My name is Addison Zawada. Im 27 years old and have been racing bikes of nearly every discipline since I was 11 years old. Starting with BMX and jumping around until stumbling upon gravel racing at the 2017 edition of Landrun 100. For myself cycling is an opportunity to forget about the rest of the world and the everyday problems that come with being a human. It also provides an outlet for stress and frustrations brought on by daily life. In a sense, cycling is an escape, passion, and a reason to push through. I always know my bikes are kindly waiting patiently for me when I need them to be there.
What goes down in Stillwater, OK over Landrun 100
24 hours have now passed by with me sitting lead position behind the controls of my 2018 Ford Transit. My eyes are hanging heavy as the caffeine from my most recent coffee fades. A sign passes that says, "Stillwater 10 miles". I am suddenly filled with emotions of excitement, relief, and anxiety. My Landrun 100 experience has finally begun. I will try to paint a picture for you.
District Bicycles greets the street with glass panels from sidewalk to sky. The windows are filled with bikes of every color and ethnicity. Front and center is the infamous race start canon with it's sturdy antique black base carriage. Atop sits a large orange cylinder from which it screams BOOM and go all is one swift breath. In passing the bang stick you are swiftly greeted by the smiling faces and long scraggly beards of a family you haven't seen in a year. Suddenly the speakers kick on from a stage being erected in the distance. That is a key aspect of the environment of Landrun 100, noise. The noise is continuous and increasing. It begins with just a dull roar of people talking. Quickly it escalates through the sounds of live music, speakers blaring, air horns and cow bells screaming. Suddenly it comes to a complete silence.
Bobby has begun the ritual that has become a staple of the event and brings people from as far as the eye can see. This riders meeting is much less a speech than a ceremony and pouring of emotions upon riders and souls both new and returning. Bobby Wintle, the co-owner of District and event originator, puts true heart and soul into this speech that will literally bring tears to your eyes and a fulfillment to your heart. "Get lost in it and bury your pain out there in those red dirt hills. Come back after a different person then you were before.".
Now the stage is set, figuratively and literally. Bobby himself breaks into a guitar riff on stage and you begin to get a since that this is more than an event. It is more than a gathering. The Landrun 100 is an emotion, it is the action of doing something you didn't believe you could. Simply, Landrun is what cycling was always meant to be.
How was the course?
The course was new for 2019. They redesign the course every 2 years to visit a new town. The event utilizes the local surrounding towns as the midpoint for the race. This year we landed in Perkins, OK after 55 miles. Thus far in the race the ground was hard, packed, and fast with mostly gentle rolling hills. I say mostly because Bobby is a mastermind of throwing curve balls. 20 miles into the race with road conditions that resembled your favorite gran-fondo, everything changed with a sharp right hand turn off the beaten path past some barriers with the Zipp logo plastered across. Suddenly we are on one of Oklahoma's infamous B-roads.
No more smooth hard pack, it's now bumpy, rutted, mountain bike territory. This continues for another mile or so on and off of paths meant for ATVs and mud trucks. The first of 2 major group-breakers appears after a slight left. The road shoots up towards the sky in a swift 20% grade. It only last for about 50 seconds but it is far enough to splinter the groups like a woodchipper in the overgrown brush of city suburbs. As it flattens new groups form with riders dangling just out of reach. The lead groups merge back together once again within a mile or so. Now the biggest decider of the day rears it's ugly face. Mile 23, past a pump-jack and a cattle guard from many moons before, Brethren Hill smacks you in the face like Mike Tyson in the dark. To start the hill ramps up to 21% but it's only for a moment. Cresting over the top after 30 brief seconds you grasp the reality of what you got yourself into. Two more minutes pass by with continuous with an avg of 15% and you near the end. By this point I am running besides my SS speed machine as I have realized at the effort and speed I am attaining I would be better off and more efficient just hiking it out. It's now over and the group has exploded. A group of 5-7 have gone off the front and won't be seen again by us mere mortals.
A small group is beginning to form including myself, 1 other stout SS rider and 7 other strong geared riders. For the next 50 miles it was a continuing of simple consistent rollers that give the impression of infinite climbing. Your computer says you are descending as much as climbing but you would swear this not to be true. Mile 70 hits and the road turns from smooth to rough. Continually rougher and wetter until we hit a draining ditch with a deep gully created by the multiple flash floods of the rainy and snowy winter that had brutalized the area. Experience is what it takes to pass this section. The mud in Oklahoma is of a consistency that it will peel up and glue itself to your tires along with every inch of your bike. Clearance and perseverance is the name of the game here. I get off the bike and begin to run. Many riders around wonder why I have begun to trot along with other Landrun veterans. They soon get the reality of why.
They screech to a halt as the mud welds their tires to bike frames. This is the moment a race can be decided and for myself it was exactly that. My lead competition, in which I had been extremely nervous about racing against, attempted to ride this section and it spelled his fate for the race. He spent the next 2 minutes unclogging his bike. After finally getting free of the OK red dirt grip he was back riding but now chasing. I however was extending my lead as much as I could. I pushed over my huge gearing of 46x18 with every ounce of energy I could.
The roads continued to rise as I screamed along with a small group of four. Mile 85 passes and the group begins to break apart as fitness begins to fade. Remaining consistent, I chug on. With a SS consistency is the name of the game. By mile 95 mile legs get a fifth wind as I slam the last bit of food I have. Now it is time to empty the tank and give it everything I have. This is however, the first year of the course and an opportunity for me to set a fast course record. The course conditions and weather were as good as they could be and potentially as good as they ever will be. We hit the asphalt at mile 100 and I know from course recon that we have just 3 miles exactly from this point. Spectators lined the side of the road and gave a cheerful shout of motivation. They also dropped an information bomb on me at the perfect time. I am, as of now, sitting 21st overall for the race. My goal was top 20 and I can see a rider in front of me. Now is the time to drop the hammer if I'm ever going to. As we cross on the main road leading into town and the final mile I pass the rider and continue to pursue the finish line. The crowd, the finish, and one last rider come into sight. A rider I had been riding with most of the early afternoon was near the finish but riding slowly. I sprinted with the last of my energy and effort I had in my legs to pass him just into the finish corral.
18th overall, 1st SS. My effort and constant reminder of the Bobby Wintle hug that awaited me drove me to go faster than I could have every imagined. The course was 103 miles long with 7,000 feet of climbing. I finished with a time of 5 hours and 17 minutes with and average speed of 19.5 miles per hour and a normalized power output of 275 watts. The training is working, the legs are tired, and the body that encases them is happy and ready for a coke.
What was the highlight?
Everything about the race is a highlight. Though it lacked the luster of a typical Landrun 100, with it's hard packed roads and dry conditions, it still brings an energy and feeling that is unexplainable. You simply have to be there and experience yourself. Only you can determine what Landrun means to you. I won't tell you what it means to me, I want you to imagine, then experience, then determine for yourself what it means for you.
What do you think about landrun100?
I believe the previous question should sum that one up quite well. Smiles, that's a Landrun summary, smiles.
Gravel, road, mtb, or fixed gear if you have to choose, when do you have more fun?
I think gravel racing ecompasses a little bit of all of the forms of cycling I love. I couldn't and wouldn't ever pick just one discipline, gravel racing does hold a special place in my heart.