Monday, August 6, 2007
The Willingness to Suffer
Yesterday, I woke up to find a note on my laptop from Ibrahim that read..." Legstrong riding for the mountain with one leg. 80 mile today. Life insurance with God."
I peered outside the balcony window to see mountains shrouded in clouds and the driving rain soaking everything in sight. Ibrahim was out there somewhere riding back country trails and dirt road mountain passes. I started to consider the worst and wondered when it would be appropriate to dial the local rescue authorities. I had no idea of the direction he chose. He could have taken any number of slick and treacherous trails leading deep into the wilderness. I thought of his often questionable sense of direction and concluded that if he didn't make it back before nightfall, I'd get the process underway for the missing Kenyan search. He picked a fine day for an epic training ride.
The hours passed while I remained inside the Minard House where it was warm and dry. My thoughts wandered. Would it all come to an end on this dreary day? With the Minards out of town, all was quiet except for the rhythm of steady raindrops falling on the back deck. I reread the cryptic note "Life Insurance with God." He knew I would be worried. "One Leg." He spoke of training without his prosthesis because he thought it was slowing him down on the steep technical climbs. Did he strap is to his back? Would it fly off into the woods while he was bombing down one of those endless fire road decscents?
I thought of our ride the day before. We rode a tricky section of trail that was covered with wet rocks and roots. I chose to walk over a particularly nasty area and stepped aside as Ibrahim came through. I watched with skepticism as he switched into high gear and spun his legs wildly before slamming into rock. His prosthetic foot popped out of his pedal and the rest of the leg swung free. He pulled up against his handle bars and cruised over the top of the rock into gnarled roots strewn across the path. He continued pedaling with his left leg while his prosthetic leg hung off to the side. He cleared the roots and continued over a narrow wooden bridge as I stood in awe. Thinking back on that episode, I remembered that he'd been mountain biking for 15 years without the extra leg and I could see why he felt confident without it.
Okay...So he's one tough character and I sometimes forget exactly how tough he had to be to overcome what he has. But anyone could get lost out in a mountain range and it could take days to find someone who was injured. I had a right to be worried.
Finally, around 5 o'clock, the doorbell rang. Standing outside was Ibrahim, silent, slow moving and soaked to the bone. I opened the garage door and he hoped in alongside his muddy bike. There was no sign of his prosthetic leg. I handed him a towel and asked no questions. I knew he would need some time before he could tell me about his ride. I was relieved he was back but wondered to myself what kind of madman I had on my hands!
Ibrahim had ridden 80 miles altogether. He rode two laps around Dillon Lake which included two long climbs up Swan Mountain Road. He climbed the long road that led to race course we rode on Wednesday and rode the entire length of the course. He climbed Ski Hill road which led to the technical Peak Trail that we covered the day before. He road that trail as well. He did it all on one leg. He told me he was able to clear steep technical sections without having to walk because he could generate a higher cadence without his weaker leg slowing him down.
"100 miles not easy" he repeated to me in a soft but serious tone. He had that 10 mile stare that conveyed his deep understanding of the immense effort that awaited us. He covered the 80 mile route in a little over 8 hours. After that ride, he is ready to tapper down his training in preparation for the race. If he can recover fully from yesterday's effort in time for Saturday, he's not only going to finish with a respectable time, he's going to leave one hell of an impression.
I have to wonder, are Lance and Floyd hurting themselves like Ibrahim is for the Leadville 100? With so much focus on these former TDF winners, the endurance mountain bike racing scene may be in for quite a surprise.