By Dave Wiens
The Blueprint for Athletes Leadville Trail 100 MTB is seven months away. What should I be doing right now to get a good jump on my training and race prep?
This is a great question, but like so many, the answer is that it depends. It depends on where you live and what you like to do this time of year. If you live in snow country like I do, I suggest cross training and not worrying about riding at all if you don’t want to or can’t. Just stay fit and have fun doing a variety of activities. I’m actually riding more than I usually do this time of year because I have a Canyon Dude fat bike, but I’m also doing all kinds of skiing and playing hockey. I will continue to ride the fat bike and then, depending on weather, will probably start riding the road in March.
If you have taken some time off of the bike (which I think is really good), I recommend you slowly and consistently increase your riding duration and intensity. What you don’t want to do is start hammering and riding lots and hard too early in the season. This is an age-old story: riding too much, too early and burning out long before the Leadville Trail 100 rolls around.
Also, be certain to take an easy week every four to six weeks to help prevent overtraining. Each successive block of training can be a little harder than the last one. I suggest only hinting at higher intensity training early on, saving this all-important training phase for June and July.
If you live in a temperate climate and are already able to ride as much as you want, I suggest being careful not to get to ambitious or enthusiastic and doing too much too soon. This can be a big challenge if you live in a place where there never really is an off-season for cycling. Again, I would focus on establishing a solid base, focusing on solid but not over-the-top riding.
I’m a firm believer that the best fitness gains can be made by focusing your most intense training on the few months prior to the race in August. I suggest arriving in mid-June with a solid base and lots of enthusiasm for some hard training. This can be difficult if you’ve been riding hard and getting after it since January, February or even March. August 13th is still a long way off, and consistency, patience and curbing your desire to hammer right now are what I suggest.
Which qualifier will best prepare me for the Leadville Trail 100 MTB?
I’ll have to say all of them because racing is usually a great training tool and also a good way to begin testing the preparation and execution strategies that you will use for the LT100 in August. Here are a few thoughts on each of the qualifiers:
Blueprint for Athletes Austin Rattler MTB (April 9): The Rattler resembles about half of the LT100 course. What it lacks in big climbs, it makes up for in flat terrain and punchy climbs, both of which are plentiful in the LT100 course. The vibe is killer and it’s great for us northerners to get out of the cold and enjoy some warm riding, sunshine and amazing wildflowers. And Austin is always a fun town to go out in.
Blueprint for Athletes Wilmington Whiteface MTB (June 5): This is the course that most resembles the LT100 (not including the Leadville Stage Race). It has two big climbs and is an out-and-back format like the course in Leadville. It also has quite a bit of pavement and like the LT100, drafting and riding in groups is common. Like the Rattler, this course also has some fun and not overly challenging singletrack riding. Riders from Canada make up about half of the field here too, and many are the French-speaking Quebecois, giving this race a very international feel.
Blueprint for Athletes Silver Rush 50 MTB (July 9): Since this race happens in Leadville it certainly has many elements in common with its longer and harder sibling. The altitude is the same, and mile for mile, I think the Silver Rush is harder than the LT100. This is also an out-and-back format and simply being in Leadville for an event prior to the LT100 has its advantages.
Blueprint for Athletes Tahoe Trail (July 16): The Lake Tahoe area and this course are simply spectacular. Sweeping views (that incidentally you may never have a chance to look at) and a fun and challenging course. There’s a good bit of fast, fun and flowy trail riding and plenty of hills to let you know where you stand with your training. While it’s not at 10,200 feet, the approximately 6,000 to 8,000 feet of elevation will give you a taste of thinner air and begin your acclimatization process.
Blueprint for Athletes Leadville Stage Race (July 29-31): This race was a highlight of my summer and the second annual event promises to be even bigger. Use this race as a way to preview the LT100 course over three days and get some great high intensity training along the way. With the LT100 following 14 days later, the Stage Race can be a perfect tool for peaking and/or beginning to get adjusted to the elevation of Leadville. Along with all of this, a highlight of this race last year was the camaraderie and friendships that developed between every one involved before, during and after the racing each day. There is a huge social element to this race that can only happen with the stage race format. Definitely grab your spot early for this one – it has a very limited number of available spots.