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The Ultimate Packing List for the CenturyLink Leadville Trail 100 MTB

Packing can feel like a chore, no matter where you’re headed. When you’re packing for an epic adventure like the Century Link Leadville Trail 100 MTB, you have all sorts of additional considerations, whether you race with a crew or self-supported.

To help you get it all dialed, we’ve polled some past finishers to share their tips and absolute must-haves for the race.

For Your Crew

“One thing that did help me when I was on course was having my crew wear specific T-shirts (brightly colored and my own design) to help me find them.” – Kate Ginsbach

“Give your crew a second hydration pack that’s identical to first one with the same bike tools, food, etc., inside so you can just do a quick swap and keep moving. It’s easier for the crew and easier for you.” -Rebecca Rusch

The Crew List:

  • Vehicle hangtag
  • Parking instructions
  • Maps and driving directions
  • Crew notes for each aid station
  • All crew materials in race packet, as well as info in the Athlete Guide
  • Team cell numbers and emergency contacts
  • Pace/split times
  • Alarm clock or other backup alarm system
  • Ice and coolers
  • Food and drinks for the crew
  • Second hydration pack (filled) to swap with racer
  • MTB small parts, including tires and tubes. Also recommended: chain, cables, rear derailleur
  • Really warm/dry clothes for the crew (think down, fleece and Gore-Tex)
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellant
  • Utility knife/scissors
  • Money/wallet
  • Folding chairs
  • Sleeping bag and/or blanket
  • Tarp
  • First aid kit
  • Toilet paper/baby wipes
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Camera

For the Start Line

“Have a friend at the start line so you can bundle up and then take off extra layers before the race starts. You will warm up pretty quickly; the first climb starts about 20 minutes into the race.” – Juan Hernandez

“Carry emergency contact info. I was racing and I stopped to help someone who was getting cerebral edema from altitude sickness. He had no ID or emergency contact info, so we were trying to read his race number over the radio and reception was bad. We had no idea who he was, and he ended up getting life-flighted.” – Molly Breslin

“On my packing list are a plastic shower cap, a pair of surgical gloves and two Ziploc bags. These weightless pieces of plastic are lifesavers if you unexpectedly get caught in a storm or freezing cold weather. Shower cap on your head, gloves on your hands and baggies inside your shoes work as vapor barrier liners to keep your body heat in. You will look ridiculous, but you’ll be warm and you’ll survive until the weather passes.” – Rebecca Rusch

The Start Line List:

  • Jersey, shorts, sports bra, base layer, socks, shoes
  • Gloves, helmet, sunglasses
  • Vest/jacket
  • Arm warmers
  • Race number
  • Sunscreen and chamois cream (applied)
  • Cycling computer
  • Pace/split times
  • Three bottles (two on the bike; one in the center back pocket) or hydration pack
  • Enough gels and bars to get to Twin Lakes
  • Electrolyte capsules
  • Lucky socks/cycling cap/bracelet
  • Essential medication (including an inhaler, if necessary)
  • Disposable contact lenses
  • ID and emergency contact info
  • Multi-tool (test it to make sure it can reach all the awkwardly placed bolts on your bike)
  • Tire tools: Two tubes, tire levers, patch kit, 2 x CO2 head and cartridge, small pump, boot (or dollar bill)
  • Master chain link
  • Tiny bottle of chain lube

For Your Drop Bags

You can prepare drop bags for each aid station, with the exception of Carter Summit (outbound and return). Create a basic kit for every drop bag, and then add additional items like lights and warm clothes to cover known course conditions and worst-case scenarios.

Pack your necessities in thick clear plastic bags (XL Ziploc bags are one option) and use white tape and a black Sharpie to label each with your name, race number, aid station, and “RETURN” for the outbound aid stations. (In anticipation of your future brain fog, and to help the volunteers and your crew, write in BIG letters.) Remember to pack liquids in leak-proof, non-breakable containers.

The Basic Drop Bag List:

 “I’m a bad asthmatic, so at Leadville I have a spare inhaler in every drop bag. If you are medication-dependent, make sure you have duplicates of all the meds you need.” – Molly Breslin

  • Backup food
  • Special treat
  • Electrolyte capsules
  • Sunscreen (that works on wet skin)
  • Essential medication (including an inhaler, if necessary) and treatments for known recurring injuries
  • Bags for wet stuff

Aid Station Drop Bag Additions:

Carter Summit on Turquoise Lake (11 miles)

“What I was unprepared for (although I thought I was) was the altitude. I vividly recall thinking I was in good shape and got my bike near the front. Immediately out of the gate, I felt like I was in a tunnel with roaches crawling on the walls. Nope –  that was all the people passing me. It felt like I was standing still.” – Michael Melley

  • No drop bag

Pipeline Outbound (26 miles)

“Pipeline on the way out is where I would plan to grab a musette bag from your crew instead of stopping to refuel from the aid station and your drop bag. Try to stick with your pack of riders and not stop because you’re getting so many free miles from working with them.” – Bryan Derstine

  • Musette bag with tubes, gels and solid food
  • Basic drop bag contents

Twin Lakes Dam Outbound (40 miles)

“To me, the most important aid station is Twin Lakes. After Twin Lakes, it’s all you climbing by yourself. So spend a couple minutes to actually stop, dump stuff you don’t need, drink a Coke and eat a cookie while the volunteers refill your bottles. It lets you calm down and refocus.” – Bryan Derstine

  • Special treat to get you to the top of Columbine
  • Basic drop bag contents

Columbine Mine (50 miles)

“I always pack my Voler rain jacket. Even if the forecast says no rain. Inevitably if I don’t pack it, it rains.” – Amy Beisel

  • Warm clothes: long-fingered gloves, jacket, tights, cycling beanie, shoe covers
  • Basic drop bag contents

Twin Lakes Dam Return (60 miles)

“Pack a variety of race food: flavor fatigue is real and what you like in training, you might not like when you’re in oxygen debt at 10,000 feet. Bring some different things so you have choices and can eat what sounds good in the moment.” – Rebecca Rusch

  • Basic drop bag contents

Pipeline Return (74 miles)

“My final musette bag always has a Starbucks Double Shot. I drink it on Hagerman Pass Road as a special treat.” – Dave Wiens

  • Basic drop bag contents

Carter Summit on Turquoise Lake Return (89 miles)

  • No drop bag

Final Tip: Mind over Matter, and Attitude Over Altitude

We’ll give the last word to Kate Ginsbach, who has spent most of her adult life training for Leadville. Since 2012, she’s experienced more than her share of bad luck and misadventure, including a concussion on her final pre-ride, a broken frame three days before the race, and a disaster involving an arm warmer and rear derailleur during the race.

“I think the race is tough because there is so much hype around it and we spend months training for it.  Of course then you want the day to go perfectly ,but it won’t, not even close. There will be so many little things that go wrong. At the same time, a lot of little things will go right and just noticing that and maintaining a sense of humor will go a long way.”


In Amy Beisel’s wallet at all times? A key chain that reads “I believe.” The 2018 Marathon National Champion rides for @orangesealoffroadteam, and you can follow her adventures @amybeisel.

When nurse anesthetist Molly Breslin isn’t racing Leadville, she serves as a Leadville medical volunteer. That means she’s treated every race-ending mistake an athlete can make, and experienced a few herself. This year, Molly also represented the United States at the 2018 ITU Winter Triathlon World Championships in Romania.

Bryan Derstine is a Marketing Consultant for Athlinks. His first Leadville he double flatted on Columbine, and the second he flatted on Columbine and Sugarloaf. His motto? “Keep calm, refocus, and make sure you’re taking in enough nutrition to get through the difficult parts.”

Kate Ginsbach has spent most of her adult life training for and racing Leadville. Her goal is to break 10 hours, and also to have her fifth finisher’s jacket read “K8 the GR8.”

Army Veteran Juan Hernandez began cycling for rehabilitation after losing his leg in Afghanistan. He went on to complete Leadville four times, with two sub-nine hour finishes. Juan is studying to become an Occupational Therapist and hopes to work with kids with disabilities.

Michael Melley is the VP of Operations for Life Time and a Leadville survivor. The one thing that would get him to race Leadville again is chasing the big buckle. “It’s obnoxious, and awesome — and made in Colorado.”

The first item on Rebecca Rusch’s packing list for Leadville is “oxygen or an extra lung.” When she’s not busy winning Leadville (or seven world championships), Rebecca has raised more than $100,000 for cycling-related charities, written a best-selling memoir, and excels at whatever sport she touches. Her latest project is a full-length feature film, “Blood Road,” (released by Red Bull Media House) which follows her very personal journey along the 1,800 kilometer Ho Chi Minh trail.

IMBA Executive Director and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame member Dave Wiens has been involved in trail advocacy since the beginning of his career. He was the founder and executive director of Gunnison Trails, race director for the Gunnison Growler, and created and leads the Mountain Sports program at Western State Colorado University. He’s also known for winning Leadville six times in a row and setting a course record of 6:45:45.

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