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Adventures in charity

Daniel Elton
Preston Utley/Vail Daily Rick Schmelzer of Vail stands with his bike on Friday. Schmelzer along with other team members will be entering a race in Moab UT. to help raise money for Habitat for Humanity.
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EAGLE COUNTY – Run for 10 hours, cycle for 10 hours, kayak for 10 hours – and then do the whole thing again and again and again while gaining and losing hundreds of thousands of feet of altitude. For almost a week. For many people, this sounds like a perfect description of hell. But Rick Schmelzer has worked hard for this experience.”I’ve been trying to organize this for three years,” says Schmelzer, who’s competing on a team called “Vail for Humanity” against 75 other groups in this year’s Moab Xstream race Oct. 6. The local team has come together to raise money for Habitat for Humanity, an organization that works with people in need throughout the world to build homes. Schmelzer says he hopes the team will raise $5,000 to 10,000 for the charity – and finish the race.

“There are three main goals: A. To get to the start. B. To finish. And C. To beat as many people as possible,” Schmelzer says. But Schmelzer knows it’s going to be tough, he says. “You have to be adventurous, you can’t be conservative,” he says. “If you wanted to be fully prepared for this event, you would have to train for 15 years and then you’d be too old to do it.”Schmelzer has combined charity work with traveling to far flung corners of the world before. Schmelzer has spent time in Guatemala building latrines and more efficient stoves, and has also been to Uruguay where he taught English, he says. But he is not the only colorful member of the team.

Nick Fickling is a retired British army colonel. After 26 years in the British military, he moved to the Vail Valley five years ago. Fickling, a navigator, led the mapping-navigation cell in Riyadh during the first Gulf War, acting as the collective sense of direction for over 200,000 American and British troops.A winner of British orienteering championships, Fickling says he is looking forward to the race, even if he is slightly nervous. “This is the sort of thing I love doing, but I’m a bit wary of it,” he says. “I’m looking forward to it with a guarded yes.” Charlie Wertheim of Glenwood Springs, the third member of the team, says he’s certainly taking the race seriously.



“It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he says. “It’s always something that’s interested me and thought I would like to do.” But the longtime triathlete and snow runner is under no delusions as to how difficult the event is going to be. “It’s going to be a trial by fire,” Wertheim says. “So far we’ve only done a three-and-a-half hour race up at Beaver Creek. So we’re kinda green.”The team will need access to all the equipment and food that they need, but will not be able to carry it all on their backs. They will need a support worker – Wertheim’s wife, Kim, – to drive around with their supplies. She doesn’t have all the time in the world, either, she says. “I have no idea what it’s going to be like,” Kim says, “but they have to finish in three days. I have another race to help out with back in Colorado.”Daniel Elton is a contributing writer for the Vail Daily. Vail Colorado


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