This year’s Dirty Kanza will be one to watch. There are more elite level athletes entering the race than ever before, with more experience riding and racing a bike than doing almost anything else. What about the rest of the pack? What is the experience of an athlete who has never ridden a bike further than 20 miles, who is a self-proclaimed “fast-twitch athlete,” and who has a family and career?

Dirty Kanza is a 200/ 100-mile gravel bike race/ ride located in Emporia, Kansas. It has become the gold standard for gravel racing and is the Super Bowl, World Cup or some other sports analogy in the gravel community. This is the place to be the first weekend in June. It is hot, windy and unrelenting! It will be the best and worst day you have ever had on a bike.

Our Wahooligan who will be tackling the 100-mile distance this year is Mackenzie Housman. Mackenzie is a wife, a mother, a Wahoo employee and an athlete. While observing Dirty Kanza from the sidelines the past couple of years Mackenzie expressed interest in taking on the training and the ride, maybe naively. What can we say, Wahooligans like a good challenge. This is the journey of an athlete redefining what she is capable of, a mother leading by example,

Name: Mackenzie Housman     Age: 35     Birthdate: April 18

Why decide to take on Dirty Kanza, one of the hardest events on the gravel calendar?

Great question…haha! If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m really competitive, particularly with myself. I’m also stubborn. Once I set my mind to do something, I’m gonna jump in head first, so why not start with one of the hardest races?!

What is your longest ride to date?

A little over 20 miles.

What are your primary goals, list them in priority?

  1. Complete my first-century ride.
  2. Finish healthy so I can enjoy a beer and hug from my son.
  3. Finish DK100 in under 10 hours

What do you hope to accomplish personally?

I want to feel confident in myself again. Sports make me feel strong and, for me, with strength comes confidence. Oh and lose that last little bit of baby weight. I wouldn’t mind having my glutes back. I miss my butt (can I say that on my permanent internet record?)!

What is your athletic background?

I’m a fast-twitch athlete who has steered clear of endurance sports. Most recently, I’ve done CrossFit for 10 years, about 5 of which were at the local and regional competitive level. 

Why take up cycling now?

Ever since scaling back on my CrossFit workouts, I’ve been looking for something to fill the competition gap. It’s hard to turn off the competitor mindset! I want to try a sport that’s completely different from anything I’ve done before. I don’t do endurance. Like not at all. So – this is me finally tackling my weaknesses and training for something that doesn’t come naturally to me.  

“I want to try a sport that’s completely different

from anything I’ve done before.”

How do you plan to prepare for this challenge?

I’m using The Sufferfest for all my indoor training. They have a DK200 training plan that my coach has customized based on my level, schedule, and goals for the distance. I’m also mixing in The Sufferfest’s yoga and mental toughness (gonna need this!) training as well as keeping a couple CrossFit workouts per week for my strength training.

Were you an active kid?

For sure! I grew up in rural South Georgia so I was always outside playing, riding my bike, etc.

How were sports and physical fitness treated like as a child?

I’ve always been fairly athletic, so participating in sports was something I just did. I tried a bunch of different activities – from ballet to basketball. I was constantly doing some sort of extracurricular activity. My mom eventually had to limit me to two activities at a time. I’m pretty positive this was so she didn’t have to drive me around the world, but it actually was one of the best things she could have done because it taught me, at an early age, to prioritize and focus on what I was most interested in. What I was most interested in was, truthfully, what I was best at and what came naturally versus anything that required hard work (I know I sound like a jerk, but really I’m just lazy). In middle school, I settled on tennis and track (sprint distances, of course) and played these sports all the way through high school. Sprinting with the track team was a sport I continued with because I was great at it and I really liked winning (competitive, much?!). I actually hate running. Like really hate running. Tennis was fast-paced enough to keep my attention and there’s a lot of strategies involved. It’s just as much mental as it was physical. There was one year in high school where I did have to work my a$$ off to earn a spot on the singles roster because I was tired of playing doubles and being dependent upon another person. Oh, did I mention I’m also reaaaaally independent? Ha!

What has been your approach to physical fitness? What activities? What attracted you to those sports?

I found CrossFit in 2009 after a few years of inactivity due to grad school and work. The workouts were quick and felt like I was dying during lots of them, but I loved it – again because a lot of the movements came very naturally to me. However, the more workouts I did, the more dedicated I became. The strength components (both bodyweight and barbell) really made me feel empowered, which as a female, is super important. I loved how strong my body felt! My husband still laughingly tells the story of how I was deadlifting 300 lbs the day he first met me in the gym and he was terrified of me. I’m intense and competitive, but I promise I’m not that scary! Every CrossFit workout and core movement is quantifiable, so constantly striving for those PRs (personal records) is one of the reasons I stuck with it for so long, but it also made me very competitive with myself and with people in my gym. I tried to go down the competition path, and after a couple of years of intense training, as the sport of CrossFit grew like wildfire, I realized I did not have the desire to compete at the regional or national level. My career started to take off and I got engaged, so my priorities had shifted. I just wanted to be fit, healthy, and happy. 

What life changes have you had in the past couple of years? How have those changes impacted your decision to take on this challenge?

The past several years have been about my family and my career (both of which I LOVE!). I spent a year trying to get pregnant, then a year (almost) being pregnant, and a year adjusting to parenthood. My husband and I now have a happy, goofy, thriving toddler, so this year I want to take some time to focus on myself. Training for DK is my way to do that. My son is still quite young, but I also want to make sure he sees me being healthy and challenging myself so that the same qualities are instilled in him.

“I want him to see that you can do anything you set your mind to!”

How do you think this challenge will impact your family?

I’m lucky to have the most supportive and encouraging husband in the world. When I had reservations about committing to this challenge, knowing that the long training rides would mean lots of hours away from my son and him, my husband was the one who pushed me to do it. I think it’s going to have an immensely positive effect on my family. My husband and I have already gotten back to working out together in the garage, which is something I’ve always loved doing together (I mean, we did meet at our CrossFit gym). I’m the type of person who gets really grumpy when I don’t workout. Taking time for myself will improve my mental and physical health, which is only going to help my family’s relationships grow even more! The thought of seeing my husband and son’s faces at the finish line is what will push me through the dark moments and give me the will I need to complete the race.

Shop the full range of tools Mackenzie is using

to prepare and take on Dirty Kanza.

Want to follow Mackenzie’s journey leading up to Dirty? Subscribe to our content newsletter to receive monthly updates and training tools and tips from the Sufferfest. Consider taking on a challenge yourself this year and bring us along for the journey by using #DeskToDK.

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