THE RACE, THE MYTH, THE LEGEND
by: Coach Richard La China
Oh, the Leadville 100. The Race Across the Sky. The Race of All Races. The Ironman of Mountain Biking, If Ironman Was at 10,000ft. The Race Even Lance Armstrong Lost Once…All of the monikers for this race that emphasize its difficulty, the awe-inspiring terrain, and its exclusivity are not hyperbole, they’re facts. They provide accurate descriptions of a race that actually lives up to its hype. Because of this, Leadville sits firmly at the top of Bucket Lists of nearly all the elite and amateur racers across the world. I know it did for me.
I had tried to get in via the lottery for the past three years and was unsuccessful. So when my team, Team Ninja, was picked this year, I was ecstatic. Yet the sense excitement was tempered with something I didn’t normally feel before race: nervousness.
Yes, the race is 104 miles on and off road. Yes, the total elevation gain is about 12,800ft. Yes, even some of the most seasoned riders have DNF’d. All of that kind of stuff doesn’t make me nervous, it actually exhilarates me. I’m an endorphin junkie and some might even say, a masochist. I love to push myself to the limit.
What did make me nervous was the fact that my training had been lackluster due to residual pain from a knee injury sustained when I got “doored” by a car in December 2012. I tried to avoid surgery by doing the whole PT thing throughout most of the 2013 race season, and even managed some descent results in the typical 20-25 mile XC races. But the pain never went away and prohibited me from doing any kind of endurance riding. At my Doctor’s urging I finally opted for surgery in October 2013. The result of the surgery was “inconclusive”, the recovery was long, and I was impatient. I had a full 2014 race calendar, skills clinics to teach, and athletes to train! I had to ride my bike! So, essentially I tried to balance the intensity and length of my training rides with the amount of pain I could tolerate and the amount of time I had available to recover.
Normally, I would have gotten off the bike completely and just not raced. But I felt that there was too much riding on this particular event (pun intended). So, I set myself a goal time of 8.5 hrs, something I thought would be attainable even with my knee injury, and set out to make it happen.
RIDE OR BUST
Knowing that my sub-optimal fitness alone would not be enough to get me through Leadville by my goal time, I decided to do everything else in my power to better my odds: altitude acclimation, course pre-rides, nutrition and hydration strategizing, analyzing data of riders that finished around my goal time … [MORE]