Landrun 100 2017

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.

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.

Thanks to my single speed set up I was able to start biking before others. I used my mini spatula to try to get as much mud off my shoes as I could to reduce the weight. Looking back at my Garmin I realized my “time to Guthrie” was such a silly thought. There was no way to know how long it would take me. The course never let up. There weren’t easy sections. Around mile 40 we went into some private land on a cattle ranch with longhorns. This was my favorite part. The course was sort of a grass road that wound around in a really beautiful way. I saw an easy up and got kind of excited, but when I got closer I realized they only had water and beer and nothing to warm you up. I saw Jen and felt so relieved to see a friend. We hugged, but I was too cold to stop. Slogging up an uphill I saw Sean and tried to be enthusiastic but he also seemed very cold. I kept telling myself I was so so so close to the half way point. I was imagining all of the things in my drop bag. I was going to change out of these wet bibs and put on leg warmers and new socks and my extra jacket and full fingered gloves.
About 6 miles from Guthrie I just had to laugh. We were routed onto some bumpy, grassy double track. I had to stop guessing how long it would take me to get to Guthrie because I had no idea what was going to get thrown at me. I saw my friend Elizabeth walking and she told me her brakes were completely shot. I felt awful for her but I was so cold I couldn’t bear to stop. Soon after that it got really muddy and I slid out and gave myself a nice ol’ bruise on the back of my calf.
By the time I rolled into Guthrie, the cold was really starting to get to me. I couldn’t even tell you what time it was. I had stopped to change gloves twice, and I wasn’t very good at walking with my bike on my back so I felt like I was behind literally everyone.
I saw riders getting into cars from all sides. There were some kids sitting in the back of trucks cheering and that was really nice. At first I saw people washing their bikes and I stopped to do the same. I watched them for a few minutes before I was like why am I doing this? My bike is fine. I was trying to figure out where the drop bags were, but my brain clearly wasn’t working very well. I finally found them at the bottom of the hill and asked if there was an indoor place to change. Everyone I asked just shrugged and one person said try to find a local business? So i walked back up the hill looking for a business with a bathroom. Finally I asked another person at the top of the hill and they said halfway back down the hill there was a heated public bathroom. I probably spent like 15 minutes looking for the bathroom. I’m pretty sure the cold was having a serious affect on my problem solving skills.
I was SO EXCITED when I saw Kayci in the bathroom. She was all smiles. I don’t remember if we talked about anything, I just tried to get my body under the hand dryer to warm up. I had a fresh set of bibs to change into and an extra jacket to layer under my patagonia jacket. I was trapped in my shoes so I couldn’t change my socks and I had to get into my bibs with really muddy shoes on which kind of sucked. And I had a pair of full fingered gloves. But no leg warmers. I had been thinking about those leg warmers for 15 miles, but I somehow missed adding them to the drop bag. I ate a lot of snacks in the bathroom and shivered. When Kayci left I realized I could spend forever in the bathroom and never want to leave now that my buddy was gone and I better get the hell out of there.
I saw so many people getting into cars that I worried I was making a really stupid decision to continue on. At least in Guthrie people could stay warm while waiting for vehicles to take them back to Stillwater. Once I got back on the course there was nowhere to stay warm. But I hate quitting. I hate failure. So I moved on. If I had been wearing both jackets the whole time I might have been alright, but I think the chill had set in and refused to leave. My new gloves and bibs were wet within a few miles. Luckily I ran into a couple of other people and we figured out how to route ourselves out of Guthrie together. This gave me hope I wasn’t the only person left out on the road. I didn’t know if there was a cut off point and in my mind I imagined the people behind me would get cut off and I would be the last one out there. I kept picturing a jeep coming up behind me and saying are you crazy? You can’t be out here anymore, we’re taking you back. This perception was really wrong and I wish I hadn’t been thinking that. I later learned the last person to finish was just before midnight. I could have stayed out there for as long as I liked.
I had my Garmin in the map view and I didn’t even want to look at how many miles I had gone, or how long it had taken me. I was just trying to move forward. Around mile 67 I saw 2 Chicago friends standing in a ditch on the side of the road. 2 very strong riders. It really messed with my head to see them there. I hadn’t seen anyone in a while and I couldn’t shake the feeling that everyone else had quit and I was being an idiot.
On a steep downhill I went to feather my brakes and nothing happened. So I pulled more, and more. And then they were all the way back and absolutely nothing was happening. I felt a bit out of control so I used my feet to shed speed. When I got to the top of the next hill I just waited there for a while trying to decide what to do. My fingers weren’t working and there was so much mud all over my bike I wasn’t really sure what to do. Turns out my brake pads were pretty much destroyed at that point. I tried going down another hill and just felt so uncomfortable with no brakes. I’ve had some season ending injuries before and to take myself out in mid March was something I didn’t want to have to cope with.
Just then a Jeep went by and they asked if I was alright. I said my brakes stopped working and I thought maybe I should stop. They took my race number and discussed for a while and then told me they’d be back and drove away. I stood there feeling stupid. Like, should I just keep moving forward however I can without brakes? Why did I just let them take my race number? I don’t want to quit. What am I supposed to do now? That Jeep was probably going back for my friends and who knows how long they had been on the side of the road. They’re way faster than I am and I wasted a lot of time in Guthrie.
Shortly after a truck filled with men who looked like farmers pulled up. They were genuinely concerned about me. They didn’t have any empty seats, but they said they’d be back to bring me something warm if no one had picked me up. I was probably visibly shivering at this point. Another man in a truck stopped and said “You have to find some better ways to have fun!” which made me laugh. Finally a third truck came by and the window rolled down and I saw Thomas in the back. At that point I was like WHAT. Thomas does really well at Landrun. He’s FROM here. He shouldn’t be in the back of a truck. His coach and a super kind woman driving got my bike into the back and let my muddy disheveled self into their car. They gave me a snack and a coconut water. I could not stop shaking. They had me take off my wet jacket and gave me 2 dry jackets to huddle under, and I still couldn’t stop shaking. Looking back, I would have been in a really bad place had they not come by and saved me off the side of the road. Thomas said we were on our way to get Gabbi and I was totally shocked. Turns out Gabbi had a similar problem to me where her brakes were completely shot.
I’d like to say that if my brakes had continued to work I would have finished the race but I’m not sure that is true. I didn’t realize how truly cold I was until I stopped riding. It took me a really long time to stop shaking and I felt really confused and groggy for a long time.

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.

Some takeaways
– riding in rain and mud forever will totally clog up the ratchet closures on your shoes. also if you are doing a race infamous for sections where you have to carry your bike, maybe stiff carbon shoes are not the best choice
– Keep eating even when you’re cold or else you will be twice as miserable
– If you have the option to put things in a drop bag do it. Put more in there than you think you will need. Why not? WHY NOT. WHERE ARE MY LEG WARMERS?

Bonus selfie with Rufus.

Headin’ back to Chicago. I used to hoses at the finish to clean off most of my bike.

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