Peterson: My incredibly average life |

Peterson: My incredibly average life

So there I was, settling into the saddle for another hour of cardio and circuit training torture when the spin class instructor asked each of us for our goal for the year.

I tried to pedal with my head down while others around me eagerly volunteered information.

One woman shouted out that she wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Another said she had her sights on leveling up to her next whitewater certification. One guy said he wanted to win a golf tournament he’s already won before. Another woman said she wanted to get back to pro-level racing on her mountain bike.

And then the instructor looked at me: What about you?  

I mumbled something about wanting to get down to a healthier weight before my wife and I take a trip to Mexico in late April.

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Basically, forget the rest of you psychos: I’m just trying to look good naked!

Then I wondered if I was in the wrong workout class.

This place, man, everywhere you turn, it will humble you.

Think you’re fit? Unless you’re Josiah Middaugh, someone’s fitter.

Think you’ve got a nice house? Someone’s got a bigger one.  

Think you’re worldly? Someone’s passport has more stamps than yours.

Think you rip on the mountain? Get in line.

I learned that lesson the hard way the other week when I went out for a few runs with the Vail Daily’s newest staff editor, Anna Suszynski.

Anna mentioned in the interview process that she used to ski competitively. Turns out, she was a regular top-10 finisher on the Freeride World Tour before she focused on college full-time.

Was I ever out of my league. Trying to keep up with her on Vail Mountain as she effortlessly sliced down North Rim or Prima Cornice was cartoonish. She’d go over a roller, and then I’d go over that same roller a few seconds later, only to find her a whole football field ahead of me.

I chased cold smoke the whole morning before I finally gave up.

I felt average and old.

And, really, that’s what I love about this place — just how quickly it will put you in your place, whenever your head starts to grow.

Mountain living is advanced calculus. The bar is just higher up here.

I’d certainly lost perspective on that after eight years surviving the zombie apocalypse that is South Florida, where being above average wasn’t hard at all.

For instance, plenty of people in South Florida were impressed that I’d done both a Tough Mudder and a Spartan race. In this valley, an adventure race is something cute to do on the weekend while you’re training for your next Ironman.

In South Florida, moms would comment to my wife that I was a super dad for taking my kids to the grocery store and then cooking dinner. Here, there are dads who shop for organic groceries for the gourmet dinner they’ll cook for the family — on a backcountry hut trip.

And even though we live in such an affluent place, it’s not necessarily money that impresses people here. Rather, it’s the experiences we brag about — the first tracks laid down on a powder day, the big fish hooked in the river or the wild trip to parts unknown during the last mud season.

In South Florida, it seemed, all people cared about was creating the perception that their life was amazing. There’s a term people would throw around —“$40,000 millionaires” — for the walking clichés with the leased, starter Benzes and Beemers and the maxed-out credit cards to afford all those designer clothes.

I still remember all the plastic surgery ads on the radio: “Bring your tax refund!”

Here, millionaires get excited about getting a great deal on a pair of ski pants. 

It’s no contest. Being average here? It’s incredible.

Nate Peterson is the editor of the Vail Daily. Email him at

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