The Leadville Trail 100 is known to its legion of fans and followers as the “race across the sky”.
And it’s easy to see why as the race starts at an elevation above 10,000’, includes five major climbs, and tops out at a breath-taking 12,500’ of elevation at it’s highest-point.
It’s an event that has captivated Kevin Summers attention so much so that he has made Leadville an annual pilgrimage for the past few years.
At Leadville, the ‘benchmark’ is completing the entire 100-mile race distance in under 9hrs. This feat is a substantial accomplishment and riders are rewarded with a Colorado-sized belt-buckle when they tackle this feat.
As a previous sub-9hr finisher, Kevin Summers had all intentions to repeat and better his performance at this years Leadville Trail 100.
But this year there was an extra set of circumstances that required his immediate attention and capitalized a portion of his training time, namely the birth of his beautiful baby girl, Brooke Summers, just six-weeks before Leadville.
Tackling this uncharted territory of fatherhood and being as physically prepared as possible, without sacrificing family-time, became an obsession for Kevin and Coach Brian.
Together, and with the amazing support of new-Mom Rhiannon Summers, Kevin and Coach Brian went to work to cut-time out of training without sacrificing quality or preparation.
Did it work? Read on to find out as we caught up with Kevin Summers following his Leadville performance to talk training and the “race across the sky”. Enjoy!
Primary Sport/Discipline: Endurance MTB
Average Hours of Training Per Week: 12-15hrs.
Upcoming Goals: Enjoying Daddy Time!
Kevin Summers poses for a post-race photo with the pride and knowledge the accomplished his major goal of the 2018 season.Photo Credit: Century Link
Question #1: Congratulations on an incredible ride at the Leadville Trail 100, Kevin! As your annual pilgrimage, this event looms large on your calendar every year, what made this years’ race special and challenging?
Kevin Summers:This year was a special one for me, as my wife and I welcomed our daughter Brooke into the world on July 5th.
She is a beautiful ray of sunshine in our world and brings us tremendous joy!
With Leadville being just shy of 6 weeks after her birth I was looking forward to crossing the line to see my wife and daughter.
What was challenging about it? I would have to say the lack of a ‘normal’ build-up for the event from a training perspective made things very challenging.
Leadville is a special event for me and I build my whole year around it, so I know the sensations and how it feels when I am, “going good”.
This year with the sleepless nights that come with a newborn as well as some other challenges, I was not as sure where my fitness was or how my body would respond to the brutally tough conditions of Leadville.
This loomed heavy in the back of my mind.
Coaches Perspective/Coach Brian: I am so proud of Kevin for his performance at Leadville this year, he “left it all out on course”, no doubt about it.
Leading into the race, he and I talked openly and honestly about his apprehension as well as his concern about the unorthodox build-up of his fitness.
Together we went through the data, reviewed the numbers and showed him how despite the lack of “big-volume” training that characterized previous years, he had much stronger power outputs at critical durations like 3min., 5min., 10min., & 20min.
It was important to go over these things because Kevin is such a mentally tough Athlete, he is a guy that gets everything out of himself.
I wanted him to have full faith on confidence that he had done the work to be successful, to know that the work looked different this year, but different did not mean worse, just because it was not the same as previous successful attempts at Leadville.
This confidence showed in his effort, output, and confidence on race-day, he gave his absolute best and left no doubt that he brought his “a-game”.
The Leadville Trail 100 features a highly demanding course not for the faint of heart. It is a hard race for so many reasons, not the least of which is the altitude!Photo Credit: Century Link
Question #2: As a new father with a beautiful baby girl that is only six-weeks old, your training leading into this edition of Leadville was different. Can you compare your preparation before you were a father to now? How did you achieve such great success despite the added demands of fatherhood?
KS:Oh man was it different…!
In the past, Coach B and I would always target the Dirty Kanza 200 as a ‘tune-up’ for Leadville and way to build my base fitness as well as get some intensity deep into a big ride.
I would do long rides reaching 11-12 hours on a Saturday with intervals STARTING at hour 10 and then Sunday doing more of a sustained endurance ride averaging about 5-6 hours.
That is what it took to be ready for the World’s Greatest Gravel Race, Dirty Kanza, and it worked, I had my best performances every year with this training. I was both fit and confident!
This year was a whole lot different… I would say that it was WAY different.
Come to think of it, my longest rides were only 5.5 hours maybe…
What really paid dividends was focusing more on XC racing as well as Endurance MTB racing, early in the year.
In the late winter and spring, I made many trips to California to race the US Cup MTB Circuit.
Where it got interesting was when Coach B wanted me to use the US Cup Endurance MTB races as ‘fitness builders’.
I would go to California where he and I would go out for a 5-6 hour ride of no less than 100 miles that included a substantial "Saturday hammer session” (AKA a local race-paced group ride) in the middle of the ride.
Then after a whole lot of proper recovery, I would go race the very next day…
Ask any "racer" and that kind of prescription can be the ‘kiss of death’.
Well, after the Saturday “turn yourself inside out ride” that finished with 3-hours in the SoCal Hills, I pulled-off a great podium performance and a solid placing at the Bonelli Park UCI Course.
To say the least my ”Stoke Meter" was off the charts!!!
Coach Brian: This year’s preparation for Leadville was quite different than years past for Kevin, to say the least.
Previously we would always have to build insane amounts of endurance fitness to prepare for the Dirty Kanza 200. Kevin was excellent at this, but with his full-time work commitments and busy personal schedule this made recovery difficult.
The issue with that training model was that it left little room to emphasize intensity.
This year, without Dirty Kanza, we could focus on High Intensity Interval Training and building Kevin’s anaerobic capacity.
This looked and felt different to Kevin, but I knew it would pay dividends for him at Leadville.
This was also immensely helpful as I knew that his family demands would increase 10-fold in the final weeks of the pregnancy as well as once Baby Brooke was born.
We took that calculated risk and it worked, Kevin fully committed to the process and trusted the plan, so it is great to see that it worked so well for him!
Crossing the finish line brings relief and jubilation if you have go Sub-9hrs at Leadville. Photo Credit: Century Link
Question #3: Outside of Leadville, what is one of your biggest cycling objectives for this season and what events are you most excited about?
KS:Honestly what’s been great this year is learning more balance.
I feel we as cyclists always think more is better… more miles… more intervals… more more more!
Learning to capitalize on each and every workout and trusting the process, not to mention not rushing the process, was my goal this year.
Note: This is WAY harder than it sounds!
It took me some time, but I even learned that it is “OK” to miss a workout or two!
We all have lives outside of two-wheels, and learning to balance my highly driven character with more and more family responsibilities has been one of my biggest objectives.
Coach B kept reminding me throughout the year that the ‘fitness’ is there, that I had depth from all my years of work, and that I could preform well.
I had to learn that the "hay is in the barn”, so to speak, then go out there ‘clock-in’ and do what I do!
Coach Brian: It was great to see Kevin embrace a different style of training this year. He continues to prove that an Athlete can innovate, reinvent themselves, and improve even after years of competition.
As much as we focused on numbers with Kevin, we worked really hard to develop his self-awareness as well. I wanted him to be able to know when he was ‘good’, but also when he needed rest.
This cannot be over-emphasized in it’s importance. Knowing yourself and what you need is critical to getting every ounce of energy out on race-day.
By working through this using the training data, but also discussing the sensations Kevin was experiencing, we could keep him on an upward fitness trend much longer than traditional models allow for.
This took extra communication and a new level of openness as well as some vulnerability, but it worked well and brought Kevin to a new level of Athleticism.
The road to glory at Leadville is a long one that demands every ounce of energy an Athlete has.Photo Credit: Century Link
Question #4: What is/are your favorite workout(s) in your training program? Also, please share a ‘knowledge-bomb’ you have learned while training with BWC.
KS:This is a hard one as there are so many that hurt so good!
Honestly though, my favorite would have to be kicking my self in the face on the Saturday "Shootout" road ride when I join the group on my MTB.
I do as many pulls on the front as I can to simulate the crazy intensity that is XC MTB race starts, then roll out for 2.5 hours of "Extra Credit”.
Note: I like to call this ‘extra credit’ throwing an extra nail in the coffin!
I feel that this workload gave me more race-simulation intensity and added more ‘depth’ to my fitness than Coach B and I thought it would.
As proof, after the first few XC races I became known as “Hole-Shot Summers” at the GoldState race series.
Knowledge Bomb… A few months back, Coach B and I were stoked about a friend of ours and fellow BWC Athlete’s great performance in a race. Jokingly, Coach B said, “Summers, text him and ask if he is “committed or involved”, he can do better!
The joke was all in good fun, but this quote rang heavy on my heart the next week.
Are you committed or involved? This is a hugely important question and a state of being in my world.
I have been using it ever since, in everything I do.
Being involved in something to me means, yeah you are doing it, but not giving it your 100% best effort.
You are showing up and going through the motions, maybe even ‘high-fiving’ your buddies and kissing babies along the way. Which is cool and all, but…
Are you doing everything you can to ensure you are successful?
Maybe you are following the plan, but are you getting the rest you need, is your diet on point, are you stretching every night?
Are you actually "really" doing a proper recovery ride or just going through the motions?
Being ‘committed’, to me, is giving everything you got in EVERY aspect of your life.
From the smallest things, like keeping your bike clean and maintained, to following the workouts and then communicating how you are feeling, taking the time to rest, recover, and stretch, getting proper nutrition to fuel your workouts and not some "Fad" diet that your buddies are doing.
Are you actually doing the needed recovery rides and not ramping-up your effort whenever an E-bike passes you.. Damn E-bikes!!!!!
But this notion of being “committed” can also bring success outside bike riding, in business and your personal life.
“Committed”, to me, means learning how to play “t-ball” before you get to the fun of the “big leagues”, being a pillar in your home and every single day doing everything you do from workouts, to business, and most importantly family time with everything you got.
So for that Knowledge-Bomb Coach B, I thank you.
Coach Brian: Wow, what more needs to be said? Clearly Kevin is committed!
“Committed or involved” is a simple question I ask myself whenever things get hard, challenging, or look daunting.
It is a great ‘gut-check’ saying that helps keep me on-track when it would be easier to relent.
It is a saying that can benefit Athletes in so many ways, but is not intended to be a ‘battle cry’ or way to inspire everyone to “harden-up”.
Instead it is a perspective that encourages us to demand the best from ourselves in all we do. It reminds us to give extra to the things in our lives that we are most passionate about, be it our relationships, family life, business, or sport.
The new edition to the Summers family, Baby Brooke Summers, in all her glory! She is a miracle and a blessing for parents Kevin and Rhiannon. Photo Credit: Rhiannon Summers
We hope you have enjoyed reading about Kevin Summers Leadville adventures and that his tenacity will inspire to give your very best in your journey toward success.
Whether you are just starting your cycling adventure or have been a committed Endurance Athlete for many years, a lot can be taken from the openness to learn that Kevin has as well as his drive to succeed in all aspects of his life.
It is a pleasure to work with so many Athletes like Kevin and share their athletic success with our BWC community, it’s our passion and focus!
Thank you for reading and be sure to always…
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian & Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching