My path to the red dirt roads of Stillwater, OK, the home of the Land Run 100, actually began in the Flint Hills of Emporia, KS, the home of the Dirty Kanza 200. In 2013, I ventured east to race the infamous 200-miler to find out what gravel was all about. I stayed in a “gravel frat house” of sorts that belonged to Lelan Dains, the current Operations Manager of the Dirty Kanza. He also happened to be housing a contingent of folks from Stillwater, OK, home of District Bicycles and a first year event called Land Run, the brainchild of Bobby Wintle. I had some serious butterflies flitting about when I stepped off the porch into the inky darkness on race morning, grabbed my bike, turned on my rear light, and pushed off for the prairie unknown when Bobby and his wife Crystal appeared on their tandem. We rolled down the tree lined street, the crisp midwest morning air smacking us in the face, a nervous, excited banter between us, which I distinctly remember calming my race nerves and easing my first timer fears. When we parted ways at the starting line, I was infected by their enthusiasm, uplifted by their energy, and inspired to get to know them better in the future.
Fast forward five years, and I’m on a flight to Kansas City to connect with 4x Dirty Kanza winner, and Triple Crown Holder, Dan Hughes, who has graciously offered to pick me up before we make our way to Stillwater, OK. Both of us are Land Run 100 first timers. We’d both heard/seen the horror stories about sticky, thick red mud that ate drive trains and spit out rear derailleurs like ribs picked clean. We’d both seen the carnage wrought by prairie peanut butter muck that forced riders to walk for extended periods of times. This year, though, I rolled the proverbial dice and took a gamble on coming out. I hedged my weather bets by building up a Scott Addict CX as a single speed, crossed my fingers, and said a few Hail Marys.