Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bee Aye Kay

Sunset at the High School in Tribune, KS

After experiencing Ragbrai from 2009-2014, and then 2 days of 2016, it was inevitable that I would compare Biking Across Kansas (BAK, pronounced "Bee-Aye-Kay" rather than "back") to Rabrai during my experience. However, I promised myself to enjoy BAK for what it was, and not hold it to any preconceived standards I may have developed from Ragbrai. 

My BAK Experience

BAK was a fantastic ride, and a wonderful experience. 

Although I have lived in Kansas for over two years before BAK, I had yet to be introduced to Kansas. During the first five days of BAK, Kansas finally introduced itself to me. The wind did not cease for that amount of time. It just kept blowing. 

And for five straight days, I saw infinite prairies like the one pictured below. 

The infinite prairie of Kansas
There was useful information in these prairies. Those tall blades informed us of how strong a cross wind we were dealing with. And we were most definitely dealing with lots of wind. 

BAK involves 9 days of riding. On day 1 (which some call day 0, but who are they kidding), you get yourself to the starting point and bike to the border of Colorado and back. A few hitch rides to the border so that they can simply bike to camp from the border. A few more simply skip this ride and don't worry about it; they probably think 8 days of riding is good enough. 

After riding the first two days by myself, I rode the rest of the week with Wichita friends Neil McDaniel and Lauren Hirsh. Erin and I rode with them during the Cottonwood 200. 

Neil and Lauren using a downhill to their advantage

Me with Lauren and Neil at a MOST welcomed oasis: Tallgrass Tap House in Manhattan

My ride ended on Thursday in Rossville, less than 20 miles from Topeka. Erin brought a meal for four from Globe Indian Cafe. We had a small picnic on the high school parking lot while a tornado warning was issued. I felt somewhat bad about leaving Lauren and Neil to their tents while I drove home to an air conditioned night in my own bed for the first time in 7 days. 

That wouldn't last long, however, as the next three days were spent camping with Erin on our PAC it Northwest trip. More on that later. 

The Inevitable Comparison

Since I am a Ragbrai rider, I'll give my comparison of the two rides, by listing pros and cons from the perspective of BAK. 


  • BAK is more intimate.
  • There are four SAGs each day in which you don't have to spend a dime.
  • There are four sponsored meals during the week on which you save money.
  • If you do something barely interesting from a Ragbrai perspective (like carrying a speaker on my bike for music), it is extremely interesting to a BAK rider and will generate several comments and conversations.
  • The only logistics you have to work out are how to get there and how to get home. Sites for tents and showers at the end of the day are taken care of for you. Your gear is hauled from town to town.
  • Not as hilly as Ragbrai can be.
  • There are never any lines.
  • There are fewer inexperienced bicyclists around you to cause an accident.

Neutral Comparisons 

Although these are neutral comparisons for me, they may fall in pros or cons for someone else. 
  • Sleeping in until 7am guarantees you will be at the back of the pack. 
  • Longer average daily ride. 


  • It is one day longer than Ragbrai. 
  • There are no vendors (you rely on SAGs and pass through towns only).
  • Getting a beer can be VERY difficult at times. Getting a GOOD beer can be EXTREMELY difficult at times. 
  • BAK does not close roads, so you sometimes ride on very busy ones.
To be fair, it is difficult for me to compare the two objectively. Both experiences were fantastic and I look forward to experiencing them both again. 

The Numbers of BAK

The total mileage over the 9 days is 522 miles, which averages out to 58 miles per day. This does not seem accurate to anyone who experiences BAK. A closer look at daily mileage shows that the first day of 16 miles and the last day of 21 miles are extreme outliers. Throwing those out provides us with an average of about 69.3 miles per day over seven days, which is much more like it!

The 2017 entrant list posted on the BAK website had 761 participants listed. Several of these don't make it the whole way across Kansas (including myself for having missed the last two days of riding) and some ride only a select few days. 

From this data, I was able to find that 30 states were represented along with the country of Denmark. Kansas had the most participants at 566. The breakdown of the other states and country can be seen in this bar chart that I created using Excel. 

State by State participation rate in the BAK 2017

From this chart and the data, the top states participating in the BAK were 
  1. Missouri
  2. Colorado
  3. Texas
  4. California
  5. Nebraska-Oklahoma (Tie) 
The breakdown of participants of top 12 highest populated cities in Kansas:
  1. Wichita: 72
  2. Overland Park: 20
  3. Kansas City: 16
  4. Topeka: 28
  5. Olathe: 27
  6. Lawrence: 24
  7. Shawnee: 12
  8. Manhattan: 30
  9. Lenexa: 7
  10. Salina: 19
  11. Hutchinson: 34
  12. Leavenworth: 10
It was interesting to see more participants from Manhattan than Lawrence, as well as see that the 11th most populated town of Hutchinson had the 2nd most participants in the state after Wichita. Way to go, Hutchinson!  

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

38th Annual Dam to Dam

Somewhere in the 9:00-9:30 pace start for the 38th Annual Dam to Dam

Small History of Dam to Dam

Erin ran her first Dam to Dam on Saturday, June 3. It was the second time I ran it, but it was the first time since it changed to a half marathon distance in 2014. Prior to this, it was a 20K. 

Using the Dam to Dam 20K and half marathon results, I created a snapshot of the number of finishers each year and the fastest male and female time over the years.  

Growth of Number of DAM to DAM Finishers from 1980-2017

An interesting finding was that the number of male runners was larger than the number of female runners in the DAM to DAM by a significant amount from 1980-2009. Since 2010, the opposite has been true. There have been significantly more female finishers than male in the DAM to DAM. Way to go females!

Finish Times for the Fastest Male and Females from 1980-2017

The last four times above reflect the jump to the half marathon distance. It should be noted that the 1999 finish times needed to be adjusted since the course was inadvertently 177 meters short according to DAM to DAM history

The fastest male 20K time was 59:23 in 1985 recorded by Phil Coppess while the fastest 20K time by a female finisher was 1:07:52 in 2012 by Diane Nukuri. It should be noted that the course changed in 2012, and also produced the third fastest male time. 

Our Experience

Erin and I were not prepared for this run. Although we had just finished a week of rest, the previous weekend had us riding 200 miles over 3 days in the Cottonwood 200. Neither of us got our 10 mile training run in. I think we both capped at 7 or 8 mile training runs. This reflected on race day, and we both finished 40-50 minutes longer than we wanted to.

My legs gave out and would not work from about 10 miles to the finish. After several poor attempts at running between mile 10 and 11, I finally gave in and walked the remaining distance, finishing in 2:55:03. 

Erin, who is much more sensitive to heat than I am, had to run at a much slower pace. She was able to keep running for the whole race, with her natural walking breaks. Finishing in 3:08:46, she walked right to the medical tent since she was feeling dizzy and couldn't think straight enough to operate her phone.  

Whatever! We crossed the finish line. We did it; not how we wanted, but we got it done. 

Once Erin had cooled down enough and her dizziness subsided, we joined friends at Vivian's Diner and Drinks for some brunch. They had a really good bloody Mary, Surly's Todd the Axe Man in the bottle (it served as a wonderful beer back), and a great brunch menu. We were happy to be introduced to Vivian's and look forward to our next visit.

If you look closely and deeply into our eyes, you can detect an intense amount of pain and suffering.

This Friday, I will be getting up early and traveling to Tribune, KS for a short ride to the Colorado border and back. On Saturday, I begin my first Bike Across Kansas. As I'm not taking the laptop on this adventure, I will most likely not be blogging.