By Amir Alrubaiy
I just turned 50.
I keep thinking about the Leadville 100 MTB race. Not because I’m fixin’ to line up for it again. Although I might. It’s because thinking about that race helps me think about what is likely the halfway point of my life. It helps me frame up an approach to the return trip.
Leadville is a notorious out and back course. The turnaround at The Columbine Mine comes at 50 miles, after a 10-mile climb past 13000 ft. It’s a grind. And it gets harder the higher you go. But right at the end, it eases up. You see the tents, and you’re there. If you’re racing, it’s over in
a flash. You ride the small loop, and you’re back down the trail.
And here’s where things get interesting.
You feel like you’ve just done something. You start thinking about the finish. But you’re only
halfway home. You’ve got some things to learn yet. First, everything you climbed on the way
out, you get to rip down on the way back. All that plodding investment pays off in speed and
flow. If you’re strong, and you were paying attention, you know what’s coming and you can
dance through it on the way down. You were wishing for it before; here you are.
Hopefully you’ve built some skill and knowledge and capacity in your 50 years. That took work.
You get to use that now. Maybe you know how to cook or tell stories or write code. I’ll bet you’re
better at those things now than you were at 25…enjoy it. Sure you’re more tired, but you’re still
better. Let ‘er rip.
Everything you ripped on the way out; all the blazing descents you were racing in the first
hours…the bill comes due on them. But, if you’re strong, and you were paying attention, those
climbs bring their own satisfaction. You know the rocks, the turns. You knew it was steep when
you went down it. Well, here you are. You’re climbing either way, you might as well do it
You knew that diet wasn’t going to last forever. And those injuries you played through, they
weren’t going to fix themselves. It was fun, but none of it was free. So, you can complain about
your new unwanted hobbies, your nutrition, your sleep. Or you can elevate them to the
meaningful challenges they are…you owe the debt either way.
If you’re strong, and you were paying attention, the first 50 primed you for the race back. You’re
in rhythm and on time. You carry some speed into the second leg, and if you’re ready, you can
aim for the negative split. Racing better than you went on the way out. And in chasing that time, as you drive toward the line, you start to understand that all your strength and speed won’t do
you any good once you stop the clock. If you’ve got matches to burn, burn ‘em.
Yeah, you don’t want to be dumb, but you don’t want to miss your chance either. You’ve done
the work, you’ve built the capacity…now expand it, use it. You want to do the thing? Do it.
You’ve got a lot of time to grow, but not a lot of time to waste.
You don’t want to finish fresh. You want to tear across the line, spent from one, glorious, long-
range shot to the finish.
But you’re not there yet. You’re at the turn. You’ve got 50 miles of dirt to race. Time to get
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