Roger Marolt: Rocks, hard places and shock absorption along the trail from Snowmass to Aspen and in life |

Roger Marolt: Rocks, hard places and shock absorption along the trail from Snowmass to Aspen and in life

Roger Marolt
Roger This

My quest is keeping my mind off COVID-19. IPA beer kind of works. It’s cheap. The problem is you wake up convinced you might, possibly, maybe need to be tested. In that regard it feels counterproductive to my goal of forgetting. The only thing I forget is to be responsible. This doesn’t pair well with working from home.

Then last Sunday, for inexplicable reasons aided by poor memory, I had an urge to take my mountain bike across Government Trail. It is a tough trail, but it has a certain allure: There is no better tool to assess how quickly you are aging. When you swear off riding it forever, you know you are mentally mature. Enough time had passed since I last experienced it that I thought, “How bad can it be?”

A cool thing about Government Trail is that you don’t ride it for speed. Nobody knows their personal best time across it. In fact, good times are had by none. Success is measured differently negotiating the rough and rocky singletrack connecting Snowmass Village and Aspen. If you make it back home with most of your skin and all of your bones still contained within it, you have won.

To make sure the ride would take our minds off the world’s problems, we accessed it about halfway along its length. This only sounds like a cop-out. The connecting trail is called Aerobic Nightmare. It’s not long and the idea is to ride it non-stop, no foot down until you reach the top. It’s the kind of hell a poet might suffer living in Nevada. If you make it to the top cleanly, there is a good chance you will black out and come to reincarnated as an all-you-can eat mosquito buffet on the side of the swamp there. If you don’t succeed, you probably blacked out somewhere along the way and woke up as horse fly bait.

If you make the intersection with Government Trail via this shortcut and manage to retain consciousness, there is not enough recovery time in a week to make you feel strong enough to enjoy the rest of the ride safely, so you might as well call Mountain Rescue to come get you or keep pedaling knowing that you cannot possibly feel this bad forever and think positively that someday you may again feel normal. It is the affirmation, repeated often enough, that works, sometimes. Caffeinated gel shots enhance the effect.

My riding partner was my son. He’s 24 and my wife thinks I try to compete with him. This is absolutely not true. I am only trying to prove that aging is mind over matter. I understand that this is scientific nonsense, but social media doesn’t know this. Posting is the new Fountain of Youth. And, by this strategy, I figure I can keep my midlife crisis at bay until the evidence becomes irrefutable — a death bed in front of me, sheets turned down and a small chocolate on the pillow. I may never have to buy a red convertible.

I only crashed once on Government Trail this time. That’s pretty good. It happened in the Rock Garden. It may be a dry summer, but a bumper crop of sharp stones matured in its shade. I went head over handlebars and feet above both. I can live with the injuries I sustained. Typing with only seven fingers while holding an ice pack on my hip barely doubles the time it takes to write a column. They don’t cast middle fingers and it may honestly be years, or at least months, before I need reconstructive surgery.

It is a remarkable thing about exercise that you can injure yourself badly and, as long as you keep moving, the pain can be quite manageable. The foreigner who saw my crash expressed an ominous prediction: “You vill be bery sore in ze mornink.” That he prophesied I would even see the dawn I found encouraging in the wee hours.

We finished Government and rode back to Snowmass via Airline trail through Sky Mountain Park. I had the sensation of floating on a cloud. Riding those perfectly engineered grades over what amounts to a silky pile of dust deposited there by a long extinct glacier, was to Government trail what gliding through fresh powder blanketing a recently groomed trail is to skiing Shale Bluffs in August on skis salvaged from a dumpster. It reminded me of frivolous times long before the virus. It was like a breath of unfiltered air.

Roger Marolt knows that riding through rocks and hard places is almost always better than getting bogged down in the mud. Email at Email at