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  • Tough Love Advice for Leadville 100 Training and Racing

    In yesterday's blog I gave a race recap from the 2014 race and mentioned I would follow-up with a frank discussion about training and racing the Leadville 100.

    Before starting into training and racing points, it's worth mentioning that in a previous blog, I listed training resources available for the Leadville 100, including a course description, key training elements, an interview with Dave Wiens, and a few other links to help you on your training and racing journey.

    I will say that in the resource blog, I did omit two columns: Altitude Training for Athletic Success: Part 1 and Part II. These prior columns and blogs will give you lots of information to digest.

    Now that I've given you some background information, here comes the tough love. No sugar coating of information. Know that I have had some of these discussions with my athletes – and myself. In no particular order:

    Extra weight. If you are carrying around extra weight, get it off. It is insane to spend $5,000 to $10,000 for a bike that saves you three pounds when you are carrying 15 pounds of fat. Get serious about your nutrition program. If you can't do it yourself, join a program. Do it right and healthy. If you crash diet and lose muscle mass and/or strength, it does no good. Forget the crazy diets, choose something you can maintain for life and can the excuses.

    Discipline. Every year in the fall and winter, I hear shallow words from people about the training they plan to do. Then the training doesn't occur until the four to six weeks prior to the race. It's too late. You cannot build 100-mile race-pace endurance in the month prior to race day. There is no such thing as cramming for this test. If you want to race, and race well, you must have a disciplined training plan that begins well ahead of race day. Pick a plan follow it and make adjustments as time progresses. Or, hire a reputable coach.

    Calm Urgency. On race day, keep yourself moving. I'm not talking about a stroll-through-the-museum-of-natural-history pace, I mean a pace that shows urgency. Rather than shoving your bike up Columbine mumbling about how hard this is, push that bike with a sense of excitement and purpose so you can get back on it and ride again. Get a move on – or get out of the way.

    Once you've had a race or two under your belt, then you can pose for photos and take your time. Until then, quit dinking around and go!

    Ride Columbine. I think everyone that stands in the sub-11-hour corrals should be riding the first section of the above-tree-line portion of the Columbine Mine climb. This is where the two-track begins. Stay on your bike all the way to the really steep section near the old cabin structure. Seriously, you should be capable of riding this. In this race video at the one-minute mark, I and one other guy behind me are riding. I am certain others pushing could have been riding.

    People give up mentally and just begin pushing, satisfied to be in the conga line of despair. Toughen up and ride. As Ken Chlouber says perched from his four-wheeler at this section, "You paid $6,000 for that bike, now RIDE IT!"

    If you haven't gone out and tried to ride up the steepest thing you can find during training, you blew it. If you haven't included climbing in your training plan, you blew it.

    Humility. If you show no respect for the difficulty of the climbs (grade and length) at altitude, you will get your arrogance handed to you in a sharp and soul-crushing way on race day. I have scores of stories about top-ranked roadies and cross country mountain bike riders from all parts of the country that come to Leadville thinking a sub-9-hour race is in the bag, only to be pulled from the course. You generally don't read or hear about these stories and I'm sure you can imagine why.

    For those of you along the Colorado Front Range, you are not exempt. I've done course pre-rides with many riders that were forced off their bikes on the Saint Kevin's climb, day one of training camp. Too much intensity blew them up in a spectacular fashion. Pounding heart rate, weak legs and gasping breath handed them a wakeup call.

    Magic Potions. Forget the magic tablets, formulas and snake oils. Do the training required, demanded, by the race and skip trying to make up for any lack of discipline with pharmaceuticals – of any kind. Quit trying to purchase fitness.

    Altitude. Do not take this element of the race lightly. Some people are genetically gifted and can handle altitude better than others. I live at 5,000 feet and my neighbor across the street cannot handle altitude the way I can. I'm lucky. If you have issues with altitude and you want to successfully complete the race, you must consider strategies to deal with this element. If you cannot get to altitude to become acclimitized and you have problems at high elevations, consider it a gamble whether or not you'll finish. Want to gamble?

    Again, this message is not only for the sea level people – Front Range people take note.

    Learn How to Ride a Mountain Bike at Race Pace. You need good mountain bike handling skills, I don't care what anyone says. Climbing Saint Kevin's or Columbine on loose, steep, rocky trail is not easy. You need fitness and skills, including balance. Sometimes there is a rideable path on Powerline that is only 12 inches wide, with drop-offs on both sides. Usually these tricky section are steep – really steep – made that way by charging spring runoff and heavy monsoon rains. If your riding power, skills and/or balance stinks, you will be in the gully, walking or grabbing your brakes constantly. Most likely you are impeding others. Worst case scenerio, you crash and can't finish the race.

    Get some skills. Do some mountain bike racing before Leadville.

    Nutrition/Hydration. This is similar to appropriate training. You MUST, MUST have this dialed in before race day. Though it can't be said enough, do not try new things on race day. Execute a plan that has worked for you in training.

    Respect. The need to have respect for your fellow riders on race day is critical. Do not force them off of their line with crazy moves so you can have the best race possible. They want their best race too and your selfishness puts both of you at risk. If you think you are a super hot rider, prove it by doing a qualifying event and getting placed in a faster corral.

    I think it is fair to say I love this race, as evidence of 10 completions shows. If you plan to train for and race the Leadville 100, I want you to be successful. This fall, I plan to design a Leadville-specific race plan. The competitive 100-mile plan I currently have does work, but I've had numerous requests to design a plan that is specific to Leadville. It will include pre-ride instructions and maps as well as workouts to address hiking steep hills while pushing a bike. (2015 Note: The Leadville-specific plan is here.)

    Now get serious about performing to your capability.

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  • Comments on this post (3 comments)

    • Bill says...

      I love the tone of this, and certainly the message as well. Extremely well said, Gale!

      On August 14, 2014

    • Gale says...

      I still believe you are capable of a finish.

      On August 12, 2014

    • Arch says...

      Well put. Just as LT100 put me in my place.

      On August 12, 2014

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