Ten years ago, Kevin Martin started a holiday tradition–entering the lottery for the Leadville 100 MTB, a 100-mile trail race held every August through the mountains of Colorado. “I never got in. Every December I’d throw my name in the hat and not get it, and last January I was sitting in an airport and got the email that I was in. I thought, “Oh, crap, I either get on the horse or not. I wasn’t prepared at all, physically or mentally, to race.”
On Kevin’s birthday at end of January, there was a Peloton Bike in his living room. “My wife said “If you’re going to do this thing, you need to get on a bike,” said Kevin. “I was never on one prior to that day; I wasn’t really a cyclist and mostly just mountain-biked for fun. Most of my friends that are really big into cycling, they almost frown at people who spin for training. But I was struggling with how to prepare for this thing, and I decided to give it a try.”
Preparing for cycling at altitude takes a tremendous amount of work, and Kevin’s program began immediately. “I trained for 7 months on the Peloton bike, and I did all the Power Zone training rides and endurance rides, because a lot of them go 60 or 90 minutes. I got to a point where 90 minutes was about the least I would ride,” says Kevin, who’s done Peloton’s infamous two hour class multiple times. All in, Kevin completed 93 Peloton rides during his training program, including approximately 26 Power Zone Endurance and Power Zone Max rides, increasing his FTP (functional threshold power) from approximately 170 to 245 over the six months, in addition to training outdoors. “Building up leg strength and using those endurance rides was huge,” says Kevin. “It’s as much a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge.”
The Leadville starts at over 10,000 feet, which Kevin describes as “absolutely daunting for someone who lives and trains on the East Coast. The largest hill I could find within an hour of my home is like a bunny slope compared to the Rockies. It was nerve-racking and I had no idea whether I was fit enough.” On race day, surrounded by cyclists with Ironman tattoos on their calves and dozens of races under their belts, Kevin says, “you see those people, and it’s intimidating, but I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from turning that pedal over–not even a 10-mile climb 40 minutes in. You’ve trained so hard, you have to be positive. Mentally, while I’m out there, I give myself mini goals. Sometimes I had a 10 mile goal, sometimes I had a 1 mile goal, and I just chipped away at it. It was ten 10-mile races, and I just got through them one at a time.”
11 hours and 28 minutes later, 32 minutes ahead of the 12 hour cutoff time, Kevin Martin crossed the finish line.
“It’s hard to explain what it feels like to finish,” says Kevin. “It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had–the sense of accomplishment, that you’ve set this goal before that you think is really insurmountable no matter how hard you get after it, and to come out the other side having finished it, it was just a huge sense of accomplishment.” Having spent a few weeks sharing his victory with his family and friends (and his Peloton with his wife, who also rides) Kevin is already back on the bike preparing for races in the spring. “I’m just stubborn. No matter how hard it gets, I just keep pedaling. If you stop moving, that’s when stuff gets in the way. No matter if it’s slow or fast, just keep on moving.”