A Memorial Ski Race

 

 
I was in the first annual Dennis Miles Memorial 10K on Saturday. (Which turned out to be more of an 8K, but that was fine.) I hadn’t planned on entering, rather figured I’d just putz after the start, but my husband, who has organized his share of community running events pointed out, that when you host a race, you want participants, rather than folks who sort of jog (or ski) the course after the start. 
 
I came more for Dennis, to remember him well, by skiing a lap of the trail he maintained voluntarily all those years. 
 
But I had a lingering cold, and skiing is not my forte. It never really was, but now that I have a partly numb foot and some balance issues, thanks to an accident a few years back,  it is even more challenging.
 
Before the race began, everyone gathered along the Chilkat River flats at 25 Mile. Tom Morphet, the editor and owner of The Chilkat Valley News had a table set up with hot drinks, chili, hot dogs and music. He also brought his trumpet and was wearing a Santa hat. Jim Stanford, who also helps out with trail work for the Haines Ski Club wore a Santa hat too and welcomed everyone. He asked us all to listen up before we got going, and then he said the course was in memory not only of Dennis, but also of Guy Hoffman (both Dennis and Guy died skiing-- their big hearts quit while doing this) and Bobbi Figdor, who died of cancer the year I was in my accident, and of Pete Lapham, who also died of cancer too young, and who had built the snow machine oval track nearby. Jim said the plan is to make this whole area the Haines Memorial Winter Recreation Park.  Then he asked for a moment of silence for those four. They were my peers—none of them died of old age—or were even old. About 60 for each—give, or maybe take a few. They should be here, too.
 
I was suddenly so sad I wanted to go home. But then I thought—wait a minute--- I will ski, in my own not so perfect way, because I am able to. Because I’m one of the lucky ones. Plus, this is supposed to be a fun day— and it is a beautiful kind of party, and the weather is not too cold, or too warm, it isn’t snowing or raining or windy—it is Spring, the track is set, and there are lots of children and balloons and dogs, and Tom and his silly trumpet, and that boom box of old hits, and look at my handsome husband who is still so fit and strong and who used to have so much fun with crazy Dennis—
 
And so I skied the course behind just about everyone, looping gently along the snowy flats, and winding beside the open river channels, and while the gray sky did not quite clear, it grew bright enough to see most of the mountains rimming the valley. Not a blue bird day, but a pretty great one. And it did not take much to believe my old friends were just beyond that pale gray dome. It didn’t take anything at all really, to imagine that. So I said hello, and told them I missed them, and thanked them for reminding how good it is to be here.
 
 
 
 
 

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