Editor’s Note: Today we welcome Uncle Dudley back as he recaps his Land run 100 experience. It was another tough, muddy, challenging year in Oklahoma. Everyone that lined up to take the event on was a winner, and those that saw the finish line got their very own personal “man-hug” courtesy of the Land Run’s director, Bobby Wintle.
The Land Run 100: Mud And Man-hugs- by Uncle Dudley
The 2016 version of Land Run 100 was held on March 12th, in Stillwater Oklahoma. This was the 4th iteration of this very special event. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend every year and have developed many amazing relationships with the Oklahomies. Bobby and Crystal Wintle of District Bicycles do heck of a job putting on the race. They also have a ton of volunteers that help make this race such a success each year.
On Friday March 11th, 2016, Art, Philip, Angie and I all piled into Angela’s Suburban in Emporia. Of course I was like 15 minutes late. Though I’ve heard an exaggerated report of being an hour late. Pretty sure I brought way too much stuff. The bikes were tuned and ready for Land Run 100. It was so sunny and warm in Kansas. The closer we got to Stillwater OK, the gloomier the sky was. It was definitely what we’ve come to expect when we’re in Oklahoma.
We arrived in Stillwater on time to check in and make the first riders meeting. For me it’s like a family reunion. Right away I spotted the local rock star Bobby Wintle walking down the street. Had to hug that guy. Then on to check in at Iron Monk Brewing Company. Right away I start running into some of my favorite people in the world. Talk about a warm reception. Bobby Wintle spoke at the riders meeting, followed by Jim Bruer, the designer of the Land Run courses for the last couple of years. They got everyone even more pumped up. I was having so much fun seeing old friends and making new friends that I didn’t realize that the friends I rode down with, Art, Philip, Angie and Angela, had left me. Well, at least they were nice enough to wait in the car for me. Gravel people are my people and I love talking to them.
Our hosts, Simon and Angie Lathrop are super awesome people. They let my rag tag bunch shack up at their house. Simon and I met when we rode and finished Land Run 100 in 2014. Gravel builds strong bonds. Simon’s wife Angie made spaghetti for supper with homemade sauce. It was delicious and gave us fuel for the race. Thanks Angie!
It rained Friday night. Dang! It was looking like a repeat of the 2015 “Muddy Hell” version of Land Run. We were all too excited to care. We would ride when we could and carry our bikes when we had to. No matter what the outcome, we were going to have fun.
Race day morning sky was overcast. My little group lined up toward the rear of 800 riders. Bobby Wintle pumped up the crowed like he does. Then I heard a BOOM! I thought one of the Oklahomies blew a tire at the start. It’s happened before. As I rode by, I realized it was a cannon. Sorry Oklahomies, but you know what I’m talking about.
We took off to the music of the movie, “Top Gun“. I was so excited to be at Land Run! We followed the crowd from the city pavement to the gravel roads. One of the police escorts was playing “Eye of the Tiger” on his P.A. system. That kept the excitement flowing. Everything was smooth. Soon we hit some greasy type surface mud. Not a big issue. My tires held a line well. There was a couple of roller coaster sections of greasy roads that had me pondering life.
All in all, I was smiling an awful lot and having way too much fun. Eventually we all hit the peanut butter sections of mud. Even if you could ride through it, you run the risk of breaking your derailleur hanger off. I know this from personal experience. So I carried and pushed my bike. As did all of my friends and many others. Still there was bicycle carnage. There would be many broken bikes throughout the day.
This wasn’t my fastest race. I wasn’t even in a hurry, stopping to take pictures along the way. At one point I realized that I was going really slow and had to pick up the pace. Everyone was riding their own race at their own pace. There was a water oasis somewhere in the middle of the first leg. Right after that I past Philip checking his bike. I said “Hi buddy”, and kept on rolling. Later I found out that his bike was a victim of the mud. Sorry buddy! There was no shortage of friends and conversation on the first leg of the race.
Several of us arrived at the checkpoint town of Perry. All the way to wait for a train! There were several more riders stopped by the train. My friend Jeremy Warren and I entered Perry together. We rode under the big blow up and I high fived Crystal Wintle. Half way there. Woohoo!
When I found my sag vehicle, Angie was waiting with some delicious food. Art and Angela had arrived before me. They also left before me. Simon’s bike broke at mile 37. He took my bike and hosed it off for me at the community bike wash. He cleared the mud from my pedals so I could clip in again. When I was done eating, I took off on the second leg. I can’t lie, I was already tired and wasn’t sure I had another 50+ miles in my legs. My desire to finish was strong and my will to give up was nonexistent.
When I left Perry, I had a bit of a head breeze. Just enough to make a tired man even more tired. The sun was out and it was warming up. About four miles outside of Perry, I started getting physically and mentally weak. I was crumbling. Though I kept pedaling, there was a realization that I was not going to finish this race. I was pretty much out of friends at this point. There were a few scattered riders here and there. At mile 67, I was so bad that I called my mom for encouragement. That was a first for me. I kept pedaling as I spoke with my mom on my headset. Things perked up a little bit. This was a one mile at a time deal and I was not willing to quit.
It took me about 32 miles, but I caught up with Art and Angela. This was a great turning point for me. Art looked a bit pooped. Angela just keeps the pedals spinning like a maniac. Together we rolled into an oasis in the dark. There were several riders already there. I had a Coke and a smile. Art and Angela refueled and away we rode into the darkness. We could see a bike headlight in the distance behind us. We heard a voice yelling for Angela. We stopped and waited. It was our friend Jaffar! Now we were 4 strong. Nothing could stop us. Nothing!
Art was focused on getting his finish line hug from Bobby. I learned a long time ago not to get too excited. It ain’t over til it’s over. My focus was still making it one mile at a time. The pavement of Stillwater was smooth and fast. What a great relief! We could see someone waving a flashlight signaling a turn. It was one of my Oklahomies, Brett Stevens! He yelled “Dudley!” as I rode past. Now the excitement is building.
When we saw the finish line, Jaffar took off and left us! This kid that we waited for, he got caught up in the moment as he finished his first century ride. We all crossed the finish line with big smiles on our faces. Even after 13 ½ hours there was still a crowd there to cheer on the finishers. They cheered so loud that we felt like the winners. That’s the love that Land Run is famous for. Art got his “Bobby Wintle Hug”. We all got lots of hugs. It was fantastic seeing all the familiar faces again. One of my hero’s Dr. Seth Wood, helped me off of my bike. I fought the darkness in my mind. Never gave up. Finished with a smile. Life is great!
Thank You: From the bottom of my heart to Bobby, Crystal and all of the volunteers that make this race so special to my heart. Special shout out to those Red Dirt Divas! You ladies rock! Great job Kimberly Martin. Very proud of you! Thank you Simon and Angie Bug. Joshua Lathrop! You too! You make us feel right at home with you. Love you guys. See you all May 7th! Editor’s Note: Uncle Dudley is referring to his event which he is the director of, Gravel Ride For Masie’s Pride, which happens on May 7th, 2016. Also, all images courtesy of Uncle Dudley except where indicated.