24 tips for racing your first Leadville Trail 100

By Ellen Hall Butler

If you’re one of the lucky ones who will be at the starting line this year, there are less than two weeks to finish preparing for the Leadville Trail 100. I attempted the race in 2009, pulled out and called it a day as it started to thunder storm on my ride up the Powerline climb.

After the attempt I wrote up some tips to share with other friends headed to LT100 for the first time. I need to take my own advice and go back for another more successful follow up ride… perhaps next year.

  1. Have everything you’ll need for race day morning packed up and ready to go on Thursday afternoon. (So that you don’t have to think and can sit w/ your legs up on Friday evening.)
  2. Drive to all of the aid stations with your staff to organize WHERE you will feed. These will be VERY CROWDED and confusing on race day. See if you can get a tall flag or banner to help quickly identify your staff.
  3. Make sure that your staff knows each feed that they are responsible for meeting you. It is a HARD job to have them meet you at every feed, so choose which ones are most important (IE the one at the base of the Columbine climb up to the turn around)
  4. Have a rain jacket (w/ sleeves cut off) in your pack for riding up Columbine – it may storm while you are up there or on the way down. It is also very cold descending so put the jacket on up at the top – the aid workers will zip/ Velcro jackets for you too – so get them to help!
  5. Write down all of the aid station mile markers and cutoff times so you know where you are and if you are on schedule. Use the 12 hour cutoff times so that you don’t feel rushed. Tape this list to your top tube so you can see it while you ride.
  6. Run semi slick tires, I had good luck w/ some super low profile Ritchey Speedmax tires w/ pretty high pressure.
  7. It is helpful to have a computer w/ countdown distance so you know how far you have left to ride, run the ride timer on manual start/stop so you know your total time vs. ride time (which doesn’t include your stops/ breaks).
  8. Arrive at race check in around 4 a.m. – you will have to sign in with your helmet number, wrist band, etc. to be officially “counted” as a starter
  9. Take your bike and line up several waves faster than you expect to finish. Do this asap – get a friend or support staff to stand with you bike at the start line while you relax, go to the bathroom, or  hang out.
  10. Start on the LEFT side of the road, it will keep you out of trouble through the start of the race and sweeping turns
  11. Wear warm clothes before the start – leg warmers, down jacket, warm hat, gloves, etc.
  12. Use “embrocation” cream on your knees so they stay warm at the start without need for knee warmers. Use LOTS of chamois cream.
  13. The beginning two or more hours will be on double track climbing w/ hundreds of people ahead and behind you. Leave plenty of space between your front wheel and the next rider ahead of you. This way you don’t crash or have to put a foot down if somebody does something weird ahead of you – super smooth and efficient the whole way.
  14. Eat and drink before you need to, prepare a food/ drink schedule so you stick to it – drink one bottle an hour, eat something every 30 minutes, etc. – whatever works for you – but get the food and drink in EARLY so you don’t pay for it later. Have some salty foods, snacks that are not “power food” and some peppermint candy or mints if your stomach feels upset.
  15. Be careful on the descent down Powerline. It can be really steep and can be loose, just maintain control and follow the dark (hardest pack dirt) line down it. There will be a good line worked in or ask the spectators if you should go right/left/etc. – they’ll help you if you need it.
  16. You can ride the water crossing at the bottom, just commit and keep your speed up. Much faster than the bridge/ walking. You may need to yell at people to get out of your way!
  17. As with all of the race, keep your cadence high, heart rate low, especially climbing up Columbine. It is a loooonnnngggg climb.
  18. Once you get up towards the top you’ll see people walking, keep riding the sections that you can don’t get upset about walking if you need a break. Just keep moving and telling yourself positive things – think up some good positive mantras AHEAD of time because you’ll be feeling it at this point!
  19. At the top turn around of Columbine get some of the noodle soup, have the aid staff help refill bottles, put food in your pockets, help you get your jacket on and get back on down the mountain. USE the staff, they are there to help keep you moving quickly and see that you are doing ok.
  20. Cheer for people who are still going uphill, it will make you both feel better!
  21. Be careful on the climb back up the Powerline – it can get stormy in the afternoon. It is steep so just ride what you can comfortably, and walk the rest and know that even Lance walked some of it too.
  22. Keep your head together and just keep turning the pedals over.
  23. There is a section of babyhead rocks near the finish, it is short (less than a mile), gut it out… you just have to power over it and you’ll be home.
  24. Have a great time! 

Read more of Ellen’s tips or follow her adventures on Instagram at @ellenkbutler

Have you raced Leadville? Got any tips to share? Let us know in the comments.


Like what you see? Please support independent publishing by Subscribing To Dirt Rag Magazine today.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.