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Face of the Race: Heidi Colley

Heidi Colley is ready to do more. The 2012 Silver Queen, mom of two, and nurse at St. Vincent Hospital in Lake County, CO, was the only woman to attempt the challenge of racing the Silver Rush 50 Mountain Bike and Run events in a single July weekend.

This year she’s going for the whole enchilada, the ultimate Leadville Race Series distinction: the title of Leadwoman.

Give us some background on your Leadville racing history. Which events have you done?

I have raced and finished the Silver Rush 50 MTB four times, from 2007 to 2009 and in 2012. I raced and finished the LT100 MTB once in 2008. I had an unfortunate start in the LT100 race when my handlebar got caught in the snow fencing and I fell extremely hard on my right elbow. Obviously, that was a horrible way to start, but I decided right then that I wouldn’t fall anymore and that I would finish the race.

I raced the Leadville Trail Marathon once in 2004 before it was part of the race series. Last year, I was the only woman to attempt the Silver Queen challenge, racing the Silver Rush 50 Run and the Silver Rush 50 MTB back-to-back in one weekend.

I’ve also raced several other Colorado events: the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde the past four years (either with my husband or a friend, but I’m doing it solo this year); an 18-hour MTB race (and first night race) in Fruita with my good friend Jen; Lap-the-Lake 50 twice in Leadville; six triathlons. It’s a blast!

Have you always been an athlete or played sports?

Yes, I grew up in a small town of just 1,000 people in eastern Colorado, and playing sports was the big thing and only thing to do. I played volleyball, basketball, ran track, and was on the drill team in high school. In college I ran cross country for the first time and fell even more in love with running.

When did you begin serious running and mountain biking?

I really started running seriously the summer before college. The college wanted the cross-country athletes to log something like 400 miles in the summer, which seemed absolutely impossible. But I was able to accomplish those miles and decided I loved cross country much more than track. I’ve been slowly working my way towards the LT100 Run (even though I didn’t think I’d ever want to do it. I’ve been pacing the race since 2000 when my husband and I moved here right out of college).

My husband taught me everything I know about mountain biking and is my biggest supporter. He and I and his mother biked across Kansas in 1997. I started mountain biking more and doing a little racing my final two years of college, in 1999 and 2000. I truly got into racing the year I did the LT100 MTB and ever since have really enjoyed doing all different kinds of races.

You’re attempting Leadwoman this year. What’s attracting you to that challenge?

Yes, I am nervous, but very excited. I enjoyed myself so much doing the Silver Rush 50s last year that I thought I should go for it all in 2013.

What drives you to attempt a challenge that’s more intense than what you attempted the previous year? Do you have a “5-year” competitive plan, or do you take it year-by-year?

I think as I’ve gotten in my mid-30s I’ve just really started to enjoy doing more endurance competitions. I take it year-by-year.

What do you find most challenging about the Leadville Race Series?

The 100-mile run, hands down.

Tell us about your training for Leadwoman. What kinds of hours are you putting in, and how are they distributed? 

Early and late runs and biking one to two hours (indoors mostly, starting outdoors soon and increasing to two or three hours, weather permitting). Two- to three-hour runs sometimes the day after biking to help increase endurance, in addition to pool running, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. I’m also doing runs with speed worked in two to three times a week.

What’s your advice to other athletes who want to take on multiple back-to-back events, but aren’t sure if their bodies can handle it? 

Don’t over train. What helped me was to run the day after my early bike races last year. I knew I was doing the Silver Queen challenge, so running the day after bike racing helped me build confidence in my endurance and fitness, and taught me to recover overnight and get back out there the next morning.

What do you do — work or play — when not training?

I am a nurse, married, with two daughters (ages 8 and 6) and two dogs. We all love to ride bikes, swim and rollerblade together. The girls have done a few 5Ks the last couple years, and I helped them train and compete in their first tri last year. It was awesome!

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