Tsé bi´tá’i
“Rock With Wings”…
if you c(om)e to race with feeble ilg next year at the Chuska? you’ll get to pass beneath the Blessing Wings of Tsé bi´tá’i !!!
pic by ilg on Race Day afternoon!



alarm off at 4am…

didn’t need it…ilg sleeps on the floor upon a simple blanket, wrapped like a burrito by another.  both blankets sacred.  as is the sound of Sister Rain outside, next to my head heard via an opened sliding door to…ah, the outside!   ilg’s mental alarm went off at 3:55am.

Sandra is already up as well.  we’ve got a solid 2.5 hour drive from Durango to the Chuska Mountains southwest of Shiprock, NM on the Navajo Rez.

an hour .50 later after driving through a fluctuation of soft, zero, pelting rain (and some hail west of Mancos) we arrive at McDonalds in Shiprock where we see my old friend from Boulder, Colorado back in the Farentinos Daze who is now a father and a multi-class schoolteacher at the remote Cove Day School not too far from yet far below where ilg will be racing later today.  we chat in the McDonalds ordering ‘lobby’…Mark has worked flagging on my race course today the past week.  ilg thanks him.  Mark is taking his child to a cross-country running meet in Whitehorse, AZ.  you’ve likely never heard of it.   sadly.  it’s awes(om)e country.  and her People are so…people in the Way that people were really meant to Be.   trust me.

leaving McDonalds Shiprock* at daybreak;  the Lightning Gods are light’ing it up over the Chuska to our immediate southwest, the Carrizo to our northwest, and my native LaPlata’s to our now northeast… rain is pelting,  i VM the Race Director, my friend:  ”

“Yá at ééh’ Shik’ys!

it’s ilg, just wondering if the Race is still on!  in Shiprock and it’s pouring…reckon i’ll still keep heading’ toward you!”

few minutes later a text reply from Tom (the RD and amazing leader of all things physically attuned and trail-building attuned on the Rez, “the race is on,”

arrive at Chuska Base Camp at 7:50am, elevation 8,500′.  rain is a deluge.  Sandra and i hunker in Chloe,  my Rav 4.   supposed to teach yoga in ten minutes…

after a 2-hour rain delay and an amazing display of typical Navajo patience and perseverance,  which included an unforgettable Speak by Hosteen John Kinsel, Sr…a 97 year-young Navajo Code Talker and one of my chi-ldhood heroes!   Hosteen grew up and still lives just 3 miles from the Start Line of today’s race!   Tom consulted with me about the projected race time and we choose to forego any yoga due to the 42-degree temps and sideways rain which penetrated through even his Big Canopy Tent…

The Race:
several key factors; a ‘neutral start’ through a Durango Devo (kids Mountain Biking Program that has created several National, Olympic, and World Champions) around Base Camp before Official Timing began.  putting 2+2 together in my feeble brain,  ilg knowing how the young kids of Durango DEVO LOVE their technical challenges,  i looked back on the 30+ racers and figured,  if ilg is not in the first 5 of this ‘neutral start’?   the technicality of this ‘neutral start’ is gonna create some HUGE time gaps even before the Start Times begin…sure ’nuff,  ilg is in 5th as Randy John a Navajo triathlete who lost nearly 2oo lbs through just running/biking and is now a NM State Cycling Champion led us out… sure ’nuff,  my Durangatang kids had created a techy, pinecone-infested course that included two mandatory tree roll-overs, one rock-drop and an off-camber upslope traverse, each of which was at my 55 year-old technical ability peak.  and, unlike the kids that set this dastardly test?  ilg would have to re-encounter this same section 3 more times after racing a 1,500′ vertical climb/descent of 6-miles through very nordic conditions!



pic of your feeble still focused on the Overall Podium coming into the third lap with over 2 hours of effort and still facing 1,500′ over 6 miles to go while chasing the best cyclists in the state over 3 decades younger!  NEVER GIVE UP!!! pic by Sandra Lee

ilg hit the first climb in 4th place and paced myself as the one and two lappers (junior and women’s) hung with our men’s pace…by the top of the first 1,500′ muddy, techy climb,  ilg was pretty pumped to be in 4th overall…

second lap;  course confusion began to catch up with those in front of ilg;  prior race knowledge and a very steady-Eddy effort on Lap One helped ilg as i regained wheel-to-wheel contact with the only 3 Mens Racers in front of ilg.  that’s the upside.  the downside?  two of the three were
a) former State Champions
b) each of the State Champions were 3-3.5 decades YOUNGER than feeble ilg
c) the other guy was an absolute FLY and was FLYING up these 30%, muddy, rocky, techy sections like they were flat friggin’ pavement!

ilg needed spiritual help as my legs gave into the ongoing fatigue of having to recruit fast-twitch explosive efforts over the steep techy sections which btw included two mandatory dismounts and bike heaves over huge fallen Ponderosa’s on steep climbs where re-mounts were nearly impossible!

so, ilg chanted the Blessed Tribal Mantra…

and Sandra got me a caffeinated gel before my final lap of what seemed to be more of a crucifixion than a mountain bike race…moments before the Sandra/Caffeine hand up i was so fatigued that i missed a flash turn on the DEVO techy single track and did a bozo crash, whereupon i hurt hard my penis and my right hand, the latter being the more important (at the moment, at least).

heading into the final quad-headwalled 1,500′ climb ilg was pretty paltry on the chitta (thought/mind force)…knew ilg was wavering on the cusp of the Overall Podium yet,  was really climbing on just fumes and Mantra…this type of racing is not so much about physical conditioning (though it HAS TO BE THERE),  it’s more about Chitta Conditioning;  training the Consciousness to stay upbeat, positive, and stalwart NO MATTER HOW FRIGGIN’ HARD and ONGOING remains the Challenge…DO NOT GIVE UP UNTIL THE FINISH LINE!

and,  upon crossing the Finish Line?

reckon the Nordic Conditions, the Lineage Deities, and just maybe my Navajo ‘White Karma’ culled from growing up picking up litter on the Navajo Rez within sight of today’s race during my Dad’s only day off from being a Hardward Store (Kroegers in Durango!) clerk  all paid off on this Sacred Day!



pic by Sandra Lee of feeble ilg with one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers that saved our precious Turtle Island during WWII:  Marine Hosteen John Kinsel, Sr…my childhood hero!!!   

not only got the  Overall Win as the Chuska Challenge’s 23rd Champion,  ilg got to meet my childhood hero;  one of the last living Navajo Code Talkers,  Hosteen John Kinsel, Sr…97 years-young who grew up and still lives not 3-miles from today’s Start/Finish Line…we talked one-on-one of many things.  ilg asked Hosteen about growing up with Bears (Shush, in Diné), Hosteen smiled at my question,  replied while nodding, “Aoó,  many Shush around here…(more smiling and giggling)…no trouble, though… the Shush?  They are Friendly People!”


* in case you are one of the many Gluten-Free, Vegan, Junk-Food-Is-The-Devil type?   well,  if you are about to race a 3-hour MTB endurance test over 4,000′ vertical and you NEED TO EAT in Shiprock before the race?  uh,  there are NO OTHER OPTIONS to eat…so,  if you are so scared of ‘junk food’ that you don’t choose to eat where eating is the only place available for hours and hours around you?  good luck trying to get onto the podium or even finishing.  in WF?  we are not scared of Gluten, Flesh foods, or Junk Food.  we perform daily Pranayamic Practices that turn our Digestive System into a Divine Firing C(om)bustion space/place to churn physical calories into Divinely attuned Prana!  

Leave a Reply