This year Salsa is sending the Dirty 11.5 to participate in 2016’s Dirty Kanza 200. Andrea Cohen is Dirty No. 8.
“My biggest goal for Dirty Kanza 200.” At the Dirty Kanza camp this year, Jim Cummins mentioned that the motto for this year’s DK200 would be “Find your limit.” That stuck with me. He defined the word for us, straight out of the dictionary. What I remember from that definition was the “may not extend or pass.” The “may” seems so lax. Like the limits are made to be challenged. This will be my fourth year challenging the DK200 and myself. I want to learn something new about myself by going beyond what I know. Go to that place that hurts. Figure out how to get out of it. I think the DK200 is one of the best events to test out those limits. The structure of the race will allow me to use support, but I will still be in a very remote area of the Flint Hills. I will be left to my own devices outside of those checkpoints. I always try to work within a positive mindset, but I know the frustrating moments will be there to teach me a lesson! A new limit is most definitely my goal.
“My biggest fear.” Well, I started this thought off by first Googling the word “fear,” then by belting out one of my practiced maniacal laughs. “MWAHAHAHA. Fear. What is fear??!!!” Joking.
Dirty Kanza scares the crap out of me. Fear is an emotion that brings about all kinds of crazy thoughts. Will my hair tie break? What if I forget my water bottles? My helmet? All things that could potentially happen and have happened to me. Those things did not stop me. I finished my race. I was laughing by the end of it all. Fear brings up all the things that are out of my control.
This might surprise a lot of people, but my biggest fear is my competitors. I am a competitive person. The ladies that come to the DK200 are strong. They are smart riders. They will probably crush you. My competitive nature can leave me high and dry sometimes. I will get so wrapped up in my head, wondering how many ladies are in front of me, or worse, behind me, with the possibility of catching me. I have high expectations for myself. I always have. I do not think that finishing before someone makes me better than them, my competitive drive is purely an emotion. A force that leads me away from my goals to a thought process that takes me far away from where I should be. Those fearful thoughts will block out the reminders to eat and drink, to pay attention to my cue sheets and myself.
“How am I preparing and combating this fear?” Having more ladies at these events is what keeps me excited. It challenges me to ride stronger and better. The ladies’ fields have been growing, and quickly. This helps me grow as a rider. The minutes and hours that I have spent riding side by side with some of these ladies has shown me so much about what is possible. These women are people I look up to, and I am pretty lucky. I have to remind myself that they are going through the same thing I am. Riding over the same rocks and ruts. No matter how I finish, sportsmanship is No. 1.
Dirty Kanza is one of the more competitive gravel events that I do. I believe it gives me a place to build that sportsmanship and community with other riders, especially the ladies. It is important for this part of the gravel cycling world to grow, and people know that. For example, at this year’s Landrun 100, Bobby and Crystal Wintle welcomed all of the ladies on the wait-list to join them on race day. My fears concerning competitors is a healthy fear. I have to remember that. It is a positive challenge, because I see it that way. A grimace and slight smile when I push past what I think I can do while chasing another lady’s wheel feels good. Whether or not I keep up with her is totally up to me.
“What am I most looking forward to?” I am most looking forward to the people of Dirty Kanza. Whether it is someone I haven’t seen since last year’s race or just someone I silently ride with around mile 170, it is an undeniable fact that gravel races have one of the strongest communities surrounding them. These events bring out the best people. It shows when you are suffering alongside someone, and we can both eek out a smile or encouraging nod. The people of Dirty Kanza includes the town that hosts this race. Emporia welcomes hundreds of gravel-crazed riders with open arms. They are outside their houses cheering and ringing cow bells. They swarm around the finish line well past a reasonable hour. They are just as important as the hundreds of riders that flock to their town. I have been shown such incredible amounts of respect and joy all throughout the event that is Dirty Kanza. I will be coming back for many, many miles of Flint Hills.
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I live, work, and play in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa may not have epic mountains or vast skylines, but it boasts hundreds of miles of gravel. That is where I found my true calling. In 2012 I attempted my first Trans-Iowa, got lost, and was instantly hooked. I have been there every year since. I am constantly looking for that next adventure to keep me teetering on the line between insanity and clarity. Bring it on! andreafromiowa.wordpress.com.