The Leadville Trail 100 MTB has been known to take its participants to extreme levels of agony and hardship. Approximately 10 hours in the saddle on the Leadville MTB course leaves just about everyone questioning why they just went through that. However, there are those individuals who cherish the struggle of the Leadville Trail 100 MTB and mark it on their calendar each year in excitement. One of those individuals is Todd Murray, a Colorado Springs Detective, who has finished all 24 LT 100 MTB races. This tremendous feat has produced countless memories for Murray, who will go on to share some of his favorite moments from his journey. We are happy to announce that Todd will be toeing the line for this year’s 25th Leadville Trail 100 MTB. This makes Todd one of two participant who will have participated in all 25 mountain bike races. Todd’s unmatched dedication deserves recognition and we are excited to share his stories.
This piece features seven stories from seven different years that Todd participated in the LT 100 MTB and Leadman. It is truly remarkable to see how the race has evolved in the eyes of Todd and what the race has meant to him over the years. Todd perfectly embodies what the Leadville Race Series is all about, and his determination is highlighted throughout these stories and photos. Without further ado, Todd will take us back to 1994 for the first annual Leadville Trail 100 MTB.
1994 – The first year the LT100 mountain bike race was held. I was 32 years old and lucky enough to hear about the race through a friend, Jim Butera, who had helped organize the first LT100 run. I had completed several road bike Century’s and even a double-Century and liked the idea of a mountain bike Century. At the pre-race meeting I remember Ken (Chlouber) telling us all that anyone finishing in under 8 hours would earn the big buckle and anyone under 11 hours would earn the smaller one. I had it in my head that I would be going home with a big buckle. That day only the winner, John Stamstad broke 8 hours (7:52) so at the awards ceremony Ken told us he was changing the cutoff times to 9 hours and 12 hours. I did 9:25 and went home with my tail between my legs, humbled but determined to come back and earn a big buckle. Laurie Brandt was the first female finisher in 9:03 and 19th overall (she would go on to win the race three more times). There were 96 finishers under the 12 hour cutoff out of 142 starters. Barb Dolan became the first person to complete both the 100 mile bike and the 100 mile run in the same year (inspiring what would become the Leadman competition!).
Four years later, Todd used his experience in Leadville for a personal record and a top ten finish. The 1997 race saw tremendous accomplishments by participants, as a Local Leadville competitor was able to “big-buckle” at both the mountain bike race and the trail run.
1997 – By 1997 I was a “seasoned veteran” at the LT100 bike if there was such a thing. It was my 4th consecutive race and I set my P.R. that year in 8:09 (10th overall). It was a fast year as Mike Volk lowered the course record to 7:05 and Laurie Brandt re-set the women’s record to 7:58 and placed 7th overall (It would be 13 years before any woman went under 8 hours again at the race. In 2010 Rebecca Rusch won in 7:47 for her second victory at the race). There were 300 sub-12 hour finishers. Bill Perkins from Leadville became the first person ever to “big buckle” at both the 100 mile bike and the 100 mile run (more pre-Leadman inspiration), finishing the 100 mile bike in under 9 hours and the 100 mile run in under 25 hours.
After 10 years, the Leadville Trial 100 MTB was as strong as ever. It saw the first win of a Leadville icon’s career and introduced a new challenge in the Leadville Race Series. 2003 was the first year of Leadman, where participants competed in all running and mountain biking events. Four finishers completed the 10K, the Marathon, the 50 Run, the 50 Bike, and the 100 Bike.
2003 – The 10th year of the race saw Dave Weins win his first of six races in 7:07. Carol Quinn won the women’s race in 9:19. There were 491 sub-12 hour finishers. Leadman was born and there were four finishers: Jan and Kim Bear, Jonathan Zeif and my good friend Rick Pearcy. It was my 10th finish and 8th time under 9 hours (8:25).
Todd notes the 2008 race as a monumental event due to the attention that the race saw. A certain American cycling legend joined the Leadville Trail 100 MTB field and helped grow the Leadville Race Series brand. Todd continued his excellence at the race with a sub-9 hour finish in his 15th year.
2008 – The year the race changed forever and got global attention. Dave Weins (6:45) beat Lance Armstrong (6:47) by two minutes. Both Dave and Lance broke the old course record (6:58) set by Dave the previous year when Dave beat another Tour de France American, Floyd Landis. Kerri Nelson won the women’s race in 8:42. There were 652 sub-12 hour finishers and I finished my 15th race in 8:31.
After 17 years of cycling in Leadville, the other half of the Leadville Race Series was too much for Todd to ignore. This would be his first year he would also lace up the running shoes in Leadville. The title of Leadman was calling his name and he decided that 2011 was the year he would enter his name in the field. Adversity stared Todd in the face and left his quest for becoming a Leadman in jeopardy.
2011 – In 2011 I broke a promise to myself that I would never run the LT100 run again (I had done the run in 1999). The lure of Leadman was just too much. My goal was to finish the Leadman competition, big buckle in both the 100 mile bike and run, and re-set the overall combined Leadman time to a faster total combined time (my friend Larry DeWitt had set the record in 2009 and Mark Wallace had lowered the record in 2010). About a month before the first Leadman race, the trail marathon, I broke three bones in my foot while riding my motorcycle. I remember sitting in the emergency room at the hospital after the accident and asking the doctor how long I had to wait before I could run on the foot again. I’m sure he thought I was crazy but suggested I let pain be my guide. Despite the sore foot I accomplished my goals and became a Leadman! There were 25 Leadman finishers that year and 1170 sub-12 hour finishers in the 100 mile bike race. Todd Wells won his first LT100 race in 6:23 and Rebecca Rusch won her third in 7:31, breaking her old course record. My dad won his age group (70+) with a time of 12:46. He was 75 years old. He received a bottle of Leadville whiskey for winning his age group and told me that when I finish the race at 75 years old we would crack open the bottle and celebrate.
An elite group of competitors were eyeing their 20th consecutive Leadville Trail 100 MTB finish in 2013. Despite an injury, Todd battled through the pain to make the startling line and would put forth one of his best efforts in the race.
2013 – 2013 was year #20 for the LT100 bike. Three of us received our 2000 mile buckles for finishing 20 (consecutive) races: John Callahan, Ricky McDonald and me. I was 51 years old and thought I could P.R. (every year I think I can P.R. just ask my wife). I came close with an 8:10. Considering the course has changed over the years and actually gotten longer, I think it was my best performance at the race. Alban Lakata won in 6:04 and Sally Bigham won the women’s race in 7:17. Both winners set new course records. There were 1280 sub-12 hour finishers. My hip needed surgery to repair a torn labrum and the doctor told me he could do the operation in February. When he told me the recovery period would be six months I did the math and realized I would miss the bike race if I did the surgery when he suggested. Instead I asked if we could do the surgery the week after the bike race in August. That became the plan and it worked perfectly.
2018 marks a very special race for two Leadville Trail 100 MTB participants. Todd and John Callahan will be toeing the line of their 25th straight mountain bike race in Leadville. They have seen the race grow from 113 finishers in 1994 to over 1200 in 2017. The 25th LT100 MTB is set to be a historic event and Todd and John will be at the center of it.
2018 – 2018 will be the 25th running of the LT100 bike. John Callahan and I will be going for our 25th consecutive finishes. I’ve been lucky enough, healthy enough and fit enough to do the previous 24 races and my plan is to keep doing the race as long as I’m having fun doing it and can physically complete it. I’m a firm believer that as we get older, as long as we keep moving and stay in shape, our quality of life will be much better. My passion is the mountain bike and I hope to be riding for many years to come.