Meet Austin Rattler Coach & Competitor Marvin Sandoval

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Marvin Sandoval at the 2018 Austin Rattler MTB.

What’s better than biking 100K? Running 66K the next day. That’s the appeal for Coach Marvin Sandoval, 2019 Austin Rattler King of the Ranch competitor, 7-time Leadman finisher, 9-time Stages Cycling Leadville Trail 100 MTB finisher and owner/coach at LeadFeet Endurance. We talked with Marvin about his incredible racing history, coaching experience and how he continues to overcome injuries and push himself to the limit year after year.

You have quite the impressive racing resume. Tell us a bit about how you got started and how your racing has evolved over time.
In 2008, I happened to drive by the Leadville Trail 100 MTB finish line, and for some reason I decided to stop and check it out. I was born and raised in Leadville, but was never a part of the Leadville Race Series. I had no interest in racing, and I didn’t even own a bike. I walked up to the finish and saw a Leadville local that I knew cross the finish line in a time of 8:58. I thought to myself, “if he can do it so can I.”

In 2009, I signed up for the race and bought a hardtail bike for $2000. I rolled across the finish line in 8:57. I was hooked.

Marvin after completing one of five required Leadman events.

In 2011, a friend of mine coaxed me into signing up for Leadman. That was an epic year. Not ever really being a runner, let alone an ultra runner, I really had to dig deep to finish the Leadville Trail 100 Run presented by La Sportiva in a time of 29:41. I truly thought I was going to die.

During the race, all I focused on was moving forward with intention and finishing no matter what my body threw at me to try and make me stop. It was moments, minutes, hours, days and even weeks after that my body felt like it was just going to shut down — its way of telling me to not ever do that again. My wife, Lisa, pleaded with me to never put my body through that again. Not sure why, but I was determined to do it again but with more strategic training. I was curious to see what could happen if I went into it a bit more physically prepared.

What do you enjoy most about racing the Austin Rattler King of the Ranch?
It’s the kickoff of the new season. It gives me a good chance to ride on some dirt and see where I am physically at the start of the season. The Austin Rattler has always been one of my favorites because it’s a very well run event and gives me the opportunity to reunite with fellow racers that I see year in and year out. The wildflowers have always been exceptional too!

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s race?
Youphoria always put on a great race. I’m excited to experience the new course. It’s been a tough winter in Leadville, so running and riding in dirt seems really awesome right now!

Marvin winning 1st place in the 2018 Austin Rattler King of the Ranch competition.

What’s your strategy for taking on the new course?
Don’t hold anything back on the bike, and don’t hold anything back on the run! I used to put a lot of emphasis on the specific course and elevation. I would overthink it, which would stress me out. I’m excited to ride something new and experience some of the unknown. When in doubt, pedal it out. Run if I can and walk if I must, but no matter what, move forward with intention.

How do you do endurance bike and run races back-to-back with minimal recovery time?
I try not to think about the run the next day when I am biking. I don’t want to hold back. As soon as I finish the bike, it’s time to hydrate and try to take in quality nutrition for the next day. The start of the run is always tough. Halfway through, everyone is hurting so the playing field is level again.

How do you make the transition from fat biking in Leadville to mountain biking in Austin this early in the season? How does your winter racing benefit your summer racing and vice versa?
Fat biking is a high tension workout that strengthens the legs and creates power for the upcoming summer season. I try not to take fat biking too seriously and just have fun on the snow. I get in enough training in the winter to do well on the winter races. This gives me a great base to jumpstart my summer training season.

You’ve dealt with some substantial injuries and surgeries over the years. Can you tell us a little about that? How were you able to overcome those setbacks and get back to racing at such a high level?
Injuries really stress me out! The reason why I never considered myself a runner is because I sustained a significant knee injury as a high school wrestler. Through biking, my knee seemed to strengthen. I started running and fell in love with the sport. Even though my knee always hurt when I ran and progressively got worse, it was always worth it.

Two years ago I had a femoral osteotomy and meniscus removal. This was an alternative to a knee replacement. I believe going into surgery physically fit expedited my recovery. I set high goals and expectations for myself, which tends to help me push limits. Setbacks seem to be huge motivators for me. The harder something is, the more I want it. The doctor said it would be good for 5 to 10 years, although my high activity may reduce the lifespan significantly. 

Early last week, something happened to my knee when I was walking down the stairs. It is scary because I really want to continue to compete. I hate the thought of an injury becoming my limiting factor and potentially keeping me from doing what I enjoy.

How did you get into coaching and what services do you offer? What do you find most rewarding about coaching your clients?
My background in exercise science coupled with my own endurance journey provided the foundation to start coaching. I came from finishing in the back of the pack to finishing towards the front. I accomplished this by taking a science-based approach to my own training. Training with intention made a huge difference.  I eventually had a coach of my own and learned how impactful they could be be. Someone then approached me at one point and asked if I would be willing to coach them and share the secrets of my success. I was excited to share my experience I have had over the years in both biking and running. I started to do more research, took some classes and became a certified coach.

I offer various biking and running coaching programs from basic to very comprehensive. I coach athletes from marathon training all the way through Leadman. I feel that athletes that I coach for Leadville race events get a huge bonus because of my first-hand experience. Additionally, since I live in Leadville, another bonus is doing on-course training with my athletes. I really enjoy working with athletes and watching them grow physically and mentally. Come race day, the celebration of all of the hard work and dedication comes to fruition as they cross the finish line!

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your upcoming race season?
I am constantly seeking new experiences and challenges. This year in addition to Leadman, I will be competing in the Tahoe 200 as well as burro racing! I will also be going for my 1000-mile buckle for the LT100 MTB and my 8th Leadman finish.

Watching the finishers back in 2008, I never imagined that I would be competing in these races, let alone ending up a Leadman winner. I’m excited to see what else pushing my limits will do.

Want to meet Coach Marvin in person? Attend our Austin Rattler pre-ride followed by a Q&A on Friday, April 12 starting at noon at Reveille Peak Ranch. Or, you can try your hand at competing against him in this year’s Austin Rattler MTB (April 13), Austin Rattler Run (April 14) and/or Austin Rattler King & Queen of the Ranch. All race registrations are still open!

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