Kevin Summers has spent many months building-up to his two main objectives of the year, the Leadville Trail-100 MTB Race and the subsequent Barn Burner-100, a Leadville 2018 qualifier, three-weeks later.
With Leadville being a monumental challenge in and of itself, an Athlete would be forgiven for needing a break from training, travel, and racing after this epic race. After all, racing at altitude, across some of the most demanding trails of the 100-mile race distance is not for the faint of heart.
However, Kevin Summers made the commitment to make the most of his Leadville race fitness, by heading to Flag Staff, Arizona, a scant three-weeks after Leadville, to try and qualify for the 2018 LT-100.
Considering that Kevin had a break-out performance at Leadville this year, qualifying for the 2018 event seemed something of a formality…
But when it rained for a week, almost continuously ahead of the Barn Burner-100, the event became a test of mettle that competitors hadn’t bargained for.
After the mucky-mess that was the Barn Burner-100, we caught up with Kevin to talk Endurance MTB racing, Leadville, and the Barn Burner in a 4-question Athlete Profile interview, to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly from both events. Enjoy!
A day in the rain and mucky conditions can't hold back the smile and excitement of earning a qualifying spot at the 2018 LT-100! Photo Credit: Rhiannon Summers
Primary Sport/Discipline: Endurance MTB Racing
Average Hours of Training Per Week: 12-16hrs.
Upcoming Goals: The 2018 Leadville Trail-100
Question #1: Congratulations on an incredible performance in epic conditions at the Barn Burner-100, Kevin! What were the conditions like and how did the race go down?
Kevin Summers: Oh man, the conditions were absolutely perfect…
I’m kidding, it poured rain the entire week leading into the race (kind of a given at 8,500’, but it’s usually a dust-fest). The day before the race the rain was off and on, but when it was “on” it was dumping.
On race day it was raining on the way to the start, then cloudy when the gun went off, and the weather progressively deteriorated as the day unfolded.
The first lap (of four, each 25-miles in length) the trails were nothing but “hero” dirt, it was awesome! On the second lap it began to spit rain, then on third lap it began to dump, it was absolutely pouring…
That’s when I was sure that Noah was building a second ark and I heard the voice of Coach Brian saying, “Kev, it’s time to clock-in and get to work!"
The entire course turned into peanut butter. My clear-lens glasses became mud covered and I had to channel my inner "Aron Gwinn”, as I recalled him saying once, “the fastest way down the mountain is to follow the water, it knows the easiest way down!”
Although the theory of riding the rains path sounded great, I couldn’t see anything because my glasses were covered in the peanut-buttery muck!
On the fourth lap, as everyone and everything was covered in a thick coat of mud, the weather decided to relent and cease raining.
My bike was brown and I was covered head-to-toe in mud, but despite all the adversity, I rolled across the line 4th place in my class, and 10th overall on the day.
I was so excited, this was a career best finish for me and solidified my qualifying spot at the 2018 Leadville Trail-100 MTB.
This years’ Barn Burner definitely lived up to its name and I am proud to have had such a great ride despite the miserable conditions!
Coaches Perspective/Coach Brian: What an amazing experience, wow!
When Kevin called to update me on his result after the race, I was blown-away by the conditions he overcame. We had talked about the rain, the possibility, and very likely scenario, of muddy trails, when I casually commented;
“Kev, when the weather turns foul, many riders quit mentally, they are just going through the motions. Don’t be one of them. If it rains, clock-in and get after-it.”
Apparently he took my words literally, because 10th overall and 4th in his division is an amazing performance!
I am so proud of Kevin, this result comes on the back of a full-year of preparation and training for Leadville. He has done so much training and made many sacrifices, I couldn’t be more happy for his success.
He definitely earned it!
Kevin also had a break-through performance at this years' Leadville Trail-100 a race he loves and includes on his racing calendar every year! Photo Credit: Kevin Summers.
Question #2: You had a great ride at the Leadville Trail-100 as well, earning a coveted sub-9hr finishing time and a Personal Best. How do you feel about that result?
KS: I couldn't be happier!
With the encouragement I received from my Support Crew, Rhiannon, my Family, and of course the ass-kicking from Coach BMc, it was my best finish at Leadville yet!
I've always headed to Leadville with the goal of finishing/surviving (note: this was my third try at the LT-100), with a dream of earning the coveted Big Belt Buckle that is awarded to finishers who complete the course sub-9hrs.
Leading into Leadville I felt the most confident I've ever been going into an event, I had great fitness coming off the Dirty Kanza-200 earlier in the summer and knew Coach BMc and I had gone over every detail about the race from nutrition to pacing to equipment.
In 2018 I lined-up to RACE Leadville, not just survive it!
One of the key things that kept me digging deep was some advice I got from Coach BMc a week prior to the race, when he said:
“Kev, I want you to go into this race doing what you do, don’t get distracted by other competitors or racers.”
He meant that if I was in a group and they are not going my pace, I shouldn’t wait, I should go to the front and get to work!
I crossed the line with an 8:29 finish-time and earned the coveted Big Gold Belt Buckle!
I had beaten my 2017 race time by 1:17, absolutely unreal!
The crazy thing is that I got even stronger, and went faster 3-weeks later at the Barn Burner-100 in Flag Staff, thanks coach!
Coach Brian: Racing 100-mile MTB events is something all-together different than hitting the starting line looking to complete a long day in the saddle.
These endurance MTB events are so demanding, just finishing is an incredible accomplishment, but Kevin wanted more than that at this years Leadville. With this in mind, we started working immediately following Leadville 2016 for the 2017 event.
Kevin outperformed his expectations, but I knew he had this kind of performance in him. He has been doing the work and racing consistently all season, so the only wildcard at Leadville was the altitude.
We talked quite a bit about the affects of altitude on performance and layered that with Kevin’s previous experiences at Leadville. All of this came together on race day and resulted in him beating his previous fastest finish by over an hour, absolutely incredible!
That finishers medal would be replaced the next day with the coveted Big Gold Belt Buckle that is the envy of every competitor that does not complete the LT-100 course in a sub-9hr finishing time. Photo Credit: Kevin Summers.
Question #3: With so many big events on your calendar each year, what is next on your cycling ‘to do’ list? What are some of your long-term cycling goals?
KS: Leadville is always the "Big One" for me.
Looking at the calendar for 2018 there are many events that intrigue me.
I would like to try my hand at Marathon Nationals, where I think my diesel-like fitness would really shine!
My long-term goal is to be recognized as a top Endurance MTB Racer and to compete at the Cape Epic in South Africa, a 900Km stage race that is the pinnacle of Endurance MTB Racing.
Coach Brian: I love this enthusiasm, it’s absolutely contagious!
When Kevin and I talk about his long-term goals we inevitably discuss the importance of being “in-love” with the process.
That is one thing that keeps Kevin making performance gains, he loves the process of training and being the best athlete he can be, despite having a very demanding job and plenty of family commitments.
The road to Leadville 2018 is not all that different than Marathon Nationals or even the Cape Epic, we will do our homework and dedicate ourselves to the process to ensure Kevin is as successful as possible.
This goes beyond training and encompasses, recovery techniques, nutrition, equipment selection, posture/bike-fit, and even how he rides his bicycle. We will analyze everything we can to ensure he is prepared for any goal he ‘inks’ to the calendar!
Throughout the training process Kevin had fun and took some time to enjoy all the beauty that nature offers, this is just one view from one of his many training rides. Photo Credit: Kevin Summers.
Question #4: Describe your favorite workout in your training program, also, please share a ‘knowledge-bomb’ you have learned while training with Big Wheel Coaching.
KS: Recently, we've been playing with polarized training, which are incredibly hard, maximal, efforts followed by very light riding, and I have really been enjoying them!
These max-efforts seem to add some sharpness, and the capacity to accelerate, to my steady-state endurance fitness. I feel like this one workout is really helping my fitness get to a whole new level.
Knowledge Bomb: Believe in yourself!
You hear the adage "trust the process”, so much these days, but I like to take it a step further by saying, “don't rush the process!”
So, dream big, outline some goals, trust the process, and be sure to respect the process. Oh, and don’t forget to "clock in” when it's time to work!
Coach Brian: Kevin should be a motivational speaker! I am sure that is what everyone who reads this will think, I sure do!
Endurance Athletics, and so much we do in life, require a commitment to process that can sometimes be tedious, but this dedication makes monumental gains possible.
Kevin put it so aptly, trust the process, have a respect for the work it requires, and you will inevitably reap incredible performances like those he experienced at Leadville and Barn Burner!
Not one to slow down, Kevin followed up his Barn Burner performance with a great ride at the Red Rock Canyon TT earlier this Fall. Photo Credit: Kevin Summers.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading about Kevin Summers Endurance MTB success and it has inspired you to look at the 2018 calendar to mark down a few goals of your own.
Whether you are racing, training to achieve your best fitness, or planning an assault on an epic event, everyone can perform to their highest level by incorporating specified training and developing an appreciation for “the process” of preparation.
At Big Wheel Coaching, it is our passion to help Athletes, at every level, develop their fitness and ensure their preparation leads to the best performances possible.
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian & Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching