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Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

How hard can it be? That’s what I thought when I read the course description and looked over the maps with the sedate purplish lines marking the route over our four local ski mountains. It’s basically a race from Snowmass to Aspen, 20 miles, half of them downhill on skis: Piece of cake! In a moment of weakness I agreed to do the Power of Four alpine touring ski race March 3.

Obviously it was my mind playing tricks on me, but on Jan. 31 it seemed like I had three months to train: January, February, March – right?

It’s not like I never do this kind of stuff. OK, well, maybe it is exactly like I never do this kind of stuff – at least in the wintertime. I ride my bike through the woods all summer long, but once the snow flies I like to spend my free time coming to terms with the unrelenting force of gravity. I don’t get fired up to rise from my warm, soft bed early in the mornings and skin up our mountains before the lifts run. As far as I can tell, it just makes my legs weak and tired for the moguls.

I think this winter has been pretty typical for me as far as personal cold-weather aerobic exercise goes, so bear with me while I now work through my entire training log for you:

Nov. 25, 2011, Midland, Texas – Run around the block a couple of times, two to be exact, because the dog seems antsy, and I feel there is still some pumpkin pie stuck behind a piece of white meat in my system from yesterday. Note to self: Next Thanksgiving don’t by shy about going for thirds on the gravy. It seems to settle things.

Jan. 15, 2012, Buttermilk – Take a deep breath, and blow the dust off the alpine touring gear for a great community event. Good time: getting to the top of Buttermilk with an incredible group of caring people. Bad time: the number of minutes it takes me to finish, only to find that most of the people who arrived long before me care more about pancakes than urging me across the finish line.

Normally I might have had a few hikes up the Bowl mixed in, but the skiing looks pretty crappy up there, so what’s the point of slinging the boards over your shoulder to walk for half an hour to ski on rocks? Exercise? When I could be skiing on lift-served rocks? No thanks.

It’s not like I am completely out of shape. Skiing won’t prepare you for the Boston Marathon, but you can definitely work up a sweat, and your legs get tired. I also try to get to the gym and pump iron a couple of times a week. I know that sounds old fashioned, what with yoga, Pilates, sit-ups on big rubber balls, and pole dancing available for building up invisible muscles in your core, but it’s the only workout I have found that lets me concentrate on discovering the true meaning of Sammy Hagar lyrics at the same time.

It’s not like I have never done this Power of Four-type thing, either: I used to do insane stuff like climb mountains that required a month of suffering to get to the top, race my mountain bike in the Leadville 100 after spending the night in a Leadville motel, and … well, I guess that’s it. Those two things took up all the spare time I had. But fortunately I caught a big break about 16 years ago and got so sick that I couldn’t do anything for an entire year. An infection took most of a disk and a good chunk of vertebrae from me, and between the surgeries, a big back brace and extreme pain, it basically kept me from moving. But since I couldn’t do anything else, I got to know my family and discovered a new richness in the world that gave me satisfaction far beyond what I formerly got from having a resting heart rate of 37. It was a wake-up call from God, and I responded with a “thank you” and gave up running forever, so to speak.

So I have to remind myself of two things leading up to this event: First, you can’t get into shape in one session on the treadmill at the Snowmass rec center, so slow the pace down to where you can no longer taste blood. Second, pray that muscle memory lasts 16 years.

To those who know me best, there might be some fear that the old, all-consuming aerobic monster is trying to creep back into my life. Not at all. In one moment I was too weak to say “no,” so now I’ll have to be strong enough to suffer miserably. It was my choice. It will be a good reminder.


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