogs of past racers helped tremendously. During the year I trained as hard as I could and researched every piece of gear I would need. When I arrived in Kansas I could barely contain myself. I was excited to have written an article for the Emporia Gazette magazine and getting my own special “trading card”. During the meeting I met some amazing people I had only corresponded with. I was asked to sign a few autographs. How cool is that? Race day I was nervous, very nervous. I convinced myself it was butterflies and pressed on. My belly issues kept me company the entire fifty plus miles. I arrived at the first

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check p o i n t behind schedule. At times I felt like I was pedaling at a snail’s pace. Others I felt like I was flying. Repeating “Can’t quit. Not dead” and “Shut up legs” worked. I arrived ahead of schedule at the next stop. My support crew Emma was very organized and had me back on my bike quickly. The plan was to recover on the bike, just keep moving forward. It was on this leg, mile 110, that I was forced to quit. The weather was beautiful this year, that was not going to be an excuse. When I reached the exact spot, I stopped and rewarded myself with music. I popped in my Polk headphones and Queen’s “We Will Rock You” blared. I took that as a good sign. This leg proved the hardest for me. It revealed some techy gravel with longer and steeper climbs. Already having a century plus under my belt made for some slow pedaling. I ran out of water at Mile 155. Just as I was imagining myself dehydrating into a raisin, a gravel angel appeared and handed me a full bottle of water. His kindness helped me to reach the next checkpoint and kept me from digging deeper and getting emotional. I freak when I am out of water. This was the furthest I have ever ridden a bike. I was so elated I hugged the volunteer that handed over the map of the final push. Hell I could walk the remaining 37 miles if I had to. I was riding on sheer adrenaline now. Emma filled another bottle for me and someone shoved some Payday’s in my pockets. I was oblivious and felt a little crazed. Emma gave me a slap on the cheek and a push. It was now 8 p.m., some elite riders had already crossed the finish and were relax-

ing, having adult beverages in their newly acquired DK pint glasses. There was no way I wanted to be alone, in the dark in Kansas. I rolled out behind a group of eight riders from the same team and tried to blend in. On these final miles, I met some super fellas and we stayed together until the very end. We waited for one another together, walked together, kept each other positive when we went a couple miles off route, together! We crossed the finish line together. It took 19 hours and 3 minutes. It was past 1am and there was still a large crowd present cheering in riders. Immediately after receiving the best hug ever from Kristi, Mr. Jim Cummins handed me THE glass. I finally did it!!! Walking back to my car I received props from my friends and from the strangers still lining the streets. A lady I didn’t know hugged me and said she was proud of me. While drinking my Pabst, I relived the ride - what could I have done better? I have thought of this every day leading to this 2013 DK200. I added strength training at the gym and running to my biking regimen. This year I would like to knock about two hours off my time. Several things need to fall in to place for me to be successful. It helps to have a magnificent machine, solid training, positive attitude, and proper nutrition. The stars being in proper alignment wouldn’t hurt either. Oh ye- a h , don’t forget Mother Nature. She can make it a beautiful or ugly experience. No matter what happens… We can do this. Believe.

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Andrew Keffer

ing to truly test their limits, and push themselves further than they ever thought possible. My favorite saying related to this experience is, the greater the price that you are willing to pay, the greater the reward you receive, and the greater feeling of selfsatisfaction you will experience. Through the course of the day you will go from a feeling of euphoria, to wondering why you ever thought that this was ever a good idea. At times you will visit the darkest depths of your soul, so deep in the pain cave that all you want to do is just GET OUT! Then as today goes along, and the sun begins to set, you get this sense of what a magnificent and beautiful world God has created, and just how insignificant we are in the scope of things. Finally, as you begin to see the lights of Emporia at the

Standing at the DK2011 finish line, wowed by the excitement of the crowd, I vowed to compete in this grueling event in 2012. Step 1 – I need a bike, a small detail. Step 2 – might need to start training. My longest previous ride couldn’t have exceeded 10 miles. This began my year long journey of preparation for the most strenuous experience of my life (Side Note: not knowing that biking was actually a full contact sport, I did take a three month hiatus to recuperate from shoulder surgery as a result of a bike accident – not recommended as part of any training regimen). Gravel grinding? Who would have known that spending tons of hours on a bike, riding through some of the most beautiful countryside, hill after hill after hill, not seeing a single sign of life (other than the occasional cow) would be considered fun. Actually, it’s a blast! As I previously mentioned, the 2012 Dirty Kanza was extremely grueling. At every sag stop I wanted to quit. My body felt like it had nothing left. Legs were shot. Stress shooting through my shoulders.

end of your long day, you once again start to get that feeling of excitement back. Your adrenaline begins to flow. You get so excited about what you are about to accomplish that you can hardly contain yourself. The clincher is when you finally reach the south end of the Emporia State University campus, at the end of Kellogg circle. You see the huge crowd of people gathered lining Commercial Street. As they see you they begin to cheer and yell for you. They appear to be as excited about your finishing as you are. The closer you get to the Granada, the larger and louder the crowd gets. As you cross the finish line, you are overwhelmed by the sense of excitement, joy, and self-satisfaction. Something beyond what a person can even put into words. To know that not only your loved ones are there in your corner, but an entire community is there for you, is truly a humbling experience. This past year was a special one for me. It was one of those years that I was able to complete the race. Along the way, I was able to experience the event with my longtime friends and team mates. I met many new friends along the way, literally from around the world; people who share

Stomach aching. Sore butt and extremely fatigued. What kept me going? My sag team. Actually it wasn’t just a single team. Everyone pitched in. Friends I had no idea would even be there decided to show up. Members of other sag teams offered their assistance to prep my bike, help with nutrition, help cool me down and offer their moral support. It was one big family. I never expected such a large group of friends to all come together and support a group of riders who simply wanted to finish the ride. So for me, finishing was great. Seeing so many Emporian’s still at the finish line at 1:30 a.m. was completely unexpected. The thrill of excitement was overwhelming. But the real highlight of my 2012 DK200 experience was the realization that the Emporia biking community isn’t just a group of individual riders, but is a family of friendships of which I have never before experienced. —Brent Windsor

the same passion that you do. I got to spend time with friends that I had not seen for a long time, encouraging each other along the way, and talking about what a glorious experience we were having together. And finally, the support of my beautiful wife and family, seeing them at the designated check points along the journey, encouraging and supporting me. Seeing their faces full of excitement as you cross the finish line is priceless. I can truly say that my life has been enriched and blessed by the experience that I have had with the Dirty Kanza. Would I recommend this race to others? Heck yea! It will truly enrich your life, and you will learn so much about yourself. It will be one of the most painful, but gratifying things that you will every accomplish. I encourage you to be bold. Step outside of your comfort zone, and try something that you have no idea if you are able to accomplish. Just by attempting it, and standing on that start line, you will have won. It is not about the finishing. That is always nice. It is about putting yourself out there and seeing what you are able to accomplish. You may just surprise yourself! — Mike Wise

The 2012 Dirty Kanza 200 was my first go at the full blown race. You see, the previous two years I participated in the “lite” side of the DK200 with 2010 doing the DK LITE (20-miler) followed by the 50-miler in 2011. Up to that point I had been doing all of my riding on an ancient behemoth of a bike that still had its original “Mr. K’s Bike Shop” sticker on it (Emporia’s bike shop from yesteryear); that tells ya how old that thing was. My riding buddies kept telling me when I finally upgraded to the current millennium I’d feel like superman just in the weight difference & lesser rolling resistance ... boy were they right. But what also came with my new bike was more pressure from those same gravel grinders to ride the full DK200! No excuses now; I had the new bike I said I was waiting for before trying my hand at 200 miles of gravel. Leading up to the 2012 edition of the DK, I trained regularly with friend and co-worker Jed Sampsel, who would also be riding in the DK200. He is a member of the High Gear cycling team so our training rides tended to be more on the intense side, but I think it made me a stronger rider in the end. Race Day is HERE ... I knew I

wouldn’t be hanging with the High Gear guys, but having friends and a brother on the team I wanted to rub elbows with them at the starting line before we began; maybe a little speed mojo would rub off onto me! I was a little amped to get what I figured to be an epic journey under way. The first leg from Emporia to Cassoday went pretty much as planned without any major surprises, given that Jed and I had ridden the route, or at least the 2011 route, the week before; so I had a good idea of what to expect out of that leg. What was a MAJOR surprise was finding Jed still in Cassoday when I got there: he’d had mechanical trouble with his chain in that first leg which left him stranded at the first checkpoint looking for some assistance in getting a new chain put on the bike. I encouraged him to not pull the plug on the race until all avenues had been exhausted, as well as ignored his insistence for me to forget about him and continue on. Until there was no other option than him to DNF, I was going to wait for a riding buddy (up to this point I’d been riding solo or with strangers anyway, so familiar company would be nice).

As it turned out, Jed was able to get the new chain secured to his ride and off we went. Little did I know that it was the beginning of a great rest of the race. We surprised everyone on our support teams by making very good time on the second leg to Florence; rolling into the checkpoint feeling real good for completing half the distance of the race (and being my personal record distance of a hundred miles). After a short break we pushed on toward Council Grove as the afternoon finally started heating up. This 60 mile, third leg would be where the Dirty Kanza would start to land some hard blows on me; both physically and mentally. The last 7 miles into the Council Grove checkpoint seemed twice that distance as the road bringing us to town seemed to just go on and on. Later on, those in my support camp said this was the one checkpoint where I looked wore out (including the finish). Needless to say, I wel-

—Shawn O’Mara

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When asked to give my prospective of the Dirty Kanza 200, I was at a loss about where to start. This year will be the sixth time I will have toed the start line. Every year it is a totally different experience. Personally, I have experienced the gamut of not only emotions, but also results I have finished twice. I almost finished another time, only to be physically removed from the course because of heat exhaustion, after I had passed the third and final check point. I have also miserably failed two other times. If I were to sum up the experience that all the participants share it would have to be the sense of adventure, and self-examination. The event is truly one of a kind. Entering the event you have this feeling of both excitement and fear, all at the same time. After all those long hours of training for the event you are excited to get the adventure under way, but in the back of your mind you can’t stop wondering about the pain that you will be experiencing that day, and if you are truly up for the task ahead of you. I have always said that it takes a special breed of person to be willing to put themselves through an experience like this. It takes a person will-

comed the setting sun and the cooling temps of evening as we departed for the Emporia finish line about 30 miles away. Being only 32 miles from the finish line, I had a growing confidence I would finish my first attempt at the Dirty Kanza 200 in really good shape. After all, the Tuesday and Thursday after work training rides that we rode was a 34 mile route. Both of our support teams just kept repeating that fact: “just a Tuesday night training ride guys; that’s all it is.” Another plus for us is that, being Emporians, we have ridden this area between CG and E-town many times, many different ways; so looking at the map of the last leg was familiar territory. There would be no need to stop in the dark to consult the map as we knew all of our turns that would bring us home; all we had to do was keep those pedals turning over; and that’s just what we did. It felt great to see the glow of E-town off in the distance, and that feeling just kept getting better and better the closer we came. Breaking from the ESU campus onto Commercial street, Jed said “let’s put the hammer down and finish this out strong”. It was a great reception at the finish line in front of the Granada Theatre where family and friends awaited us. I don’t know what the 2013 edition will hold for me, but one thing is for sure: there will be great memories afterward.

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“In 2012 I finished the Dirty Kanza 200. We had great weather and my bike and support crew performed perfectly. The ride still took me 19 hours. I’m slow. I’m definitely not a “racer.” My proudest moments of the Dirty Kanza 200 are being able to beat back the reasons to quit. I remember about mile 68 sinking into a deep depression. I had just left the comfort of my support crew. My legs and bike were beginning to feel heavy. Leg cramps were starting. Suddenly it was very heavy on my mind I still had over 130 miles left and I had never ridden more than 100 miles at one time in my life. I had a realistic 12 to 13 hours left. The Finish Line party and beer garden would be starting soon back in town. Everything hit me all at once. Instead of abruptly stopping, I started planning my exit strat-

egy. I was very serious about it in my mind. I knew there was a very fast and slightly dangerous downhill coming around mile 80 or so. Crashing my bike would be a noble exit right? Easy to accept. Glory

for all. Someone bring me beer cause have I got a whopper of a story for you. I argued with myself, slowed down to maybe 9 mph and just sunk into deep self pity. Somewhere in the mid 70 miles a flip switched and I noticed I was again going 14 mph. A friend rolled up on me and we started talking. We’d finish out the 100 together and be done. We both went through periods of doubt over the next 20 miles. One would pull for the other when needed. We made our goal and rolled in the mid-way checkpoint on fumes. I looked like crap. I felt angry. Defeated. I remember my friend confirming he was done. I remember people telling me “great job, it’s okay to be done.” I just remember forcing myself to stand back up. To walk over to my bike. To put on the damn helmet. To clip in one foot. Defeatedly telling my wife to be

ready for a phone call in a few minutes for a pickup, I coasted out of the checkpoint. I remember people cheering me on. Mile 130, I was still riding and feeling better. It clicked in my head, “holy crap I’m gonna do this thing” and I screamed it out loud. Minutes later, of course, it also clicked that I was still 6 hours from doing this thing. Ten miles outside of Council Grove I felt awesome and was freaking flying by people singing “We are the Champions!” to myself ... or maybe out loud, who knows. I won’t say the last stage was a blast. I met up with and finished with a friend. I think he pulled me the last 10 miles. I will say, though, that coming down Commercial Street at 12:58 a.m. — there was no pain. All smiles. I’m pretty sure I could have ridden another 200 miles. —Bobby Thompson

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Photo by Eric Benjamin

by Zack Hacker

Photo By: Matthew Fowler Nikko Locastro,throws a putt in the 2013 Glass Blown Open on the final day at the Emporia Country Club.

“I didn’t do much with disc golf until 2005,” he said. “That’s when we got Dynamic Discs started and at that time it was just kind of a college hobby. Since then, watching disc golf grow as a sport, I’m impressed but I’m also not surprised. That’s just because of how much fun it is and the fact that it changes lives. Instead of playing PlayStation or just sitting around, it’s a great way for people to get out, lose weight and get active. You also hear about people who were addicted to drugs or alcohol and they start playing disc golf for something else to do. You hear those stories every day.” Disc golf, which is sometimes referred to as “frisbee golf” or “frolf” is much like traditional golf only, instead of being played with golf balls and clubs, players throw a disc into a basket. A traditional round is nine or 18 holes, which begins with each player throwing a drive from a tee pad area. Players count their number of throws until they successfully throw the disc into the basket to end the hole. According to the Dynamic Discs website (www.dynamicdiscs.com) modern-day disc golf started in the late 1960s when “Steady” Ed Headrick invented the Frisbee while working for Wham-O Toys. Early courses used objects

such as trees, trash cans, light poles, chicken wire baskets, pipes and fire hydrants as targets. Headrick formalized the game when he invented the “Disc Pole Hole” catching device, which consisted of 10 chains hanging upward over an opening basket. The Disc Pole Hole was installed on the first standardized target course in what was then Oak Grove Park Pasadena, Calif. Much as in golf, there are different discs designed for specific throws and placements on the course. For example, a driver has a sharp, bevelled edge designed for cutting through the air and traveling long distances while the putters have a blunt edge and are more accurate but will not travel as far. Rusco said statistics show participation in disc golf is growing by about 15 percent or more every year. It’s because of the laid-back, fun nature of the sport that he believes that trend will continue. “It’s a great activity for people to get out and do no matter their skill level,” he said. “You don’t need a tee time and you don’t need to spend four hours out on the course playing a full 18 holes. It’s something where you can be bad at it and still have a good time. There’s not that intimidation factor that there might be in ball golf where you’re swinging a club and have worry about hitting a ball just right or having it slice over into another fairway or anything like that. For most people it starts as a fun sport and it ends as a fun sport.” Today there are more than 3,000 courses in the United States alone with the game being played in more than 40 countries worldwide. Courses are typically 9, 18 or 27 holes and vary in length and degree of difficulty. Emporia features two courses at Jones Park and another at Peter Pan Park. The Glass Blown Open was started by Emporian Eric McCabe and Gabe Werly in 2003. The original glass trophies were designed by Hal Berger, a world-renowned artist, which added “tremendous value and prestige” to the young event according to Dynamic Discs website. Trophydesign was taken over by Brice Turnbull, who studied under Berger, when he died in 2006. In putting on the continually growing event, Rusco said planning the event is nearly a 365-day-a-year endeavor. Everything from

tee times, sponsors, tee signs to player registration are all in discussion long before course set-up begins and players begin arriving in town. This year, Rusco said he also spent more time getting the Dynamic Discs retail store on Commercial Street ready for the large influx of people than he has in years past. “You’d like to think that it gets easier every time you do it and in some ways it does,” he said. “You get to where you

have the courses set up the way you want them but you also have to go out and get the ball golf courses (Emporia Municipal and Emporia Country Club) set up. It usually tends to be, when you find things are getting easier you find ways to add to it.”

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The Glass Blown Open in Emporia began in 2003 as a Pro Disc Golf Association Tier B competition with 88 competitors. In 2013, it drew nearly 400 players from all over the United States to take part in what is now a PDGA Tier A World Qualifier. Jeremy Rusco, owner of Dynamic Discs in Emporia and tournament director for the Glass Blown Open, said when he was first introduced to disc golf in 2002, he never would have imagined how much the sport would grow in Emporia.

Rusco added that putting on the tournament is a rewarding experience. In 2013, participation was down slightly from year’s past as the nation’s largest amateur tournament was held on the same weekend in Bowling Green, Kentucky, meaning many players had to choose which to attend. Overall, however, he said the event went well with extra events such as the Block Party in downtown Emporia being a huge hit with the players. This year’s Glass Blown Open was also a testament to the excitement that can be seen on the disc golf course. On the same day Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera were dueling out the Professional Golf Association’s Masters championship with a two-hole playoff in Augusta, Georgia, Will Schusterick and Paul McBeth were putting on a show at the GBO. Schusterick, the tournament’s defending champion, entered the final day with a threestroke lead. He saw that disappear, however, as McBeth put together a stellar final round to overcome a seven-stroke deficit to tie the Nashville, Tenn. 20-year-old with a three-day total of 168 and force a playoff hole. Despite what he referred to as “a disappointed day” Schusterick recovered to win the playoff hole and take his second consecutive title. “Will’s one of the top players in the world hands down,” Rusco said. “We expect to see him back next year and we know everybody’s going to be gunning for him.” Not only is the Glass Blown Open becoming a destination event, but in June 2012, Emporia learned it had been chosen to host the 2013 PDGA Junior and Amateur World Championship,

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a chance to meet and get to know.” Although disc golf has already become a large part of the fabric in recreational life in Emporia, Rusco said there is still plenty of room to grow. He hopes the Glass Blown Open will continue to get bigger and thinks it could eventually draw as many as twice the competitors it does now. Because of lower population density, he said participation in the sport isn’t as high in the midwest as it is in other parts of the country, which can present a challenge when trying to bring people to Emporia for tournaments. As soon as two days after the 2013 Glass Blown Open, Rusco said ideas were already being kicked around to make 2014s tournament even bigger. “We have a really unique idea for a new event in conjunction with the Glass Blown Open,” he said. “If we can get the community support, we think we can bring 600-700 people in between the two. We want to bring in a big putting competition with big money. We’ll get qualifiers all over the country and I think it could be a huge thing for us.”

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Paul McBeth and Will Schusterick shake hands after a playoff hole in the Glass Blown Open.

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which will be played July 7-13. The event is likely to bring in about 600 disc golf players to Emporia. Luckily for those who are putting the tournament together, Rusco said they will be able to use much of the same stuff for the World Amateurs as they did for the Glass Blown. Tournament organizers are still working closely with the City of Emporia, the Emporia Parks Department, Emporia Main Street and Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce and C o nve n tion and Visitors’ Bureau to nail down the final pieces. Rusco said without having a great relationship with those entities, putting on such large-scale events wouldn’t be possible. “It’s definitely exciting,” Rusco said looking forward to the World Amateurs. “There are going to be a lot of people coming to town from further away than would ever normally come to Emporia that are going to enjoy our town and our store. It’s always exciting when you can bring in a new group of people who you haven’t had

He was actually at the starting point of a path that would launch him as an entrepreneur, owning and operating Dynamic Discs, 912 Commercial St. Rusco purchased a disc in college and then a group of friends who were taking up the sport bought 15 discs together on Ebay to save money. “We saved about $5 a disc,” Rusco said. “I was like, ‘I should have just got a hold of the manufacturer.” Thus a money-making idea was born and he launched an Ebay company, putting in his first 100-disc order. Despite being a college business student, Rusco said he didn’t immediately think this was going to be a business. “I had no intentions to do anything other than sell a couple of discs so that I could get my discs cheaper, or essentially paid for,” he said. “March 2005 was the first order. It took a week to sell the first disc. A week to sell the second disc. Then it was two discs, three discs, time to reorder, and it just kind of started snowballing.” Rusco graduated from Emporia State University with his business degree and substitute taught for a year, which he loved. But he found himself hoping the students had worksheets to keep them occupied so he could log in and take care of all the emails and orders his disc business was generating online. It was time to make a committed move to Dynamic Discs. “We started in my attic, and then moved to three different basements after that,” Rus-

co said. “I finally got married and my wife kicked us out, so we got a storefront basically three years ago, in 2010.” It was a scary move, he added, with about 1,500 square feet in office space and regular bills for rent and utilities to meet every month. The business has expanded so rapidly that Rusco moved from that small space within six months, then again in six months and then again in 11 months, finally settling into its current 6,500-square-foot building. And in mid-April, he was out looking for another building.

“It’s said to be one of the fastest growing sports in the United States,” Rusco said, and he can certainly attest to his products’ popularity. “More and more people know about it. We’re getting the media attention on a small scale. We’re not on ESPN or anything like that yet. But it’s getting out there; people enjoy it.” Rusco said the sport’s popularity is helped by the fact that it’s inexpensive to get started, free to play, and a great game to play with friends. It doesn’t take a lot of classes to learn how, although he said his staff gives demonstrations at schools and other events

By Morgan Chilson


hen Jeremy Rusco picked up a disc in

college and slew it toward a metal cage for his first attempt at disc he was picking up more than a new sport.

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44 | Dirty Kanza 200

golf, he probably didn’t realize

to get people involved. Though it’s hard to put stats to the sport’s increasing popularity, Rusco can certainly testify to the fact that people want discs, bags and other equipment. He opened a retail store in Kansas City in March 2012, and also negotiated his first franchise agreement with an owner to open a store in Louisville, Texas, last year.

“We’ve got a really, really big presence in Texas, and we’ve been going down there for years,” he said. “I felt like we had the right people there on that.” The process of franchising was extensive with complicated agreements and paperwork. Rusco said it remains to be seen whether expanding through corporate stores or franchising is the way for his company to grow.

Along with other locations and growing his internet business that sells products all over the world, Dynamic Discs owns two recreational vehicles that travel to promote the sport and the store. “One is on the road full-time, pushing the brand, pushing the name, pushing the sport,” Rusco said. “He goes from East Coast to West Coast, from north to

south – 40 plus weeks out of the year on the road.” Promoting Dynamic Discs includes working with tournament directors and promoters to enhance and build disc golf events. The second RV is used as a “weekend warrior” to go to tournaments in a rolling trade show way, Rusco said. His company hosts many of the tournaments, so the RV can be used for

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registrations, doing the scoring and handling the awards. A big part of his business is exploring wholesaling opportunities. Rusco orders products from international companies and then sells to other disc retailers in the United States. In December, a Swedish company began manufacturing discs especially for Dynamic Discs, giving the company its first branded product. Rusco wanted his company to tap into the profits and growth that can come from selling its own line of products. “I feel like we’ve got one of the most popular brands and logos and one of the best names in the industry,” he said. “There’s only so much that you can do as a retailer and as a competitor with all the retailers. Whereas, if you become a manufacturer, more companies, more retailers want to carry your stuff. Obviously, we were going to be working with a little better margins, due to the increased volumes and those types of things.” In mid-April, Rusco received the first delivery of bags and shoulder straps with the Dynamic Disc brand, working in partnership with Ogio, a well-known bag and accessories manufacturer. Expanding this wholesaling aspect of the business hasn’t been

difficult, he said. Stores hear that Dynamic Discs is manufacturing a good product, and they call to order it. The company also maintains a strong Facebook and website presence, and sponsors over 40 players across the United States. Growing Dynamic Discs is challenging and fulfilling for Rusco, who said he likes working for himself. But he gives credit for the company’s success to the team that works with him. “I value the opinions of the people who are around me, and the people who are here working,” he said. “We all enjoy what we do. We all have a really good time working every day. Everybody understands and knows what needs to get done. And it’s fun.” While acknowledging the contributions of the people he works with, Rusco is quick to give credit to his wife, Wendy. She works full-time as a chemist at Wolf Creek, and that’s allowed him to plow all the profits from Dynamic Discs back into the company – including most of his own salary. That dedication – and working 10- to 12-hour days – is driving Dynamic Discs to the top of its field. “I enjoy that we’re growing at a very fast rate,” Rusco said. “It’s a fun line of work to be a part of.”

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Profile for The Emporia Gazette

DK 200 Magazine 2013  

The official Magazine of the Dirty Kanza 200. The 200 mile bike race is North America's premier ultra distance gravel grinder.

DK 200 Magazine 2013  

The official Magazine of the Dirty Kanza 200. The 200 mile bike race is North America's premier ultra distance gravel grinder.