Sasha and the Leadville 100 MTB

Meet Sasha Underwood, 303 Ambassador, an accomplished mountain biker, road cyclist and triathlete and one who guides challenged athletes in running and triathlon competitions. She is athletic and more or less has dedicated the past few months to mountain biking and training for the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike race in three weeks. The Leadville 100 MTB is part of the Lifetime Fitness Leadville Race Series which includes; Heavy Half marathon, 50MTB, 50 mile run, 100MTB and the 100 mile run. If you complete all five events, in one summer, you earn the coveted “Leadman” title. Another race event is the 100 mile mountain bike stage race happening next weekend. This is a three day event and is the perfect tune up for the 100 mile one day mountain bike race on August 11th and also offers 100 qualifying spots to get into the Leadville 100 mountain bike race.

303Cycling has caught up with Sasha to ask her to re-count training for the 100 and the upcoming stage race.

303: Can you describe the transition and how it’s gone from road cycling and triathlon to pretty much only mountain biking?

Sasha: I was devastated when I was told I couldn’t run anymore.

303: How would you describe training for the Leadville 100 compare to prepping for an endurance event like an Ironman? How about compared to road biking? What have you liked most and least?

Sasha: I’m putting in between 11-15 hours a week training – which is about the same for Ironman although I would peak around 20 hours for IM. Surprisingly my training plan calls for more road biking preparing for Leadville100MTB than I thought. One noticeable difference is in planning a training ride vs planning a brick workout – Leadville training there is less gear, simply grab nutrition and a bike and go vs Ironman training there is multiple sets of gear AND nutrition for swimming, biking and/or running.

There is planning for Leadville that goes into special needs bags and for my crew in trying to figure out all the tools and bike repair things you might need out on the course. My friend is a bike mechanic and he’s helping me with what I need and showing me how to use it so I can practice before August 11th i.e. extra derailleur hanger, chain links, brake stuff, tire plugs, tire boot, what to do if I break a spoke… it’s kind of like avalanche gear- good to have all the gear but if you don’t know how to use it in the event of an avalanche it will do you no good.

My least favorite aspect in training for Leadville, and it was the same with Ironman training, is that I am fairly dedicated to the training plan which means I can’t go for a ride with certain friends if that type of ride doesn’t fit into my plan. Or like today, I declined a rock climbing invitation because I don’t want to do anything that could fatigue my legs with the Stage Race just a few days away. I feel like I’m missing out sometimes but then I think of how cool it will feel to cross the finish line and remind myself there will be plenty of days to climb and ride with friends afterwards.

303: The Leadville 100 is the final goal, but talk about the other events you have competed in in preparation and how is the stage race next weekend fitting into your plans? Is the Stage Race the final big push before the race?

Sasha: I raced a couple of the Warrior Cycling races; Ridgeline and Battle of the Bear. Using them as training rides I raced on tired legs – riding 80 miles the day before Battle of the Bear at the end of June for instance. As a first-timer to the LT100mtb I’m excited to race in the Leadville Stage Race – it is going to be great recon for the course. Additionally, there are only 350 participants vs over 1000 at LT100mtb and riding the course over three days is perfect for the training schedule giving me two weeks to taper. Also, as it turns out, my very accomplished blind athlete friend, Jason Romero, is shooting for Leadman and has only the 100 mtb and run to secure that title. He is using the Stage Race for recon too and I’ll be riding with him as his guide during the Stage Race.

303: What have you enjoyed the most in training? The least?

Sasha: I love riding my bikes! While I prefer to ride on dirt deep in the mountains, I have really enjoyed getting on my road bike for some of the longer 5-6hr rides. I’ve missed that since I’ve had to give up Ironman racing. I travel for work and will utilize hotel spin bikes, I suppose that would be my least favorite about training. Sometimes when I travel for work I rent a bike and ride with clients in Utah – much better than a business happy hour and we get business done too! That is one of my favorite work/life balance strategies.

303: What are your race strategies for the stage race? The 100?


Sasha: Strategies for the Stage Race – don’t crash…go at a zone 2-3 pace.. Nutrition strategy is to get 270 calories per hour via gels and shot blocks, camel back with water and bottle of Skratch on the bike… 1 or 2 oz of Pickle Juice every 2-3 hours (I do love that stuff!!), Roctane electrolyte tab every hour…

For the LT100mtb – I think I’ll have a more specific race strategy after this weekend but for now: don’t crash… go out slower than I think I should at the start (and then slow down just a little more) grab a pace line on the flats if I can without going past zone 3… nutrition same as Stage Race (except I have two crew groups who will have PBJ’s, bananas, chicken soup, chips, grapes and Coke at the stops in case I’m craving something other than gels). Still writing my list of extra clothing but will include rain gear, extra wool socks and warm gloves

303: What are you most excited about in the Stage Race. The 100?

Sasha: I am so excited to guide Jason for the Stage Race and have a friend to ride with the entire three days!

For the 100 I am most excited to push my limits again. I really miss that about Ironman racing. I suspect I will experience all the emotions from being elated to finding the deepest darkest crevice in my soul and back to elation when I get to the famous red carpet (as you do in Ironman too). I’m curious what deals I’m going to make with myself when it starts to get painfully difficult lol… I’m also curious what song is going to get stuck in my head.

303: What are some things that have surprised you in getting ready for such long mountain bike race? Maybe some feelings or intensity that surprised you? Do you use a coach?

Sasha: I do use a coach, in fact I use two. I am a huge fan of using coaches.

I’m using the Leadville specific Training Plan from Drew Edsell of MTB Fitness. Drew was my coach last year and helped me prepare for Firecracker 50 and Steamboat HoneyStinger. I had him customize my training as I was 6 months post-operation of my hip surgery and he did a great job making sure I didn’t over train or undertrain for either event. The Leadville Training plan I purchased is a prebuilt plan he created just for Leadville. Utilizing TrainingPeaks you can purchase from Drew a prebuilt plan specific to Leadville and you can choose from a 3 month, 5 month, or 6.5 month Leadville Training Program. Each has various levels also in terms of how much time you have to train each week from the time-crunched athlete to 11-17hr week plans.

The second coach is Emma Dunn of EZ MTB Skills. I did a couple one-on-one coaching sessions with Emma that has significantly enhanced my downhill skills… seriously, after one session in May I am twice as fast descending and can clear obstacles that I previously would walk. I’m working on my jumps now at the bike park – because that’s what you do in your 40’s obviously lol – I started wearing baggy bike shorts and tech shirts when I ride mountain bikes… next thing you know I’ll be in flat pedals! But for Leadville I’ll be wearing my Tokyo Joe’s team race kit.

I’d also be remised without mentioning the best podcast that has been invaluable to my Leadville preparation: Leadville 100 Mile MTB Podcast. The best preparation a newby like myself could ask for (or anyone racing for that matter). From equipment, to nutrition, to race strategies, this podcast has been the best intel for me thus far.

303: We know your hip keeps you from running, but if you could, do you see yourself trying for Leadman?

Sasha: If I could, I totally see myself trying for Leadman!! 100%. Hopefully medical technology advancements will make it possible for me someday 🙂

One thought on “Sasha and the Leadville 100 MTB

  1. Go get it girl! So inspiring as I go in for hip surgery. We will be Rooting for you and hoping for good weather! Reading this, Since you to rocked the stinger 50 and firecracker 50, maybe I’ll consider working with a coach to get back after it!

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