I can't speak for the pre-race chat at any of the other Leadville races, but I can tell you that race founder Ken Chlouber delivers an inspiring speech at the mountain bike pre-race meeting. During his inspirational delivery he does warn us that we will all suffer low points, but then he tells us, "You're better than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can." I love that quote.
The Leadville series of athletic challenges originated because Leadvillites wanted to make a difference to their community. All of the Leadville races begin and end in Leadville, bringing visitors to the town for race day and training sessions. The Leadville 100 Run began in 1983 when there was severe depression in the local mining industry and the town had the highest unemployment rate in the nation. The mountain bike race was added in 1994.
The Leadville races are so popular now, that there is a lottery system for the mountain bike race. I don't know what the limit is for the run, but the entry number shown on the site for this year is 582.
Ah, but entering the 100 mile mountain bike race is easy.
Ah, the 100 mile run is easy too.
Try entering the Leadman or Leadwoman competition. Now that is tough. What is a Leadperson? With only 24 entrants this year, athletes are trying to complete the five key Leadville events.
First on the menu is a trail marathon on July 7th. The second course is a 50-mile mountain bike race called "The Silver Rush" which is said to be very similar to the Leadville 100 mountain bike course...with all the easy parts taken out. Silver Rush is two weeks after the marathon. Three weeks after Silver Rush is the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race. The day after the mountain bike race is the Leadville 10k running race, conveniently timed so you can go to the awards ceremony for the mountain bike race and then work any stiffness out of your legs with a run. Right.
The last event of the Leadman and Leadwoman competition is to run 100 miles in the mountains surrounding Leadville one short week after the mountain bike race. The "only" thing you have to do to earn the honored title is to complete each event. I can't imagine doing all five events within six weeks. Those that do it are endurance animals of the highest order.
It makes sense that Leadville would have these types of events because this is a community that embraces toughness.
If Leadville has been somewhat of a secret in the past, the secret is leaking out. Athletes of all levels of capability that want significant challenge enter the events. Some prefer a more low-keyed approach to enjoying the mountains by going on their own to play on the trails, camp, fish or road ride. For winter athletes, the town is within close proximity of major ski areas and athletes have found staying in Leadville to be significantly less expensive than staying in the major ski resorts and worth the short drive.
Should you find yourself in Leadville, stop by the Leadville 100 headquarters at 213 Harrison Avenue. In the store is plenty of Leadville 100 gear and some of the race trophies are on display as well. After a course pre-ride last week, a few of us stopped by the headquarters. Ken and Merilee O'Neal (the race director) were in the store and nice enough to pose for a photo along with some of the Leadville bounty. (Photo attached.)
The round belt buckles are for the 100-mile run and the square ones are for the 100-mile bike. The smallest one in each case, is for completing each event under the respective cut-off time, 30 hours for the run (no, this is not a typo) and 12 hours for the ride. The mid-sized buckle is for completing each event under the specified "My God You're Fast" time of 25 hours for the run and 9 hours for the bike. The large buckle, with your name on it, is for making 1,000 miles in each respective event. Yep, completing 10 of the crazy things.
Age group awards are given as well and Merilee didn't have any of those available in the shop. The ore cart sitting on the display case will be filled with Leadville ore, mounted on rails on a wooden block and given to the overall winners.
You may not aspire to be a Leadman or Leadwoman. You may never want to do a 100 mile mountain bike race or 100 mile run. No matter what adventure marks the challenge for you to stretch, to be more, to be better, to get a little scared, I think you can use Ken's words..."You're better than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can."