Roger Marolt: Forget the fountain of youth — get a new pair of skis
September 14, 2017
A middle-aged man is at his doctor's office. My back hurts whenever I run, he says. The doctor nods thoughtfully and after a pensive pause informs him that there is a very simple solution: don't run. Unsure whether or not he is satisfied with the answer, the man remarks it also hurts whenever he gets out of bed to go to work.
I am learning from experience that the process of aging is baffling. Some of the old sayings such as the famous words according to Garp — "We are all terminal cases" — are definitely true. Others, like Lee Trevino's "The older I get, the better I was" ring true, and not. I know there must be things I do better now than I did when I was 25. I just can't remember any of them.
Whether it is real or imagined, every once in awhile, I wouldn't even go so far as to say infrequently, I will perform some physical task and feel a twinge of doubt about whether I could have done what I just did any better when I was 30 years younger. It feels not so much delusional as it is surprisingly uplifting. I am not under the impression that these moments are becoming more and more frequent as I get older so, no, I don't believe I have discovered the fountain of youth.
I know you want an example. The other day I got into the car and drove to the Village Market. I didn't realize until I got there that I had forgotten my glasses. I didn't realize that I couldn't see the road without them, because I actually could see the road without them! I know my optometrist would not look at this so optimistically. He would say, yes, things far away may be getting clearer for me, but it is coming at the expense of not being able to read a menu.
So, I trade one pair of glasses for a different pair. I'm still half-blind half the time, just in a different way. That's not the point. The point is I'm able to do something physically that I haven't been able to do in 30 years, and it feels good. It is a throwback to youth. I'm going with it.
I'll give you another example that many can relate to. I was skiing with my kids last winter and we stood at the top of S1 on Aspen Mountain. At the top, it's a steep rocky mess down the middle. They asked if I ever skied it there. Sure, I said, just like this. I made a quick jump-turn, a couple of squiggles, hopped a small outcropping of dry land and left but a few ribbons of P-tex behind. It was easier than ever! I'd never skied that section that well! I felt like a million bucks as the kids chuckled their approval.
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Never mind that the last time I was dumb enough to risk ruining a good pair of skis on that line, it was probably 1992 on a pair of 210, straight-cut GS racing skis. Could being on a pair of 184s now, made out of space-age materials with a super side-cut design, make that much difference? Of course it does. But, who in their right middle-aged mind would admit that in the moment?
Golfers who rooted for Jack Nicklaus know this feeling when they now swing a modern driver at a modern golf ball and kiss it where there used to be screws drilled into the wooden face of it. Tennis players who marveled at Bjorn Borg experience this when they make sweet contact with a tennis ball on a part of the racquet that used to be where there was wood.
I felt it last week riding a modern mountain bike with big wheels, fat tubeless tires, 5 inches of suspension front and back, and a telescoping seat-post through the rock garden on Government Trail. I practically coasted through that section of singletrack that I had to run through with my bicycle over my shoulder when I was racing mountain bikes 25 years ago. Heck, yeah, I feel like Superman now!
It's not like I don't understand why I can occasionally do a few things the same or even better now than I did when I was just out of college. There is a logical explanation for all of it. Thank goodness one of the main reasons I choose to get out and enjoy myself is to forget things like logical explanations for a while.
Roger Marolt knows when you find the Fountain of Youth not to use a purification pump. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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