Standing in a parking lot somewhere between Montreal and Ottawa along the Canadian Ski Marathon trail in 1969, I watched Jackrabbit Johannsen berate a skier who had startled him, passing without properly calling “Trail!” Jackrabbit, one of the pioneers, promoters, popularizers of X-C in Canada, founder of the race, well into his 90s, (he lived to 111, a legend and testament to healthy life-style as it is called now) he was yelling at the embarrassed guy with his strong Norwegian accent, “don’t uu know to call TRAIL?” Obvious to me that Jackrabbit was very deaf and would not have heard anyway.
(OK, I confess, he was yelling at me)
I had been waiting for hours for my race partner to arrive. I skied the first leg, David G. Smith the second. But he ran out of gas; when he did come in told me he sat for an hour beside the trail in a daze. My own similar experience in the Boston Marathon a few months later at mile 20.
Mushers also call Trail! I don’t like it, I prefer to say “Heads up!”
In the book Beyond the Mexique Bay written in the mid 30s, Aldous Huxley describes meeting burro trains along trails in Mexico:
“Burrr-rro!” the drivers shouted with that prodigious rolling of the r that is only to be heard in Mexico. (guess he never went to many other countries in Latin America) And “Burrr-rro!” yelled our mozo. It is automatic; one always shouts “Burro!” when one meets donkeys on a narrow road. Not because it does any good, but simply for fun… I never missed an opportunity of doing so: nor of shouting “Perrr-rro!” at any dog that strayed in my neighborhood. With ten or fifteen years of practice one might learn to roll one’s r’s as grandly as the Mexicans themselves.
Next time in a sled dog race, try it instead of calling trail: “Perrr-rro!”
Polenta pasticciata, slow food, slow life, Slow Movement.
Don’t hurry, don’t worry, don’t eat and run. That is my take-away from the Slow Movement so far. After a meal it is ideal to relax and digest. Let your parasympathetic nervous system take over, let the vagus nerve dominate. Think happy thoughts or meditate. If you can’t hit the target use a prop, remember a happy occasion, a meal in pleasant circumstances. This is one I easily recall, though to get in that frame of mind I don’t need all the details I am going to give you, only need to think Bernina Pass and polenta pasticciata.
Each year the Alpirod was a cumulation of months of struggle to meet deadlines. 1991 was one of the worse because after all the preparations to fly to Europe TWA called me to say they moved our flight up two days. Because Gulf War I was about to break out they wanted to get us over right away in case the military requisitioned their 747s to fly troops to Saudi Arabia. On the flight from Minneapolis to JFK the flight attendant remarked that there were more dogs than people on the plane. Per Olav and I were the only two passengers in a 727.
The Alpirod itself was always a series of deadlines, many hard to meet. Get to the race start, go from the race finish to the dinner location. Sometimes drive 800 km across one country or another with a deadline to arrive at the next stage location and find the hotel.
When the last stage finished in Maloja should have been time to relax but no! Gotta go the next day in convoy to Milano for TV publicity. Fortunately the dog trucks stayed in the Engadine valley. Riding down the valley beside Lake Como it was stop and go bumper to bumper traffic. Sometimes we were stopped for 5 or 10 minutes going nowhere among all the skiers returning to Milano. I noticed then the railroad tracks roughly parallel to our route with occasional trains zipping along unobstructed. They don’t go to Maloja but the next day after the TV appearances I asked to be dropped at the main station in Milano, ignoring the protests of the race organizers ready to drive me all the way back to St Moritz or Sils or Silvaplana. The train followed the route via Sondrio to Tirano where I got off. It was a warm sunny midday, lunchtime, and a restaurant on the same square between the Italian station and the Swiss station where the train leaves to go over Bernina Pass to Pontresina Samedan St Moritz. Looked like there might be time to eat. The waiter said the special was polenta pasticciata. We had polenta often during Alpirod, a rustic version with venison or some other meat in gravy sauce. (For filling food in cold weather I would prefer pizzoccheri the way it’s made in Valtellina.) Pasticiata sounded interesting but as a baked dish I was thinking could be slow. What if it took to long, what if I missed the train? Don’t worry said the waiter, the conductor and engineer at the table in the corner just ordered the same thing. The train won’t leave without them!
Do you want a recipe for it? Recalling that experience is my recipe for good digestion.