Marolt: Completely lacking the power of forethought
March 6, 2018
I recall weirdly my first and, hopefully, only experience doing (or did it do me?) the Power of Four ski mountaineering event. I know they call it a race, but it was an event to me. I mean, can you really consider yourself racing when you measure your distance behind the winners in hours and miles, knowing that it would be that way before the starter's pistol fired?
It was the second edition of the event in, I think, 2013. It is a repressed memory. About all I clearly recall is that I did it on a dare from my arch rival, Lo Semple. If we didn't hate each other before, the episode cemented my prejudice against former Def Leopard roadies as sub-human beings; not all of them, mind you, just him.
I didn't consider it a test of endurance, either. I knew I could suffer through it if I really wanted to and, if it turned out halfway through that I didn't really want to, I would look at it, not as a personal failure, but an epiphany that I actually did have better things to do in my life and I could most likely do some of them in what remained of the day at the time I might come to this realization and take a shortcut to the nearest bus stop.
Since I knew that my teammate and I had zero chance of winning the "race" while being almost certain that we would finish the "event," our strategy came down to picking a point on the downward sloping line between the X-axis of time spent out in the elements and the Y-axis of effort exerted.
I have "competed" in the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race twice and learned exactly one thing in doing so — you can complete the course at a comfortable pace sitting on an uncomfortable bike seat for 10 hours or you can go at a more vigorous pace and only spend eight hours in that saddle of torture. At the end of the day you feel equally lousy either way. It is a theory of comparative discomfort that I believe applies to all ultra-endurance events, including The Power of Four.
My partner and I decided to be slightly less uncomfortable for a much longer period of time. We approached the Power of Four as a unique outing where we would get to touch the summit of each of our local ski mountains in one day on one long, leisurely hike with no timetable pressures. If we didn't get to the Sundeck at the top of Aspen Mountain until sunset, well, all the more glorious!
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The major problem with this approach, we learned, is that when you go at a slower pace that doesn't require you to think about strategies or occupy your mind with quick turnarounds of changing your gear over from uphill to downhill modes and back, you have to fill your mind with something else; the most poisonous of these being, "Why did we pay good, hard-earned money to do this, when we could have done it on our own for free?"
The only answer that came was, "So that you will have an officially recorded time at the end of the event that will be as unbelievably slow and the winners' is fast and it will be posted in the local newspaper, which will require an answer to those who will inquire posing as being interested in the race, but who are actually passively aggressively rubbing your nose in the embarrassing result. "
Yes, they did give us a nice shirt with the Power of Four Ski Mountaineering Race logo tastefully located on the left breast. However, the shirt happens to be an undershirt which, while exceedingly practical, is usually covered up or, if it isn't, looks like you are trying a little too hard to look cool parading around in your long underwear, the neat logo blatantly exposing your egotistical evaluation of self-worth.
After everything, the big questions remain: Am I glad I did this and would I recommend it to others? I would say it is a little like wisdom teeth. If the idea of it starts to grow all crooked inside of your head, you have to get it out. If it doesn't, leave it alone. If it turns out you need to do the procedure, it is painful surgery. The good news is that, once it has been extracted from the jawbone of the internal voice that leads you astray, you never need to do it again.
Roger Marolt now places great value on the Power of Forethought. Email at email@example.com.
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