Sunday, August 5

The Leadville Chronicles: Dig Deep

What once seemed impossible now seems human. What once was a dream will quickly become a cherished memory. The place I once longed to be is now between me and the horizon and coming up fast.

Some of the mystique has faded now that I've ridden a semi-comparable ride in a respectable time. There are definitely still some unknown elements left, but the challenge remains.

This week I'll be riding the 2012 Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race. My kids will be back in town, my in-laws will be in to cheer me on and to help run SAG, and my lovely wife, my dearest friend, will be with me to share the experience. Truly I could not have gotten to this point without her support and encouragement. My path has converged with hers for the past thirteen years and we've been trekking along loving the same journey ever since.

Ironically, the day after I rode near to Corona Pass we went to a screening of Mike Dion's new film Reveal the Path at the Denver Film Society on Colfax. It's hard for me to put into words how the film made me feel.

As I've matured I've struggled to resist the urges to run off alone to explore the world. Too often in the past I've left my family at home so I could trod down some side path, taking away precious energy and resources from the real path I had committed myself to traveling.

It's been a hard balance all along, because I've desperately wanted to live a life of wandering and exploring, but I could never resist the urge to settle and raise a family either.

After Leadville I want to settle myself, but at the same time I have the strong urge to keep my training and fitness momentum going and do some other "easier" events and shoot for the Colorado Trail Race next summer.

Corona gave me confidence and I don't want to lose it. I have the distinct feeling Leadville is going to give me an even bigger boost. I foresee the urge to hold onto that success growing out of control.

I need tangible physical goals to keep me motivated. Motivated in general, and specifically motivated to stay healthy and in shape, and to keep my ambition up. For me this drive to prove myself is a survival instinct.

I have dug deep to get to this place. My path behind me is deeply rutted from my efforts. This section of The Path is beautiful and sublime. I want it to go on forever and I am loathe to let it pass.

There were so many great things about Reveal the Path. Bikes were the vehicles, but not the true focus. The film is about discovery, exploration, appreciation for strange places, and the realization that places are only strange because they are unfamiliar to US, and that if we go and spend time in some faraway land it will cease to be strange and it's peoples will become more human to us.

The film explained my own lifelong wanderlust, the desire to learn and to collect rich experiences. That is the only wealth I want to accumulate, the wealth of knowledge and familiarity with the wondrous and amazing.

Being 50 miles from home on a bike, near the Continental Divide, as a thunderstorm is brewing right over your! For me that was an amazingly rich experience, an experience that has crafted tools for me to use in future endeavors in my life. I don't want those tools to go unused. To me that would be a great tragedy.

And so, even before Leadville is a memory, I'm looking to the next adventure, great or small, to fill up my daydreams and life lists. I need something...

I've toyed with the idea of going back and summiting Kingston Peak, to make right the failed attempt. Someday, sooner or later, I will make that ride in strength.

I'd wanted to do a road century to the summit of Mount Evans as a training ride for Leadville, and I didn't get to do it. So that ride is still on my cycling bucket list.

In the spirit of my Guanella Pas tour last summer I wanted to tour to Stevens Gulch and summit Grays and Torrey's Peaks. Didn't have the time to do that this summer either. Nor did we go do the Mickelson Trail in Southern Dakota.

If you're a faithful reader here you know there is no paucity of ideas for bike rides along the Pavement's Edge. But I need more than just ideas for rides, I need purpose, I need a clear path to a concrete goal. Focus is hard for me. That's why I scheme and plan. That's why I look to some far peak and say: "I can go there!" and begin planning in my head how I can attain that height.


Ken Chlouber likes to holler "Dig deep!" to Leadville riders. It's a good mantra to have when you're buried in a long ride with many miles left to go. You've got to scrape out the get-go from the dregs of your soul.

Marcel Duchamp sketched his iconic "To have the apprentice in the sun" (English translation) in 1914. It's a line drawing of a cyclist beginning a steep grade.

Last year I sketched my take on Duchamp's drawing. Mine is a mountain biker, hunched over the handlebars as he begins a steep, rocky ascent. I called mine "to have the apprentice dig deep."

In honor of my Leadville attempt this year I had Alchemist Threadworks make two custom jersies with my drawing on the front. One's for me and one's for my father-in-law Tom.

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