If it is Labor Day weekend and if you’re a bike racer in New Mexico it must be Record Challenge, since 1985 anyway. Those of you in Arizona who have raced this event understand a bit of its cult status. This race was first promoted by Paula Higgins and Jerry Kituttu (85-94) until another NM bike racing pillar, Bill McLain, picked up the job. Bill had asked Jerry and Paula to run Record Challenge this year before he lost a long battle with melanoma in May. After Paula died in July, Jerry decided he was not up to the task.
Randy Corcoran (New Mexico Velosport) took up the job. The race was renamed as the Paula Higgins Memorial Record Challenge. On September 3, 83 people raced, ranging in age from 10-80. Marsha Macro from Hammer Racing Team set a new national record for her 60-64 age group with a time of 31:12.74 (20k distance). Together with the Midwest Masters race team, Record Challenge presented beautifully engraved Nambe serving platters to the fastest male and female racers of the day. The Bill McLain award went to Mick Heliman from Team Fralock who turned a very fast 51:34.58 (40 k distance). Bills wife Laura was on hand to present the award to Mick.
In the women’s 40k category, there were three women within 3 seconds of each other, all with special ties to Paula. Julie Kaplan (San Diego Cyclo Vets) turned a 59:50.60. Julie and Paula had won two Masters Championships in tandem time trial events (01 & 05). Laurie Mauderly (New Mexico Velosport) rode a 59:48.71, using Paula’s TREK time trial bike (at Jerry’s request). Laurie told me she had learned so much from Paula this last racing season that she felt she owed her NM Race Series jersey to Paula’s help and encouragement. Landis’ own Merrill Sapp just edged out Laurie with a 59:48.29. When Jerry presented Merrill with her award there was hardly a dry eye around. Carolyn Donnelly and I were there to help out along with others like Tony Geller, Tim Schoeny, Pamela Thullen, Al Watters, Mike Gilb, Todd Bauer, Orval Hart (timing), several Torrance county sheriffs and of course Randy Corcoran (sorry if I left anyone out).
On September 4 there were 27 starts, including 4 tandems and one 4 person time trial team. Eleanor Hamre set a new Masters Women 70+ 20K record at 34.11.28 beating the old record by 53 seconds (full results can be found at http://www.recordchallenge.com/).
On Monday Carolyn rode with Jerry, which was tough for both of them, but done in the spirit of remembering Paula and doing what she would have wanted. Jerry told me “I think she may be the only rider who did Record Challenge every year since it began in 1985. She always rode both days, and sometimes twice on the same day – once solo and then jumping on the tandem to go again.” Often that tandem ride was with Jerry. In a tandem ride in 1995 Paula and Carolyn set a still standing Elite Women’s record with a 52:00:55.
Only some of the Landis team were close to Paula, but I encourage all of us to remember her life: the determination and passion with which she pursued things, like cycling, that she loved and the way she supported other racers (team mates and competitors) even if they had just placed better than her. By trying to incorporate these ideals that Paula lived by into out own lives we will benefit and we can keep Paula close even though she is gone.