The Leadville Training Plan for Busy Masters Athletes
Are you doing the Leadville 100 MTB Race? Are you a busy, adult with limited time? Smart Athlete has helped numerous masters aged mountain bikers get ready for Leadville and through the race at or below their goal time. The same rides, intervals, strategies, and timing are now available for you to follow in a Training Peaks Plan.
This plan will help you be ready for your HUGE day in August and guide you through some REALLY FUN adventures as you prepare for this race
The Leadville Plan is a pre-made plan delivered by training peaks, an online calendar software, that lets you get your workout and then upload it back into the system and make notes.
The plan uses workouts to prepare you mentally and physically and also reminds you to take easier days, weeks and do BIG weekend blocks occasionally to help overcome the time-limits that busy, adults have when preparing for AWESOME OFF-ROAD ADVENTURES
Unfortunately doing well at any endurance race is not as simple as simply training for hours and hours. This is especially true for the grueling, Leadville 100-mile MTB race, which takes place at over 10,000 feet of elevation for almost the whole race and involves a lot of climbing.
Luckily most of us are limited in how much we could ever pedal in a week so the fact that success at these races involves something more than training for hours is a GOOD THING. Our fitness is a big part of the equation but what FITNESS is and how we apply our fitness through preparation, equipment, position and other methods will determine how well our big day goes.
My focus in this article is largely on everything BUT pedaling or fitness (although I do make plans to help you with that), because to me, the regular ‘desk’ athlete with kids, a job, 2 dogs and a mortgage likely has a different event to take on then the pro who can perform a month of high-volume training, on top of a mountain and do quite well.
Be A Student of the Race
The Leadville 100 MTB Trail raceor other Endurance Bike Races tend to have huge followings and so there is a lot of content out there. When I signed up in 2011, I was looking for every resource (Leadville Pictures, Leadville video, race stories, Studies) to help guide my preparation. Now, this may seem weird, as I am a supposed to be a Pro MTB racer and a coach with a university degree, but the fact that Leadville is a different event remains true and my lack of Leadville, or even 100-miler, experience had me scared. Experience the race before you get there via media and then by simulating terrain.
Get Better at Riding Fast Down Hills
Leadville has 12,000-14,000 feet of climbing … Yes, you should be light and fit to get up those hills, but dragging your brakes down 14,000 feet of downhill is costing you time too. Practice on technical trails and also on event-specific double track, ATV trail and gravel road and your average speed will go up considerably. Being comfortable on technical trails will make the Leadville double track and road much easier to do while fatigued. Check out Bike Skills Project videos on ready position and/or attack position (basically standing up on the bike)are key places to start.
Get Ready for the Altitude, But Don’t Freak Out
If you can go to a few camps to simulate your race pace at even moderate altitude, that will help. If you accept that it will be a bit harder and not exactly the same as home, it is part of the challenge and many people do no altitude adaptation and do fine thanks to good fitness and great pacing.
Altitude tents and devices such asSpiroTiger can be an asset in maximizing your adaptation to altitude and enhancing your respiratory system to help you be more comfortable with the increased breathing requirements at altitude, and while racing/riding/existing. Both devices can be rented from many companies.
I also like getting clients to practice breathing through their noses during their day and while on rides (start slow and breathe deep with BELLY). You should find you can eventually build your wattage while nose breathing towards ‘tempo’ (about Leadville pace) AND (in my opinion) this first experience with restricted breathing helps you be psychologically ready in Leadville.
Beta-Alanine and Sodium Phosphate-loading are two potentially beneficial supplements to help maximize Oxygen-dependent performance (under ‘threshold’), which is important at altitude. Ensure you have used both appropriately in training prior to Leadville and make sure you take care of all the (CHEAPER) basics first, such as fueling, sleep, mobility and bike skills. A special tip is to try to stay lower then Leadville the week off. There are many cool towns at slightly lower elevation and I think it is worth getting better sleep, with a few rides in Leadville vs. Being in Leadville all week.
Eat Enough, But Not Too Much
Minimize the digestive work your stomach has to do. Save that energy for pedaling. Many athletes make the mistake of eating too many solids and overwhelming their stomachs with foods/fuel that they have not game played over distances, at specific intensities and/or while not at altitude. We may not be able to test/Game Play any or all of these, BUT we can take notes from experienced athletes and the averages. Generally, focus on more liquid sources of calories at 2-300kcal/hr.
Maltodextrin-based mixes/gels seem to be most digestible, possibly with some fructose or simple sugar. Solids earlier in the race are used by some to break up the fueling strategy and avoid overloading on a certain sugar or component. Many distance athletes (e.g. RAAM and 24 hour Solo) will use products like Ensure to get a digestible calorie source; at Leadville, having an Ensure at top or bottom of Columbine could work well. I have also always likedBranched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)and typically will ride/race with them in my bottles with some electrolyte to help with energy and focus.
Many a race is ruined, if not lost, based on little fixes on the trail. You should be able to take your bike apart on the course and reassemble. Make a list and start practicing. A good and patient local coach or friend should be able to help you through sticking points. Bike Skills Projects on Mechanics HERE
Do. Not. Stop.
It is very important that, within reason, we never go 0 km/hr. Leadville and many similar races are about average speed. Keep rolling steady. You should not stop in the feed-zone, or to eat or to transition to a hike-a-bike. Situations may arise, such as nature breaks (although some may find ways to do this one bike) but generally, try to plan and train for minimal stops to preserve that goal pace. The feed bag pickup is a place I messed up in 2011 and actually fell (so pro!)
… Again, these are the little things we forget when out doing 4 hours hard, and a couple Game-Plays with the feed bag could have saved me minutes, if not gotten me a podium spot. Bike Skills Projects onDismounts / Mounts.
Pacing is Imperative
While on our bikes, we can add benefit to our training by making sure we learn what a sustainable pace is and how to hold it over varying terrain. I believe HR is still relevant to optimal pace even at altitude, but we also need to use our brains and experiences to inform when it is time to go or if HR won’t be used on a given day. My goal during my 2011 prep at sea level was to see my pace on hilly terrain (Miles/HR) come up to 1 mile faster/hour then my goal Leadville pace (14.7mph for ~7hrs over 103mi ). ( Posts from Smart Athlete / Train With Peter on Pacing )
Be Able to Function Off Your Bike and Avoid Cramps/Tightness/Back Pain
Be able to walk/hike uphill efficiently and dismount/remount easily, even uphill. Walking can be optimal pacing strategy. Be efficient in mount/dismount and walking/jogging. Avoid getting stopped at zero miles per hour pace. Plan spots you will likely walk (top of Columbine and power-line on the return for many). Have a daily mobility practice including standing often and walking a ton (i.e. on breaks at work and before-after meals). Bike fit and mobility are big causes of time off-bike so make sure these items are very well Game Played before the race. ( Smart Athlete Posts on Mobility) ( Also check out the MobilityWod on Youtube)
Maximize Aerodynamics, Position, Efficiency
Leadville is a mountain bike race but a lot of time can be saved by drafting and having a reasonable position on the bike (that you can pedal well in). Looking to optimize clothing (i.e. no garbage bag coats) and spend some time on the road in an aero position of some type (narrow hand position and maybe forearms on the bar). Elite Leadville times are becoming so fast that much effort is put into Aero (see 2016 winner’s bike/gear here) There are many sites out there proving being aero is worth thinking about, such ashere. Recently, a bike company tested hair styles and found that braided hair was more efficient than a bun or ponytail and also found some interesting gains from shaved legs and arms (but not face!). So there are some little wins you can get for low cost or a bit of skill practice.
While these concepts may sound basic and optimistic at times, I do believe that there is a ton of time to be gained for almost anyone looking at Leadville and similar races without even touching on fitness. We want to maximize the work we can do (fitness) and minimize the work we have to do with preparation, planning, health, nutrition, and equipment creating our best performance on THE big day.
I would love to hear your feedback on these ideas, any questions they might spark or suggestions on ways to squeeze every last second out of your next big Endurance Race.
Want these tips scheduled to fit 100% for your schedule, YOUR ability, and YOUR goals? The Smart Athlete 100% MADE FOR YOU 3-Month Plans will prepare you for Leadville or any other big adventures you have planned.
As big races come and go we will realize one day that we no longer HAVE to wake up early to ride and gaining a few pounds won’t matter because we don’t have plans to climb massive hills anymore. It is easy to go back to ‘normal life’ and forget about ‘training’ and for some athletes this is fine. Their goal was not to be a cyclist, or get healthy, or find adventure. For some athletes the goal was to simply complete ‘x’ race–they move on to another chapter of life post-marathon, post-Ironman, post MTB-Stage race.
Today my thought is more to those athletes WHO DID WANT TO BE HEALTHY. Too often the ‘TRAINING’ process and pressure around a race ends up sending athletes down a less then healthy path. Bad habits are formed and resuming riding, following healthy nutrition and lifestyle is difficult.
Understanding why you ride is important. Social, personal improvement, health, excitement, exploration are all common reasons that should be kept central irregardless of whether you are training for a big event or ‘just riding’. Too often we loose focus on why we ride and, consequently we loose the fun.
So how do you avoid post-event retirement?
1) Plan for life-long adventures. Be excited for your big event(s) each year but also be excited to go ride your local trails, join in the weekly races, do a big loop near your home. Let your focus ebb and flow with the close-ness of your race but arrange your rides so that you are able to keep in good shape just by riding and putting in a bit of effort each week. Finding a mix of groups/friends to ride with so that you are challenged but also made to feel competent weekly.
2) Ensure your build up to your big event(s) are filled with friends, fun and adventure. Any workout can include friends in at least the warmup, cooldown, post-ride coffee and many workouts can include friends in much of the workout. Hill intervals can be done on small loops where no one gets dropped and longer flat tempo is a great time to let a friend sit on and keep you company. Meeting friends after the main set to ride is one of my favorite ways to motivate me to get my intervals done on-time and get a big long ride in with help from friends for motivation while tired.
3) Take time off from structured training, make sure you are healthy first BUT strive to keep routine and healthy lifestyle as a central tenant in your life. While some post race festivities are great, rarely is their cause for the party to extend beyond the night after the race.
Feel free to repy with Questions or ideas ! Or comment on facebook!
On long weekends we often want to make the most of our weekend. With a break from work or school, why not ride as long and hard as we possibly can ? But should we always ride as much as we can on a long weekend? I am not so sure everyone should.
I see 3 ways we can use a long weekend to get faster:
1) STICK TO YOUR PLAN – Go Hard, Recover Harder
Use hills and friends to push your limits – then recover like a pro
Stick to your normal training plan/routine and enjoy the extra recovery and family time. Spend more time preparing and recovering from your workouts and make sure you do the best job you can on them. Focus on the quality or intensity of your workouts and absorbing as much as you can. You might find you can squeeze an extra repetition or an extra watt out of your legs on a weekend like this.
2) ADD VOLUME
Practicing my aero-tuck before Leadville 2011
Plan for mini endurance block to boost your endurance, add some training stress and/or game-play for an upcoming long race. The key word is plan. I like to use these weekends for the Leadville and Stage Race Clients I work with. We do 1-4 big rides and include a bit of focused interval time (i.e. 6 x 10 min at 80-85%MHR ) and often some ascent (meters climbed) goals. We will definitely be overloading but in a way that fits in the progression of our plan and does not exceed our current ability to recover. Biggest mistake I see is clients trying to go from 8 hours a week to 8 hours a day just because they can. We can’t cram training in and multiple short quality rides will almost always create better results then a huge ride, with much less risk for injury/illness.
3) RECOVERY BLOCK
go for a hike with a friend, you will likely find something cool worth watching
This is the least used option for long weekends and for many of us would actually be the best use of our time. Take the long weekend off or mostly off. Spend your 2-3 days walking with family and spending time. Don’t just sit all weekend and binge-watch T.V. but rather, prepare some great food and recharge your physical and mental reserves so you can restart training and work/school with huge motivation.
3 ideas for your long weekend. Enjoy and let me know if you need help planning your summer.
I had a great interview this morning with a member of the Media looking to ride Leadville and we talked about how important it is for ‘normal’ people to focus on being healthy (sleep,social, food) before trying to cram training into every free moment of the day. Specificity was also a huge component of our talk. Riding in groups on the road won’t get you the really key fitness you need to ride up loose gravel double track or pedal constantly for 1-2hrs at a time.
I often go looking for links when talking to clients about Leadville, here are some of the most common and helpful.
2) GU CEO Maps out Leadville Nutrition -> while I would do some things differently this is a great template to think through what the day will take and make sure you start fueling early, before you start feeling bad.