Log In

Reset Password

Durango's Liza Hartlaub wins mountain bike race after suffering blood clots in her leg

Hartlaub won True Grit Epic NUE 50-mile open/pro women’s division
Liza Hartlaub stands on the top step of the podium after winning the True Grit Epic Mountain 50 NUE Open/Pro women's division. Hartlaub won the mountain bike race after suffering blood clots in her leg in 2023. (Courtesy Liza Hartlaub)

Doctors thought Liza Hartlaub would have to live with leg pain.

The Durango resident and avid mountain biker contracted COVID-19 in December 2022, but a few weeks later she began to feel some pain in her right leg behind her knee.

She went to the doctor but they thought it was sciatica because she’s an active person. Unfortunately, her leg worsened a month later. It became swollen and painful.

“Then I went to the ER and they sent me home with some blood thinners,” Hartlaub said. “But the problem was, it was a really big blood clot. It was like my entire thigh. It kind of scarred in there, so the blood thinners helped. I didn't form any more clots but I had to deal with that.”

Hartlaub said her leg would shut down at times after walking and riding her bike a little bit.

Fast forward over a year later, Hartlaub won the True Grit Epic mountain biking race in the 50 NUE open/pro women’s division in Santa Clara, Utah on March 16.

How was Hartlaub able to win this race for the first time after her blood clots? She didn’t give up.

Doctors told her that after taking the blood thinners, her leg should get better in six months. It didn’t.

Hartlaub went to the Mayo Clinic in May 2023 for a procedure, which was unsuccessful. The doctors told her to live with it.

She then went to a world-renowned doctor in Denver for treating blood clots and had a procedure in August. The doctor was able to open up the blood clot, which is what Hartlaub needed.

“It took about six weeks to recover from the procedure completely,” Hartlaub said. “I could get back on my bike within a week, which was awesome. It is pretty minimally invasive. But I started feeling good on the bike toward the end of last year.”

Hartlaub, 35, finished her True Grit Epic race in 3 hours, 57 minutes and 21 seconds. She averaged a 5:14 mile pace. Hartlaub was just over six minutes faster than the woman who finished in second place.

Although the race Hartlaub completed is listed as 50 miles, the True Grit website said the course has been changed over time based on racer feedback and therefore isn’t exactly 50 miles.

Hartlaub said the course was very technical with over 5,000 feet of climbing. There were slick rock sections and it was a bit sloppy from the rain, which added to the fun.

“I didn't have any expectations just because I didn't know where my leg was after I had three procedures on it to kind of get it back to normal as much as I could,” Hartlaub said. “So I wasn't sure how I would do. It was a nice surprise.”

Hartlaub almost didn’t make it to the race, though. She was camping above the race in Santa Clara in her camper van on a gravel road. It rained overnight.

Hartlaub then tried to leave in the morning for the race but got stuck as the tires on her camper van were caked with mud, blocking the only way out as other bike racers were also camping up there.

She tried calling AAA, but it wouldn’t help out of fear of getting its flatbed trucks stuck as well. Hartlaub finally found someone to pull her out and she was able to get to the starting line three minutes before the start.

Hartlaub is happy with how her leg feels, even though she doubts it will ever be 100% again. She’s looking forward to more mountain biking races and even the Iron Horse for the first time.


Reader Comments