In the Saddle: Cleared it |

In the Saddle: Cleared it

Charles Agar
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN ” When I first moved to Aspen in 2006, I was humbled by not just the scale of the terrain here (something like the mountains back home in Massachusetts, only 10-times the size) but by über-athletes that call this town home.

In those early days, I found myself gasping for air and risking cardiac arrest as I tried to keep up with high-altitude soccer moms on the Smuggler Mountain switchbacks. My pride was flattened as these ladies outpaced me without a care and without taking a break from the real estate transactions happening inside their cell phones. And early bike rides up Independence Pass or out on local mountainbike trails pitted me against sponsored riders with long sinewy legs churning twice the rate of my Oompah Loompah stumps.

But I’ve learned to slow down here ” to just let the soccer moms and sinewy riders pass, and enjoy my own pace.

And my first ride up Smuggler Mountain the other day was evidence of a little progress.

The goal: get to the top without stopping.

And for me this meant keeping a steady cadence in the lowest granny-gear.

A guy on a mountain bike was behind me at the start and I didn’t waste space in my head wondering if he’d pass. I just assumed he would and forgot about him.

“It’s not a race,” I reminded myself in mantra-like repetition.

Never mind the spandexed speed-walker keeping pace with me, I just stayed the course, watched for oncoming riders and hikers, and slowed on switchbacks to keep my chest from sounding like an out-of-tune accordion.

It worked.

I got near the top without having dropped a leg and even had a good final burst to take me to the platform with a bit of a kick.

The speed-walker was there moments later and so was the guy on the bike.

I might have beat them to the top, but I think I defeated something else even more important that day: a little bit of ego.