More thoughts on Leadville Trail 100 MTB

After digesting the race for a while now i had some additional thoughts Could be used as input and possibly some recommendations for anyone looking at signing up for the race.

Start strategy
I did a pretty bad job on this part. I actually arrived in Leadville pretty early in the morning. I knew where the start was and I parked about 2 blocks away. However it was really cold in the morning so instead of heading over to the start I opted to sit in the warm car and wait it out. About 20 minutes before race start I braved the cold and started rolling. Did a bit of riding to warm up some before I headed over to the start area. It was packed. Since it had not qualified for the race but got in on the lottery I was already in the white start corral, the last start corral.
As a result I ended up being one of the last ones to cross the start line. This meant lots and lots of waiting when I hit the first climb of the race. Slower people walking where I could have been riding. I am pretty sure it also affected the biggest climb of the race, Columbine.
My recommendation would be to bring some old sweatpants and a thick jacket or sweater. Something that can be thrown away just before race start but would keep you warm when holding a good spot in your start corral. This is obviously even easier if you have a support crew with you and they are willing to get up dead-early in the morning to support you. This way you can bring whatever you want/need to keep you warm. The support crew might not be able to get to you in the middle of the start pack but you can just leave your bike for a few seconds to hand your extra gear over.

Crew
Crew or no crew doesn’t really matter in the end. It is totally doable to perform well in the race (from an amateur standpoint) without a crew. Sure, its very nice to have friends and/or family out there along the course to cheer you on along the way but it definitely not needed to finish the race.

Cooler drop-bag
I packed all of my stuff in a regular draw string bag. In the end I didn’t end up using any of the stuff in my drop-bag. However when I dropped it off the day before I did see all the other drop-bags lined up. Someone had packed their stuff up in a small cooler. A very smart idea since it can get very hot during the day and depending on nutrition pack dup in your drop bag it might go bad. So if you don’t have a crew to help out this could be a really good option.

Tire choice
This is what I ended up agonizing about the most in preparation or the race. I did tons of research on this topic and finally came to the conclusion that the best option would be something with fairly low rolling resistance and a rally strong side wall. I ended up with Continental X-King ProTection 29 x 2.2 both in front and rear. I didn’t really pay much attention to weight at all. In the end, had I come to a conclusion about tire choose earlier in my preparation I probably would have switched to riding tubeless. I didn’t and ended up carrying one spare tire with me and had a spare tube in my drop-bag. I didn’t really have enough time to make the switch to ride tubeless since that would have basically meant doing so just shortly before the race and with that being uncertain on how all of that would work. I would have wanted more rides with tubeless before the race in order to feel comfortable with riding on that set-up during the race.
I didn’t have any problems at all with grip or flats or anything related to my tires so I am extremely happy with my choice and think I made the right one.

High altitude
This is probably a topic that is very individual. I personally don’t have tremendous amount of experience with endurance racing at high altitude. I did a Half Ironman (HIM) distance race at around 6k-7k ft a couple of weeks before Leadville and that was about all the experience I had. That HIM didn’t seem to affect me all that much and to be honest neither did Leadville. The altitude probably had some affect to the performance but not to the extent that it bothered me or that I could significantly feel it.

Hard tail vs. full suspension
This is a very common topic. To me it came down to the fact that I had one MTB at my disposal, a hard tail 29er. So whatever the preferred bike would be was a moot point to me as I was not going to go out and buy a new MTB just for this race. I think a top of the line full suspension bike would probably be preferred in the end but a hard tail 29er works extremely well. I did get pretty fatigued in my arms and wrist towards the end of the race. Now was that because lack of training and strength or because I was not on a full suspension bike. Who knows. If you want to take on the race and don’t have the budget to buy a new bike, just roll with what you have, it will work.

Weather
I ended up being extremely lucky from what I understand. I didn’t end up having a single drop of rain all day during my race. It also wasn’t that cold during the day with the exception of early in the morning. But I quickly ended up shedding layers and rode all day in shorts and a short sleeve.
I have heard that the weather can be brutal. Cold, warm, rain, snow and even hail all in one day. It could be brutally hot before starting the climb up Columbine and snowing when you reach the top. The weather can also change extremely quickly at that high altitude.
I did pack some extra gear in my Camelback during the entire race. I had arm warmers and a very thing rain jacket just in case. I had also loaded up my drop-bag with some dry gloves and other dry gear just in case. I think being prepared for any weather is the way to go.

Nutrition
This is a very individual topic. It also depends heavily on the weather. I started with a  full 100oz of water in my Camelback and also had a bottle that was mixed with two packs of Osmo. I had a bunch of picky-bars and bonk breakers. I had made some home made nutrition from the book Feed Zone Portables (sweet potato and rice waffles) and I also had some delicious candy bars from Cake Nouveau (www.cakenouveau.com). I used more Omso that the two packs since I kept refilling my bottle at every aid station. Towards the end I was munching on whatever they were offering. PB sammies, bananas, chips, pretzels, coke, etc.
I could have probably done better with nutrition and been more diligent with eating and getting calories in to my body on a more regular schedule. However I didn’t have any stomach issues at all during the race. I did start to feel pretty tired and fatigued towards the end but I’m not sure that was due to poor nutrition or just not being fit enough to handle such a long distance race.

Where to stay
I stayed about 30 minutes outside of Leadville in a small place called Twin Lakes. This is close to where the Twin Lakes aid station is located at the bottom of the Columbine climb. I rented a very small cabin that was perfect for me. However it was very small and would have been too small had my wife and son joined me.
I also found myself driving a lot back and forth between Leadville and Twin Lakes and the 30 minute drive each way added up. My recommendation would be to stay in Leadville if possible. The problem with that is that everything rents out very quickly during the race week so you better be on top of it if you want to get a good place to stay.

No crash and no injury
I am very happy with the fact that I didn’t end up having any mechanical problem. I also didn’t end up crashing or falling or injuring myself in any way. I did see some cuts and bruises along the way. Given that it is a MTB race over a 100 miles the risk is obviously there. Descending Columbine is fast and if you loose control on that fire road you will be hurting. Other than that I think one of the bigger risks would be a stupid crash during one of the steeper climbs with having the real wheel spin out or something.

Bike shipment
I was originally thinking of bringing my bike in a bike case that I had borrowed. After doing the math I figured out wasn’t worth it. The airline would charge a bunch for the case and that would also mean a lot more stuff to get to the airport and to deal with at the airport. I ended up using a bike transportation (tribiketransport.com) company instead. They had a local pickup spot at a sports store (Sports Basement) where I dropped my bike off about 1 week before the race and where I also picked it up again about 1 week after the race. The cost ended up being almost the same as what the airline would have charged my but with a lot less hassle. One of the best parts to this was that I could hand my bike off as soon as I crossed the finish line.

After the race
I stayed around the finish area for a while. Then made my way back to my car that was parked somewhat nearby and changed in to so clean clothes. Then went back to the finish area and grabbed my free beer. They did have food here but it was cash only and I didn’t have any cash so that didn’t work out.
The day after the race they have the awards ceremony. This was honestly a bit of a snooze fest. They called out the names of literally every person that finished the race and you were supposed to wait for your name to be called and then pick up your belt buckle. If there is a group you that did the race this might be ok. I was there alone so this was pretty boring and mostly a long wait.
Make sure to head up to the official Leadville Trail store or wherever you picked up your start package to grab your finisher sweater. This wasn’t really clear to me but I did read something about a finisher sweater so I went there and I had some other errands up there anyways. You get a sweater with your name and finish time printed on it.
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