Riding Against the Odds: Training for Leadville 100 and Recovering from a TBI

I am not a lifelong athlete. I don’t have athletic DNA. I’m 55 years old, live at sea level in a state whose biggest climbs are the overpasses and I’m 6’2/ 190 pounds. I realize this is not the ideal scenario for racing mountain bikes in the Rockies. I’m just a guy off the couch who believes you can achieve remarkable things if you truly believe in yourself, surround yourself with the right people and commit to the goal.

Sounds really inspiring, right? Well on February 18, 2023, while pre-running an XC course, I misjudged a feature on the course and found myself on the ground in tremendous back pain, unable to get up on my own. I couldn’t help but think of the potential permanent damage. I could wiggle my toes and my fingers so I figured I was okay but the look on the face of my riding buddy, Joe Frost, was less than comforting. The paramedics got me out of the woods and rushed me to the trauma unit at my local hospital. I had broken 4 vertebrae, 6 broken ribs, damaged both shoulders and had quite a bit of soft tissue damage. That was the end of the season for me.

After a long recovery and some time off, I was back on the bike last fall. Joe and I had planned to race the Breck Epic in ’22 but Joe came down with Covid the week before the race and couldn’t compete so we decided to set our sights on the Leadville Trail 100 MTB in 2024. I was looking for ways to be more competitive, be healthier and more fit. In October I visited the Aviv Clinic for healthy aging. Outside of Dubai and Israel, the only other location happened to be close to home in central Florida. The initial visit with the team is free so I thought I would see what they had to say. I was convinced, after my initial visit that they had something unique to offer. During my pre-assessment, they found a brain injury, “diminished uptake to my right parietal lobes that was moderately severe”. I didn’t know exactly want that meant but it didn’t sound good. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause many different problems and there isn’t always an easy solution. Although there is no way to know for sure, we think that this injury likely came from the 2/23 crash.

My treatments began in November. I was scheduled to spend 2 hours a day for the next 12 weeks in hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HOT) to generate stem cell growth that would repair the damaged blood flow in my brain. Along with the HOT, they provided physical therapy, a physiologist, dietitians and a neuropsychologist all dedicated to improving my overall health. While in the middle of all this, the registration deadline for the Leadville 100 was fast approaching. Joe and I looked at all of the options for registrations and decided that the best option, by far, was the coaching guaranteed entry. Like many of you, Joe and I reached out to Ryan Krol at Boundless Coaching and he was on the phone within minutes. Ryan was extremely helpful and after just a few minutes with him, we committed to the program. Ryan said he had the perfect coach for Joe and I. This sounded like something he would say to everyone but when I had my first call with Kim Moritz in December, it really did seem like a perfect fit. Joe and I have had coaches before that promised the world and under delivered so we were skeptical. Either way, we were in and we were racing the Leadville Trail 100 MTB in August of 2024!

I finished my “official” Aviv therapy in February and I have seen tremendous improvements physically but more importantly, a 15% increase in blood flow to the parts of my brain that were injured. That is something to be thankful for! I still work with the team at the Aviv clinic and they will continue to monitor my progress for another 6 months. As my physical therapist said, “If you race mountain bikes, you’re going to break things”. I think he’s right and I would encourage everyone to take head injuries seriously.

So the race seems like it is right around the corner. When Kim took me on as one of her athletes, we discussed how hard it is going to be for me to get this buckle. I committed to do what she asked of me and she committed to giving me the best shot possible at completing the race in less than 12 hours. I started with an FTP of 215. I’m sharing this so you know not everyone is pushing 4w/kg and there are “normal” people trying to accomplish crazy things! Today, at the end of March, my FTP is 236. I believe I need to be 185lbs and have an FTP of 255 to have a shot. Kim has been closely monitoring my diet at a macro level and the improvements have been incredible. My FTP continues to climb and the weight continues to fall off. I’m starting to believe she really knows what she is doing and the buckle seems like a much more realistic goal today than it did 3 months ago! More importantly, we have become good friends and we talk or text frequently about training and getting the work in around a very hectic lifestyle. Kim has far exceeded my expectations so far, we just have to get to the finish line!

I signed up for Boundless Coaching solely because it guaranteed my entry for Leadville. Today I realize what a difference a knowledgeable, experienced and engaging coach can have when stretching for a seemingly impossible goal. When the sunsets August 10th, I will know I gave it all I had and that I had the best team supporting me. See you on the starting line!