Thursday, July 18

The Leadville Saga: Bust or Leadville

Yesterday I sort of had my low moment.  At least I hope this has been my low moment.  My self-talk has been pretty negative despite encouragement from those around me.  Fat, lazy, unfocused, old, out-of-shape…that’s what I’ve been calling everyone around me.  And for some reason they feel the need to tell me I got this, and that I can do this, and that they have faith in me.  I think they misunderstood and thought I was talking about myself when I was really just talking to myself.

Wait, no!  I was talking about myself.  Anyway, I guess it hit me that the race will be three weeks from Saturday and we’ll be heading back to Colorado a week before that.  Two weeks until we head west
I need to buck up.  I still haven’t found my Rollins/Corona Pass for this year.  I desperately need a big successful ride to convince me that I should still go to Leadville.  I have a couple of ideas for Saturday.  But nothing is jumping out at me as the be-all end-all “You got this!” kind of ride that my century from the plains to the Divide and back was this time last year.
I have to look inward, because outwardly I’m not getting the cues.  And I have to look back on my knowledge base, my experience, and past times of confidence.  How did I get to those places where I found the courage and determination to act?  I’ve pulled off some ambitious adventures in my life.
Back in the early ‘90s when my primary focus was hiking and just being in the woods I relied on survival literature to school me on moving through the environment.  Two of those books I still have in my library.  From the first, the US Army Survival Handbook (Dept of the Army) I gleaned this:
"Having survivor skills is important; having the will to survive is essential."
And this:
"Each soldier must train himself not to be overcome by his fears."
An older book in my library, one of the oldest at this point in my life, is Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen.  While the book is chock full of techniques for survival it also touches on the softer skills.  Olsen writes:
"Life on a higher plane than comfort and ease may seem strange in our culture, but it is an important quality of men who survive."
When I returned home last year from Leadville with my helmet in my hands I found a copy of Real Winners Don't Quit by Joe Bowen on my doorstep.  My parents had sent the book to me.  The irony as not lost on me.  I consumed the book.  In it Joe writes about meeting a man far from home that was originally from Kentucky.  Meeting Joe inspired him for a return visit and he begged Joe to come along, taking a hiatus from his 14,000 mile bike trip.  Joe declined the offer, but offered this bit of advice at the end of the chapter:

"Stick with your plan.  I was afraid that if I went back to Kentucky I would be tempted to end the bicycle trip."
That seems to apply to me this past year.  While the life changes we’ve made have been huge—and somehow more important and relevant to the bigger picture—the move has also threatened my success on August 10th.
Joe saw this inscription on a building in Sacramento, California:  "SEND ME MEN TO MATCH MY MOUNTAINS.How easily it is to romanticize something like that.  So I will.  It’s my new favorite quote.  I easily found its origins with a quick google search.  I'm not crazy about the context, but I like the line.  In my interpretation it has more noble connotations.
Recently I read Eat, Sleep, Ride by Paul Howard which chronicled his completion of the Tour Divide.  As he closed in on the goal he mused about the implications of finishing:
"Making it to Antelope Wells, I conjectured, meant I was now so at ease with my phobia of actually completing tasks (just ask my wife) that I could henceforth avoid undertaking anything more challenging than getting up in the morning."
I can easily relate to that.  I am a chronic procrastinator and non-finisher.
Then I have this clinical little book called Altitude Illness: Prevention and Treatment by Stephen Bezruchka, MD.  I picked it up in the late ‘90s in the gift shop at Jenny Lake in the Tetons.  My friend and I had been shut down in our attempts to climb a big Western mountain by the effects of altitude.  As we slunk out of Jackson Hole I picked up this book.  Bezruchka writes:
"The heights are to be savored, but it is easy to get sick there too."
And then there is this gem later on:
"Those coming from sea level to ski race mountain bikes in Colorado or Utah might consider spending the night in Denver Leadville."
Freddie Mercury simply sang: "I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike"
Robert Hurst makes a curious statement in The Cyclists Manifesto:
"The bicyclist will not scale freedom's heights in a herd, however.  Freedom belongs to the solitary mountain cat, not the skittish herd of deer.  Be a mountain cat."
Tell that to the thousands of people that will be lined up in downtown Leadville come August 10th.  We will be a skittish herd of deer attempting to scale freedom’s heights.  On bicycles.
I’m just getting into the book Heft on Wheels by Mark Magnuson.  The former fatter cyclist writes:
"Cyclists are...always praising each other’s feats and encouraging each other to dig deep inside and find the thing that makes us work harder and care more and tune in to the frequency that makes us strong and happy and confident."
And finally, the man who knows, the man who yelled at me to get back on my bike just before the sickest, steepest, loosest part of Columbine Mine…Ken Chlouber:
"You're better than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can."
One late addition is this quote my wife texted to me this morning:
“Fear is a friend who’s misunderstood.”
Good ole John Mayer…



  1. I think it's easy to beat ourselves up and a lot more difficult to believe what others are telling us - even those who know we are actually capable of getting the task done. I don't have any wise words to share, honestly, but the self-defeating talk is definitely not going to help, so hopefully you can find that glimmer inside, get in a good ride that makes you feel confident, and know that you can totally conquer Leadville! :O)