Into Thin Air At Leadville 100

The Leadville 100 mountain bike race is one of the most prestigious endurance cycling races of the year. Held in Leadville, Colorado, the high altitude race is unpredictable both in weather conditions and how one might respond to the thin air. Justin Martin, a professional mountain biker from Houston and PR Lotion ambassador, shares his experience from the day.

Coming from sea level makes Leadville's altitude all the more difficult. 

Leadville 100 is a race like no other. The course features a 52-mile out and back that climbs up to 12,400 feet in altitude and ascends over 11,000 feet. Almost 2000 participants start, with about 1600 of them making it to the finish. This year was my second time tackling this crazy race and leading into it, I had accumulated many hours of training and suffering.  

One of the biggest hurdles I face doing a race like this is the altitude. Being from Houston, we are located right next to the beach and in a very oxygen dense environment. When my body is trying to race at 11,000 feet in altitude, my power output is significantly lower. These factors play a big role in how I played my cards throughout the day. I was very fortunate to have the experience I gained from the race last year to better prepare not only my body but also my mind.

Last year I gained an entry through Specialized and did not do a qualifier race, so I was placed in the very last starting grid. I had to fight through a lot of traffic and eventually crossed the line in just over 9.5 hours. My mind and body broke down immediately after the race, so this year, I knew how much pain I was about to endure as I sat on the starting line this time around.  

At the finish of a challenging day in Leadville. 

I carry my UCI professional license for cross country, so I was placed in the third starting grid, which was leaps and bounds better than what we had to work with last year. I knew I was going to have to focus on keeping my cool in the opening stages of the race and try and not get too excited. The problem with being from sea level and racing an event like this is that I only have a few matches to burn before feeling the fatigue. I knew I had to keep it around tempo zone if I wanted to have the legs to carry me to the finish.


As the race rolled from town and into the beautiful high-country mountains, I was able to link up with a few different groups of athletes to work together to cross the difficult terrain. Nutrition and fluid intake is crucial to surviving a race like this. I expected to be out on the course for at least 8 hours, so I needed to consume at least 3,000-4,000 calories during the race. Eating becomes quite the chore around hour 7 and my body began to want to reject anything that had a lot of fructose. I believe that the mind takes over and does just as much work, if not more, than the legs during a race like the Leadville 100. I ended up crossing the line in 8 hours and 24 minutes and just missed cracking the top 100 by 9 spots. Improving my race time by over 1 hour and 10 minutes showed me that the process I am following is working.

Justin, after finishing in 8 hours, 24 minutes. 

I thoroughly recommend this race to any cyclist looking to see how far the mind can take the body.  The feelings achieved after crossing the finish line are like no other. I also recommend using PR Lotion, because without it there is no way I would have been able to keep the leg cramps at bay during a race of that magnitude!


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