Monthly Archives: October 2009

Race Across the Sky (Leadville documentary) Review

Last night I caught the one-night-only screening of Race Across the Sky, a film about the 2009 Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race. The 2009 race featured a battle between big guns, Lance Armstrong (everyone knows who Lance is) and Dave Wiens (a mountain bike legend and 6-time Leadville winner who beat Lance in 2008). The movie also follows the journey of several amateur cyclists with unique stories. The movie is not rated, but I thought it was suitable for children (would rate it PG).

The movie was bittersweet for me – I loved it, but I’m afraid it will now reduce my chances of ever getting in to Leadville. Why? How? Here’s a little history on Leadville and my history (or lack thereof) with Leadville:

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 750-1200 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 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). The rest of the selection criteria is a mystery – unless you’re a 6-time Tour de France winner.

So this gets back to why the movie was “bittersweet”. I’m now more motivated than ever to earn a Leadville buckle, but I’m also afraid there will now be 10,000+ entering the lottery every year since the race is now part of popular culture.

So here is my plan:

  • Sign up for Leadville – probably as part of a team since “rumors” say that improves your chances in the lottery. All team members ride the 100 miles (its not a relay), but as a team you all get in, or no one gets in.
  • Get a new mountain bike designed/built specifically for Leadville (maybe a 29er hardtail?)
  • Race the Mas o Menos 100K mountain bike race in Big Bend, TX in February.
  • Ask for your help. How can you help? If you are reading this, take 2 minutes to send an email to Ken (the Leadville promoter) saying that you support my entry for 2010 (template below).


Subject: I support Ben Cooper’s entry for the 2010 Leadville 100 MTB

Ben’s obvious passion and dedication to doing this race has moved me enough to take the time to send an email on his behalf. I hope that Ben get’s in to the 2010 race because I look forward to reading about his training, the race and the “Leadville” experience on his blog


With any luck in 9 months I’ll be suffering on a mountain bike for 12 hours at 12,000 feet!

VO2-to-the-max summary. Warning: Bike geekiness ahead!

Vo2 Max Lab

I finally got the last bit of data on the V02 max study I participated in at TCU (which BTW is one of the most read posts on this blog).

Highest VO2 during the test: 65.2 ml/kg/min

Highest avg. watts for the ~40 minute TT:  302

I no longer train with power, so I can’t tell you exactly what my lactate threshold wattage is right now. However, the TT course for the TCU study was pretty hilly, so I’m assuming my normalized power would have been around 320 watts. So I’d guess that my threshold is hovering around 300-305 watts.  However, my average HR for that effort was only 173 bpm, so I probably left some in the tank. But wait! There’s more . . .

The study also checked blood lactate levels and according to those tests my threshold is north of 320 watts at a HR of 180 bpm.  This is pretty consistent with what I saw in my first 40K TT this summer (my HR for the hour effort was 175 bpm).

Pro Cyclist Bradley Wiggins

Pro Cyclist Bradley Wiggins

I would also like to squash any doping rumors (no one that’s raced with me would accuse me of blood doping, but it sounds impressive).  My hematocrit levels are ~48%, which is well below the UCI’s 50% threshold of suspicion (but 300 basis points above Tour de France 4th place finisher, Olympic gold medalist and Garmin-TT-monster Bradley Wiggins).

So what does all of this mean . . . nothing really, but participating in the study was a fun experience:

  • The grad students in the lab were great to hang out with (even if they were obsessed with what I had on my iPod for the tests).
  • I got info that would normally costs hundreds to have done privately.
  • I’m going to be a little more aggressive with my TT/threshold pace with the confidence that my body can handle it; however, the idea of riding an hour TT at 180 bpm doesn’t sound like fun.

Maybe I can put some of this info to good use inflecting some torture this weekend at our annual ThinkCash PainTrain Cycling Camp.