This blog has featured a fair amount of whining by poor me about how I didn’t make it into the Dirty Kanza 200 on registration day. America’s top gravel grinder has grown so popular that, in 2016, registration filled in just a few hours. This year, interest dialed up even more, and the field filled in a couple minutes. That reality left me and hundreds of other athletes in the dust six months before the race even began.
I kept training because, frankly, training is my favorite part. And I pinned my hopes on a transfer. But the “seeking transfer” message boards are filled with hordes of athletes raging for spots.
Beth wants to be supportive, but she’s also clear-eyed. She looked the situation over and said, flatly, “You’re going to have to know somebody who knows somebody.”
Luckily, I do.
When I wrote about what happened, just about everybody inside my circle gave me their empathy. And a half-dozen or so of my closest friends and teammates did that one better and gave me their advocacy. They contacted the race director to argue generally for an expanded field. They wrote again to appeal for a solitary exception for yours truly.
When that didn’t work—I can only imagine how Jim’s inbox exploded with hundreds of such unfulfillable appeals—they moved onto his assistant, LeLan. LeLan was warm and polite, but unwilling to promise what he couldn’t promise. (He did agree to have a beer with us at Method before this year’s Gravel Worlds in Lincoln. You should probably come, too.)
These appeals were just the tip of the iceberg. Addison went so far as to shoot a pair of videos to get me into the race via a backdoor he’d identified in the form of a documentary film being made about amateur DK200 riders. Aware that a “sweetened pot” might improve my odds of a transfer, my teammates may or may not have passed around a hat for “sweetener.”
I am humbled as much by these unsuccessful attempts as I am by the one that finally worked. It turns out Marty is friends through church with another cyclist who has multiple DK finishes under his belt. He’d signed up again this year, but busyness and business had limited his ability to train.
Marty didn’t push the issue, and wished this friend well in his training. (Meanwhile, he and I trained like circus freaks. We’d leave so early on some rides that my fully-charged light would die before dawn would dawn. Then I’d ride off his brother’s shoulder, bumming his beam until there was enough sun to see by.
Whenever Marty thought he might cross paths with this friend, he wore his DK cap as a conversation starter. He’d ask how training was going. Not so good. His to-do list was long and lengthening. There were roofs to replace. People to see. Marty said, “Well, if it doesn’t work out and you can’t make it to Emporia… I know a guy.”
I know a guy.
I got the official email triggering my transfer into the Dirty Kanza 200 on April 10.
I’m in this race because I know some guys. I know some guys who know some guys…