Saturday, July 21, 2012

Leadville is a State of Mind

The Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mile Trail Race is a daunting mental and physical final exam.

A test with only two grades:



"Did Not Finish"....the capital letters "DNF" affixed to your name.

The founder of the the Leadville Series of races, Ken Chlouber, is a tough teacher.

And he doesn't grade on a curve.

Nor does he give you all day to finish.

You get 14 hours.

After 14 hours, you're free to cross the finish line.

But you will be disqualified.

I was almost the LAST qualified finisher.

But NOT last.

Finishing time:  13 hours, 51 minutes and 32 seconds.

Only 8 minutes to spare.

Missing that deadline would have meant for a long drive home from Leadville.

Heading back with no finisher's medal around my neck.

Just contemplating the "what-ifs" and wondering whether to face that monster again next year.

Nothing on the course came easy that day.

By mile 17, the nauseous stomach and self-doubt began knocking.

And never stopped.

At the mile-21 aid station, I grabbed some PBJs and watermelon slices despite the nauseousness.

I needed the fuel.

But the gag-reflex was the final arbiter of what would enter my stomach.

Must have been that blue-colored drink at the last aid station.

Damned power-drinks.

Twenty-nine miles to go.

The contrast of absolute beauty and searing pain were striking that day.

Especially at 12,000 feet.

There were the panoramic "Sound of Music" views...accompanied by relentless hills...

Hills meant to trash your quads.

Hills meant to demoralize.

Hills meant to crush your will.

Ball Mountain...I will never forgive you.

A fellow runner told me the contrasting beauty and pain was the "course's way of seducing you....

...while flipping her middle finger...right in your eye."

I couldn't have said it better.

By mile 34, there was a reckoning.

A reckoning that demanded I pull off the trail, puke it out, and DECIDE--and I mean REALLY DECIDE-- if I wanted to FINISH.

A reconciliation.

A reconciliation of the pain and months of training, with the reamining strength to finish what I started that day.

Training that included 3:30am start times running up and down stairs at Red Rocks Amphitheater.

Training that included multiple evolutions up Lookout Mountain Road with screws in my shoes so I could run in the snow and ice.

A reconciliation that I prayed would yield a ledger balance positive enough to endure.

To finish.

Even if it meant coming in last.

I knew finishing in 14 hours would be tough.

Because meeting the 14-hour deadline means you can't just walk.

You have to run.

Sometimes fast.

No easy A in this class.

That's how the course is designed.

Ken Chlouber, a former miner, started the Leadville Race Series beginning with the Leadville 100 in 1983 after the town lost 40% of it's population in 18 months after the molybdenum mine closed.

He wanted to make Leadville a destination.

He succeeded.

Because Leadville has become more than just a place.

It represents a state of attitude.

An attitude of people who have experienced hard times--at 10,200 feet.

A mentality that says "I WILL keep going...even when it hurts."

Especially when it hurts.

Ken's mantra is "you are better than you think you are, and can do more than you think you can."

That's Leadville.

I think everyone is running their own Leadville race in a metaphorical way.

Losing a job...but not giving up.

Losing a business...but not giving up.

Losing a loved one...but not giving up.

Even when it hurts.

ESPECIALLY when it hurts.

That's the Leadville Silver Rush 50.

That's Leadville.

I don't plan on running the Silver Rush 50 again.

My bucket list only needs ONE check mark in the "ultra-marathon" category thank you very much.

So last night I asked my wife if she would be interested in running the Leadville 10k together next Summer.

She didn't say yes...

But she didn't say no either.

Thus I am optimistic.

I mean, hey, the only thing better than doing something you love... doing something you love...with THOSE you love...right?

So perhaps...

...when we cross the Leadville 10k finish line next year...

We can stroll past the Leadville Trail 100 booth.

I hear they have still have a couple of open slots.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Inch by Inch

Comebacks are almost always measured in inches.

Overcoming an illness.

Overcoming a bankruptcy.

Overcoming a business failure.

Overcoming a divorce.

Overcoming an addiction.

Overcoming an injury--while training for that big race.

These are recoveries that are seldom quick.

And never easy.

Brains and talent don't speed up the process.

Neither does hard work and dogged persistence.

They keep the process from stopping...or falling backwards.

Inch by inch.

I heard an interview with Jack Canfield, one of the authors of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, discuss how he and his business partner kept pressing on with their Chicken Soup for the Soul book despite being rejected by over 140 publishers.

One Hundred and Forty.

He said that he and his partner promised each other to do five tasks (no matter how small) each day to reach their goal of writing and publishing their work.

He likened the process to cutting down a large redwood tree.  He said that the tallest redwood tree will fall to the smallest knife if that knife hacks a little bit away at the tree EACH DAY.

Each day.

In other words...inch by inch.

When trying to achieve a goal, we often question if we have the brains, the talent, or the time to achieve the goal we seek.  We look at the size of that metaphorical redwood tree Jack Canfield speaks about and become discouraged.

And stop.

Or never even start.

Perhaps we should stop focusing on the the size of the tree.

And the size of our axe.

And focus on our DIRECTION...forward.

Towards our goal.

Even if it's inch by inch.