23.10.09

Day 270. The Leadville One.

Last night, I went and saw Race Across the Sky - a documentary about the Leadville 100, and I'm just warning you, that the next few posts will be about people that shared themselves with us all through that piece...but I encourage you to take the time to get to know each of them.

The first, and most important person that this piece introduced me to was the founder of the event, Kenneth Chlouber. Ken is a traditional western mining town man. A lifelong resident of Leadville, Colorado he worked as a miner. When the mines closed in the 80's, almost the entire town was suddenly without a job. I can't remember the numbers exactly, but I think Ken shared that in a town with the population of just over 5,000, over 3,500 people lost their jobs. That's the entire town. Ken and others were inspired to come up with something to drum up tourism to maintain the economy and the town, they came up with the Leadville 100.

This event is rediculous. To summarize, its a 100 mile bike ride that STARTS at 10,500 ft above sea level and then takes you on an out and back trail (TRAIL...not gravel, not road TRAIL) that climbs another 14,000 ft. Insane. You can imagine that the stories about personal accomplishment, personal growth, motivation and inspiration are many (and I'll be sharing some with you in the upcoming days)

But here's what sticks with me about Ken. He gets it. If you've done any kind of athletic event, heck any event in general, you know there's always some sort of hierarchy - there's always someone with a "comped" entry, or a VIP area, or certain seating arrangements. There's always someone who's just a little bit more important than someone else, and there's always someone who has better, or more, access to you. Sometimes this has an impact, sometimes it doesn't. Ken doesn't play these games.

First of all, to get in the Race, its a lottery system. Doesn't matter who you are, go in the lottery. Second of all, its a general start - no special areas, no zones, no rankings. Third of all, and most importantly, in every word that Ken says, you can tell that every single person in this event matters. Ken lives a philosophy of celebrating the common man. He says in the movie that this movie isn't about the Lance Armstrong's (who's raced the past two years) or the Dave Wiens (who's won 6 consecutive Leadville 100's !) its about the Joe's, and the Sally's, and the John's who make up the pack. Dave is the common man's Oprah - all he wants is you to "dig deep" and realize that "you can do more than you think you can".

You can tell there's a lot of life story behind Ken's eyes...as he waits at the finish and welcomes every. single. rider. You can see that he is more motivated by the man desperately trying to beat the time cut off than the Lance Armstrongs. He values more the rider who comes back year after year than the one time hot shot. He makes sure that EVERY person - rider, volunteer, fan, Leadville resident knows that they are doing something great - no matter what they do.

I can't adequately tell you how impressed I am with this man - he seems to be the life force of this small town. His energy and passion seem to be the beating heart of this event. I encourage you to watch the video on the event's home page - its two minutes with Ken. This is one man who can spout every single cliche in the book BUT the difference is, he means it, and you believe it.

To Ken - who believes in everyone being the best you you can be, and who believes that this can start with a bike race.

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