Leadville Training Report: Alpine & Fort Davis Texas

It takes months of training to get ready to toe the line at the Leadville Trail 100 MTB (LT100).  But, it can be challenging to train for a 100 mile MTB race in the mountains when you live at only 600 ft in Central Texas.

So, what’s a girl to do to train for LT100 if she lives in Central Texas? Well, I decided to take advantage of a visit from my husband (who’s working overseas), a big anniversary and a purchase of a new motorhome to make a trek out to West Texas to get in some altitude training & to ride in the mountains.

Feeling “very pro” while I ride rollers in Alpine!

We made the small town of Alpine our home for the week.  Alpine was pretty but I was surprised that it was flat: much of the mountainous terrain either had no roads & or the cool gravel roads were all on private property.  So I had to get more creative than anticipated to get in some climbing although it was a nice change of pace to be riding at altitude (5,000-6,000 ft versus 600 ft back home).

Time for a roller spin!

That’s when my coach (Chad Welch) suggested that I should do the McDonald Observatory Climb on my MTB.  If you’re familiar with the Fort Davis Hammerfest Stage Race, you know that it’s a stage race with an individual time trial stage that is a 14-16 mile climb (depending upon category raced) up to the Observatory.

My Dad agreed to be my support vehicle for my climb up to the Observatory, so he & I went out to Fort Davis the next day.  Dad dropped me off in Downtown Fort Davis.  The plan was that he would check in on me periodically throughout the 16 mile climb to make sure I was doing ok, exchange water bottles, etc.

Climb climb climb!

I estimated it would take me 2 hours on a MTB to make it to the top of the climb (where the road ends at McDonald Observatory).  I took off a bit excited & uncertain since I had never done this climb on any sort of bike, much less a MTB.

My Dad was both my support vehicle & my unofficial cheerleader. He would zip up the road, pull over & then took lots of video along with photos as I passed by.  It was pretty fun, actually & my Dad had a blast as well.  I paced myself & ended up being surprisingly fast: I reached the top of the climb 30 minutes faster than I anticipated.

All smiles at the summit of the climb!
At McDonald Observatory

McDonald Observatory is located at 6,791 feet at the summit of Mount Locke:  it’s the highest paved road in Texas. While the last part of the climb was tough (it’s very steep), I felt surprisingly good & wondered if I shouldn’t have pushed myself a bit harder….

At any rate, after taking some fun photos, we loaded up my bike & headed down the mountain and back into the town of Fort Davis.

Loading up at the top of the climb to head down the mountain

Then, just outside of Alpine, I had him drop me off so that I could do a cool down ride back into town.  Much to my surprise, my husband met me at that point on his MTB, so I had some company on my cool down ride. (!!!)  However, I made the mistake of not doing a good job of refueling after I finished the ascent to McDonald Observatory & I had a mini bonk during my cool down ride.. (ouch…!).

All in all, I had a lot of fun in Alpine & am really happy I had the experience of riding the climb up to McDonald Observatory.  I can’t wait to climb more mountains in 5 weeks when I head to Leadville to do the Leadville Stage Race & the Leadville Trail 100 MTB this summer!


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I love cycling! I compete in road, MTB, cyclocross & gravel events (a fun escape from my day job in technology). I love being outdoors & helping new riders get into the sport. I'm also a race promoter with Gritty Teeth Racing & a sponsored rider for Tri-City Bicycles.

2 thoughts on “Leadville Training Report: Alpine & Fort Davis Texas”

  1. Great article describing your experience out in West Texas, Joy…it brings back memories!!

    Doug S.

  2. I would like to thank Chad also for suggesting the idea also. I had lots of fun trying to figure out places to get video and still shots while she raced up the mountain. She was way faster than I planned for including several unplanned stops including me not knowing she would go up a road that I could not in the chase car to the top of the mountain.

    The other stop you will have to ask her about.

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