A couple of weeks back, friend of grit.cx, Paul Errington headed Stateside to experience the Landrun 100. Rather than tell you about the race, we’ll hand straight over to Paul…
(All photos courtesy of 241photography.com)
It is one of my favourite quotes and its origin escapes me, but, “a real challenge is one where a finish is not a certainty”.
The challenge could be physical, mental or mechanical but not knowing if you will see the finish line is my motivator for event selection. In 2017 I took the start line of the Landrun100 gravel event … a number of hours later I saw the finish line from the back seat of a Jeep. A mechanical had ended not only mine but many rider’s days early. Cold and wet conditions combined with thick red clayey mud had robbed me of a finish, something that didn’t sit well and I knew I would be back the following year.
A little background, Landrun100 is fast becoming one of the largest and well respected gravel events on the current calendar. Based in Stillwater, Oklahoma at 106 miles it certainly is not the longest but is one of the most aspirational events for many riders. Its March fixture on the calendar sets it up for unpredictability of weather but also for most it is their first race outing of the year adding to the uncertainty in performance. For those who gravel the event is well know, Its notoriety stems from two sources, the course and its creator.
The Course, famed for its deep red clay rich dirt there will only ever be a very good day or a very bad day on it. Should it rain and you find yourself at a wet Landrun year well brace yourself as it is going to get ugly and get ugly fast. It is by design you will find a mud shifting stick in your rider sign on bag. If the course is dry then those same roads that would of devoured your bike should it of been wet are now tarmac fast and dust filled… progress is insanely fast.
The Creator; now this is the guy that keeps you coming back even if previously your day, body and bike have been crushed way before the finish line. Bobby Wintle is the creator and now experience curator of this institute of gravel. A preacher to his congregation of avid gravelists. Each event sermon outlining the mantra to unlearn pretty much everything you have brought with you to the event. To treat your experience at Landrun100 as a cathartic one and to I quote “Leave it all out on the course”. The pre-race rider briefing is less factually informative and way more motivational.
The course is a saw tooth profile, less than 1800m are climbed between start and finish line but there is little flat ground to be found. Up or down are the only directions you will remember at Landrun. Not to mention the straights, huge long straight sections of road where you could watch the riders rolling up and down hills in front of you.
First back was Mat Stephens averaging 19.83mph to finish in 05:21:03. The women’s race was taken by Amanda Nauman in 05:57:49.
2018 turned out to be a much happier year for me. The start though cold was dry and the gravel backroads offered up a dusty alternate to the previous year’s mud fest.
As part of Bobby Wintle’s pre-race motivational talk he told us to leave it all out on the course … to ‘Unlearn’ all the mental junk that clouded vision and held us back from enjoying the simplicity of just turning pedals. I left it all out on the course, I enjoyed every turn of the pedal. Instead of the usual mental maths figuring time to the finish I soaked up (literally) the dusty roads and the views. I pulled riders along behind me and jumped on faster wheels to enjoy the sensation of speed on the loose gravelly twists and turns. The half way point came up in under 3 hours … at the checkpoint I didn’t linger but was eager to get back out on the course. The finish line complete with Bobby Wintle hug and fine IPA beer was achieved in just over 6 hours … I unlearnt a lot that day and came away a better rider.
The post-race street party was a fine affair with many a beer and bourbon whiskey enjoyed … the mood was buoyant as so many riders could now relax full of a sense of achievement and reward of completion. The bikes racked along the centre of the street all still able to ride another day.
Already the Landrun100 2019 date has been announced, March 16th 2019, and I can endorse whole heartedly heading there to unlearn as much as you can. Event information is all at Landrun100.com. Should you be travelling from afar then all travel information to get to this great part of the world is at www.travelok.com.