Gretchen Reeves, one of our trusty Camp of Champions guides, has raced the Leadville Trail 100 MTB three times, winning it in 2007. We talked to her about camp, climbing, and what it means to be a “recreational pro.”
How many times have you raced the LT100? Do you have a favorite (or most challenging) year?
I have raced it three times. The race in 2011 was one of the more memorable races of my career. The women’s field was stacked with several pros and we had no idea what the outcome would be. I think it pushed us all to put forth our best efforts and I believe four of us finished in less than eight hours. Records were broken and I was very pleased to roll in second behind my friend, Rebecca.
What’s your favorite spot (or spots) on the Leadville course?
I really like the Powerline climb on the way back. I challenge myself to stay on the bike for this one. It is extremely hard and I have decided to love it, otherwise I would hate it. All about attitude!
Do you have any tips for tackling the climbs?
Yes. First and foremost, make sure to pace yourself early in the race so that you have the energy for the climbs when they come. Also, don’t be afraid to get off and walk when needed as that can be more efficient at times and is a good chance to stretch your back.
How long have you been involved in Camp of Champions? What benefits and advantages can riders expect from the experience?
This will be my third year helping out with the camp. The coolest thing about the camp is that it simulates the race over two days so that you know exactly what the course will be and where the aid stations are located. It’s also a chance to get some good beta from riders that have done the race multiple times. I can’t tell you how much I learned after the first year of racing Leadville — the knowledge I picked up from knowing the course helped to knock a half hour off my first year’s time.
What do you wish someone had told you before your first LT100? What’s the best advice you received as you prepared for your first LT100?
I am fortunate enough to have known Dave Wiens for a long time. I contacted him prior to my first attempt in 2007 and he gave me similar tips to the ones I mentioned above about the climbs. He also pointed out that there are many flat sections so it helps to train that aspect as well. Group road rides or motor pacing is good for this. One thing I didn’t do was pre-ride the course, and that is something that I would recommend to others. It’s good to know what 12,000 feet feels like before race day!
We read that you spend your time out of the saddle as a CPA, and a few years ago you made the big switch to what you’ve called a “recreational pro,” in order to focus more on career and family. How has that decision affected your training and racing — and your attitude toward competing?
I could write a book…Basically it’s been a shift in priorities. Racing is still important, but I like to keep it fun and make sure there is a balance with that and other aspects of life. I choose a few key events per year rather than racing every weekend as I did earlier in my career. This cuts down on the travel and overall fatigue. When work is busy, I still make sure to fit in some good workouts. Besides being a good mental break from work, short workouts are great for getting in quality efforts like intervals or strength training.
Many athletes face similar challenges of balancing work and family with competitive goals. Any advice for how to be your physical best for a race (or a race season) when you can’t focus solely on training?
Balancing training with the rest of life can be a challenge but also an opportunity to restructure your training for better results. If you are not sure how to do this, I would recommend hiring a coach to help utilize your training time effectively. In fact, many athletes find that their results actually improve when they are forced to cut back on training due to time constraints. Remember that overtraining can be more detrimental than perhaps a little less volume than you would like.