Distinctly Montana Magazine

Winter 2011

Distinctly Montana Magazine

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over the poles of those ahead and jerking them off their skis, occasionally catching a tip in the berm at the side of the track and being brought to a standstill. One bearded individual, no doubt paying the price of some bad karma, has got turned the wrong way; now, trying to get back into the flow, he trips someone else, and both fall to the track, taking the next skier with them, and the next, and the next, like Interstate 5 in the fog. To be honest, none of this is unusual at the start of big marathons, where adrenaline is high, prudence low, and respect for one’s fellow skiers minimal. I promised myself to be careful here. And I am, because I never really enter- tain any thought of winning one of these things or even of being sucked along in the draft of the long, lean nordic heroes to finish perhaps in the top 20. No one would be- lieve such a finish, especially me. No, even on a good day I’m firmly in the middle-to-rear ranks of the aerobically committed. Today my late start, behind virtually everyone, is giving me the chance to feel an enormous and unprecedented sense of accomplishment as I pass scores of people who are slower than I. Then . . . I can catch no one. Everyone ahead of me is skiing exactly I thought possible. Isn’t this what it’s all about? So I catch them and pass them and put them to bed. I go through the next aid station without stopping, but I stop at the one by the 11 kilometer mark to drink a cup of Max, the antifreeze-green fluid that’s served along with water, cookies, bananas, and chocolate stars. Going down the next hill I pass a dyspeptic-looking man in his late fif- ties who glowers at me and shouts as I slide by, “What wax are you using?” “Start Green!” This makes him seem even more depressed, as if he will nev- er recover from not having waxed with Start Green. Indeed, it makes him so depressed, or so angry, that as we climb the next hill he thrashes past me, never to be seen again. The pack is spread out now, each skier in his own little world of lodgepoles, snow, and hazy blue sky, her own little world of reverie, metaphor, cheerleading, and blame. I will eat two plates of spaghetti when done, I tell myself. If I can finish this race I will have the strength to do all that is hard in my life, I sincerely believe. Not bad, I con- at my pace. Here I am, then, where I physiologically ought to be, kilometer after kilometer, into eternity, following a man in red and a woman in blue. Truth told, though, we aren’t of such static worlds for more than half an hour. We’re of Copernicus’s little planet on the edge of things, of Heisenberg’s uncertainty, of Thomas Jefferson, especially him and his all men are cre- ated equal. We’re of this experiment in democracy, oppor- tunity, and potential, the first two letting us push the limits of the third. I start to think, Perhaps I can catch them, this man in red and woman in blue, skating so effortlessly one behind the other. And if I catch them, I will be more than I thought I could be today. I will have done a little more than www.distinctlymontana.com 31

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