To Leadville, or not to Leadville?

Leadville 100

Last year I signed up to do the Leadville 100 mountain Bike Race. Each summer Leadville, Colorado, a city rich with mining and Wild West history, is host to a number of challenging endurance events. The town is 10,152 feet above sea level, so endurance events take on the added challenge of dealing with altitude. One of the events, the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, is so popular that racers enter a lottery in January to secure one of the 750 available starting line spots for the August race. The ride starts at 9,200 feet, with the highest point at the famed Columbine Mine aid station at 12,600 feet, and covers over 12,000 feet of climbing over the 100 mile course.

Leadville 100 MTB Under 9 hour buckle 

The goal of Leadville is to get a “buckle”. Racers that finish in under 12 hours get a silver commemorative belt buckle. Those finishing in under 9 hours get a gold & silver buckle. Many consider Leadville the toughest race in the U.S., so these buckles are literally & figuratively “worth their weight in gold”.

But to race, you must win the lotter. The lottery works like this:

  1. You send in your registration and a check for $240 before Jan. 31.
  2. Then sometime in February you are notified if you “got in”
  3. If you do get in, your fee is not returnable and you can’t transfer your entry to anyone else (so you better be committed). 
  4. Preference in the lottery is given to people that have competed in past Leadville’s (with those completing 5 or more times getting a guaranteed spot).

So last year, partially inspired by Bernie’s Leadville story, I sent in my application the first week of January . . . and waited . . . and waited. It seemed like an eternity. I had my training program designed, I had the plans for a new “Leadville-specific” mountain bike ready, I had  travel plans ready . . . and then . .. I didn’t get in. The race received a record number of entries last year, mostly because Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong were rumored to participate (only Landis did, getting 2nd). He was pretty dissapointed and put Leadville out of my mind.

Since then I’ve started racing (on the road), moved up to Cat 4, and joined the Moritz Chevrolet Cycling team. I had totally put Leadville out of my mind. Then I get the postcard above from the Leadville organizers, reminding me to get my registration in. So now I have a dilemma . . . do I register, or not. We’re having a baby in April, so do I think I can really put in the training time needed? Can I juggle a full road racing schedule and prepare for Leadville? Is there anyway I can convince Jess to let me buy another bike? In the end, I think the competitor in me will win-out and I’ll send in my registration, but I’m still on the fence. Anyone want to join me for 9-12 hours of tortuous climbing on steep fire roads at 12,000 feet?

4 responses to “To Leadville, or not to Leadville?

  1. No question whatsoever. GO! Do it! Its really the best weekend of the year for me. If I get in in 2008 it’ll be # 5.

  2. Send it in. It’s a ride with high highs and low lows (figuratively, since there aren’t any literal lows… I think the lowest point is 9500 feet or so), but the experience is very well worth the training sacrifice.

    Of course if you screw up and miss a buckle the first time like I did, you’ll be wanting to go back and finish the job…

  3. Go for it — but please don’t wear the buckle to work…

  4. Pingback: Race Across the Sky (Leadville documentary) Review « Texas Tailwind

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