The longest race I had done before attempting Landrun 100 was the 36 mile version of Barry Roubaix. Why was I even here? In a town I’d never heard of? To race 105 miles of mud and gravel and pain?
Back in October a friend asked me if I wanted to race Dirty Kanza 200 on a single speed. My initial reaction was What is Dirty Kanza and why would I give up my gears and yeah right I can’t bike 200 miles in one day, especially not on gravel. But I started to read the Rider’s Bible and Allison explained to me that there wasn’t a women’s category for single speed but some women really wanted their own category. Turns out that is the key to get me to do just about anything. I never thought I would do a crit on a brakeless track bike but I did that for the exact same reason…and I ended up LOVING it.
Here’s my shiny bike all ready to go. You can’t even see my gas tank can you? CAMOUFLAGE
I was told Landrun 100 is this great race in Stillwater, OK and its a benchmark for training for Dirty Kanza. I knew there were sections where people had to carry their bikes, and I had read some race reports where people snapped off their derailleurs so I was getting more and more about that single speed life.
Early Thursday morning I got in a car with Bailey, Allison and Mary and 12 hours later we were there! You could feel the buzz in the air as early as Thursday evening. It was funny how easy it was to find Gabbi and Thomas. As we were turning the corner to park near District Bikes, there they were walking down the street. We all headed to Iron Monk for the release of the special LandRun 100 Pale Ale. I’ve never met Bobby Wintle before, but I got a hug like I was an old friend. And it wasn’t just Bobby. Everyone in Stillwater made me feel like I was coming home from somewhere despite having never been there before.
We met at 7:45 at Aspen Coffee Friday morning to watch the 50k race take off, and do a course recon while cheering for the runners. Chicago is a very flat place. Its ABSURD how flat it is. You have to drive at least an hour and a half to get hills like the hills we were riding. The ground was pretty dry and fast moving. I imagined every road we went down as mud since we all knew it was going to rain. In less than 20 miles we did over 1,000 ft of climbing…and I was starting to feel pretty nervous.
The rest of the day was spent doing packet pick up and trying to pet as many people’s dogs as I could. One of the best things about this event was the town of Stillwater. I’ve been to a lot of events where the area acts inconvenienced. You can tell people are a bit irritated about road closures or extra congestion or whatever. Not in Stillwater. Local businesses had made signs welcoming racers. Everyone was incredibly friendly and welcoming. It seems like a lovely place for outdoorsy people to live. Anyway. I also noticed that people in stillwater like to throw the word anyway into their statements.
So anyway, I had some nervous feelings and spent a while messing with my bike set up. I had a feedbag with my phone inside a ziplock bag, an extra battery to charge my garmin, some ibuprofin and a few other items. Most of my food was inside my gas tank on my top tube. I also packed a high lumen front light in there. My saddle bag had all of my tools with the exception of my pump which was in my camelbak. I had some extra gloves in my camelbak, but for the most part it just had water in it. And my glasses incase my Oakleys ended up being too dark in the rain.
Most people I had talked to made it sound like the drop bag at the halfway point wasn’t really necessary, but I threw some extra snacks, a water bottle, extra tube, a second jacket and another pair of bibs and socks in there just in case.
I woke up around 5 am to the sound of rain. I sighed and laid there for about 20 minutes wondering what this was going to be like, and then decided to go to the hotel lobby and drink as much coffee as possible before it was time to leave. Once at District Bikes I hung around with friends and felt the anxious buzz. We were all pretty nervous about the weather forecast. My dumb ass self was a little too optimistic and wore just bib shorts with water proof socks, a jersey and my Patagonia Triolet jacket on top. It felt perfect during the start line temperatures. And for the first several hours.
The start was pretty laid back, you just sort of got in wherever. All the single speed ladies from Chicago found each other and we started together. THE RACE STARTED WITH A CANNON. YEAH. A CANNON. I like these people.
In my head I told myself to stay calm, 104 miles is a long way and there is no sense wasting energy jockeying for position and getting all worked up. I kept my eye on my garmin and whenever I went over the speed I tend to start spinning out I just tucked in and saved energy. I was set up with an easier gearing than any of my friends and that made me nervous, but I’m recovering from patellar tendinitis and I wanted to keep the long game in mind and take care of my body.
That’s me! (http://www.241photography.com/landrun100_2017)
The first 20 miles felt great. The course was beautiful. The roads were still fast and not too muddy. Then the rain started and it got a lot colder. I saw people lining the sides of the road and had no idea why they were stopping. It was way too cold to stand still so I continued to move forward. I was keeping an eye on the time and making sure to eat something once an hour. My fingers went numb pretty quickly so opening my food was pretty difficult. A few times I actually had to stop to try to get something open.
Despite being wet and very cold I was still marveling at my surroundings. I would crest a hill and see the mist hanging over a beautiful valley and just, yeah. I’ve never been to Oklahoma before so I had no idea what to expect. I talked with another racer about how the rain was really beautiful in its own fucked up way. At one point I remembered the plastic food handler gloves I had in my bag. I stopped and removed my fingerless gloves, put those on, and added a fresh pair of fingerless gloves on top. Cause yeah, I’m an idiot and didn’t realize how cold it was going to be. The forecast made me think I could prepare for 40s but this felt like 30s.
The rain would come and go. Sometimes just a drizzle, other times it was raining quite a bit. There was nowhere to hide from the rain. I saw people with mechanicals lining the sides of the road. One guy would say to his friend “Yeah, my derauiller is snapped off” And I would think Yeah, thats why you’re on a single speed, Lauren. Once we hit the mud my gearing actually felt perfect. I was able to make it up hills that a lot of people were walking. Around mile 25 I remember looking at the time and mileage and deciding in my head how long it would be before I was at the half way point in Guthrie. And then I got a reality check.
I got to the first walking section. Here I witnessed a lot of snapped off derailleurs from people who decided they didn’t want to walk. I tried to ride for a bit but my bike was collecting so much mud it refused to move forward. I had duct taped some foam to my top tube to make it more comfortable to shoulder. This was fine for a short distance but eventually I put my bike on my back like everyone else. I could feel my stiff SIDIs biting into my feet with every step. Occasionally, I would stop and shake my feet to try to get the giant globs of mud off. It felt like pounds of mud were on my shoes.
One thing I’ve learned in the short time I’ve been racing bikes is that when things don’t go your way just take the time to be excited for your friends and teammates. Why not be there for them instead of dwelling on your own mistakes? I spent the rest of the night at the finish line getting really pumped for all of my friends who succeeded. I got to watch Mary win the women’s SS category, I got to watch Bailey propose to Allison as she came in to finish 3rd. And I got to see Sam and Kayci finish as well. I’m so impressed by every single person who completed the race. Finishing at the top is really impressive, but so was being out in the elements for 12+ hours to finish after your bike broke and you had to walk. I heard a lot of stories of people whose brakes weren’t working, people who crossed the line with hypothermia, people who fell just short of crossing the line due to hypothermia, people who converted their bikes to single speeds when their derailleurs broke, people who walked 5+ miles just to finish…
That’s a lotta mud.
Talking to other racers afterwards I realized I need to shift my perspective for these kinds of events. I shouldn’t have been thinking “Who else is out here? Is it just me? Am I an idiot? Is this pathetic how slow I’m going?” I should have been out there as me vs that rain and mud at that point. I should have been more prepared and had more respect for that weather forecast. I’m not looking at my Landrun 100 2017 attempt as a complete failure. I didn’t finish but was probably the hardest ride I’ve ever done so I’m building on something. It was absolutely beautiful and challenging and awesome. I plan to come back in 2018 for redemption.
Bonus selfie with Rufus.
Headin’ back to Chicago. I used to hoses at the finish to clean off most of my bike.