Shane Lee, Dirty Kanza 100-Mile RidePosted 03 Sep 2016 in News
Recently, USMES member Shane Lee completed the Dirty Kanza 100-mile gravel ride. Below is written from his honest perspective about using endurance sports to overcome the challenges of PTSD.
The weather was good, it rained early in the morning around Emporia, Kansas, which flooded some sections and caused a lot of broken chains and snapped derailleurs. The first 50 miles consisted of hills, a huge 35′ water crossing, and a tailwind. In the second 50 miles, we had to contend with some hills and headwinds of 15-20 mph, with gusts of 23mph.
I lined up for my second and longest gravel race ever. Leading up to the event, I kept thinking, this can’t be any worse than riding Ronde Van Vlaanderen or Paris-Roubaix. However, when I completed those challenges I prepared for months and had the luxury of aid stations every 25 miles. This is not the case in one of the hardest self supported, one rest stop, gravel challenges through the flint hills of Kansas. Once the route was released I took a good look at it, and it was 100.4 miles with 5,400ft of climbing, nothing that I could not handle on a good day with proper training and fueling, which contradicted everything I had done since my return from a fifth deployment oversees in the US Army.
The years of deployments quickly added up and my mind broke after countless months of family and friends telling me to seek medical help for PTSD. I was at the breaking point! Cycling and all of the great things in life meant nothing to me any more, and I was ready to hand it up. However with prayers, the Lord on my side, support from my wife, family and friends, I have started to recover over the last 6 months. This recovery was pushed by Jim Cummins and Chuck Rembolt (US Military Endurance Sports Region 7 Coordinator). Jim was gracious enough to support the military entry into the DK and Chuck with his persistence/persuasion was able to get me to the DK. Although both had hopes for a DK200 entry, I was in no shape physically or mentally to handle the challenge. Once again, Jim and Chuck came through for me and shifted my entry to the DK half-pint.
So as I stand at the start line at 6:20 am ready to test my machine and body, I felt the joy of what cycling once meant to me over twenty years ago; peace, thrill, anticipation, joy, camaraderie…we all have words that send chills up our spins. On this cool morning, I forgot that I only had limited miles of 350 in my legs since Feb and about 550 miles since May 2015. I was calm and looking forward to a ride that may take 6 hours or 8 hours to complete 100 miles, and I would enjoy every minute of the journey on my newly built (day before the DK) Roca Roja “Grava” Ti Frame (Custom) Single Speed set up 42/17. Thank you Bikes America of Overland Park, Kansas, for the support in parts and prep work to get me on the course. Thank you to all the support from USMES and family members.
In January, I decided to enter the Dirty Kanza, but as it turns out I was not mentally ready (PTSD), and within three weeks I stopped training and started selling my bikes. Chuck tried his best to encourage me, but it would take another month or two before I would fully commit my DK entry to the DK half-pint. During this time, my therapy took a turn on the positive side, and I began progressing to see everything and everyone is not out to get us. Although I felt better, my training never really resumed and other than riding the Cool Hand Luke 50 mile Gravel Event with a fellow service member, that was my only test to see if I could ride beyond 35 miles. Mentally I was getting stronger, physically I was getting lighter (medication side affects), but I was losing a lot of muscle mass and strength. However, the few times that I would ride 20 miles on my MTB that turned out to be my only bike left until the day before the DK, I was putting in great times on some of the local KoMs. I figured that maybe I could make it to mile 75, then I would bonk and just straggle in.
Now with a new outlook on life, I am taking a new approach to my family life and cycling. My family is always talked about as being first, but are they really? How can I say that and disappear for 4 to 5 hours on Saturday and Sunday, during the best days to spend with them and do activities? So, I have refocused and my passion for the bike is still strong and I am taking it back to the roots of club rides and friendship – disregarding the continuous need to be the best.
But who knows, maybe next year we will see a new and improved rider for the DK Half-Pint or a crack at the DK 200. To Be Continued…