Training, Fueling, and Suffering at Dirty Kanza 200

Chris Case took a second crack at the grueling ultra-endurance gravel race, DK 200, a 200-plus mile gravel race across the Flint Hills of Kansas with the coaching assistance of Trevor Connor. The challenge of turning Chris into an endurance rider focusing on everything from race strategy, pacing, hydration, and fueling.

Chris Case Gravel Race Dirty Kanza 200

Today we’re discussing the science of suffering. As many of you may know, Chris was something of the VeloNews resident lab rat, guinea pig, and/or crash test dummy. A “Case” study of one, if you will.

This past spring he decided to take a second crack at the grueling, absurd, fantastic, arduous, and downright challenging Dirty Kanza 200, a 200-plus mile gravel race across the Flint Hills of Kansas. To say that he is not built for endurance would be like saying Marcel Kittel is not built for hill climbs. That’s an understatement.

So, with the assistance of Coach Connor, Chris set out to transform himself from someone who loves the repeated anaerobic efforts of cyclocross into someone who could completely empty every cell in his body and still finish strong. In essence, the pair had the goal of turning Chris into an endurance machine.

In this episode, we’ll first touch upon the history of Dirty Kanza. We’ll scratch the surface to give you a taste of the atmosphere at this race. Chris will also describe his history with the event. Hint: It ain’t pretty.

Next, we’ll discuss the challenge of turning Chris into a Dirty Kanza rider, and how we went about working his energy systems to prepare: everything from the nature of the training, to the non-physiological side—strategy, pacing, hydration, and fueling. Chris will explain what it all felt like to do so many miles at or just below his aerobic threshold. You wouldn’t believe what this type of riding can do to you.

Finally, we’ll discuss the race itself. How’d Chris do? What did Chris do right, what did Chris do wrong? And, finally, we’ll discuss how, with even the best-laid plans, things can go wildly sideways.

So, wrap your head around riding 13, 15, 18(!) or more hours. Gather your blocks, bars, gels, enduro-balls, waffles, wafels, whatever you need. Pump up your tires…but not too hard. This is gravel racing after all. Let’s make you fast! But, really, not too fast. Steady is the name of the game.

Primary Guests
Chris Case and Trevor Connor

Episode Transcript


Chris Case  00:00

Welcome to Fast Talk, develop news podcast. Everything you need to know to run. Hello and welcome to Fast Talk. I’m Chris case managing editor of velonews joined by the endurance machine. That is Coach Trevor Connor. Today, a bit of a special episode, we’re talking the science of suffering, the science of dirty Kansa. As many of you know, I’ve become something of the velonews resident lab rat, guinea pig crash test dummy. A case study of one if you will. This past spring, I decided to take a second crack at the grueling absurd, fantastic, arduous, downright challenging, dirty Kansa 200 a 200 plus mile gravel race across the Flint Hills of Kansas. To say that I am not built for endurance would be like saying Marcel kill is not built for hillclimbs that’s an understatement. So coach Connor and I set out to transform me, someone who loves the repeated anaerobic efforts of cyclocross into someone who could completely empty every cell in his body and finished strong. In essence, we have the goal of turning me into Trevor, an endurance machine. However frightening that might sound in this episode, we’ll first touch upon the history of dirty Kansa. Fred dryer and I had a conversation and a recent fellow news podcast about the phenomenon that is DK, why it’s become so popular, how it has grown so rapidly, and so forth. So check that out. If you want more. Here, we’ll scratch the surface to give you a taste of the atmosphere at this race. I’ll also describe my history with the event, hint, and a pretty. Next we’ll discuss the challenge of turning me into a dirty Kansa rider and how we’d go about working my energy systems to prepare everything from the nature of the training to the non physiological side, strategy, pacing, hydration, and very importantly, fueling, I’ll touch upon what it all felt like to do so many miles at or just below my aerobic threshold, you wouldn’t believe what this type of writing can do to you. Finally, we’ll discuss the race itself. How did I do? How did all look on paper in terms of my heart rate, my power output, the TSS score that I put up, what did I do right? What did I do wrong? And how would even the best laid plans things can go wildly sideways. So wrap your head around riding 13 1618 hours or more. Gather your blocks, the bars, your gels, you’re in durables, your waffles, your waffles, whatever you need, pump your tires, but not too hard. This is gravel racing. After all. Let’s make you fast. Well, really not too fast. Steady is the name of the game.


Chris Case  02:59

This special edition episode of Fast Talk is sponsored by my sponsors for dirty Kansa, which are three tea makers of the Explorer, Aero gravel bike, if you think aerodynamics are not important for a gravel race, think again 13 hours you want to have optimized aerodynamics for saving as many watts as possible. The next sponsor is envy makers of the G 23 gravels Pacific Rim, and we’ll set wider for the tires that you run at an event like dirty Kansa or monzo, or some of these other gravel races, helps with preventing pinch flatting super light wheel, all carbon fiber rim. And finally, power tap. I ran a power tap disc d3 hub on my explorer bike. And we couldn’t have given you all of this analysis for training and racing if it wasn’t for getting the numbers from a power meter. And so we have to thank power tap for their contribution to this episode. Thanks again to three t Nv and power tap for sponsoring this episode of bastar. Let’s get back to the show.


Chris Case  04:19

Trevor, ultimately it is a serious challenge for anybody to undertake. But let’s dig in to what it took for you and I specifically you as the coach and me as the athlete to prepare myself for this event.


Trevor Connor  04:35

Before we go there just out of interest for me because you kind of came to me with a I want to do this crazy thing. But you had more of a sense of the the history. So why Kansas? Why is this the big gravel event? what’s what’s the history here?


Chris Case  04:50

I think that in part, the Midwest just has a love affair with their gravel roads and the terrain and the openspace dirty Kansa why it has grown to be such an event in such a phenomenon in a way, it has a lot to do with the event itself. Of course it is that distance that is doable, but it’s not something you can do really off the couch. It’s really Akin, in many ways to an Iron Man triathlon. If you set your mind to it, you can do it. The average amateur rider can do it, but it takes some serious work. It’s not something you, you can just get off the couch, get on any old bike and do so there’s that aspect of it, it is a big challenge. And it’s one of those events that people see as a, almost a once in a lifetime sort of thing or a bucket list thing or a next big challenge type of event. So that’s part of it. Obviously, the promoters have done Jim Cummins and Leland have done a really great job of producing an incredible event stringing together all of these amazing back roads through the Flint Hills of Kansas. So if you’re thinking that Kansas is flat, do dirty Kansa. And you’ll realize Kansas is not flat, particularly in this part of Kansas,


Trevor Connor  06:16

you ended up climbing what, uh, 11,000 feet?


Chris Case  06:20

Yeah, 10,000 feet of climbing. So ultimately you’re doing I don’t know how many climbs but it adds up. It’s not. There aren’t too many climbs that are going to last more than five minutes in most of them last a lot less than that. But they add up. And so it’s it’s a different type of climbing. It’s this. It’s a rolling course that really takes its toll on you if especially if you don’t ride the hills the right way. Those are two big reasons why dirty Kansa has become so popular. I think also now, for good or for bad. It has become something that is attractive to quote racers, and you’ll see a lot of either former pros that have recently retired or even a lot of current pros wanting to take this thing on Jeff kaboosh mountain biker, pro mountain biker that’s been racing a long time still pro did it this year, Ted King has won it now twice, both times after he had officially retired from the World Tour. Katie Keough, a cyclocross specialist won the women’s event this year, and the list goes on of people that show up every year to race it, it has become a race, and therefore it goes out fast. You could describe it as a cyclocross race for the first 50 miles, if you wanted to the second half of the racers, the middle third, let’s say it’s more akin to a road race where there’s some, some packs and groups working together and some race dynamics. And then, by the end of the race, you know, I think a lot of people are in such a unknown place for them, that it becomes a time trial, not necessarily your traditional time trial against the clock, but a time trial against yourself against fatigue against despair, against a lot of things, it hurts, it hurts quite a bit out there. It’s not a place that a lot of people get to very often you can crack pretty, pretty hard out there.


Trevor Connor  08:19

We should probably tell people your history with the race, because you you’ve tried it before. And How’d that go for you?


Chris Case  08:26

Well, yeah, I did it for the first time in 2013. And I would say it was kind of on a whim, you know, I didn’t, I didn’t know what I was getting in for my friend had done it several times and talked me into it or made it sound like something I needed to do. And I went out there. And I very stupidly, went out really hard and stayed with the lead group for the first 50 miles and then beyond that first aid station and went really deep till about 90 miles in where I proceeded to pull over to the side of the dirt road and start dry heaving because things had caught up to me. And I was in a group of four at that point, though, I was feeling mentally in a way I was like, wow, I’m really doing well. But it was a horrible strategy, my feeding and drinking and my fueling strategy overall was not dialed in whatsoever. It was amazing that I actually finished that day. Because if I’m sure if you had had collected data, you would see that the first half of that race or the first 90 miles was probably way above aerobic threshold. And the second half was way below us. There was a stark difference between those two halves of the race. So I had some unfinished business in a way and certainly hadn’t forgotten the pain. But I wanted to give it another shot because I you know, as a devotee of science, I wanted to see what real training could do.


Trevor Connor  09:55

So basically, Chris and I are very different style riders, Chris is a a consummate cross rider, he loves a race that’s about an hour. He loves the high intensity. I am the guy that just likes to chug along for 1011 hours at a reasonably hard pace, but doesn’t like those big efforts. So Chris came to me and said, Hey, Trevor, here’s a race that’s designed perfectly for you. It’s not designed for me at all. So why don’t I do it?


Chris Case  10:22

Yeah, exactly. What was I thinking?


Trevor Connor  10:25

So yeah. So basically, the the task here was to turn you into me and that I think we even joked about that when we build your training plan to basically said, Chris, just do it. I do. There’s your plan.


Chris Case  10:40

That’s a scary thought, turning me into you. I don’t I don’t want to ever No offense, but I don’t want to be


Trevor Connor  10:45

you. Yeah, nobody does. That’s all right. For this one time, it was a benefit for you. It


Chris Case  10:53

was it was.


Trevor Connor  10:55

But yeah, basically, our training plan was to take my training plan and say, Chris, go do this instead of what you typically do. So we had a pretty easy starting point.


Chris Case  11:06

So I remember after I’d had done a lactate test at the Performance Center at the University of Colorado, he looked at my results and analyze them. And I think your your exact words were, your anaerobic system is hella good. But we needed my aerobic system to be hella good. And it was far from it.


Trevor Connor  11:27

That was the quote you put in the article. And for life, man, I’m not sure I ever remember using that word, but apparently I did.


Chris Case  11:34

I think it was in an email, I’m gonna dig that one up and send it back. Because I’ll never forget it.


Trevor Connor  11:39

I do remember when you first came to me, after you’ve been tested it, it seems sports, they told you the same thing, you need to go out and do a whole lot of writing. Add your aerobic threshold. And you pretty much contacted me a week after you started and said, this sucks. This is so slow.


Chris Case  11:56

You hate? Well, I? Yeah. I’ll tell you. I think my anaerobic engine, if you will think the type of writing I did was a function of having a child and sort of backing off from spending my weekends riding a bike all the time. So it was no surprise to probably either of us that I was built that way. But yeah, after after doing some rides at a robot threshold, your initial reaction? And I’m sure I’m not the only one is wow, this is this is slow? Or is this really going to have a benefit? What kind of what kind of benefit Am I getting from going like this, it doesn’t seem like it’s doing much, right. Um, but I think there’s two, there’s two crucial things to understand. First of all, from my point of view, as the athlete, you eventually get to the point where these rides beat you up, not like a set of heart intervals. But the longer you go, and the more often you do them, you get to a point where you’re able to sustain a, you’re not going quote, slow anymore, you’re not going fast, you’re definitely not going slow, and they end up beating you up, this fatigue settles into your body and it it certainly hurts by the end of these rides. And maybe maybe from your point of view, Trevor, from the from the physiological point of view, you could explain what is going on inside the muscle cells when you’re doing all these rides at aerobic threshold?


Trevor Connor  13:25

Yeah, so I mean, this is a really important concept that we’ve touched on a bunch of times in the podcast. But let’s just dive into this a little bit, because it was really fundamental to your training for this event. So if we put you into the lab and did a ramp test with you, you’re going to see two key physiological breakpoints, points in your test where you can say something has fundamentally changed here. The the explanation of everything that’s changed what’s going on at these two breakpoints. This could be a three parter podcast, I’m going to really simplify this. But these two breakpoints are what are commonly referred to as your anaerobic threshold and your robot threshold. So anaerobic threshold everybody’s very familiar with that’s where your time trial. That’s what you’re approximating with FTP, and most of the modern software, it’s really the highest sustainable level that that you can hold aerobically. The aerobic threshold is much lower, it’s usually about 85% of your anaerobic threshold. So the way I like to think of it to simplify it is below it, you are using all slow twitch muscle fibers. simplification, but let’s just go with it. You’re using all slow twitch muscle fibers, your slow twitch muscle fibers or your purely aerobic muscle fibers that effectively never fatigue, so they can just keep going. Again, I’m simplifying but just go with me here. So below Robic threshold as long as you keep yourself hydrated. You keep your fueled, you have no neuromuscular issues, you could essentially go and definitely add intensities below that aerobic threshold. That’s that’s the way to think of it. So getting that aerobic threshold higher, is really critical for a long event like this. Because really what you are fighting in a 13 hour race is fatigue, doesn’t matter if you can go really hard for the first five hours, if you blow up like the first time you did it, you’re going to be much slower for the next part of the race if you even get to the end of the race. And when you look at experienced riders doing these sorts of events, you tend to see they settle in right around that aerobic threshold. This is where they race, these really long events, and they try not to go over you had an underdeveloped aerobic threshold. So that’s why the first couple times you went out and did these rides, you just went this is painfully slow, because you were putting out a lot of power, your aerobic threshold wasn’t very good. So it felt easy. And you have that had that same tendency everybody else has of saying, boy, this is too easy, I can’t be getting any gains from this. So I need to go harder. To develop it, you need to do long run just below that aerobic threshold. And what you saw over the course of the training was that power came up. And then all of a sudden, these rides became fatiguing. And to give you an example, when you’re talking about your your tour level pros, many of them have anaerobic threshold up in the 300 to 320 watt range. So that’s not an easy ride.


Chris Case  16:33

Maybe we get even nerdier. At this point, I’m, I’m always fascinated by the changes that are taking place on a cellular level, that when you’re working right at or right below that robot threshold, what’s happening to your cells are they’re getting stronger, or they’re becoming more dense. What’s happening to the mitochondria in your cells. I mean, are all of these things I think, are what are the benefits of doing this work? It’s not obvious to people like it is if you go out and do Hill repeats, and you get faster at doing Hill repeats pretty quickly. This type of work takes a long time and the changes aren’t as obvious. Am I right about that?


Trevor Connor  17:12

You’re right. And they’re also changes that take a really long time. This is the other reason people really like to do a lot of high intensity work, because you can see improvements within weeks to really develop that aerobic threshold, you’re you’re measuring it and yours, you fortunately have had enough years in your legs that your rubber threshold wasn’t too bad. And we were able to raise it a bit. But not what we could have done if we had said let’s do dirty Kansa in four years. And part of that is a lot of these changes are more structural in nature. So some basically what you’re trying to do is build your ability to produce power, purely aerobically. So again, mostly slow twitch muscle fibers with some what are called your two a fast twitch muscle fibers, which can work aerobically. So to help them function better. Some of the adaptations you’re seeing are strengthening of the slow twitch muscle fibers. So each one can produce more power, improve capillary density, so you can get better oxygen flow to these muscle fibers. Another important aspect is managing lactate, once you do start recruiting some of those to a fibres, once you go a little bit over that aerobic threshold, and improving your ability to clear lactate, which is the developing something called your your MCT. One transporters, which we’ve covered in the past, there’s also just improving your, what’s called your central conditioning, so your hearts ability to deliver blood. So that’s things like increasing the size of your left ventricle. So you can pump more blood per beat a lot of that application. So as I was saying before, to really cover everything that’s happening in the body, this could be a couple podcasts on its own.


Chris Case  18:55

Right. And we started my training, maybe March, late February. And so I didn’t quit my job and do base miles and right at a robot threshold for a year. There was no way I could do that. I didn’t have the time. I have a wonderful wife that allowed me to train a lot. And daughter I should mention that allowed me to train quite a bit more than I haven’t in years past. But it’s still it still wasn’t a lot of time. And I think it’s interesting that we had to sometimes substitute some of these long rides with what you like to call I think poor man’s sustainability work. Right some some threshold he’ll repeat an anaerobic threshold Hill repeats and things like that. Maybe, maybe you could explain how that how that works. And I imagine a lot of people out there would be in the same boat. If they were looking to do an event like this.


Trevor Connor  19:51

Well, let’s Yeah, let’s let’s address that with an addendum that if you’re going to do something like dirty Kansa and you don’t have the time to ride more than four hours In your your prep for the race, don’t do the race, that’s going to be too much of a shock to your body. And also bear in mind if somebody had come to me saying they had the similar sort of work constraints and life constraints that you had, and they were brand new to cycling and said, I want to do dirty Kansa, I would say great, how does 2020 sound? You need time to build up to this, we took this on knowing that you are somebody with with probably two decades in your legs, and you do have good endurance. And you and I have gone out for enough epic seven hour rides that I knew, you know, you’re you’re standing somewhere between second and third base, you’re not you’re not up to bat.


Chris Case  20:40



Trevor Connor  20:41

right. So we’re not you know, we did some great work with you. But we weren’t performing miracles here. You’ve you can’t do miracles in four months. But one of the nice things about your two thresholds is they do tend to move together, you improve one, you often see improvements in the other. That’s some of the reason a lot of top pros like to do a lot of this aerobic threshold work because it doesn’t beat them up as badly. But you can see improvements in that the the power that the time trial add, it’s complimentary work. So we did a lot of threshold work with you. And as we said in the article, even though we were having to do 10 minute Hill repeats, the objective here wasn’t to improve your 10 minute power. There was no point in this race where your ability to go up a 10 minute climb was going to decide your performance or not. So it was it was exactly what you said it was kind of that poor man’s sustainability work where we said we have limited time. So you had a 10 minute climb, and we had to repeat it five or six times. But the trick here was, whatever your time up, that climb was the first time up that needed to be your time, every single time up that climb. It was basically fighting fatigue is the way to think of it. We wanted you to be just as strong as on the last one when you weren’t as fresh as you were in the first one. teaching your body to say, now that you’re fatigued continue to put that power out. You mentioned the term sustainability. That was the other side of what we are really trying to work with you. And when you talk with pros that do big grand tours to do big events. They talk about repeatability and sustainability more than they talk about what’s my five minute power? What’s my 20 minute power? What’s my one hour power? Because that’s always the question in races. It’s not how hard can you do five minutes it’s how hard can you do five minutes 10 times in a row or at the end of a five hour race. So we wanted to improve your repeatability improve your ability to sustain your power over that 13 hours that we know you’re going to be racing.


Chris Case  22:46

I think one of the other things to mention here is even if you don’t have a ton of time, I think that carving out a few times in your prep to do what you like to call camps or fatigue blocks is a pretty critical component to training for something like this. And I think it also has to do with improving sustainability and repeatability. And those fatigue blocks are really a key week where you’re going to do a lot of writing some quality, work some quantity and get to a point at the end of the week where you’re not overtrained. But you’re nearing that that breaking point.


Trevor Connor  23:31

Yes. So I think the term for it that you’re looking for is they call it functional overreaching. Right? So some people see it as a continuum. You go from overreaching to overtrained, burned out. There has been some argument that actually overreach and burnout are two completely different things that just look similar. But for argument’s sake, that’s kind of your progression. And there’s what’s called functional overreaching, and then there’s non functional overreaching, which is really more just overtraining. And functional overreaching is great. And we want that, especially when you’re working that sustainability because like you said, sustainability is about your ability to keep putting out power when you’re fatigued. So you need to train in a fatigue state, we just need to control it. So you never bumped over into being overtrained. Great way to do that is let’s just take four days where we beat you up. And instead of saying on the last day, oh, just go out and ride easy. We’d have you go out and do a six hour ride and have your time trials on climbs and try to do some hard, high power work when your body’s saying I want to be home in bed right now. Leave me alone.


Chris Case  24:36

And I gotta I gotta chime in here. We did you happen to be in town, came down from Canada. You were not acclimated at all. We went out. We did a camp like this. We did a fatigue block like this. Were in the last day. The last day was the


Trevor Connor  24:52

worst day of my life.


Chris Case  24:54

seven hour ride, you know, seven hour rides with Trevor previously. I was really hurt. And by the end of them and he was fresh as a daisy, I think the everything had changed, you know, the roles were reversed. And by the end, I wouldn’t say I was fresh as a daisy. But we went hard on two or three big climbs in Boulder and I dropped you hard and it brought a big smile to my face and a


Trevor Connor  25:21

real tear to my eye. Just Just to clarify, we had we had this great day talk going where if you and I time traveled up a 20 minute climb fresh, she would always kill me. But I would get my revenge if we’d go out for a six hour ride. I knew the last two hours of that ride I was gonna make you suffer. That’s right. You took away my or I guess I coached out of you my advantage.


Chris Case  25:48

Exactly. You got to be careful what you do to me because I’ll come out and hurt you. Now in pretty much every every aspect.


Trevor Connor  25:57

We’re sitting there at the six hour mark and you’re I was so torn because we’re going up Flagstaff, you’re riding away from me. And the one side I’m like, this sucks. This is where I hurt Chris, and now he’s hurting me. But at the same time, I’m like, but I’m as coach. So I need to be happy. Because this is what


Chris Case  26:14

you are, you are in a weird place that day.


Trevor Connor  26:17

It was on a personal level. Yeah, my just about my worst day as a coach, it was great. personal level, worst day of my life day,


Chris Case  26:27

just come on.


Trevor Connor  26:29

But yes, this is what was key. This is what we are this is when we’re talking about that sustainability. This is how you do it, there’s a big difference between going and time trying to climb when you’re fresh. And for a rider like us got a big anaerobic engine. If you go on time trial climb like Flagstaff fresh, you’re going to pull in a lot of that anaerobic metabolism. So when we’re talking about energy systems, this is your big energy system, you’re going to be pulling in a lot of that to get yourself up Flagstaff, we don’t want that because when you’re doing dirty Kansa, you’re pretty quickly going to deplete a lot of that anaerobic energy, and you’re going to have to really rely on your aerobic system. So we want to beat you up, we want to get you into that fatigue state and now say go rely on a different energy system, go rely on that aerobic system, and still figure out how to go hard.


Chris Case  27:20

So Trevor, one thing that people out there might have a question about is, how do you actually measure someone’s improvements in sustainability or their ability to maintain homeostasis, that it’s not a number like your FTP is going up? How do you get an indication of improvements in that area?


Trevor Connor  27:38

It’s a tricky one, you as you pointed out, a lot of these other a lot of your energy systems are very easy to measure you you want to see if your your anaerobic threshold is improving, you look at your 20 minute or one hour power, even your aerobic threshold, I tend to use your 2.5 our power, sustainability is tougher. And you have to use indirect measures. One of my favorites is cardiac drift, which is basically, if you rode for, say six hours at 200 watts, you might start the ride at 140 beats per minute, but by the end of the ride, you could be 150 560 beats per minute, your heart rate is going to go up. And that is the definition of cardiac drift. One of the things that causes it is dehydration when I see somebody out on a ride on a hot day, and you see kind of an extreme cardiac drift. Yeah, I look at dehydration. But another big cause is, if you think about those slow twitch muscle fibers, I said that they can go and definitely that was a simplification. They do fatigue, they get damaged, you get micro tearing, you get issues that prevent the slow twitch muscle fibers from being able to contract as strongly as they could at the beginning of the ride. So what ended up happening is to produce that 200 watts, you have to recruit a few more muscle fibers to do it. You also as you get fatigued you start cycling through more and more muscle fibers to give ones that have been working for a while a break. The net result is you’re recruiting more muscle fibers and that stimulates your heart to beat faster. So when I see somebody go out and do a six hour ride, and there is an A dehydration issue and you see a lot of cardiac drift, what I’m going to point towards is you are fatiguing, you’re seeing muscle damage, your sustainability is not there. So that was something that we really tried to work on with you and we saw your first couple aerobic threshold rides even though you were complaining that they were way too easy. There’s a in training peaks, there’s a measure called aerobic decoupling, which is their estimate of cardiac drift. And you are seeing 30 40% which is big. So we wanted to bring that down and over the course of our three four months of training, it really came down and amazing. In a dirty Kansa, your robotic coupling was 4%.


Chris Case  30:04

Yeah, I’m astounded by that I, it just just drew, you know, learning all about cardiac drift as we were going through this process and hearing these big numbers at the start of the training and like, wow, that that doesn’t, you know, not knowing all that much about it still sounded like a big number, but to then do a 13 hour ride much longer than any of our other rides, and have it only be 4%. I was very impressed by that. So yeah,


Trevor Connor  30:31

I think there were some artifacts in there, I find it hard to believe in a 13 hour ride, you’re only gonna be 4%. But you know, had I sat



down, I was all excited. And now you’re just Well, you should be excited.


Trevor Connor  30:43

But I think even I, yeah, I would have put you maybe closer to 810 percent is what I was expecting. And that would have been amazing.


Chris Case  30:52

Yeah. Yeah. One of the other things that happened in the course of my training was that I ended up going to Almanzo 100 mile gravel race, got it really excited, was up at the front of that race. And you know, it’s half the distance, the dirty Kansa was coming. Not too long after we had done this fatigue block, and I was was fresh in my mind that I had dropped Trevor. So I was like, wow, I can, I’m gonna go into Almanzo doing really well. And I have the capabilities to do really well. And I got maybe, you know, overly excited. And it came down to the last 30 miles of the race or maybe even less, and it got hilly and I got excited. It was my sort of my preferred terrain and went really hard and ended up cracking myself. And I tell this story, because this is this is another place where I think Trevor would point out, those are the types of events where as a coach, you’re like, Oh, I’m really sorry, Chris, that you had a bad race and you crack. And at the same time, they’re like, yes, I’m glad he cracked because it wasn’t his target race. And he learned a good lesson that if you go too hard for too long, you’re gonna crack yourself, you’re gonna pay the price. And so I think secretly he was smiling when I had this. Yeah,


Trevor Connor  32:13

I was I was conflicted. Again, I think we I think I went through a lot of conflicted moments with our training you. I was conflicted with this event, because it wasn’t your target event. It was a tune up. And I felt bad for you because you’re really dejected because you had that moment where you were away with the guy who won the race and looking at at least second place possibly winning the race right before you cracked right that got the better of you and made you watch your intensity less and and go above yourself. I was happy about it. Because this wasn’t the target race dirty Kansa was the target race. And this was going to be fresh in your mind. And I knew going into dirty Kansa if let’s say you tried to hang on with Ted King and you were looking down and seeing this huge power high heart rates. You would remember that race two weeks before and go Yeah, I can’t do this. I got to let them go. I got to go my own pace because I blew up at the five hour mark in that previous event if I blow up in the five hour mark here I’m done.


Chris Case  33:19

Exactly. Yep, learned the lesson the hard way you could say but it’s a great lesson to have in the back of my mind just like you said and it helped keep things much steadier on dirty Kansa day so one thing we haven’t really spoken about that was also a critical part of my training was the the nutrition component and understanding how to fuel and training my gut a little bit to accept a bit more so that I didn’t suffer as much gi distress we could talk with that could be a podcast in itself or maybe multiple podcasts and I guess the the some of the lessons were you have to train that just like you have to train your body you have to train your gut you have to train your your digestive system to understand what it’s like to fuel that much.


Trevor Connor  34:11

Yeah, I have to admit when you and I were doing those two long rides in Boulder during your final fatigue block I felt a little bit like your mother because I was what constantly every 20 minutes Chris Did you eat something to drink? It was something you had to train yourself to do it’s really actually easy an event like this to forget to drink to forget to fuel them by the time you remember your you have yourself in trouble. So you literally had to for several training rides practice eating more frequently eating at the sort of pacing that you had had identified with you sports was what you needed to be eating and drinking per hour during the event.


Chris Case  34:53

Yeah, I didn’t mind that you were being my mom, Trevor was something necessary for for me to prepare you We had, I had gone into the Performance Center at the University of Colorado and I’d done a metabolic test as well in my preparation for dirty Kansa. And that helps someone identify how many calories, they’re going to need, given the pace that they’re going to be riding at, for an event, an event of this length. So that’s a really simple take on the process, they come up with a number of sorry, the the number of calories that you’re burning per hour, at a given pace, then of course, you have to consider how much you’re storing in your body in different places, whether it’s your liver or your muscles. And then finally, they can compute, oh, you have this much in your body, you’re going to burn this much, because we know that from from what the the data from the metabolic test and give you basically the you need to consume 392 calories per hour, if you maintain that given pace. And that’s what they’re able to do when you do a metabolic test.


Trevor Connor  36:06

So the trick with this is, you need to make sure you are doing it. And it’s very easy. Even at an event like this to forget a lot of riders go into dirty Kansa forget to eat very much drink very much for the first four or five hours by the time they realize there’s they’re struggling. They’re so far behind the game there, there’s nothing they can do. So our goal with your fueling strategy was we needed to keep you in balance for as long as we could we knew the last few hours of the event, you are going to be struggling, you probably weren’t to be able to get much food down, you’re probably going to start having digestive issues. So we need to get as much in you in that first 789 10 hours as we could so that your body had something to work with. So we came up with literally a schedule and had you practice it on your long rides.


Chris Case  36:56

Yeah, there’s, there’s so many factors, there’s not only the number of calories that you need to consume, but there’s the way in which you can consume it, whether it’s liquid form or solid form gels, blocks, bars, homemade stuff, packaged stuff, you have to practice all those things. Because not everybody can deal with consuming a bottle with 200 or 300 calories in it. Other people really like having solid food, some people can just sustain themselves on gels, you just have to practice that. And I think everybody probably gets to a point where there’s taste fatigue. And then you need to figure out which which types of things you can maybe switch to at that point in the race 910 hours in where you’re just like, I cannot eat anything else. Haha, I have this waffle or I have this whatever, that just sort of allows you to consume something, even though you’re the last thing you want to do is shove more sugar into your mouth. So a lot of stuff to practice.


Trevor Connor  38:01

Yeah, and I think a lot of people when they hear a saying we came up with a nutrition strategy or thinking, we found the perfect foods, we found the perfect drink mixes and had this very, very scientific, very, very detailed approach to nutrition. You’re not going to be thinking about that out there. It’s going to be a struggle just to get the food and so really, we were focusing on foods that you had found during your training ride that you could digest that you liked that you were willing to eat or drink. And that was preferable to the perfect scientific mix that you go This tastes awful. And the idea of eating or drinking this for 13 hours it would kill me.


Chris Case  38:39

Yep, exactly. Yeah, you know, I kept it relatively simple. I had mostly scratch gummies and scratch in my bottles with some moon in my bottles. I had some enduro balls, which are homemade. They’re from a book called rocket fuel. And they’re I think they’re great. They’re think they’re date based. Anyways, they just, I found them. I like the taste. They seem to work for me. And yeah, the gummies the straight up gummy bears. I know, Trevor is paving the corporation that produces Swedish Fish because he consumes mass quantities of them on his rides. You got to try things and figure out what works for you.


Trevor Connor  39:25

Yep. But you have to look at it from the perspective of when you’re nine hours into this event and you’re struggling and you’re forcing food down. What are you going to be willing to take down? What can you tolerate? And you’ll be you might be a little surprised what that can be.


Chris Case  39:43

I will say that on the last aid station 150 miles into the race. I was all alone at that point. Just by happenstance. I got to that aid station and I saw a bag of chips and a ginger beer in a cooler I’m not gonna lie, I ate it. I loved it, it was like a bit of Paradise out there. Probably not the best thing to consume. But if you end up doing dirty Kansa have some things that you might crave some salty stuff out there and have it in your aid station at at some point so you can go to it and it will give you a mental boost. Maybe it won’t give you a physical boost, honestly, but give you that mental boost in a nice refreshing cold drink, man. You wouldn’t believe how how good it feels to have that oil, reinvigorate you for the next 50 miles of headwinds and dirt. We’re, we’re painting such a beautiful picture of this race. Nobody’s gonna do it again. That’s not true. There’s a lot of crazy people out there that are gonna want to do this even more because of how bad it sounds.


Trevor Connor  40:51

It is an epic experience.


Chris Case  40:52

However, you got to do it next year. You’re built for it. Well, this


Trevor Connor  40:56

is the thing like this just sounds like fun for me. This is not a challenge is like, what do you want to do on a Saturday afternoon? Let’s go for a 13 hour ride. All for that.


Chris Case  41:08

You might have to get yourself slightly wider tires.


Trevor Connor  41:11

Yeah, you don’t think I can do it on my 23 C’s? No, I


Chris Case  41:15

don’t think so.


Trevor Connor  41:21

So Chris, I think the one place where you and I would not see eye to eye on this particular event is in the gear. If I was doing this, I would probably be doing it on my $600 2008 cross bike with the rear cantilever brake still disconnected and my completely bald tires and tell you I’m just fine. I’m guessing that was in your mindset?


Chris Case  41:42

Absolutely not. Ever, you are a retro grouch to the core. I on the other hand work for velonews and I had some glorious sponsors that helped me get through this event, three tea makers of their exploro, Aero gravel bike, and the makers of the G 23. Carbon wheels, gravel specific and power tap and their g three power meter hub. All came on board to sponsor my efforts at dirty Kansa and help bring you this episode of fast


Trevor Connor  42:12

dock. Good to say my defense the last pro cross race I ever did. on that bike, the guy who was measuring the width of the tires, walked towards me looked at my tires laughed and didn’t even bother to measure.


Chris Case  42:25

I don’t doubt it.


Trevor Connor  42:27

Okay, back to the show.


Trevor Connor  42:34

So I think if we’re painting a picture of the training here, what you should be hearing is sustainability. Or even better. I want to put in scientific terms. This is about your body’s ability to maintain homeostasis. Once you lose homeostasis, which means your body gets out of balance, that’s when you get in trouble in an event like this. And the tricks to this are we talked a lot about Chris’s training, which is training that sustainability that repeatability that ability to put out power fatigued. That was a sort of training work we did. But it goes beyond that we just talked about his nutrition strategy to make sure that he had enough fuel throughout the event to make sure he was sufficiently hydrated. The last element of this is you want to throw as little at your body that it is unfamiliar with as possible during the event. And this is a mistake a lot of people make they go there’s a big event, I haven’t done something like this before. So I’m going to eat things I’ve never eaten before, I’m going to ride a different bike that I haven’t written on, except for maybe once right before the event. These are the sorts of things that can also get you in trouble. Anything that Chris was going to do in the race for the three weeks leading up to the race, he was practicing them. So he was riding the bike in the right setup. For weeks before the event. He was practicing the nutrition strategy for weeks before the event. Everything was practice. So that was familiar to his body and it wasn’t going to throw off homeostasis.


Chris Case  43:59

Yeah, that’s absolutely right. You You have to, you have to trust the process. For one thing, you also you can’t cram for an event like this in the last three weeks, whether it’s training or getting new gear or trying new foods, you really ideally need to figure all that stuff out beforehand, dial it in, and then just get in a rhythm of using that food and eating it at a regular intervals and have your bike dialed in with the setup, you’re going to run with the tires you’re going to use with the arrow bars that you might use or the In my case, one arrow bar that you were going to use. But if you look


Trevor Connor  44:40

at you know in the article, we put up a graph of your weekly training stress. And if you look our last big BuildBlock ended four weeks before the event, the three weeks leading up to the event was really about just maintaining form and practicing everything. equipment, food, and Everything during the practice race, so no, we were not really training. And those last three weeks we were just maintaining,


Chris Case  45:07

which is a good pitch to our podcast a few episodes ago on peaking and taper process. So check that one out. Well, should we jump into the race itself and talk about how it went and some of the other things that you noticed during the race? Absolutely. Well, all this talk about all this training, best laid plans, as you say, we get to the start line in Emporia, Kansas and thunderstorms and Dawn and everybody’s shivering at the start line, because it’s a little chilly. And you know, the first time I did dirty cans, I remembered it going out really fast and thinking, Oh, my God, this is silly. We cannot possibly maintain this. And lo and behold, we couldn’t, I certainly could. The winner that day did. astoundingly from my point of view, it actually felt like it was not as fast and not as aggressive. My data tells a slightly different story, I was certainly going above the aerobic threshold that I was trying to maintain. And that, you know, that all comes to bear when the group is doing one thing and you’re your coach, and your plan tells you to do another thing, sometimes you have to have to break those rules a little bit to stay with the group to benefit from all those the aerodynamics of staying with the pack and all those things. But


Trevor Connor  46:36

this was the trickiest part of the race. Because Yeah, it was still a race, we talked about the best way to pace yourself is to do the 13 hours, that aerobic threshold. But if that means you’re getting popped, and you’re by yourself five minutes off the line, that’s not a good place to be either. So it was that balance between we knew you needed to try to stay with the the lead group or find a smaller group that you could ride with, especially in the winds, on the flatter stretches, finding a big guy for you to sit on, because you are smaller, was going to be really key for you in the race. And that meant you couldn’t pace yourself quite the way we had ideally, have you pace yourself, if you’re just doing this ride by yourself,


Chris Case  47:19

right? Well, you know, all that was, was somewhat shattered, I guess, in maybe good ways, maybe bad ways. But about an hour into the race, I had a cut a sidewall on my tire. And that really changed the entire race. For me here. I was thinking, Oh, no, maybe I’ll hang with that front group as long as I can and use them as much as I can, and then eventually settle in, find that group, do all that thing, do all those things that we, Trevor and I had talked about, but man, it was such an It was a nasty sidewall cut. And I tried plugging it a couple times. And it didn’t work. And eventually, while I broke my pump, luckily, a friend of mine flooded in virtually the same exact spot, we ended up both having to put tubes in our tire in our tires, and I borrowed his pump. And that really changed the face of the of the race entirely. And it became a different sort of event. So I lost probably 20 minutes. I’m not not proud of that fact. But it took took me about 20 minutes to figure out this issue on the side of the road as hundreds if not thousands of people pass me by because the racers in the 100 mile event start right behind the 200 mile event and they were passing me. I know this because I knew somebody in that race and they they came up beside me as I after I’d gotten onto the course. And they were like, Hey Chris, what happened. And I told him the story very quickly and told them how I pump it broken. And they gave me the pump, which was incredible. It was a big boost because I thought there’s a long way to go. If I get a flat again, I’m totally stranded if I need a pump. So they gave me the pump and off I went then it was about maintaining a pace and making a judgment call on what I could do to try to gain back some time, but not go too deep. Trevor, why don’t you talk a little bit more about what it looked like on paper when you when you saw my data after the race.


Trevor Connor  49:21

This is one of the unfortunate this is this is why flats and races really suck because then you get into the the what ifs and there’s definitely some very interesting what ifs here that you you finished what 65th place I believe it was something like that. Yeah, but if you look at the file, you can see that you were stopped for 20 minutes with the flat tire. And you look at the finishing results and the difference between your 65th and 35th place was 20 minutes and there was a relatively big group that all finished within a couple minutes of one another up in that kind of 30s and 40s placing That was probably the group that you fell out of when you you flatted. And you can see the evidence that you would have been with them, if not possibly been able to ride away from them later in the race. So, you know, it’s unfortunate that we won’t ever fully be able to see what you could have done. But at the very least, we can say, you err on the side of the road with a flat for 20 minutes. And you were 20 minutes down from from 35th plays.


Chris Case  50:24

Right? You go back and forth with your analysis of what could have happened. And on one hand, you think, man, I lost 20 minutes there. And if I had only if that hadn’t happened, I would have stayed with that group. Or the question is, do you stay with leaders a little too long, because you get excited, and maybe you get a little too confident in your abilities, and you go go over that line a bit too much, and then you end up cracking. On the other hand, I lost 20 minutes. So then I had to sort of make this judgment call about how hard I could go and did I end up going a little too hard solo, because I was excited. And the adrenaline was pumping, and I was trying to gain back time, ended up hurting myself in the long run, too. I’ll never know. And


Trevor Connor  51:12

so the one thing that we can say is we had talked about at some point, you need to be pacing yourself. And that just simply happened much sooner than we had planned. Because of the flat though you were riding with Ben Delaney who also flooded for a bit and he was driving a pretty good pace. So we do know that you were able to spend most of the race really focusing on being in that right range to be able to get to the finish of the race without blowing up. So that’s one thing we can say for certain. Some of the things that amazed me is we talked before the race, saying yeah, it’s gonna be hard off the gun, you need to do some some efforts, you’re going to need to be above aerobic threshold get into that. Some people call it sweet spot. Some people call it no man’s land, some people call tempo pacing, that basically, we knew you could spend an hour or two there, but then you are going to need to back down. Amazingly, when we look at your heart rate profile, you are up in that sweet spot tempo range for about six hours. Yeah, it didn’t blow up, you got to the first speed zone at that point. And it’s amazing, you can see that little drop. And then as soon as you left the feed zone, that’s where you finally said, Okay, this is an aerobic threshold ride, I’m going aerobic threshold, and your heart rate set perfectly in that aerobic threshold range all the way to the next feed zone, which was at about 10 hours. You then left that feed zone, tried to get back up to aerobic threshold. But you can see, that’s when you started to really struggle. And you dropped into what most people would call zone one writing, which was basically now you were just trying to get yourself to the finish. But you still found it in you in the last 30 minutes of the race to actually go back up into that sweet spot. No Man’s Land.


Chris Case  52:58

Yeah. So that last that last section, I was, that’s after I had my bag of chips and my ginger beer, among other things. And unfortunately was was by myself, I left the aid station by myself. And that’s where the mental game begins. It’s a mental game, of course, so much of the time, but especially those lat that last segment, and especially when you’re by yourself. And that was an unfortunate part of it. But the last 30 minutes, what you’re seeing on paper is a group of maybe four or five guys came up behind me and I thought, Man, this is the train I need to board and I got on there and they were going as a group faster than I was solo and I was I was pretty wrecked at our 12 and a half. So I latched on to that. And that was a beautiful thing to be able to do at the very end of the race and pick it up it gives you seeing people to work with and being able to work with them gives you a surge of something that helps you pick up the pace and that’s what you’re seeing.


Trevor Connor  54:05

And this is also why I’m saying with your cardiac draft, there was probably it’s not quite accurate that 4% or as a matter of fact, I’m certain simply because in that last 30 minutes your power was going back up into that tempo sweetspot type range but your heart rate didn’t which shows that you were experiencing some form of neurological fatigue by the end of this ride that was keeping your heart rate depressed and so that would offset some of the the natural cardiac drift you you would experience. That being said and this is in the article, you look at your your heat map for the power and it’s a really nice heat map. You You don’t ever see a big explosion you see a decline as you would expect over 13 hours, but a very reasonable decline. So you there is no evidence to me anywhere that you blew up in this race. You actually seem to pace it very well. And were able to get yourself to the end. And yeah, you are struggling those last few hours, but everybody was struggling those last few hours. Maybe, King but.


Chris Case  55:09

And if you flashback to that velonews podcast where Fred had interviewed a bunch of people at the finish line, you heard some pretty horrific stories of people having to pull over and sit or nap on the side of the road and people that just completely crack themselves. And thankfully, I did not experience that. And that has everything to do in a way to relatively good pacing throughout a fueling strategy that I stuck to almost the entire time. And obviously, there are some patches in there where I the stomach didn’t feel great, but never had to pull over. Never got sick, none of those things. So yeah, it’s all the things that we practice in training helped me accomplish a good result. Obviously, I’d like it to have been better if I didn’t have the flat it would have been. But thanks to the training, thanks to the science, it went a lot better than it did in 2013.


Trevor Connor  56:10

Now it’s gonna turn you back into a cross writer, so I could be down sicko Rides Again.


Chris Case  56:15

You know what, I’m happy for you to do that to me, because I’m looking forward to cross season crosses coming, hashtag cross is coming.


Trevor Connor  56:22

It’s gonna say now we got to figure out the next thing we’re gonna torture ourselves with?


Chris Case  56:26

Well, yeah, I’ve been thinking about that. And if anybody out there has any ideas about what they’d like to see me do or Trevor do and the science behind it, send us an email at Fast Talk at velonews comm Fast Talk at velonews Comm. Tell me Tell Trevor, what sort of torture I should do next. And for those who are into the numbers, by finishing time was 13 hours and eight minutes, roughly average speed 15.7 miles per hour. I think Ted kings was over 19 miles per hour. just


Trevor Connor  56:58



Chris Case  56:59

of one mind. Yeah, elevation gain was 10,079 feet by training stress score, which is a training peaks indication of how hard how intense how stressful the ride was, was 655. Try doing that on a weekend ride. 655 is something that I don’t I wouldn’t say any Tour de France stage any writer would have that biggest score on right.


Trevor Connor  57:27

Generally, anything over 400 is considered extreme. And I know lots of people who have never seen a ride over 400. So yeah, my guess is bigger stages at the tour are going to be over 400 for those riders. Most of the stages at the tour, they’re going to be more and for those guys. Let’s clarify for any of us go in and do one of those stages at the tour is gonna be 600. But for one of those tour guys, they’re probably closer to 303 25 would be my guess for a lot of stages.


Chris Case  57:57

Yeah, maybe not the best comparison but still a 655 a gigantic number, kilojoules 7801 and I lost nine pounds, which I don’t know, Trevor, you said that that was not a massive quantity of sounds like a big amount.



So I started at 140 pounds by the end of the race. I was 131 It’s a big amount, but it’s what I would expect for an event like this in the heat that you were in.


Chris Case  58:22

Yeah, they’re the numbers dirty Kansa by the numbers.


Trevor Connor  58:26

I think the other number that’s worth bringing up for anybody who wants to attempt this event is 80% of your time was below Robic threshold it was in what people would consider base training type intensities. So this is not a high intensity race. You do not do this event at the sort of pace you would do the weekend three hour racer.


Chris Case  58:50

That was another episode of Fast Talk. As always, we love your feedback. Email us at Fast if you have a crazy idea about how Chris can hurt himself next, email us at Fast Subscribe to Fast Talk on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play Be sure to leave us a rating and a comment. Become a fan of fast doc on slash velonews. And on slash velonews. Fast talk is a joint production between velonews and code Connor coaching. The thoughts and opinions expressed on fastag are those of the individual for Trevor Connor. I’m Chris case. Thanks for listening