Gnat's DK200 Weapon Of Choice - Vaya Ti
I chose the Vaya Ti because I think it is the perfect platform for long miles of pavement or gravel. It's got the right combo of performance and comfort. Titanium is light and smooth. I like the geometry and the resulting solid, stable feel of the bike. I'll need that comfort and stability in the second half of this race. My approach to this race is to finish. Last year I attempted to race it and it conquered me at mile 165. This year, my approach is to conquer it. I've learned from last year, listened to my body, and am making some changes.
One of the bigger changes is my drivetrain. I am running a different gearing set up. Last year I rode with a 46/34T wth a 12-27 9-speed cassette. This year I am running a 2x10 set up with 28-42 front chainrings and a 11-28 rear cassette. That's quite a range and some might say you don't need it. Truthfully, near mile 165 last year I walked one of the big hills. I was tired and my legs were cramped. This year I am equipping my bike with lower gearing to prepare for those final miles. I need to spin more to keep my legs loose and I'd rather pedal slowly than walk. My legs don't like walking.
Last year I rode a Fargo Ti prototype with 1.9" 29er tires. It was a really smooth and comfortable set up. This year my bike set up is lighter and I'm switching to faster and more durable tires. I'll be riding either Schwalbe Marathon Supremes or Extremes for the event depending on the weather. I'll run the Extremes if the forecast looks like rain, otherwise I'm going to keep the faster Supremes on there. Some might say this is a risk, but I have made my choice and I'm not looking back.
I will also be double wrapping my handlebars this year. The Flint Hills gravel is a bit more rough and unforgiving than the hero gravel we have around where I live and train. I also don't like gloves in general and last year I pulled out at 165 miles with blisters on both hands. This year the double wrap of Salsa Gel tape should help.
One last thing I learned last year is that I don't want to depend on waterbottles down in Kansas. I still remember looking at them with all the dust, dirt and cow poop on them. I didn't want to drink out of them and this forced me to drink less than needed. This year I switched to a bladder system inside my Revelate Designs Tangle bag. This keeps things nice and clean and out of the way. I love it. I also added a Mountain Feedbag. This will hold my pocket camera and some small food items.
All in all, I've gotten some good miles on this bike. It's fast, comfy and pretty light for what it is. I'm really excited about it and my set up. I think this will be the year to check this beast off my list.
One other thing that I've done this year is plan my nutrition a bit better. Last year I carried A LOT. Too much in fact. This year I am going to have an hour by hour plan for nutrition. My staples will be water, electrolyte replacement, salted cashews, and dried meat. I also will have some small baggies of mixed Clif Bar Shot Bloks and dried fruit. I love those things and will be mixing up 3-4 flavors for a little Shot Blok fruity surprise. Regarding the dried meats, I'll be planning ahead this year and not depending on whatever jerky I find in Emporia. I'll be bringing down some premium dried meat from a rural Minnesota butcher shop. Sometimes it's the little things that get you through events like this.
Next week I hope to come back here to share my success story and what I learned. At this point, I'm going with what I know and what I've got. Wish me luck!