The legendary Leadville 100 mountain bike race is this Saturday. This race is tough! It starts and finishes in the heart of Leadville at 10,200’. With more than 90 percent dirt or double track dirt roads, steep climbs, serious descents and a seven-mile climb to the 50-mile turnaround at 12,600’, there is approximately 14,000’ elevation gain. That makes for a long and grueling day on the bike! For non professional athletes, what are successful race strategies to help conquer this demon of a race?
Plan Right! Start off on the right foot by getting your bike parts in order, lubing your chain, checking your tires, etc. Basically, the goal here is to have everything you’ll need for race day morning packed up and ready to go by Thursday evening. Not only does this relieve stressful day before packing but if you forget something, then you have time to pack it. But, what happens out on the course? Crazy stuff can happen out there too! Plan ahead and be sure to carry an extra tube or C02 with you, have extras in your drop bag along with some tires , bike nutrition, and extra clothing. Lube is good to carry on hand too if the course is dry. If you are unsure if a certain bike part will hold up during the race, then have an extra one handy with some bike tools in your drop bag to keep you in the race.
Fuel Right! Proper nutrition leading into a race is critical. Yet, staying properly hydrated and taking in appropriate levels of protein and carbs during your race will not only help keep your energy up, but it will help keep your mind fresh and alert for those technical sections. Consider stocking up with bars, gels, and an assortment of nutrition requirements to have in your jersey and in your drop bags. Also, consider how you are getting your fluids: bottles or hydration pack? It’s important to plan your water intake between aid stations so if you think it will be a while between them, opt for a hydration pack. Regarding the frequency of eating and drinking, prepare a food/ drink schedule so you stick to it. Our post, Dialing in your Race Day Nutrition, may help. The main point here is to eat and drink on a regular schedule so you avoid bonking, cramping, and ensure you have enough fuel in the tank to finish the race.
Pace Yourself! While the nerves are high and the muscles and energy are fresh, it’s easy at the start of the race to get after it and go out too hard and too fast. Keep in mind, the more you spike your heart rate at the beginning of the race, the less you have available to pull from at the end of the race. The trick to finishing this race is to ride a steady ride keeping your heart rate in check and knowing when to back off. Use your cycling computer to keep yourself in check. Another helpful hint is to write down all of the aid station mile markers and cutoff times to help pace yourself and stay on schedule. Tape this list to your top tube so you can see it while you ride
Dress for Success! It’s chilly first thing in the morning at altitude! There is quiet a bit of time that passes between lining up for the start and the actual time of the gun going off at the start. If you are cold and shivering waiting for the start, you are going to lose precious body heat and energy. Stand around with warm clothes that are easy to take off just minutes before the race start. Also, consider wearing warm clothes at the start of the race. As in, arm warmers, possibly knee warmers, and even a light weight head cover. Due to rain showers and storms, you may want to have a lightweight rain jacket in your jersey pocket of pack to take on and off as needed. With all cycling apparel on race day, it’s a good idea to have the zipper unzipped and the jacket easily accessible so you don’t waste valuable time. This is even more important it you are bumping up against cut off times.
Get Your Mental Game On! Check in with your mental attitude, preparation, and willingness to “get after it.” The level of digging deep and mental suffering for this race exceeds that of training rides or even shorter (60 miles or so) races. Your thoughts, emotions, and self talk are components of your mental state, so take during the event, periodically take inventory of your mental state. It’s easy during a race this tough and long to compare your training and fitness to others. Don’t compare! Be prepared with mantras or mini goals to keep yourself going when the going gets tough.