21st January 2018 / Comments (0)

Dirty Kanza: a veteran’s view – David Markman

For over a decade the Dirty Kanza 200 has been the gravel event against which all others are compared. Having rocketed from a handful of riders in 2006 to over 2,000 entrants in recent editions it’s clear that there is something special about the race.

For many, 200 miles in the blazing Kansas sunshine is perhaps something to experience once, and then relive the memories with your feet up. David Markman though, is no stranger to Emporia, as in June 2018 he’ll be lining up for his fourth DK200. We spoke to him to find out just what the attraction was and how he’d be preparing…

Despite the DK200 having an almost legendary reputation for being a tough ride you’ve ridden it multiple times, what keeps drawing you back?

After my first year in 2015 where I walked more miles with my bike than I rode I was done with the Dirty Kanza, I had my one finish and was done. The following year I had my sights set on the Tour Divide and what a better warm up for my legs than to do DK 200 just a week before I left for the grand depart, so now I had 2 finishes under my belt.

There are two awards a person can get achieve during the DK 200 other than finishing, one is racing the sun-this means you have to finish the 200 mile gravel race before the sun sets, the other is to have five 200 mile finishes–earning you a 1000 mile cup. So in 2017 my goal was to beat the sun and I did by a large amount of time, now I need two more finishes to earn my 1000 mile cup and hopefully 2018 will be one more finish.

So my draw to the DK 200 has changed a lot throughout the years, and after my five finishes I’ll have to look for a new incentive to draw me back to the Flint Hills of Kansas.

David Markman rider interview

Momentary break from the aero position!

How will you train and prepare for the event?

I ride thousands of miles every year most of the time on loaded bikes while bike packing, I will get a few multi hundred mile rides in before a big event like Dirty Kanza just to test the legs and contact points (hands, feet, sit bones).

I focus a lot on recovery after a workout, this means I can continue to ride hard workouts all week and not have loss of performance.

Have you adapted your strategy, kit or mindset based on your earlier rides?

Yeah totally! I am always learning each and every ride or race. Early on I would overpack food or over dress – these days I race with the only the minimum of things I need. I know how much water and how many calories I need for X amount of miles while in between checkpoints.

A race like Dirty Kanza is much easier if you rely on the checkpoints for fuel and resupply rather than carrying too much food and water.

David Markman Dirty Kanza veteran

Taking on fluids at Checkpoint 3, 162 miles in.

What advice would you give to a first-timer?

Start drinking plenty of water a few days before DK. It’s summer and Kansas is hot and dry and you will dehydrate faster.

The energy is high and there are a lot of people at the starting line – don’t get caught up in it and cause a crash ending your DK before it starts.

Think about wearing a hydration bladder on your back, even if you don’t like wearing things on your back, it is way easier to reach for a drink tube than it is to reach for a bottle.

What are your hopes for the 2018 event?

Just finish. Haha! Last year I beat the sun and didn’t get a print – they didn’t make enough so maybe beat the sun and get a print. (Editors note: This refers to a limited edition art print)

How will you fuel yourself on the ride?

I use Infinit Go Far Nutrition drink mix in-between check points and I will have a few Gu energy gels and an energy bar with me just in case. At the checkpoints I eat a lot of Jimmy Johns subs, they are quick and easy and taste good when you burp them back up. Ha!

My best advice is to try different foods now while you are out riding and training for DK. Figure out what works well when you have been pushing your body hard and not just sitting on your couch.

David Markman dirty kanza 2018

Still 40 miles to ride!

After such a punishing event what will you do to aid your recovery?

Infinit Nutrition makes a recovery mix called Nocturne it contains Tryptophan which helps me sleep. After a big event my legs are still firing and sleeping is hard. I have had the best luck with this mix.

I also use Elevated legs, large sleeves that fill and release with air helping to push sports waste out of my muscles and a lot of foam rolling. When I get back home I always book a full body massage; like three hours and after that my body will be good to start riding again.

Finally, as the DK200 can be difficult to get an entry for, which other events would you recommend?

Oh that’s a hard one! There are so many events these days to pick from, if you are looking for something out of the ordinary I would recommend the Gravel Worlds in Lincoln Nebraska (150 miles) JP’s Gravel Pursuit in Island Park Idaho (120 miles).

Maybe for something longer, try the Alexander In Minnesota (380 miles). A good resource I use for events in the USA is the Gravel Cyclist calendar as it has most of the gravel events going on.


When not riding, David is a pretty handy photographer. Give his site a visit here:  https://markmanoutdoorphotography.com

Last modified: 19th November 2020

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