I Couldn’t Feel my Hands or Feet at the Land Run 100
Photos and words by Jarrod Bunk
I still remember my first conversation (albeit a short one) with Bobby, we were in Tahoe, climbing up to Pluto I was choking on the air, my body had yet to adjust to the elevation. We talked a little bit about an event that I had been following for a few years, one that tests you physically and mentally, where you aren’t just fighting yourself but you’re fighting the course as well. I’m talking about Land Run. On that climb, I was blown away at just how stoked Bobby was that I had heard of their event. From that point on I couldn’t stop thinking about it, weeks passed and it was time to set things in motion, I knew I had to make it to Stillwater this year!
Fast forward to March, the two weeks prior to Land Run I somehow caught the Flu, missed some work and ended up with a pretty awesome sinus infection, which I still have at the time of writing this. Flights were booked, I was locked in, and ready to battle myself, and the course. Land Run is traditionally muddy but the weather forecast when I packed my bags was 75°F and sunny, I packed for 60°F just to safe. I arrived on Thursday to so much stoke and friendly welcome that I forgot for a moment about everything. I rode part of the course spent my time enjoying some of what the town had to offer, I was happy to leave 20°F Pennsylvania for this type of weather. Thursday night I got a text, “ get to Iron Monk” I didn’t know at the time, but Iron Monk brewing made a special beer just for Land Run, this was going to be a party. I kept hearing whispers that night that the weather was forecast to be 30° and rainy on Saturday for the event, but I didn’t believe the sudden change since I packed for warmer weather.
Friday I left my hotel and hopped on my bike for the quick jaunt to District Bicycles for the riders meeting and to take in the whole atmosphere of Land Run. Temps dropped 20° overnight, but that didn’t mean anything cause meteorologists “never get it right”. During the rider meeting Bobby had some incredible words of wisdom and as I am actively pairing down my life and concentrating on doing things that bring me joy, let me share those with you.
The movement of #unlearnpavement is the idea that the removal of certain ideology and thinking will uncover something amazing that has always been there. We tell ourselves over and over and over that “things will be better when this happens, or when I buy this thing, or I get that job, or when we have more money, or when we get through this certain situation.” The reality is that instead of adding to what already exists in our life we should be taking things away. Getting back to something so very simple. Looking at the things that actually add value to our current situation, to our lives, or our families, to our friends. “Unlearning” my friend Tom Rees once told me. Bev and I are in a process of “unlearning.” It changed my life that day. When he told me that the confusion that so often occupies our mind is created by all the expectations and completely made up things that we think we know or think we understand is actually useless, and what we need to actually do is look at what has always been there, what we have paved over, and that is what will ground us. That is what will give us stability and freedom and confidence. Unlearn Pavement. The dirt has always been there. Just waiting to show us all unbelievable adventure. We are all so lucky to now have the opportunity to #unlearnpavement and return our minds and souls to something so amazing and so simple. The dirt. -Bobby Wintle
I awoke to a slight drizzle, and 34° I packed my bike, pulled on my knee warmers filled my water bottles and set off to snag some final riders portraits before the race. On the start line I met Matt who I made plans to ride the entire race with, we were going to cross that damn line together and get that Bobby Wintle hug.
BOOM! Cannon fire and we were off, Matt was on his single speed Marrakesh and I was on my #projectwarbird when at mile 10 the skies opened up, it started hailing, I never thought the shit-fest would start so soon! I put on the only jacket I brought with me, and pedaled on, warming back up quickly. Around mile 20 my shoe decided to come apart on a hike a bike section. Wearing only a thin wool sock, my toes became numb instantly, that’s ok, though, you just can’t feel them, so if they start to hurt it doesn’t matter, push on. PUSH ON! We kept saying this for most of the day and jokingly stated LAND WALK! At mile 30 we were on par to complete the ride in 8 hours, two ahead of my 10-hour goal, I was stoked! Somewhere around mile 36 there was a pass around where you could skip a section of mud Matt and I watched a group of people dump out onto the road, it would have been way faster to get to the halfway point but we both wanted to do the whole course, and see the cattle ranch at Mile 41, so we did. The Buckhorn Cattle Ranch was so awesome, even though I could only make out part of the muddy doubletrack in front of me, friendly strangers shared a beer and cleaned my glasses.
I gave a hoot as the course swept back and forth on itself into a misty roller, this was one of the most gorgeous and fun sections to ride. At this point, I couldn’t feel my hands or feet and honestly had forgotten the last time I could. Somehow we lost a lot of time between there and Guthrie arriving way late, just to watch nearly everyone pull out at the halfway point. Crystal walked up to Matt and I and asked if we were continuing on, I’m pretty sure I said something like fuck yes and please?!?! I grabbed my drop bag refilled my water and bartered with a food cart for some socks and gloves, they were such a life saver. The detour out of Guthrie sucked, and I was quickly reminded that my whole left foot was exposed, my feet tingling and completely numb at the same time. My core warmed back up and we were on it, hopefully making up sometime in the second half of the course. The weather was up and down, thunderclouds and angry dogs couldn’t keep us down. We made it to mile 71 in what felt like no time, unfortunately for us this section of the course had the worst mud we had encountered the whole day. We hiked and cleaned our bikes from mile 71-80 and added so much time to our ride. Somewhere around mile 78 some Jeeps from the local club rolled up behind us blasting some music and keeping us going on what was the hardest part of the day, Matt was ahead a bit of me and I was happy to catch up because it was rideable again. My legs were feeling fresh all of a sudden, I decided to pick up the hiking pace a bit and in doing so I rolled my ankle, slipped in the mud, got back up and kept going. Where the mud transitioned to something rideable, it was finally time to clean my bike again. I hopped on my bike at which point my bike didn’t shift, my derailleur was toast, I searched through my bag for my quick link so I could single speed the rest of the way home, I couldn’t find it anywhere. This is the point where I fought the course and the course won. I was devastated, I’m still pretty bummed on this part. I hitched a ride into Stillwater, my head down. As I passed matt at the oasis I said you’ve got this, I’ll be waiting for you at the finish line!
Back in Stillwater I had a shower beer in District Bicycles, got changed said hello to friends, and fought off the sadness of not making it to the end, how I knew I could. It’s something so hard to let go and pull out of an effort like this, especially after riding with my shoe the way it was from mile 23 to mile 80. I couldn’t believe that the course won. I didn’t want to accept it. I waited to greet Matt as he crossed the finish line. We jokingly said we were going to DFL together the whole day. Since no one left before us and we were the last allowed to depart out of Guthrie this soon became a reality. At 15:10 I heard that Matt was close, I was so stoked that he was able to make it. A group gathered at the finish line to cheer him in, Bobby gave him the finishers hug and I followed. Matt told me that without me on course he wouldn’t have made it, and that is what Land Run is! It’s about fighting the course, fighting yourself, digging through pains you didn’t know existed, but most of all its about helping a new friend overcome all of that shit and pulling through till the end.
Matt you’re my fucking champion!
Thank you to Bobby, Crystal, Tyler, Austin, and the whole District Bicycles family and all of the volunteers for making an awesome event. Stillwater, you’re beautiful, and I can’t wait to get back, you’re not going to win next time.
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