I’m about to take on the Leadville 100, my second mountain bike race ever, and one of the biggest endurance races in the world. As a rookie on the Lifetime Grand Prix (LGP) tour, I didn’t quite expect to dive straight into such a challenge. However, I’m feeling well-prepared for it.
Before this, I raced the brutal Crusher in the Tushar, a 69.9-mile gravel race in Beaver, Utah. Compared to the 320km of Unbound 200, it seemed relatively easy. After witnessing the toughness of my fellow competitors in Emporia, Kansas, I decided to approach the race differently: attack the first climb and try to keep up with the front runners as long as possible, risking exhaustion on the second climb. But the potential reward could be greater fitness and maybe even surprise me with my performance.
Executing my strategy paid off as I managed to keep up with the leaders for the first hour, causing my heart rate to skyrocket. After that, I settled into a steady pace to reach the top by the two-hour mark and began the precarious descent. Unfortunately, I wiped out one of the hairpin turns, continuing my ongoing “dirt nap” saga, and ended up with a painful and bloody elbow and knee. Luckily, my bike and bones were unharmed. I was in awe of the racers who had better bike-handling skills and were hurtling down the mountain effortlessly. How do they even do that?
After surviving the treacherous descent, I hit the scorching hot pavement for the next 30 miles of climbing. Fortunately, I found a paceline with fellow LGP racer Melissa Rollins who warned me of the impending difficulty. The temperature was sweltering and the terrain was getting progressively worse, with sand and loose gravel making it more challenging. Mental toughness was crucial here. I focused on keeping up with the racers in front of me, using the upcoming aid station as motivation to keep pushing through at a snail’s pace.
At the aid station, I refilled my hydration bladder and received a refreshing pitcher of cold water dumped over my head by some incredible volunteers. With renewed energy, I tackled the tricky hairpin turns that had caused me to tumble earlier, pleasantly surprised that I could still maintain a high heart rate without my quads cramping up.
But don’t be fooled by reaching the top of the two-hour climb. The last six miles of Crusher are brutal and will crush you if you haven’t prepared or saved some energy for the final steep sections up to the ski resort. I pushed myself to the limit, grinding out of the saddle at 40 rpm on what felt like a 20% incline, sweat stinging my eyes, my gaze fixed on the ground in front of me. In the end, I crossed the finish line in just under 5 hours and 20 minutes, earning 8th place in the LGP rankings and valuable points overall. As the only non-binary competitor this year, I also claimed my own non-binary podium. I hope to see more non-binary athletes taking on this grueling race in 2023!
After completing the Crusher, I’ve been keeping myself busy with a packed racing schedule. I had a great performance at the PTO Canadian Open triathlon, where I excelled in the swim-bike-run sequence. Additionally, I recently won the IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder, which may have potentially made me the oldest champion in the history of the event. In between these triathlons, I participated in the Leadville MTB Stage Race to gain insight into what I would be facing in the Leadville 100. The stage race was ideal as it comprised the entire 100-mile course broken down over three days.
On the first day of the stage race, my coach advised me to take it easy and stay safe. However, as a newcomer to MTB, I had no idea about the ideal tire pressure to use and ended up falling off my bike again with tires inflated to a whopping 35 psi. This unfortunate incident resulted in me sustaining further road rash on my elbow, knocking my knee quite hard, and spending the night in tears in my hotel room. After this setback, I showed up for the next day’s race with a more sensible bike set up and received the green light to push myself to the limit.
I had an amazing time on days 2 and 3 of the Leadville MTB Stage Race, which gave me a taste of what I’ll have to endure in just one day during the Leadville 100. I now understand what everyone was talking about with the challenging Columbine and Powerline climbs that come later in the race. It was great to compete alongside experienced mountain bikers and fellow LGP racers Kristen Legan and Crystal Anthony. Once again, I took home the nonbinary overall win, although I was the only one in that category. I have to give credit to the Leadville Trail Series organizers for providing equal recognition, awards, and prizes to the leaders in all three categories.
This race made me appreciate the special community of Leadville. The participants received warm welcomes, and the race provided generous support to the youth and people of Leadville. It’s clear why this race has become a legend, and I’m proud to have the opportunity to compete in the Leadville 100, which may be one of the most epic races of my life.