Welcome back friends – let the 2016 summer racing season begin. A very mild Minnesota winter didn’t offer too many great fat tire rides so much of the winter was spend on the trainer. I am very anxious to get outside and ride. I have a dozen or so 100 mile plus events on my schedule this summer along with the Continental Divide and with some luck – I will document all of the details in this blog. Some of the races I will be riding this year are races I’ve ridden in the past and some are completely new for me. I am looking forward to a summer filled with incredible stories all told from the seat of my bike.
LandRun 100 2016 – Stillwater Oklahoma.
I came into this race with some experience riding the beautiful red clay roads of Oklahoma although this is the first year I have competed in the LandRun 100. A quick review on the internet of previous year’s races and photos along with some long conversations with the race organizer Bobby from District Bicycles gave me a really good indication this was as much about conquering the wet mud/clay/slime as it was about riding 100 miles. This 100 mile race starts in Stillwater and winds through a small town or two on the beautiful red dirt roads – I think of it as Oklahoma’s version of rolling out a red carpet for the 800+ riders that signed up for this race.
Watch the weather – rain certainly means a mud bath – yep – plenty of rain – no doubt significant amounts of that red clay would be going home with me coating my bike and cloths.
My wet muddy plan was developed through several past races of muddy conditions – notably the Dirty Kanza last year. Get out fast, even faster than you think you should, beat everyone to the muddy sections with the hope – not promise – that the first riders through the mud can actually ride rather than walk. Once the first dozen or two riders cross a wet spot on the trail and the bike wheels have had a chance to cut fresh tracks in the mud – everyone else will be walking that section. I also knew that even if this strategy was successful there would still be sections that that were impassable by bike. This would be a good time to eat food and replenish my energy as I walked along. With any luck – these two strategies would get me some time and distance from the pack.
The half-way point of this race was Perry Oklahoma and riders were allowed to meet a support crew or pick up a drop bag. Since I was my only support crew on this race I opted for a drop bag. My drop bag had extra water bottles and some energy food. I also knew at this point the worst of the mud would be behind me and the last 50 miles would be hard packed and potentially very fast.
The Morning started off well. The 6 Arby’s roast beef sandwiches which I bought for race day on my drive to Oklahoma – 3 for the bike and 3 for the drop bag had been consumed the night before on the long drive down– a new plan was needed.
I woke up early at 6 AM loaded my bike for the day. The Salsa carbon Warbird was traveling light – two water bottles, two Must Stache garbage bags on the bars, and a very small tool kit tucked under the seat. I chose Specialized Trigger Pro 700×38 tires for the anticipated mud – I rode these tires previously on the red dirt roads in Oklahoma and Kansas and I was very happy with their performance. Breakfast Burritos were the breakfast of choice – 1 now and one to put in my drop bag. There is a reason no one has ever called breakfast burritos the breakfast of champions – it went down hard and gave me little confidence the one in the drop bag would be any better but that was the plan. With 60 minutes before race time, I spun my legs out and as race time approached – I felt really good – ready for anything Bobby and the LandRun team could throw at me. I confidently took my place directly behind the lead police car next to my good friend Don Buttram and some other very experienced riders.
Stillwater police led us out of town on a neutral start and when we hit the gravel it was game on. It is unbelievable how fast the lead pack took off – with-in moments we were approaching 20+ mph and although I could initially keep pace with this group – I knew this pace was unsustainable for me past 15 miles. I needed to reassure myself – I had a plan to go out fast – maybe not this fast – I was going to keep with the pack as long as I could. I was able to ride through the first muddy sections but I knew very soon these sections would be walking sections for those behind me. This part of the plan was working – even better than I had planned. Ride when I could ride – walk and eat when I couldn’t keep riding. I just kept riding. Around mile 35, I hit the kind of mud that could suck the shoes off your feet and the anticipated hike with a bike section began. I had not realized it until this point but moments after starting the walk – I realized my nutrition plan was severely lacking. The fuel bank was overdrawn. I had spent the past hours pulling energy out of my body and had not put any calories back in. With 15 miles or more left before I hit the Perry checkpoint, I seriously needed the nutrition I knew was waiting for me in my drop bag. I knew I had really messed up on one of the most important parts of distance riding – constant replenishment of energy. I consumed everything edible on my bike which wasn’t much. This was going to be a long tough 15 miles to the checkpoint.
As if someone knew I needed help, I rolled into the Perry checkpoint to the familiar smiling face of Crystal Wintle. (The Crystal part of Bobby and Crystal Wintle– owners of District Cycles) Her endless energy and enthusiastic encouragement really boosted my spirits. Another volunteer was standing next to her with my drop bag in her hand. This checkpoint was very well organized and running like a finely tuned machine – special thanks to all the volunteers at this checkpoint – you did a fantastic job! I am of the opinion that rest stops or checkpoints are a necessary evil of endurance riding. They certainly can play a critical role but my approach is to get in, get what you need, and get out as fast as possible. The longer you spend off the bike – the harder it is to get back on. A quick look in the drop bag and I knew still had a nutrition problem. The burrito I added at breakfast – Pass! The hard boiled eggs that sounded so good in planning stage – Pass! Coke – throw it on the bike for later. RedBull – pound it down – leave the can. Some Gu’s from Honey Stingers and a few nutritional bars – throw them on the bike. Refresh the water and get out of there. I am not advocating Gu’s, nutritional bars, Coke and Red Bull actually constitute a nutritional plan – they don’t. I had lost a lot of time dragging my body into this checkpoint and feeling a lot better, I wanted to get back on the road and make up some of the time I has lost.
The stretch from Perry back to Stillwater was amazing gravel and although I hit periodic headwinds and the steep punchy climbs that seem endless I felt like I was making good time. Not wanting to repeat the nutritional crash again, I spent the next 40 miles consuming every calorie on my bike along with a healthy amount of Oklahoma mud. At some point around mile 80, Tim and Christie Mohn pulled up next to me riding their tandem. It is amazing to me how much new energy you get with just a few simple words of encouragement from a friend. Although I was getting tired and obviously not making as good of time as I thought since they caught me, I took this opportunity to fall in behind them and ride their draft as long as I could keep their pace – which ended up being less than 5 miles.
Not long after this, I found myself on a familiar section of road and again my body found a new source of energy. I knew the road, I knew the finish was not far away, and I pushed hard to finish this race strong. I was greeted at the finish by a cheering crowd and my good friend and race director Bobby Wintle. With 30 seconds to catch my breath, I gave Bobby a big hug and smiled for the camera. I was covered head to toe in red mud but stayed at the finish line cheering the other finishers until the last rider crossed the line.
Every race I ride I learn new things about myself and my bike. During the 12 hour drive home I had plenty of time to recount the events of the race. My nutritional plan for this race was poor at best and it was only with the encouragement of some friends along the way that I was able to finish as well as I did. Once my body has used up all available energy my mind becomes my worst enemy. I had started the day wanting to be in the top 10% of the riders – I finished 76th out of over 800 registered riders – I was good with that. My bike worked flawlessly thanks to Salsa Cycles and SRAM. I had no mechanical issues despite the deep thick mud that seemed to be more than an inch thick just about everywhere. I was good with my tire selection – the Specialized Trigger Pros have become my go to tire when mud is part of the ride and I was again happy with their performance. A well-organized race and great volunteers really make the day go smoothly – District Cycle did a spectacular job. It is not possible to thank them and all the volunteers enough for their efforts. District Cycles put on a great race and I’m glad I made the long drive to partake in the event. I think a 200 mile option would be what I needed to entice me back next year – ponder that one for me Bobby. Despite my best efforts to wash the Oklahoma dirt out of my mouth with the specialty brewed beer for this event – I still get an unexpected crunch every so often. Could it be I just need more practice drinking beer? I can think of worse things I guess!