Friends, Family -
In the past you’ve so generously helped the battle against cancer by supporting my rides in the Pan Mass Challenge. I’m writing now with hopes that you’ll consider supporting me again as I take on a new challenge in 2019, one that’s far beyond anything I would’ve thought possible just a few years ago – the Leadville Trail 100.
The LT100 is known as “The highest and hardest mountain bike race in America”. Why? First, its 100 miles long (well, 103.4 miles, but who’s counting?). Second, the course is a mix of horse trails, Jeep trails, dirt fire roads and limited pavement, which makes riding harder than your average road ride. Third, the LT100 is up in the Rocky Mountains, so in that 100 miles there are 14,000 feet of climbing, nearly three miles of straight up. Fourth, it starts and finishes in the town of Leadville, Colorado. At an elevation of 10,000 feet above sea level, Leadville is the highest town in the United States, and there’s 1/4 less oxygen in the air than at my home outside Boston. The highest part of the course, the turnaround at the 50mi mark, breaks 13,000 feet, where there’s only 2/3 the oxygen of sea level. Finally, here’s the kicker – there’s a time limit. Riders have only 12 hours from the shotgun start to make it back across the line. Finish at 11:59 and you receive a hand-crafted silver belt buckle; finish at 12:01 and you may as well have stayed home. My goal is simply to finish this monster – to start pedaling my bike at 6 am, ride for twelve straight hours without a break, and make it back before the finishing shotgun at 6 pm.
So…why on earth would I do this?
This year marks a milestone for me. It was ten years ago that a social worker arrived at my house. He sat down next to me on the couch, spoke reassuringly, and withdrew a nylon bag from his case. He handed the bag to me and I pulled out a shock-corded bundle of pipes. As I shook it out, my new 5-foot-long, plastic, white, government-issue mobility cane assembled itself. Having been declared legally blind just a week before, this cane was supposed to help me try regain some sense of mobility and independence, as it has for so many others. For me, however, it meant conceding. It was a symbol of a life I wasn’t ready to live. And fortunately, didn’t have to. That next morning, unable to drive my truck, I opened the garage door, pulled out my bike, and pedaled it to work.
This past decade hasn’t always been an easy ride. Losing my driver’s license, finding text unreadable, not being able to identify someone saying “hi” as we pass in the hallway, and so many other side-effects have all presented significant hurdles. But on the flip side, I am so incredibly fortunate. I have a loving and supportive family, friends who absolutely floor me with their generosity on a regular basis, and a career that has allowed me to adapt as my eyesight degraded. This means I’ve had the tools and the means to help fight off the demons and the dark places when they come, and the ability to pursue the activities I do.
Not everyone is so fortunate. For so many, the loss of one’s eyesight, a limb, or having been born with special needs presents nearly insurmountable challenges. A disability can turn someone’s life upside down. Even if mobility issues are addressed, people can find themselves without the social structure they once had, or without the career they worked so long to build, or having to abandon a future they dreamed of but is now out of reach. The rates of mental illness, depression, bullying, and suicide among the disabled skyrockets when compared to the general public. It is critical that people facing disabilities have the ability to set new goals and have the means and support to achieve those goals.
That’s where the Challenged Athletes Foundation comes in. The sole mission of the CAF is to provide the opportunity and means for people of all abilities to participate in athletic endeavors. They provide those crazy carbon-fibre legs for people who lost a limb and want to try their first 5k. They help kids confined to wheelchairs play basketball. They help people who can’t see go for a bike ride. They help people climb mountains. They help students take part in gym class. They help people get to the starting line.
Why am I riding the LT100? I’m riding to prove to myself that I can. I’m riding to help others prove they can too.
So please help the CAF by donating to my ride. Your generosity will help save someone’s life. And it may even help prevent me trying to find something even crazier next year.