A mountain biker pulls over to the side of the crumbling, unstable dirt path, gently lays his bike down and sits. He has perched away from the rest of the race, his arms folded on his knees, his head in his hands.
He is spent. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually. He wipes his eyes, stands up and picks up his bile. Then, he continues down the trail.
That scene depicts the feeling of every racer in the Leadville 100 – from elite cyclist Levi Leipheimer who won the race in record time to the people who failed to make the two time cutoffs along the route.
It’s one of the most grueling races – 100 miles on a mountain bike, through incredibly difficult terrain at altitude in Colorado. And it beats up everyone, whether you’re a Tour de France stage podium finisher, a member of the mountain biking hall of fame or just some average Joe or Joanne searching for a tangible life challenge.
The second incarnation of the movie Race Across The Sky premiered across the country last night. Last year, the documentary spent much of the time with founder Ken Chlouber explaining the history of the race, which began in 1994 as a way to help bring money to the economically struggling mining town of Leadville, Colo. Last year’s film featured the return of Lance Armstrong to the bike and the introduction of the sport and the event to millions of viewers who in turn were inspired to take the challenge of this ridiculously difficult race.
This time, the movie follows the 2010 race, which is now owned by Lifetime Fitness. The film focuses less on explaining the philosophy of the race and more on the actual course, competitors and competition. While following the elite men’s and women’s race, the movie does an excellent job of allowing others to tell their stories.
Some guys have been doing this race for multiple years. It’s become their hobby. Others used it as their focal point in creating new life from old pain. Some were going through illness themselves while others were riding in honor of loved ones who were sick. Some where riding to raise money for causes close to their heart while others were riding to exorcise personal pain and demons.
Their reasons were varied, intricate and deeply personal. And told in their own words, against the beautiful backdrop of the Colorado landscape, they became intimately inspiriting to those in the audience.
The movie experience features a Q&A with some of the racers before and after the feature film. During this part, we get to know a bit more about Erik Weinhenmayer – best known as the first blind climber to summit Mount Everest and climb all Seven Summits. He rode tandem at this race for the first time and explained how he decided to tackle the Leadville 100:
It started like all great adventures do. I was at a garage party, had a few beers and somebody thought it would be a great idea. I said ‘Yeah!’ and the next morning I wondered what the heck I committed myself to.
Ah, yes. The wonderful ideas which come from gatherings with friends. But the key in Erik’s story is that while he was apprehensive and had doubts (perhaps even afraid?) he committed to making the attempt. He committed to training, to reaching to challenging himself.
The real inspiration of Race Across the Sky is not to enter your name into the lottery for one of the coveted spots on the starting line next summer. The real inspiration comes in igniting the personal challenges which live in all of us. We have untapped potential, each of us. We have dreams and goals and crazy, silly ideas (or so we think) that have been buried within us for a variety of reasons – time, family, jobs, health, expectations, judgements.
For every reason you can come up with to not do something that you’ve always wanted to do, there are probably dozens of people in the same situation, or worse, making it happen. While we have a finish line, an end goal, in mind, the process of striving and trying and challenging is what changes us. In actuality, the process doesn’t necessarily change you, but rather, allows you to step into the person you really are. The journey makes more of yourself, not an entirely different person.
What’s the challenge in front of you that has been calling? Is it to do a major endurance event like a marathon or Ironman? Is it to do a sprint triathlon? A 5K? Learn a new sport? Try yoga or tai chi? Go back to school? Learn a new skill? Change jobs?
The motto of the Leadville 100 is: You’re better than you think you are. You can do more than you think you can do. Dig deep.
Applicable in a grueling mountain bike race.
Applicable on a rainy Friday morning, too.
For those who missed Thursday’s presentation, an encore presentation is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 9.