Matt’s Heavy Ride for Norte

Flashback to 9 years ago, I had recently moved back to Michigan to be closer to my family, and ultimately met my (now) wife. The job market was tight than in the recession, and I had always wanted to live in northern Michigan where I had spent endless summers with my family at our cabin in Fife Lake. One day I looked at my girlfriend and said: “I want to move to northern Michigan – do you want to come with me?” Again she looked at me like I was crazy and as I would expect, and her risk/reward logic let me know we would try long distance to see where this would go. 6 months later, she found a job in northern Michigan and we moved here to build a life. I opened a Powersports dealership and began making friends over the dirt bike scene.  I quickly learned that in order to be a good dirt bike rider and stay in shape, mountain biking was the key. I was hooked with how much additional stamina and agility I had, and quickly started to feel my love for cycling started competing with the dirt bike. 

Over the next two years, we had our first child, and as much as we had found a great routine for our life when it was just us, we awkwardly found ourselves a little lost raising our children in a place where neither of us grew up full time. While my wife was on maternity leave she was walking the track around the Civic Center and came upon an insane amount of children on balance bikes with music playing. Kids were outside, learning a new skill, interacting with each other and having a good time. She said to me as soon as our son was old enough, we would be there. A year later, there we were cheering on our little guy and meeting one of the nicest, most inspirational people we had ever met – enter Ty Schmidt (aka “Mista Ty”) according to our son.  From there we were hooked. We were so grateful for Norte and the opportunity it provided our family to meet new people and create memories together – all over the love of cycling. We found ourselves as a family biking to the beach and testing out some trails, and our son accomplishing things we never dreamed he could at his age. 

As years passed I kept riding, but as with anything sometimes life can distract you and other priorities come forward. Although the warm breeze in the summer called me to the trails, some not so good eating habits snuck in (who doesn’t love to finish their kid’s French fries?) and I became distracted in my love for riding. My sister and her family had recently moved to northern Michigan with their family and we had even more fun in our new found home.  My brother-in-law, Eric Mannix, is a smart, savvy newfound mountain bike rider (as you’ll read about in his blog). On a bike ride over to our family cabin, he said the craziest thing ever, “I am going to try and get into Leadville”. Although for a moment I wondered if he was dehydrated, I remembered how just as anything else he does he’s very calculated and prepared so he wouldn’t have come to that decision without a lot of thought and preparation. Then my mind began racing. I could not stop thinking if that were me making that decision, what it would be like. What would it take to prepare and finish? Would I be able to finish? What the terrain and altitude would be like, and ultimately how much training would it take me.  An overwhelming concept at the time… 

Before we knew it, the annual Iceman Cometh was in a few weeks. Before the race, my wife and I decided to take a long weekend away to Colorado, recharge and spend some much-needed time together. I remember driving up a dirt road we found in the Garden of the Gods park. We saw a mountain bike rider peddling up the hill and thought man that guy must be training for Leadville.  Looking back maybe it was a sign – a sign that I needed to challenge myself and get serious about cycling and getting in shape. About an hour later, I got a phone call that rocked my world. My Dad called and told me that one of my best friends and childhood mentor, Scott Luca, had passed away unexpectedly. When I came home, I had no idea how to deal with anything like this nor was I able to have any focus to prepare for the Iceman.

Before I knew it, it was Iceman weekend. At 280lbs and a complete mess – physically and mentally, I decided to still give it a go – hoping I could pull off a miracle.  I struggled, a lot, and ended up breaking my bike. (Thank the stars because I am not sure I would have been able to finish). As Eric and I walked up to the podium after the race he said to me “Just come back and start racing again”.  His words started to sink in, but I was not ready to start training hard or eating right.  

The holidays came, and so did lots of cookies and snacks. Our family held a minibike race around the block for fun. One loop and I was out of breath. THIS was my breaking point.  I was going to have to make a lifestyle change or I was going to start going down a dark path health-wise I might not be able to reverse. A couple of hours later, Eric caught me quietly in the corner signing up for the Leadville lottery, and shaking his head in disbelief about the idea of both of us doing, let alone getting into the race. (You do not just get into Leadville – it normally takes qualifying events and usually more than one year of the Lottery to get in)  

As we awaited the lottery date, I was going to focus on getting into shape for the race whether or not we got.  Then, weeks later and we BOTH get the email. You have been selected to race the Leadville 100.   It may have been one of the most terrifying, yet exciting, news I’ve ever received. It just got real!

It is my hope sharing this journey to race the Leadville 100 we inspire at least one other person like Norte inspired my family, and my brother in law and friend Scott inspire me.  Grit, determination, and discipline will be my regimen for the next 6 months. With my family and community support, I know I can do this, but we need support organizations like Norte to keep our families happy, healthy, and full of opportunities to do so. Norte has been a key ingredient to success for so many of us and our family’s journey to health, so please consider giving to Norte so they can ensure inspiration for generations beyond ours.

Stay tuned – so much more to come (except bad snacks) 😊.

~ Matt

Eric and Matt Do Leadville For Norte is part of the “Near & Far” Heavy Ride Campaign which encourages awesome people both here in Northern Michigan and those across the US to go big for Norte on August 15th. Whether you ride to Wilderness State Park with the group or whatever is “heavy” for you where you are, we hope you’ll join us. Learn more and commit.

Read Eric’s full Heavy Ride story HERE.


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