DK200: Hard Decisions and Growth

A handful of close friends/teammates already know this, but I recently had to make the tough call to drop out of Dirty Kanza 200. I started experiencing some mild knee pain during long outdoor rides in the winter, but chalked that up to cold weather. As the weather warmed up (unseasonably late I might add) the pain got progressively worse on long rides and really hampered my training during the weeks I should have been peaking. After a few back-to-back weeks of riding 200-ish miles, the pain was unbearable with my right knee swelling up and bruising after rides. It finally got to the point where I couldn’t ride 16 miles without pain. 

Photo I sent my coach after a long ride. The best way to answer the question, “where is the pain?” is to just draw on yourself.

In a total Hail Mary approach, I got a bike fit from Chris Balser and went to Twin Cities Movement for physical therapy, hoping it would magically (and quickly) heal me. Both of these tactics have been helpful for sure, but healing has its own timeframe and it turns out mine isn’t going to happen before June 2nd.

Anyone who even kind of knows me knows that not achieving my goals isn’t something that I’m used to. Historically speaking, when I set a goal, there’s a 99% chance I will accomplish it. Call it a combination of my privilege and personality, but there have been very few instances in my life where failure has smacked me so squarely in the face…which was probably actually not very healthy, but here we are!

As part of my personality, when I commit to something, it’s 100%, laser-focused, complete and total dedication, no matter how big or small that thing is. So, to prepare for the rigors of DK, I downloaded a meditation app and meditated every single day. I cleaned up my diet and incorporated local free range meat after a decade of vegetarianism to aid in recovery. I spent hours upon hours foam rolling, stretching, icing, and putting my legs up the wall, hoping my knees would get better. And I obviously rode my bike a lot. It was pretty heart-breaking when I had to admit to myself that DK just wasn’t going to happen, but I think in the end, it was a good lesson for me in failure. It shows that, no matter how much you prepare, there are certain things that are always out of your control. Predicting how my body, which hadn’t ever been injured from cycling before, would react to big miles was one of those things. And, while I wouldn’t necessarily say I took defeat gracefully (there were several nights of drinking wine and eating ice cream on the couch while questioning my life decisions), I’m definitely coming to terms with the idea of re-adjusting my goals while letting this one go.

What do my new goals look like? My next big race is the Lutsen 69er so right now it’s all about mountain biking. This is really only my second season mountain biking so I’m working hard to improve my bike handling skills and stamina. For now, though, I’m most excited to have fun on bikes, cheer on my track/gravel/road/tri racing teammates, and reconnect with friends.

My teammates are the actual best ❤

*I debated titling this post, “DK200: Pulling Out,” but then decided that I’m a mature adult who doesn’t use sexual innuendos as the titles of blog posts (but still references them in the body copy, obvs).

**If you’re thinking, “Renee, it’s just bike racing! Stop being so dramatic,” you’re right! And probably have a healthier outlook on life than I do. I am also acutely aware of the privilege I have in even being able to sign up for this race in the first place, let alone admit that it’s one of the few times in my life where I’ve “failed.”

***This post (any any post where I talk about shitty things that happen) aren’t written for the sake of garnering pity. I think it’s helpful to show that people who seem like they have it together on the outside, definitely don’t. Even perfectionists aren’t perfect.

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