“How do you go bigger? How do you push each other to be better than who you are on your own?”
It’s a question asked by many, but it’s particularly poignant coming from Brent Goldstein, board member for First Descents (FD) and a 10-time Leadville Trail 100 MTB finisher. Goldstein shared his thoughts in a 2016 video on pushing himself and others to raise funds that help First Descents provide life-changing outdoor adventures for young adults (age 18-39) impacted by cancer.
That same year, First Descents surpassed the $1 million mark in funds raised through the LT100. 2018 marks the 12th year First Descents will field a mountain bike team – this time comprised of 25 Team FD riders. 2018 will also be the first year the nonprofit will field a running team of 16 in the Leadville Trail 100 Run, a 100-mile course with 14,000 feet of elevation gain at altitudes reaching 12,600 feet.
Goldstein has a lengthy history with First Descents and the famous Leadville-based mountain bike race – which also takes participants on a 104-mile journey of more than 14,000 feet of elevation gain at altitudes of up to 12,600 feet. In 2006, his best friend, First Descents’ Executive Director Allan Goldberg, discovered that his childhood cancer had returned after 26 years of remission. Searching for an endeavor that would mentally and physically prepare him for the long months of chemotherapy and radiation ahead, Goldberg chose the 2007 LT100 MTB race, and he challenged his buddy Goldstein to join him.
Sadly, Goldberg passed away in June 2008, just two months before the First Descents’ LT100 MTB race. But Goldstein dug deep – as Leadville Race series founder Ken Chlouber likes to say – and continued to race annually in honor of his dear friend (and he’s currently riding the Tour Divide for First Descents).
Team FD raised nearly $85,000 that first year for First Descents. The funds raised helped provide free outdoor adventure programs for young adults impacted by cancer empowering them to climb, paddle, and surf beyond their diagnosis, reclaim their lives, and connect with others doing the same.
In past years, the ultra-running community has supported First Descents on an individual basis, with supporters such as James Dean, a longtime friend of FD, who raised nearly $20,000 in the 2017 Leadville 100 Trail Run. Dean was joined by First Descents Executive Director Ryan O’Donoghue, who supported him for 16 miles as a pacer and raised $6,500 for FD in the process.
Dean’s experience at the 2017 Leadville 100 Trail Run inspired First Descents to take on this epic race in a bold new way in 2018. He recalls, “There is a strong camaraderie between all athletes before, during and after the race which very few men and women ever get to experience. The ability to dig deep is what Leadville is about, you will hurt, you will suffer…when you come out of your pain cave you will be stronger both mentally and physically than you have ever been. Leadville is a race that will change who you are.”
Everyone has a story, and over the next few weeks, we’ll share a few of them from members of both FD teams.
You’ll hear tips and tales from mountain bikers such as longtime rider Peter Harvey, an alumnus of Team First Descents whose friend, Nate “Scooter” Post, survived Stage 4 cancer and also joined the FD team, and husband-and-wife team Caroline Haines and Dan Patten, who started fundraising for First Descents because of their friend and First Descents board member Alix “Snooki” Berglund.
In addition, members of the First Descents LT100 Run team will share their training regimens and nutrition advice, including Craig Sylvester, who is running in memory of a dear friend who lost his battle with cancer this past April.
“This is about sharing my friend Ryan’s love of outdoor adventures, because he knew how good it was and how much better it felt for him to get out there,” Sylvester says. “It’s also such a great reminder of how challenges like this race are a metaphor for the challenges that people with cancer face.”
You can support this important mission by donating to First Descents’ mountain biking and running efforts, or create your own story by volunteering with First Descents at the Leadville Trail 100 MTB in August. If you’re really ready for a challenge, reach out to First Descents about joining next year’s Leadville teams.
Each race requires that participants fundraise a minimum of $3,500 to reach the team goals of $150,000 for the MTB and $85,000 for the run. Contact [email protected] for more information.
Kyle Wagner worked at The Denver Post from 2002-2014 after nine years as restaurant critic for Westword. Kyle is an avid mountain biker and outdoors woman. She has ridden the Leadville 100 MTB twice, both times during or following her own breast cancer treatments. Over the next six weeks, she will be following our Leadville runners and riders to bring you the inside scoop on how Team FD is getting #OutLivingIt like never before! Keep up with the stories by checking back weekly on our Out Living It Blog.