Vail Valley participants share training tips for Leadville 100 bike race
Special to the Daily
LEADVILLE — Mud, sweat and gears, lactic acid buildup and a red carpet finish are part of the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race. Athletes from around the country will ascend to the town for the Saturday race. Celebrating its 24th year, the mountain bike race was created after the successful two-day race brought runners and their support teams to the then economically-depressed town.
Training for the one-day event is a year-round commitment, combining training, nutrition and mental preparation. Edwards resident and Minnesota native (read: playing hockey since he could walk) Mark Schelde, 56, will compete in his first Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race. In 2016 he finished a qualifying Leadville 50 race. It was a defining moment for him as he had planned to “get back to healthy living” six years prior. “When I turned 50 in 2010 I said, ‘Hey I’ve been living in Vail all these years I better start working out, I turned 55 and still hadn’t done anything. I live out here and love mountain biking, I don’t run. This was a big enough goal to make me work out, look at my health, what I was eating and train for (the Leadville 50).” He completed the race under eight hours, which was in his words, “a great accomplishment.” “I was just grateful that my body stayed together and no one crashed into me which is a big concern.”
Nutrition is key
Riding four to five days a week, Schelde focused on nutrition and mental training each day.
“You know how you are told to shop the outer edges of a grocery store, where fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy foods are?” he asked rhetorically. “Well, the more I trained, the more I stayed away from processed foods.”
Penny Wilson, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Vail, said athletes preparing for the race should keep their nutrition consistent with what they’ve been eating: plenty of carbohydrates, fat and protein. “At least 50-65 percent (of the intake) should be from carbohydrates, a mix of fruits, vegetables, starches, potatoes, breads, pasta,” Wilson noted.
Vail Summit Orthopedics surgeon Erik Dorf, 47, has competed twice in the mountain bike race. The Vail native trained by doing long rides combining a high intensity threshold work with aerobic and anaerobic workouts. He and lifelong friend Chris Doyle, a professional cyclist from 1991-98, trained together and “helped each other along.”
Doyle, also 47, swore he would “never ride again” when he retired from World Cup. However, when his weight blossomed from 145 to close to 200 pounds, he started riding for fitness. Then Leadville became a goal. He finished his first 100 in seven hours and 45 minutes, and last year beat his record with an impressive 7:32.
“It’s an interesting race because in my career I rode three to four-and-a-half hours as a pro with international races from five to seven hours. “That race (100 Mountain Bike Race) has a lot of personality to it. You go through all the levels of suffering, physically and emotionally, speed and anaerobic threshold, all the components of every emotion. You can be in a situation where ‘one minute I’m done’ and in the next hour you feel great. It is an ebb and flow and interesting dynamic,” Doyle elaborated.
And while he specifically did not train for the race, he allotted “a lot of time to it,” and is taking a break this year. Dorf has a mental game when he rides, breaking the race down into quarters. “If I can work my way through the first quarter, the landmarks on the course, shoot for time goals at each spot, it helps me from a mental perspective,” he said. He also credits Doyle for helping him with his training. “Nutrition in the race is critical,” the good doctor said. “Your nutrition is probably 25 percent of your success. You eat on the road, a lot of calories for a lot of climbing. Clif Bars, rice cakes, complex carbohydrates.”
Wilson agreed, saying, “Your nutrition will take you down faster than not being trained. You can be perfectly trained and your stomach goes south with vomiting, gas, diarrhea and your race is over.” She tells her clients not to throw anything new into the mix. However, a few days before, she has racers put an electrolyte supplement in their water to ensure hydration.
Dorf is not adverse to caffeine on the course. “It helps to keep you sharp and focus on the technical sections, and a lot of the gels and supplements have caffeine,” he said. In fact, 35 minutes from the finish Dorf might guzzle a Coke or Red Bull.
Wilson encourages riders to weigh themselves before and after the race so they know how much weight they’ve lost and how much they will need to regain. Her recommended recovery solution for the race: 32 ounces of low-fat chocolate milk to rebuild the glycogen, a storage form of sugar in the muscles. “Recovery is important because you want to feel good again as soon as possible,” she explained.
“Training for the race and the race itself does give you amazing purpose. Last night I went out for a mountain bike ride. It was thunder, raining. I would have never done that if I wasn’t training,” Schelde said. “I’ll be thrilled to make the 12-hour mark,” he said, admitting he has his eye on the belt buckle given to finishers who cross the line before the timing clock strikes 12. “I’ll be in the back of the pack because I’m a new person. It is really and truly a mental game.” He summarized his Zen of the race, “I’ve decided that goals are dreams with deadlines.”