This year I have a different approach to Leadville.
I’m going for a different kind of win. Here’s what I mean and here’s why…
2014 marks my 6th Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race and here’s the truth: I’ve already crossed the finish line. Oh I’m still lining up on August 9th, but after hoisting that Ore Cart Trophy four times, I’m going for a win of a different kind. My intensely competitive spirit is still alive and well. My nickname “The Queen of Pain” still rings true. But this year, my Leadville finish line happened about a week ago when I turned in the final pages of my first book “Rusch To Glory: Adventure Risk and Triumph on the Path Less Traveled.”
I began the intense writing journey about 9 months ago with VeloPress and Selene Yeager. It has been harder and more challenging than anything I’ve ever tackled in my whole life. My goal has always been to launch this book during the Leadville Trail 100 because putting myself out there like that is a terrifying thing. I wanted the first people to see it to be cycling friends who would likely receive this project with open arms and supportive words. As race founders Ken and Merilee always say, “you are part of the Leadville family.” I figured where best to launch the most difficult project I’ve ever done than with my family?
I’ve won the Leadville 100 mountain bike race four times and ridden it five times. Each and every year has been memorable for different reasons and this one will be too. In 2009, I raced my first Leadville and won the women’s field in 8:15. 2010, I broke Laurie Brandt’s long-standing record and clocked a 7:47:35. In 2011, I surprised myself and nailed the first ever three-peat for women and broke my own record with a time of 7:31:45. Four other women also broke my record that year too in the closest, most exciting women’s race to date. 2012 was a banner year with growing competition and a massive target on my back and I squeaked out a 7:28:05 and no idea how I went faster than before. 2013, I suffered through a tough event with the death of a good friend just days earlier weighing heavily on me. It was the first year I didn’t win, but I was proud of my ride and still turned over a 7:35:27 despite less than ideal circumstances. I know everyone wants me to come back and race this thing again to see if I can win it for a 5th time. I am curious about that too and there will be a time for that kind of intense performance based focus.
However, this is not the year for that. This year, my Leadville is all about the other 2000 racers on the line instead of about me. My focus this year is to give as much knowledge, motivation and inspiration as I can to anyone there who is striving to have their best race. My experience last year riding with a heavy heart and a different purpose really opened my eyes to what Leadville is about. I’ve always felt the special vibe of this race and have always relished staying at the finish line for hours to watch people finish. It’s a display of humanity that we don’t often get to see up close and personal. I soak that in and it keeps me coming back year after year. I also feel passionate about giving what I can back to the Leadville family.
Given the dedication that writing a book took, my training has slipped. Winning Leadville takes an unwavering, singular focus that I didn’t have this year. I made a conscious decision to write this book and tell some of my stories with the intent of inspiring other athletes to reach for their dreams. Well, things didn’t go exactly as planned and the writing and editing process was more difficult, tedious and all encompassing than I’d expected. We missed scheduled deadlines, the format of the book was re-vamped, and I was getting my ass kicked. This Virgo, multi-tasking maven was suddenly not in control and I couldn’t juggle it all. Months after I should have been done with the book and focused on my training, I was still staying up until the wee hours of the morning working on edits, then attempting to train during the day. This doesn’t bode well for structured training, resting and being at your physical best. However, I started this thing and I had to finish it and it had to be done in time for Leadville. Ken’s race mantra was ringing in my head, “I commit, I won’t quit.” I finished the book and it went to print. If all goes smoothly at the printer, I will have pre-release copies in my hand on August 6th, just in time for the book launch the next day.
Now, that the book is at the printers, I’m heading to Leadville August 1 feeling light, unstressed and super excited to ride my bike for a long time in the thin Colorado air. I will host an entire week of rides, clinics, and events to share everything I know about Leadville with anyone who wants to join me. I will share my usual pre-race rituals and rides, nutrition tips and bike set up knowledge. I will also share the stories in my book. When it comes to race day, I will not take my usual place on the front line with the rest of the pros and past champions. Instead, I will be in a corral a little further back, next to my friend Lisa Nelson aka, “The Hammer.” For this Leadville, I will be celebrating the book launch and also riding with Lisa for her 10th Leadville in an effort to help her post her fastest time yet. I know this will be a memorable Leadville for me. They all are. And just like all the rest of them, I don’t know what will happen out there, but I can’t wait to find out. I hope to see you all out there.