Race report: Leadville Trail 100 MTB by Joy Brott

Start line for the 2017 Leadville Trail 100 MTB! ? to CenturyLink

My journey to the Leadville Trail 100 MTB (“LT100”) started when I qualified for Leadville in my 1st mountain bike race.   I’ve since started LT100 twice, but missed time cuts;  those 2 DNFs weighed heavily on me.

Motoring in the early stages of the race. ? credit to CenturyLink

Thanks to a lot of work & guidance from my coach (Chad Welch), I showed up to the LT100 this year in great form.  I also had a better starting corral, along with solid knowledge of the course.  But…did I have what it takes to finish this 100+ mile race under 12 hours & take home a Leadville buckle?

At the start, I picked my way through the crowd & moved up as much as I could before & during the 1st climb: St Kevin’s. Then I motored up Hagerman Pass & Sugarloaf Pass.  I love Sugarloaf:  I enjoy climbing that rocky pass!

After Sugarloaf came my least favorite section: the Powerline descent. Powerline’s steep & technical in sections; I am not a good descender.  So, before the race, I spent time in Leadville working on my skills with Marvin Sandoval & Jen Talley.  I made it down Powerline & breathed a sigh of relief: time to turn on my motor!

Some single track action! ? to CenturyLink

Things went well in the next section of the race. My crew person extraordinaire, Tanya Taylor, had everything running like a well-oiled machine when I made it to the Twin Lakes Aid Station (mile 40).

The Columbine climb came next & it’s HARD.  While I felt great going up Columbine in the Stage Race, I had moments when I felt light-headed & weak during the LT100

More singletrack action! ? to CenturyLink

I made it back to the Twin Lakes Aid Station (mile 60): Tanya got me in & out quickly.  While I lost time on Columbine, I knew I’d make it through the final time cut at the Pipeline Aid Station (mile 74).

But then I started to lose more time: a storm was brewing & the wind was strong on the open, road section.  Now..onto Powerline!

In the Stage Race, I felt GREAT going up Powerline. But, during the LT100, I struggled on Powerline… my legs felt fatigued: I struggled to turn over the pedals.  I finally reached the top & did a time calculation…I had lost quite a bit of time on Powerline.

The next section was the Sugarloaf descent. Thanks to a lesson with Marvin, I felt confident here.

It was a little chilly at this point in the race! ? to CenturyLink

With temps now in the 40s, it started to rain as I descended.  I was wearing only a jersey + arm warmers, so I was shivering.  As I climbed Carter Summit,  conversations with others confirmed that I was in danger of missing the 12 hour buckle deadline.

So I rode as quickly as I could down St Kevin’s. I reached the bottom safely & motored into town & onto “The Boulevard.”  Much of that section is a blur—that’s how hard & fast I was riding!

When I got to the Athlinks tent (3 miles from the finish), I cranked up the speed as hard as I could: I knew I was minutes away from the buckle.

I thought about the support I had from my coach, from my family (my husband, Merv Brott, and my Dad, Loren Seely), from my crew and so many others.  I thought about how I couldn’t face another Leadville DNF…  And, just when I got to the point when I didn’t think I could keep going, I crested the last rise before the finish line.  That’s when I saw the time clock in the distance, and I knew that I was just going to just make it.

At the finish line!!! ? to Century Link

I finished officially at 11:56:31 (my chip time).  I had put in so much effort from the bottom of St Kevin’s to the finish that I gasped for air for 5 minutes after I crossed the line.

All smiles at the awards ceremony with founders Ken Chlouber & Merilee Maupin
The Leadville Trail 100 MTB…the Race Across the Sky!

The next day, I received my Leadville belt buckle.  And I received an award from Athlinks for having the fastest finishing time in the last 3 miles out of all the women who finished in 11-12 hours.  Wow!

Race Report: Leadville Stage Race

The Leadville Stage Race follows the same course as the Leadville Trail 100 MTB (“LT100”) but takes place over 3 days. I decided to enter the Leadville Stage Race as a way of training on the Leadville course in a fully supported format.

Stage 1 was 40 miles. It featured challenging climbs (St Kevin’s, Sugarloaf Pass & Hagerman Pass), a wicked descent down Powerline, some rough riding on jeep trails & a bit of singletrack. Stage 1 ended at the Twin Lakes Dam.

Smiling on Powerline during Stage 1!…but only because it was one of the uphill sections on the descent. Photo credit: Athlinks

I felt really good: I was climbing better than I have ever climbed up St Kevin’s.  And, I surprised myself at how many people I passed going up & over Sugarloaf and Hagerman Pass.  But, for me, the Powerline descent was NOT fun:  I literally have nightmares about Powerline & hopped off the bike to walk sections that fell outside my comfort zone. Later, I crashed on a rugged jeep road by taking a sandy corner on a descent too fast.  At the end of Stage 1, I found myself in 10th place in my age group.

Stage 2: Climbing Columbine…are we there yet? Photo credit: Athlinks

Stage 2 was “only” 20 miles and started at Twin Lakes.  It went up the tough Columbine climb & down again.  It was a bumpy 2 miles to start with a bit of a false flat followed by 8 tough miles of climbing to the summit, which is just shy of 13,000 ft.  The top 1/3 of Columbine has sections in that are super steep & very rocky.

Stage 2: more Columbine fun. Photo credit: Athlinks

The day was drizzly, foggy & cold…not exactly my favorite kind of weather.  8 miles up Columbine Mine is a LONG time to climb with very little relief on the way up.  But, I felt good during the climb & passed a ton of people on the way up, which was really encouraging.  I had a solid time on the way up and a not-so-great time going down. So, at the end of Stage 2, I sat solidly in 9th place in my age group.

Stage 3 was 42 miles & began at Twin Lakes the following day.  It retraced the route (in reverse) of Stage 1 back to Leadville with the last couple of miles going up “The Boulevard.”

I love multi-day races: I almost always get stronger with each day that passes in these types of events.  So, I toed the line on Stage 3 feeling really good but nervous about hitting a sub 4 hour time that I needed to qualify for the Stage Race 10.5 hr belt buckle.  I knew it would be tough but I was ready to ride hard right out of the gate.

The beginning was slow with racers squeezing into a short single track section.  A  few miles later, things got jammed up again going up the single track that snakes up the hill towards the jeep trail that leads to the Pipeline aid station. But I hit the next couple of time checks with on-target times, including the bottom of the fearsome Powerline climb.  And, I surprised myself by being able to ride up virtually all but the super steep hike-a-bike sections.  Powerline takes a LONG time to climb but eventually I made it to the top and then had to grit my teeth & descend down from 11,000 ft down the rocky & wet Hagerman and Sugarloaf Passes.

Then, I climbed up to Carter Summit with little to no time cushion and I knew I’d have to push things down St Kevins and all the way back into Leadville in order to make the time cut for the Stage Race belt buckle.  I gritted my teeth & did my best to minimize time loss going down St Kevins. With that last descent behind me, I motored into Leadville—passing all kinds of people in the last couple of miles (being a strong time trialist helps—even at Leadville!).

The Leadville Stage Race was a great opportunity to spend 3 days riding on the Leadville course: it should really help me out a lot at the LT100 race in 2 weeks.  In the end, I finished 8th in the women’s 40-49 general classification. But, I came in a few minutes over the 10.5 hr Stage Race belt buckle time limit (sigh).  After reviewing my race data & connecting with a number of people (including my coach, Chad Welch), it’s clear to me that I’m losing too much time on every single descent on the LT100 course.  So, as they say, it’s time to take those lemons & make some lemonade, which for me, translates into some focused descending skills work this week.

Stage 2: Finish line! Photo credit: Athlinks

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!