Strava - Leadville One Hundred 2013 Logo

Race Across the Sky

Twelve Strava cyclists and runners earned entry to one of the most coveted and challenging races in North America for demonstrating leadership, devotion and sportsmanship in their community. These individuals travelled from as far as the UK and Puerto Rico and as low as the Florida sea to compete in the Leadville Trail 100.

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Photo of the Strava Sprinter Van at the Leadville Trail 100

The Leadville Trail 100 ‘Race Across the Sky’ was created for the most determined athletes. It’s not just the one hundred miles that makes it unique, but the high altitude and extreme terrain of the Colorado Rockies. The views are breathtaking, and the climbing to above 12,000 feet in elevation can be too. It’s not a race for the faint of heart or lungs, but it’s one that many athletes desire to do. Finishers also earn a shiny coveted belt buckle.

Photo of the Leadville Race Series

“I rode in conditions I wouldn't have ridden before, passing up the ice cream and cookies and stuck to one goal, finishing Leadville.

My friends and family offered unending support, and several rode some ridiculously hard training routes with me. Ahh yes, the kudos and positive comments on my Strava page helped with motivation, too.” —Thomas (TJ) Jacious

Photo of Jeff Miller in front of the Strava Sprinter Van

“Living at sea level, I knew I would have to push myself to go hard. I tried to mirror elevation by doing two things. First, I would run hill repeats wearing a weight vest. Second, I would do back-to-back workout sessions on the Stairmaster while wearing the weight vest on Saturdays and Sundays with runs before and after.” —Jeff Miller

Photo of the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race starting line

“These guys are tough as nails. Looking more like soldiers with loaded backpacks!”

—Sam Sandusky, Tampa, FL
Athlete Spotlight Winner Photo of Ian Sharman
Ian Sharman Walnut Creek, CA Winning Time: 16:30:02

I knew that if I had a near perfect race I’d be somewhere around the front. Once I got into the lead I was about two-thirds of the way through. I was feeling better than I’d expected and knew that if I could keep things together I could probably hold on to the lead. But Nick Clark wasn't far behind and he is such a fierce competitor that I took nothing for granted — he had me running scared!

Around eighty-five miles in I got delirious, I was stumbling over rocks and slowing down. So I focused on trying to eat more gels and hoped it would turn around if I lowered the intensity, not that I had much choice. A few miles later I was starting to feel a bit more with it, then I was told Nick was just ten minutes behind. The adrenaline kicked in and I was able to hold a faster pace to the finish. I had to assume he’d be running hard and fast to the end.

Portrait of Thomas Jacious

“I rode through the endless crowds of spectators and crews feeling like Chris Froome this past July, almost invincible. In the years I’ve spent racing, never have I seen anything like this or felt this way.” —Thomas (TJ) Jacious

Photo of the sky at Leadville

“I will always remember the surreal beauty of the first few miles of the race. Thousands of riders rode along almost silently through the morning approaching the St. Kevins climb. The fog was thick and ethereal and everything seemed like a dream.

‘What are we doing out here?’
I thought. ‘Is this even real?’”

—Stephen Fitzgerald, Denver, CO
Photo of trail runners at Leadville

“How do you begin to describe a weekend of camaraderie, trail running and epic elevations in a race that could be called one of the hardest in the country?

If nothing else, the historical prestige and honor that comes with toeing the line at Leadville, forever makes you a part of this family and the legacy it represents.” —Trevor Davenport

Athlete Spotlight Portrait of Sam Sandusky

We opened up the carburetors when we hit the highway. This was my first eye-opening experience to how well these riders would work together throughout the day. We quickly formed draft packs, and began to put the hammer down. We got into a nice rotation, each taking a turn at the front, feathered to the left or to the right to help deal with the shifting winds. At one point I thought a truck had pulled up next to us, and was shocked to see open road when I looked to my left, and realized it was us. It was the hum of our knobby tires, how freaking cool is that?

I confidently pumped my fist as I went by the aid station, thinking, ‘I got this’. I soon joined the long line of riders who had dismounted and were pushing their horse up the hill, this crazy, rocky, craggy hill. About a half-mile into the climb (hike) I began to suffer severe hypoxia, the first real signs of the lack of oxygen were hitting me. Now I can only go about thirty yards before I have to stop and lean over the handlebars to catch my breath. It only got worse, as I felt like a mack truck had pulled up and parked right on my chest. As I’m soldiering along, my practice time of forty-five minutes became an hour and forty-five minutes, and I realize I have probably lost the Leadville Belt Buckle. It took me almost two hours to go three miles.

Photo of Bart Miller on his mountain bike

“I heard a noise and grabbed my brakes in panic because I was sure the broken chain was going to go through my spokes and flip me off my bike.

At first I was extremely frustrated because I knew I was going to lose a bunch of time and a group to ride with. But as soon as I got off my bike, cleared my head for a second, I could only be grateful I was able to fix it.” — Bart Miller, Rigby, Idaho. Finish Time: 9:03

Athlete Spotlight Photo of Luigi Dessy
Luigi Dessy Ponce, Puerto Rico Finish Time: 25:00

Things started to go wrong was when it got dark. My headlamp batteries ran out which limited my vision and I got lost. On some technical parts of the course I was going even slower than walking. In the end what really mattered though is that I kept going even when I knew I wasn’t getting the big buckle.

Often when things aren’t going my way and I am not going to reach my expectations, I tend to give up. However, in this race, I refused to give up because I realize that it would be a lot harder to keep going regardless if things weren’t going as planned. Giving up is so easy.

The main point of running an ultra is to get to the finish line. Then you can learn from your mistakes and do it again better!

Athlete Spotlight Photo of Stephen Fitzgerald on his bike

The part of the course that pushed me harder than I’ve ever been pushed was definitely the climb back up Powerline. Upon reaching the base of the climb I was already mentally and physically on empty. As we emerged from the trees and onto the lower slopes of the climb a single thought entered my head: ‘This is impossible, this is just literally impossible’. We had already ridden so far and climbed so much that I didn’t personally have a space in my head that understood the demands still left in the race, it just didn’t register.

Powerline was not a Cinderella story for me, it just sucked and I had to try to suck it up to get to the top.

The only small comfort on the climb was looking around at the other riders near me and realizing that everyone had to get through this. It wasn’t me out there suffering alone; we were all crawling up that hill together. There were no strong guys and gals left anymore, there were just tired riders who were coping with the challenge as best they could. We offered words of encouragement to each other.

I remember seeing another Strava athlete, Chris Waugh, on the climb. We had traded positions all day long. ‘Go Strava!’ I said as I neared him. ‘Go Strava!’ he said back. It was little moments like that that got me over Powerline and ultimately to the finish.

Summiting the final bump when the finish line came into view is an image burned into my memory. Even though the finish line was right there, it didn’t even register that I had finished Leadville. I’m still having trouble comprehending it.

Athlete Spotlight Portrait of Trevor Davenport
Trevor Davenport Gilbert, AZ DNF

The good news about the south side up to Hope Pass is that it’s shorter. The bad news is it’s steeper. Again, you put your head down and just keep moving. Never before have I witnessed so much carnage on a trail. Busted knees, dry heaving, hyperventilating and projectile vomiting due to nutrition and altitude were all in vogue as folks made their way up to 12,600 feet again.

As I reached the Hope Pass aid station again, it was dark and cold. Huddled masses were assembled around a campfire and buried in sleeping bags trying to recover or wish themselves down to the bottom. I stayed on my feet for a bit looking for something warm and substantial to fill my belly. A volunteer served me up a ramen-soup-mashed-potato-combo-platter that was actually quite good. I paused to eat while my pack was filled with water. It was now 8:30PM. The reality of beating the cut-off time into Twin Lakes to pick up my pacer, Jon, was bleak.

In the spirit of the race and in honor of everyone who had sacrificed for me to be here, I was going to finish like a champ. I resolved to give it my best. As I came out of the woods and through the stream crossing, there was Jon waiting to take me into the aid station. Unfortunately, for the 31st running of the Leadville 100, my best was not good enough. I would miss the cut-off into Twin Lakes by 30 minutes. My wristband was cut and the race day was over.

Photo of the Leadville Landscape

“They say to run Leadville with your heart and not your legs.

Well, even the most earnest efforts and mentally strong runners, like myself, need the right conditioning. Of course I’m disappointed in not finishing but I am proud of my run because I did my best and had a fantastic time out in the mountains of Colorado. It truly is a beautiful and magical place and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to participate.” —Trevor Davenport

Photo of Andrea Kooiman

“I left a piece of myself somewhere on the trail. Don’t worry, I will go back to collect it.”

—Andrea Kooiman, Mission Viejo, CA
Athlete Spotlight Photo of Thomas Jacious

The lower part of Columbine went according to my plan, and I managed to consistently pass at least fifty riders before the freight train of Pros came roaring past on their way back down. Then the steep part came, and trouble started. Above treeline, the road conditions became loose rock, and steep. This is where death march number one of the day began. I rode as far as possible before it became unsafe to pass due to downhill traffic and my hike began. Hiking was awful, but unavoidable. I got back on my bike and tried pedaling. That’s when the first cramps hit me, not in a subtle way either. Electrifying and debilitating, relentless cramps that I tried to work through but standing up was not going to work, and sitting made it worse. I had to dismount and keep walking. The line of riders still climbing Columbine seemed to go on for miles, and I found myself offering words of encouragement to them, between breaths, shamelessly repeating what so many others had said to me just minutes before.

Advice for future Leadville first timers that may for whatever reason find themselves reading this, don’t look up on Powerline. You don’t want to know how far you have to go, believe me, its not going to help. Keep your head down and just keep pushing. This is the part that Ken Chlouber (Race Founder) is referring to when he tells us non-pro, mere mortals to ‘Dig Deep’. I made the mistake of looking up, often, and it was a morale killer. Somewhere midway up Powerline, the grade levels for a moment and if I remember right, you actually descend for about five seconds. It’s not over, and cruelly, the climb continues for way too long after this point.

If there were ever a chance I was going to quit it would have been miles 80-83. I was never going to quit but the thought of getting eaten by a mountain lion briefly seemed more appealing than the pain I felt trying to ascend Powerline.

The finish of the Leadville 100 is, and will be the most memorable moment in cycling, or in life, for me. It is hard, impossible, to put into words how I felt after that nine hours and twenty-six minutes, to approach the finish line and see my two daughters Sarah and Amanda out in the road waving to me and running alongside cheering ‘You Did It Daddy!’ Sarah, who is twelve years old, and an eight-year kick–ass cancer Survivor, ran the last fifty yards of the Leadville 100 alongside her sister and I, down the red carpet, and across the finish line of the 2013 Leadville MTB Trail 100. No kids, ‘WE’ did it.

Photo of a cyclist with an orange Strava towel

Team Strava handed out cold towels to all the athletes as they passed through the finish corral exhausted, dusty and overwhelmed by the races end. Many of who barely made it past the tent before keeling over in the grass.

Photo of a cyclist uploading their ride to Strava

Logo of the Strava Segment Challenge Segment Challenge: Almost 500 athletes participated in the Strava Segment Challenge that took place on one of the more challenging sections of the course, the Columbine Climb. 3.1 miles of trail at an 8.0% grade and elevation gain of 1,301ft.

Athlete Spotlight Portrait of Phil Fifer with the Leadville belt buckle and a missing tooth
Phil Fifer Sebastapol, CA Finish Time: 10:50

I was feeling pretty good two weeks before Leadville when I went out for a ride and just how these crashes occur, I was riding along and next thing I knew I was picking myself up off the ground. I had a lot of blood dripping off my face and a missing tooth. It went clean out and through my lip. I had to get stitches and my chin and body were very bruised and scraped up.

The Friday before Leadville I went in for oral surgery and the surgeon told me to take some time off of work and not to do anything strenuous for a couple weeks. I told him I couldn’t come in to get the stitches out until I got back from my race and he just smiled at me and shook his head like I was joking.

So with stitches still in mouth and a fake tooth called a flipper, I went out to Colorado. I had a great time; I suffered and survived, and now own a nice belt buckle that I will hang in my bike shop to remind me of the fun times. I wouldn't trade the suffering for anything. Thank you strava for helping me keep my riding fun and pushing me everytime I ride my bike.

Photo of the Leadville Trail 100 Belt

“I don’t think I ever wanted to quit. I wanted it to be over... I wanted my legs to able to turn the pedals faster... I wanted my saddle and my rear end to not hate each other... I wanted more time on the clock... but most of all, I wanted to finish. I knew my family and friends were behind me and I didn’t want to let them down. I didn’t want to let myself down.’ —Austin Collins, Texas

Photo of the Leadville Race Series Flag

“Plain and simple, it was the hardest race that I have ever done!”

—Jim Plitchta