My bike was unrecognisable. It had been pristine at the start of the day, but now, every single part was covered in red mud, and its functionality had long since been compromised.
As for me, I was similarly broken. I was cold, wet, and hungry. My progress had been halted, when my rear derailleur entered into an unholy union with my rear wheel and no amount of coaxing could separate them from their embrace. As I climbed into the back of one of the Jeeps that were out on the course, rescuing riders, I knew that I would have to return to this insane event. I was determined to finish the Landrun100.
The Landrun100 is quickly becoming one of the largest and most respected gravel events on the calendar. Based in Stillwater, Oklahoma, it certainly is not the longest event, at just 106 miles, but it is one that many riders aspire to finish. Its March date means that the weather is often unpredictable, and for many, it is their first race of the year, which adds to their uncertainty. For those who love gravel, it is a well known event. Its notoriety stems from two sources: the course and its creator.
The course is famed for its deep-red clay, which you will only ever have a very good or a very bad day on. Should it rain, well, brace yourself for it, as it is going to get ugly fast. There is a reason that there is a stick for removing mud in your sign-on bag. If the course is dry, the roads will be as fast as tarmac and very dusty.
The creator is the guy who keeps you coming back for more, even if your body and bike have previously been crushed a long way from the finish line. Bobby Wintle is the course designer and ‘experience curator’ for this gravel-cycling institution. He preaches to a congregation of avid gravelists. In each sermon, he repeats his mantra: forget pretty well everything you think you know and leave it all out on the course, because your experience at the Landrun100 should be a cathartic one. The pre-race briefing might be scant on facts, but it is motivational.
The course has a saw-tooth profile, with less than 1800 metres of climbing between the start and the finish line, although there is almost no flat ground to be found when you are out there. It’s either up or down, with huge, long straight sections of road, where you can watch the riders rolling over the hills in front of you.
The first back in 2018 was Mat Stephens, who averaged 31.91 km/hr to finish in 05:21:03. The women’s race was won by Amanda Nauman in 05:57:49.
Did my race end in a happier way than it did in 2017? Yes, without a doubt. From the offset, everything was different. The trails were dry and fast, and I aimed to leave everything I had out on the course. I reached the midway checkpoint in Guthrie in less than three hours. By the time I had reached the finish, a little over six hours had elapsed. My lungs were full of dust, but I was satisfied.
As at every great US gravel event, we rounded out the day with a finish-line party. This year, we had more to celebrate than mere survival. We reduced our calorie deficits with Landrun100 IPAs.
In 2019, the race will take place on March 16th. Information about the event can be found at landrun100.com