Before I get into the why, for those who don’t know, I’ll briefly describe Leadville. Leadville, Colorado is the highest incorporated city in the United States. The primary industry was mining until the early 1980’s when the last operating mine was shut down. Sometime after that a former miner, named Ken Chlouber, decided to establish the Leadville 100 Trail Run ultra marathon race to attract people to the area to spur the local economy.
Following that success a mountain biking race was added in 1994. Since that time this race has come represent the ultimate endurance mountain biking event. Some of cycling’s greatest (or most infamous) champions have participated including Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, and Floyd Landis. Two of them beaten by then-perennial winner Dave Wiens. Each year they, along with about 1,500 other riders, take to the 10,200 feet of elevation in Colorado to ride over 100 miles (mostly) on dirt.
I first learned about Leadville sometime during the summer of 2014 before the race which is typically the second or third Saturday in August (this year the 15th). At first my ambition was simply to add the route to my ride bucket list to experience the climbs, views and mountains of this amazing representation of extremes.
The more I learned about the race itself, however, the more intrigued I became; the out & back format providing an interaction with the top racers, the community of volunteers that support the ride with incredible enthusiasm, the inspirational words of founder Ken Chlouber, “dig deep!” and “you are better than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can!”, the amazing stories from the vast range of participants, and on and on.
Then one day in November I was on a great day trip with a couple of friends and just before we set out on the trail my friend, for the first time I’m aware, spoke of his late wife and how he often thinks of her when out like this. It was that moment I committed myself to ride this race to honor her memory. For him, for their girls, for her family, for all affected by lung cancer, and for me.