All I want for Christmas is My Lunch Back

Saturday, December 26, 2009 | 0 Comment(s)

I cross-country skied in high school.  And by that I mean, I raced.  I was, for a kid who went to public school in western MA, a decidedly "OK" racer.  I think I came in around 30th in "States" in MA my senior year.  While at the time I was incredibly proud of myself, it turns out that part of this high finish comes from the decidedly small number of X-country ski racers in high school in MA.  (I know, hard to believe.)

My gf also raced cross-country in high school.  In VT.  For those of you unfamiliar with east coast ski culture, when it comes to skiing, VT > MA (the exception being Heidi Volker, circa 90's US Olympic downhiller who grew up on the same street as I did).  My gf went to a ski high school . . . in VT.  She didn't go to "States,"  she went to "Nationals."  To put it in perspective, when I see her skiing around the bend, she looks exactly like the people you see every 4 years, X-country skiing on TV.  Exactly the same.  The way she holds her poles, her body position, he extremely cool ski gear (apparently there are ski pants that have paneling in front to break the wind, but are breathable in back, to release heat. I was unaware until this weekend of this technology).  She looks like a pro.  Oh, and her sister also went to the same high school.  Same result.  And her parents, well, her parents sent them to that school.  They are probably in the best shape of all of us.  So, suffice it to say, two and a half years into this relationship, I still haven't skied with her fam.  Come on man.  You'd be intimidated too if left with the possibility of total and utter embarrassment in front of one's gf's whole family.  But this year I'm in the best shape I've been in in awhile and I was determined to go out onto the white stuff with her family. 

Here's how I rationalize it (remember, we psychologists can be powerful rationalizers).  If you take all the possible guys my gf could have ended up with, there is a pretty good chance they could have A) Never even been x-country skiing B) Didn't have their own gear.  So in these respects i figured I was ahead of the game.  These were the only respects it turns out.

We head out into the woods, all of us skating (there are 2 types of x-country, classical [think NordicTrak] and skating--skatings faster), and while i didn't have as much glide as I remember, I also didn't fall.  I was extremely aware, as I negotiated the first downhill, of the 4 sets of eyes watching, examining, seeing how good the newcomer really was.  Thankfully, being a downhill skier of many years, the downhills were always my strength in general.  No falls.  I was impressing them.

Then came a problem.  There was a fork in the trail and I watch as my gf's sister goes zooming down a hill and around a bend.  Then, her dad, hesitating only briefly, also zooms down.  Next is me.  Step turn, step turn.  Safe.  At the bottom.  Crap, we are at the bottom.  Of a huge hill.  We've only gone about half a kilometer at this point and i am not "warmed up" by any means.  Stella has not gotten his grove back.  But Stella has to go up the hill nonetheless.  So off we go.  Climbing climbing. 

I flashed back to high school.  I am in the middle of the race.  My lungs begin to burn, but I have another gear.  Like a camel plugging through the desert, I am designed for forward progress.  I am motion that tends to stay in motion.  I am 17 years old and the rest of my life is at the top of that hill and nothing is going to stop me.

I am 31.  My lungs are burning, but this Matt version 2.0 is a one-geared machine.  The lungs begin their familiar burn.  It starts like a shot of hot sauce.  Just as it begins to simmer, the cheese cloth wraps around your lungs and constricts.  The air I'm inhaling feels like a frozen milkshake being sucked with maximum force through a straw.  And just when I think the red flash is coming, we are at the top.  I am victorious.  We are the champions my friend.  We will we will rock you.  We are Marshall.  I am Spartacus.  I  . . . don't want . . . your life (ok, so the last one doesn't really fit, but i just love a good Varsity Blues reference).

We continued, and two mini-stops later, the burning is going away.  I'm going anaerobic.  Oh wait, no.  No, I'm not.  The burning is being replaced by nausea.  The transition is happening fast and I quickly realize that effluence is now non-negotiable.  I try to scatter the family.  I'm realizing, by the taste in the back of my throat, that hydrating with orange/mango juice was a bad idea.  The acid/bile combo is no good.  And there it is.  On what my gf's family is now calling "Boot Hill," I tossed my cookies.  I upchucked.  I heave ho ho ho'd.  I actually am not super embarrassed by this.  This isn't even the first time I've thrown up with them.  This is the 2nd annual (there was a black water incident.  But, the first rule of black water, however, is that we don't talk about the black water).  I was initiated.  I had won any countless number of "boyfriend points."  And I skied all the way back (minus the crazy fucking hill) without incident. 

I even started to get my glide back close to the finish. 

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