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Old 2010-07-18, 05:54 AM   #1
siafirede
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Leadville 50 mile mtb race writeup

Today I woke up at 3am to drive to Leadville Colorado to compete in the 50 mile mountain bike race with my geared 29er - http://www.leadvilletrail100.com/lt1.../overview.aspx . I had been training for quite a while, and my main goal was to get to the halfway spot before the 4.5 hour cutoff...which doesn't sound too difficult, but believe me...it is!

I think the first 25 miles had around 5,000 feet of climbing (I forget the total descent), all between 10-12,500ft in elevation, and all offroad on loose/rocky/steep terrain.

The more popular race is the leadville 100 - Lance Armstrong has competed in it twice now I think, but from what I have heard, the 50 is like the 100 with the easy parts taken out! Some of the riders I talked to that have done both, said the 50 is much harder for them than the 100. The 50 starts above 10,000 feet in Leadville (the highest incorporated city in America) with a run up a steep hill, and then it is a 10 mile climb to the first turn where there is a 4 mile descent or so to the first supply station, from there there is another mile or so descent and then it is 10 more miles of brutal climbing all the way up Ball mountain.

Anyway, I was doing great the first 10 miles of the race, and passed a LOT of bikes on the unicycle. While doing this I heard "You're my hero!" quite a lot. On the steep downhill the bikes had the advantage, but I was using my geared 29, so the high gear helped a little bit (I was mostly in low gear for the race though). The second uphill section was far too steep for me to climb with the 29er, so I was between riding some and walking and my time really suffered. I ended up getting to highest point on the trail but not before hitting the wall a few times (I was struggling to breathe in a few sections and had to slow my pace because of my exhaustion and the elevation), and after that there were a few miles of technical downhill before reaching the halfway mark. I missed the 4.5 hour cutoff by about 10-15 minutes I can attribute about an 8 minute loss to the beginning of the race when 600 riders were crowding in a small trail section, so there was a line forming, but even if there had been no delay, I still would have missed the cutoff by a good 5+ minutes.

This is the hardest thing I have done on a unicycle, the first 25 mile portion of this 50 mile race was the harder half (with 66% of the climbing), and it was killer on the legs and the terrain was brutal non-stop. I pushed it pretty hard, and I am still happy that I made it to the halfway spot before some bikes, and I at least continued on to the halfway checkpoint (some bikes couldn't make it).

Everyone was really cool about the unicycle and I got nothing but compliments on the trail from the 600 or so riders that competed, and even though I didn't finish, I went home feeling achieved, and started thinking about what I would do differently for this race next year. I think the climbs would be easier on a geared 26er instead, with longer cranks (165mm at least). I was using a geared 29 with 150mm cranks, and it was great for the first 15 miles, but that last 10 miles was just killer and was screaming for a lower gear.

Hopefully I'll see some pictures up on the site soon to share.

Time to go clean my wounds again from the few falls I had and try to sleep and recover from a difficult, but fun day.
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Last edited by siafirede; 2010-07-18 at 05:56 AM.
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Old 2010-07-18, 06:21 AM   #2
PeterG
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Thumbs up

Well Done. You picked on one of the hardest MTB races in the US of A.
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Old 2010-07-18, 11:05 AM   #3
scott ttocs
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It sounds brutal!

Congratulations!

Why not use a geared 24" with 150 cranks if it has so much tough climbing? I thought that the wheel size on a 26" with a big tire and a 29" were not very different.

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Old 2010-07-18, 12:50 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by siafirede View Post
Today I woke up at 3am to drive to Leadville Colorado to compete in the 50 mile mountain bike race...

I think the first 25 miles had around 5,000 feet of climbing (I forget the total descent), all between 10-12,500ft in elevation, and all offroad on loose/rocky/steep terrain.

...a difficult, but fun day.
That sounds like the hardest 25 miler possible. You're huge, James. Something to shoot for next year.
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Old 2010-07-18, 05:22 PM   #5
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http://www.leadvilletrail100.info/in...verRush/SR.htm

Looks like the full course is about 7400 feet of climbing. I thought riding Mt. Evans a few times (a lot of climbing up to 14,000 feet in elevation) would help, but it didn't prepare me enough for this race because climbing on the road, even at high elevation, is MUCH easier than climbing offroad in leadville.
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Old 2010-07-18, 05:30 PM   #6
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That sounds like the hardest 25 miler possible. You're huge, James. Something to shoot for next year.
Thanks! I wanted to be the first to attempt it, but I think that there are some strong riders(including you) that could finish this race in the 8 hours allotted.
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Old 2010-07-18, 05:32 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by scott ttocs View Post
It sounds brutal!

Congratulations!

Why not use a geared 24" with 150 cranks if it has so much tough climbing? I thought that the wheel size on a 26" with a big tire and a 29" were not very different.

Scott
I have used a 24" muni about...once or twice in my life. I have always been a fan of the bigger wheels and I have been using the 29er for all of my muni rides, but yeah a 24 would have an easier climbing gear I would imagine. The 26" with a huge tire is about the same, but if I use a narrower tire than 26x3 it will be more noticeable of a smaller gear I think.
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Old 2010-07-18, 06:11 PM   #8
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Wow.....

....can't think of anything better to say, you did reeeeaaaallllyyyyyy well.
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Old 2010-07-18, 06:54 PM   #9
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Nice!!
You should be super proud of yourself!
I just started riding 2 months ago. Im finally on the dirt. I just got back from riding Flying J Ranch in Connifer. I'm gunna keep riding and training and I hope one day to be able to ride with you!
Congrats
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Old 2010-07-18, 07:27 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by siafirede View Post
Thanks! I wanted to be the first to attempt it, but I think that there are some strong riders(including you) that could finish this race in the 8 hours allotted.
That would be a good deal harder than any ride I've ever done.
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Old 2010-07-18, 11:41 PM   #11
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Great job, James. That is certainly an achievement to be proud of, and now you are more aware of what is required to make your low gear sufficient to make those climbs doable.

Thanks for the write-up - It was a good read.

Cheers,
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Old 2010-07-19, 03:29 AM   #12
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Awesome job, James. I'm sure you could shave off 15 minutes and make the cut off. Nice ride!
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Old 2010-07-19, 04:22 AM   #13
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Nice!!
You should be super proud of yourself!
I just started riding 2 months ago. Im finally on the dirt. I just got back from riding Flying J Ranch in Connifer. I'm gunna keep riding and training and I hope one day to be able to ride with you!
Congrats
Very cool, yeah, it would be cool to meet up with some more CO riders sometime.

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Awesome job, James. I'm sure you could shave off 15 minutes and make the cut off. Nice ride!
Thanks. Yeah, next year I am going to get in the front of the pack so I don't have the 8-10 minute delay due to the 600 people trying to get on the track, and I am hoping using longer cranks and a 26er will make more terrain rideable.

I'll also try to get some more unicyclists involved next year - maybe I can talk the organizers into adding a unicycle class, I wanted to be the first to attempt it, but next year I bet if you or aspen mike entered, you would do quite well. I really want to see a unicyclist beat the 8 hour cut off for this course someday.
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Old 2010-07-19, 04:31 AM   #14
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Great work siafirede, I love to hear about unicyclist doing off-road races. Thanks for the write up.
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Old 2010-07-19, 01:43 PM   #15
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Great job siafirede! Very inspiring to here about other guys taking on tough mountain bike challenges on a unicycle! I'm itching to get back myself having taking part in a couple of 12 hour mountain bike events on my unicycle in the past few years. Unfortunately my running is going well right now and I've got one more big race this year next month so not much riding for me! It's too dang nasty hot around these parts right now to ride, at least it isn't very fun and heat stroke is a real possibility! But I've got some plans for this fall and you definitely helped motivate me to execute them!

Great job!
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