The Road to Dirty Kanza 200 2020 – Part One: by Gravel Newbie, Caroline Worrall

They have finally taken my money, so I guess I really am going to Emporia.

Seven years ago, I rolled an outdated, oversized Motobecane from parents’ garage into my senior prom date’s bike shop and asked if he could make it rideable for me. After recovering from the surprise of not seeing me in over 25 years, he had the grace not to laugh in my face. He greased the chain and adjusted the drive train, rewrapped the handlebars and sent me on my way. He probably thought he’d never see me again.

In retrospect, I wish he would have told me the bike was too big for me. I fought with the stem, shifters and the discomfort for a few months and finally went back into the shop to get a new bike. I went from hybrid to road bike within six months, then upgraded to a fancier road bike in another six months. Clearly, I’d learned the first rule of cycling, N+1.

dirty kanza 200 training for newbies

Another year brought us to Florida for my husband’s job, where not only could I ride all year long, but I had given up my career when we moved. No friends and kids in school half the day put me on the bike two to four hours almost every day. I joined a few local club rides and our tri club (which necessitated a TT bike). I became enamored with ultra-cycling and competed successfully in 12 and 24-hour races, secretly yearning to Race Across America.

Gainesville being the USA home-base of the Gravel Cyclist, brought whispers of another form of bike racing, slightly more wild than road cycling, slightly fewer trees to crash into than mountain. Gravel caught my attention and wouldn’t let go.

My husband did not quite understand the need for three bikes and certainly didn’t see any conceivable reason for a fourth, so the trusty hybrid, panniers and all, went off to a more loving home. And in June, our home opened its doors to an OPEN U.P.

Like Kona and Race Across America, Dirty Kanza has become a legend… but this was a legend I could handle both physically (I can’t run) and fiscally (RAAM is crazy expensive). All I needed was a credit card and some luck.

On January 6th, 2020, I think I waited a whole couple of hours to register. Registration was open until the 19th after all. I implored my friends to join me on this adventure. A couple tossed their hats in the ring as well. 

January 27th, I started checking my email box at 9 am. The hours ticked by. The email box filled with junk mail. I refreshed it as often as every other entrant and at 3 pm, “Thank you for your interest…”

WTF, don’t they get it?!? I’m a girl! Every podcast I listened to said, if you’re a woman, you’re practically guaranteed a spot. Who was lying to me?

I was so depressed. One friend had gotten in. One had not. This sucked.

I went to a meeting and dinner trying to swallow my disappointment. I’d planned my training. I was picking out new wheels. I bought a Camelbak Chase vest. How could this happen? I am not one for “maybe next year.” 

I get home that night and check my email again. Wait… what? Another email from DK Productions… “Surprise – you’re going to Emporia.”

Well yes, that is a f*cking surprise… since you said a few hours ago that I wasn’t.

I checked the Facebook page. Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who received a surprise. Somehow some of the lists got mixed up. To quote their FB team, “whoops.”

dirty kanza 200 training for newbies

So this total gravel newbie is going to ride in the Dirty Kanza. I’d like to invite you on my journey from today through the race to see what it takes for an average cyclist to make it 206 miles through the Flint Hills of Kansas.


  1. Avatar Adrian

    I’m looking forward hearing about your preparation. I’ll be on the start line with you, and many other, for my first DK200 as well. Since I got the email my mind has been racing with all the things I need to consider and plan for, that’s half the fun though.

    • Avatar Caroline

      Yay! Well, I got lots of great advice on the equipment (installment 4), so definitely check out that post. I hope I get to meet you there.

    • Avatar Caroline

      Thanks Soren. You need to come do this. It’s the challenge you’ve been waiting for.

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