Thursday, August 27, 2015


I was scared. I feared I had done something terribly wrong. Not a "was that donation of an old cost worth $250 or $50, and is the IRS going to catch me?"  This was shaking me to my core as a person

I believe in helping others, as much as possible. I'm not so noble as to live as an ascetic monk and give away all my stuff (I like my stuff) but I always hope that when a call came I could do my best to help. 

During the 2015 Leadville 100 I passed a couple riders in trouble on Powerline. I was in a bit of hurt myself, but I was moving  forward. I called out to some, others I just rolled past. Sometimes people don't want you to say anything.  They are in their own personal hell of bonking and cramping and feeling queasy. I have been that guy (more than I would like) and truly, not having to say, "I'm ok" is a blessing. 

At mountain bike races, there are some basic rules.  

  1. Help people who need it.  Racers are the first responders.  
  2. Don't litter 
  3. Be nice 
  4. Don't quit  
Rule 1 basically trumps all the others.

Sunday morning, I found out a man named Scott Ellis riding about my pace had died of a heart attack on the Powerline climb. 

I was immediately paralyzed with fear. Had I passed someone I could have helped?  Was I such an asshole racer that I let a dying man suffer in the woods as I pedaled on?  

For days I did not check his splits. I was consumed with the fear that I had indeed failed to help when help was most needed. 

I finally checked. I was ahead of Scott Ellis by nearly 30 minutes at the previous checkpoint. 

While my guilty fear was relieved my heartache and self-preservation concern was not. People are not supposed to die in a race. Especially people who are fit, have done the event before, and "know what they are getting into".  True, the medical statics say if you take enough people, sit them down, and stare at them for 10 hours, someone will have a heart attack.  Over 25 years, something like 20,000 people have ridden Leadville, and it took (most) of them 10 hours or more.  Therefore, someone was going to have a heart attack.  

That doesn't help.

Riding around the following week, making some hard efforts I felt my chest tighten up.  Difficulty breathing.  I'm back in the desert...was it the dust?  Was it lingering fatigue?  Did the fact that I don't really care what I eat anymore (I simply can't eat enough) finally catch up with me?  Then it happened again, JRA (Just Riding Around).  It was hot though.  Close to 100. 

I have a lot more to live for than 2 wheels on dirt and the occasional start and finish line.  What am I doing?  I ride fast enough now, that even JRA and sticking my wheel in a rock and going over the handlebars could kill me.  

Of course, so could standing on the corner waiting to cross the street in New York when a garbage truck misses its turn and squashes me.  Or waiting at a traffic light when some texting fool slams into my car.

Somewhere in the recesses of philosophy and lessons absorbed over the years I was reminded.  Fear has no power when faced head on.  Face the fear, and it becomes the truth of what you are made of.

I won't stop.  I will ALWAYS ask.  Always.  They can curse me later.

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