Leadville 100 MTB Race Fueling Plan

Are you gearing up for the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race and have some questions about nutrition? Lucky for you, we know a guy who’s had his fair share of the notorious race (good and bad) - none other than our co-founder Jeff Vierling!

Jeff has had the honor of completing the Leadville 100 MTB race 10 times which has given him lots of time and opportunity to perfect his fueling strategy, and now he wants to share it with you!

The secret weapon?

Plain and simple, I literally just use Tailwind Nutrition at my happy calorie rate all day! Generally, I plan for 250 calories of Endurance Fuel in 24 oz of water per hour. Those amounts usually work well for me to sustain energy, stay hydrated, and not feel hungry for long days. Everyone is different though, so it’s important for you to find what calorie count works best for you!

How do I find my happy calorie count?

As you train, dial in the calories you need using hunger as a guide. When you’re not feeling hungry 2.5-3+ hours into a ride, that means you’ve hit your calorie-rate sweet spot. You should also not feel overly full. Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water is so important at Leadville, even when the temperatures are cool. The sun is very intense, and you lose more water than you think at that altitude -- you don’t want to go less than 20 oz per hour, even if you don’t feel like drinking!

Worst-case scenario, you stop for a bathroom break, which is way better than finding yourself dehydrated and nauseous a few hours into the race. If it’s hot, you can drink more than 24 oz of water per hour, but remember to keep the calories per hour the same.

What hydration gear should I use?

For this race, I prefer to use hydration packs. It’s easier to suck on the mouthpiece when the trail demands your attention than it is to fish for a bottle, but it’s personal preference.

Do you have a race-day nutrition plan?

I usually eat a good-sized breakfast about 2 hours before the race starts. I make sure to ingest carbs, protein, and fat - a good tip is to stick with things that are easy to digest! Leadville is a little chilly in the morning, but if I’m thirsty while waiting at the start, I sip on a bottle of Endurance Fuel.

  • From the start to Pipeline 1, I carry Endurance Fuel mixed at 250 calories per 24 oz of water in a hydration pack, figuring this stretch will take me about 2-2.5 hours.
  • For the Pipeline outbound to Twin Lakes stretch, I plan on riding for a little less than an hour before the next aid station, so I mix 250 calories of Endurance Fuel in a 24 oz bottle, but a pack would be fine, too.
  • Twin Lakes is the last stop before the climb up Columbine, so if it’s hot, I’ll drink some plain water at the aid station and mix 250 calories of Endurance Fuel per 24 oz in a full hydration pack. The climb and descent usually takes me about 2.5-3 hours.
  • Once I am back at Twin Lakes for the second time, I drop my pack and bottle and swap out for a full 26 oz bottle mixed with Endurance Fuel for the ~ 1 hour ride back to Pipeline.
  • At Pipeline, I pick up another hydration pack filled at a ratio of 250 calories of Endurance Fuel per 24 oz. Then to the finish line!

It’s the best feeling in the world, crossing the finish line, especially without any gut bombs and strong energy! Once I am done, I usually drink a Rebuild Recovery or two for.

Any last words?

It’s a tough race, it will test you both physically and mentally, but if you have your nutrition dialed in, it makes such a difference. Leadville holds a special place in my heart, it is where Tailwind was born to:

  1. address stomach problems that I had
  2. simplify nutrition and take some of the worry out of trying to fuel for long and intense events
  3. have a fuel source with a taste and texture that’s tolerable for long events and stands up to hot days

I wish good luck to all those riding this year and I hope that Tailwind helps you to make it across that finish line! If you want to read my non-nutrition Leadville 100 race tips, you can read it here.

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