My 2011 Leadville Trail 100 Experience

In August of 2011 I raced my first Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike event. I was lucky enough to get past the lottery system in February, and spent most of the rest of the spring and summer preparing for the event. This is the story of my training leading up to the actual event and the details of the event itself.

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Biking in Big Bend – Old Ore Road

Yesterday I took the mountain bike down Old Ore Road in Big Bend National Park. The park’s website calls this route the premier ride in the park so I just had to try it.

Old Ore Road is a primitive dirt road just over 26 miles in length. It starts off fairly gentle and just like any other gravel and rock road, but around mile 7 things begin to get a little more interesting and a bit more difficult. Taking the road from the north to the south is primarily downhill, but there are at least 5 or 6 challenging climbs even when ridden in that direction. All of these climbs are very rocky and take a fair amount of bike handling skill to complete unscathed.

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The southern terminus of Old Ore Road is just a few miles west of Rio Grande Village near the Rio Grande Overlook. This is almost all downhill so it makes for a nice, fast way to finish up the ride.

It took me 3 hours 39 minutes to complete the Old Ore Road section of the route, just under the 4 hours suggested by the park’s website, and another 9 minutes to get to Rio Grande Village. I didn’t stop to smell the roses, so anyone wishing to explore some of the sites along the way should plan on the 4 to 6 hour timeframe given.

I’d also not recommend trying to ride this during the summer months. It was in the 70s when I rode, but the sun was rather intense that day (like most of them). I went through nearly 4 liters of water for this ride, so plan accordingly.

A nice surprise about the road was that it wasn’t completely devoid of other visitors. While I was the only biker I saw that day, I did come across 5 vehicles going either direction on the road. All were friendly and gave me the right of way when I needed it. That’s a good sign for a road you’d really rather not break down on.

This picture gives you a characteristic view of the start of the road. It is typical Chihuahuan desert scenery at first. The rather flat and easy looking road seen here is only that way to lure you into a false sense of security about your life over the next few hours.
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These cliffs are called the Alto Relex. The pour-off pictured here would be awesome to see when it was actually raining.
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I’m about 3/4 done with the road and still alive, despite a few high-speed tumbles and utter exhaustion. Who forgot to tell me mountain biking was harder than roadie stuff?
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Taking my last break at Camp de Leon. Jose de Leon was murdered in 1933. His gravemaker is just a few hundred yards before the campsite marker.
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If you like mountain biking you’ll like this road. It isn’t a single-track by any means, but it’s still a blast and takes you through a section of the park you wouldn’t otherwise get to see. If you aren’t a mountain biker, then head down there with your favorite 4×4 and drive it.