Todd Murray, 24-time Leadville Trail 100 MTB finisher and a detective with the Colorado Springs Police Department, is racing the Austin Rattler MTB for the first time on March 31. His racing career began with his first triathlon in 1984, and he’s competed in bike, triathlon or running events ever since. He currently rides with the ProCycling team in Colorado Springs, and he’s set to achieve a quarter century of Leadville finishes this summer.
Another milestone for Todd includes racing with his daughter Lauren, who chose the Austin Rattler as her first ever mountain bike event. A recent Colorado State University graduate with a biomedical science degree, Lauren’s love of cycling began when she rode with the CSU Triathlon Club. She started road racing, cyclocross and gravel grinding this past year.
Why did you decide to race the Austin Rattler this year?
Todd: I’m racing Austin this year for several reasons:
1. My buddy Ken West has been doing the race for several years now and always comes back to Colorado saying I should join him next year. I wanted to add a new event to the 2018 schedule, and Austin seemed like the best choice.
2. Ken always seems to ride fast enough at Austin to place him in a better corral than what I get from finishing Leadville, so I would also like to try to improve my corral position with a fast Austin finish time.
3. My daughter Lauren decided to try a mountain bike race and picked Austin as her first one! She has been doing some triathlon, cyclocross and gravel racing but never a mountain bike race. To be there for her first mountain bike race will be very special.
Lauren: I decided to race Austin Rattler this year because every year my dad and I pick a special event to train for and do together. Last year, we went out to Kansas and did the Dirty Kanza (he did the 200 and I did the 100). This year I wanted to branch out into the world of mountain biking, and we both think the Austin Rattler is the perfect opportunity.
What are you most looking forward to about the race?
Lauren: Seeing how hard I can push myself and what I am capable of on a mountain bike. I am really excited to be trying something new, especially with my dad.
Todd: I am most looking forward to racing a new event with my daughter and my buddy Ken. The course looks like a fast and fun one. The mountain biking community is such a fun group of people, and meeting new riders is always fun too.
Lauren, this is your dad’s 25th year racing the Leadville Trail 100 MTB. How has he inspired you through the years? What are your fondest memories of watching him race?
Lauren: I grew up watching my dad in the Leadville Trail 100, and he is one of my greatest inspirations. He has shown me that you can do anything you set your mind to. I am constantly amazed by his ability to dig deep and push himself, as well as his dedication and motivation in training. My fondest memories of watching him race are his famous wheelies along the red carpet at the finish line, and I love the excitement because every year he gets close to beating his personal record!
Todd, you’ve been riding the LT100 since it began and finished almost every one in sub-9 hours. What’s the key to your consistency?
Todd: It certainly helps that I absolutely love training for and racing the LT100 each year. I’ve been fortunate over the years to be healthy enough and fit enough to do the race each year. I also try to exercise year-round to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. I don’t ride my bike all year as I enjoy mixing in some running during the winter months. I think for the past 24 years shortly after the race I’ve told my wife, “I think I can go faster next year!”
Which year was your most challenging LT100 MTB finish and why?
Todd: Some of the really challenging years at Leadville included ones where we started in the rain. That makes for a long, tough day. I remember one race climbing up to the Columbine Mine in a storm with rain, hail and sleet. But the most challenging race I remember was in 1996 when my dad and I rode the race together. Our goal was to get my dad to finish in under the 12-hour cutoff. I carried our spare tubes, tools and even a spare tire just in case either of us needed one.
At 11 hours into the race I was slightly ahead of my dad after descending the single track off of Hagerman Pass Road on the Colorado Trail at Busk Creek to the road around Turquoise Lake (the old course). There was a volunteer at the junction, and I asked him how much time would it take to get to the finish line from there. He told me that he had just stopped telling people that they could make it since it would take a little over an hour. I really wanted to finish the race under 12 hours and realized that it was not going to happen for my dad that day. I asked the volunteer to relay the message to my dad that I had gone ahead and I would see him at the finish line.
I rode as hard as I could, riding scared that I might not finish in under 12 hours. Along the way I came across a rider that had encountered a mechanical problem. and I asked him if he needed help. He told me that the only way I could help him was if I had a spare tire. I’m sure he didn’t expect anyone to be carrying one, but I told him he was in luck and gave him the spare I had been carrying. I went on to finish in 11:55, just barely making the 12-hour limit. My dad finished that day in 12:46.
What advice do you have for people trying to qualify for Leadville at the Austin Rattler?
Todd: Qualifying for Leadville has certainly become harder than it used to be. For those riders trying to qualify at Austin I think the timing of when the race is held is perfect for Leadville as it allows riders to target two different races to do well at in the same year. It is often difficult to “peak” twice in one year, but with Austin in March and Leadville in August, there is enough time between the two events to do extremely well at both races.
Those racers looking to qualify at Austin should be confident that their training has prepared them for race day properly. They should execute their race similar to their training days. Nutrition and hydration should be what worked for them during training, although if things are not working for them during the race they should have a “plan B” just in case. Being lucky is also a plus, and I like the definition of luck as “when preparation meets opportunity.”
What’s the difference in your strategies for racing Leadville and racing Austin?
Todd: My strategy for racing at Austin will be very similar to racing at Leadville. I have had very good luck with racing with a negative split strategy — that is, racing the second half of the race slightly faster than the first half. It is easy to go out way too fast but harder to go out at a pace that you can hold throughout the race and then finish strong. When done properly, the negative split race strategy usually produces a very good result.
Lauren, Austin is your first mountain bike race, though you have a lot of triathlon and cyclocross experience. How are you going to utilize your prior racing experience at Austin?
Lauren: Even though this is my first mountain bike race, racing in general has many common themes. My goal in any race is always to try my best and to have fun while doing it. I plan on applying my previous racing experience at Austin by knowing how to pace myself, what my body needs nutrition wise, and how much my body is capable of.
What advice do you have for roadies who are thinking of trying mountain biking?
Lauren: They should just get out there and have fun. If I can do it any one can! It is a great way to cross train and still be on the bike. Between road riding, cyclocross, and mountain biking I am never bored because the disciplines are so different. I am fortunate enough to have people to train with that are patient with me and help me improve my bike handling skills.
Is there anything else either of you would like to discuss about your 2018 season?
Todd: Hopefully 2018 will be a fun year for my family and me. We have a couple of family trips planned, and our “epic” trip might include a double crossing of the Grand Canyon with a R2R2R hike. To be able to do fun activities with my family and friends is really rewarding, and I am so lucky my family enjoys doing the same activities I love to do.
Have questions for Todd and Lauren? Ask them in person at the Austin Rattler MTB on March 31.