First black run as a three-tracker – but paying for it, and a Blake poem

The last, and only, two times I had skied post-accident, I had done just a day trip with a morning and afternoon lesson (two hours each) with New England Disabled Sports (NEDS). Upon the advice of Cindy, my instructor on both occasions, I decided to do an overnight trip and ski two days: a two-hour lesson in the morning on each day and just skiing by myself in the afternoon. With the recent – dare I say epic? Just did – snow storm earlier in the week, and having ice-climbed the weekend before, I thought this weekend would be the perfect time for a two-day ski weekend.

Snow forecast

The forecast for the blizzard last Monday (Credit: Some random twitter pic)

The weekend did not start off auspiciously. After a few week period of decent sleep (by my very low standards), as a result of starting a new medication for muscle spasms (back and left calf/leg) and nerve pain issues in my left leg, I regressed this past week and found myself dealing with my usual insomnia problems for several nights in a row. My back pain had also worsened, to the point where I felt like throwing up for most of Friday. The combination of those things, an early start for the drive up on Saturday morning, predicted temperatures in the low single digits (Fahrenheit), negative temperatures with severe wind-chill, made for a pretty fuckin’ pathetic Wendy on Saturday morning. The cold really put me off, because as I have said before, I really shut down in very cold temperatures due to the circulation issues, not eating or drinking much during the day because I don’t want to pee in my pants accidentally, and just not being of hardy winter stock (you can take the girl out of Hong Kong but you can’t take the Hong Kong out of the girl). I warned Scott and Cindy that this would not be a stellar day/weekend for me and did my usual Wendy thing of apologizing for being slow and holding people back.

To my surprise, I did quite well! After a warmup run, my leg(s) were feeling super fresh on Saturday morning. It was cold, but at least the wind wasn’t howling so I was managing to not get so cold to the point of crying. This was my third day ever as a three-tracker, and I found that the blue runs I found to be somewhat challenging on my second day (a few weekends before) were super cruiser and comfortable to be on. We fit in a lot of fast, long blue runs off a high-speed quad that morning, so by the time the lesson was over, I was tired. By lunchtime, the wind kicked up and it was frost-bite conditions. The combination of the intense cold, general fatigue and snow being scraped/blown off by the afternoon meant that Scott and I only skied another 4-5 runs or so after lunch before calling it a day. I was aware that this would be the first time I would be skiing on consecutive days (as a three-tracker), so I wanted to pace myself.

Because of the bitter cold, I was not going to ask anybody to take off their gloves and get some video footage of me skiing. But Scott remarked that there had been a huge improvement in my skiing. He was no longer slowing down to wait for me, but having to point his skis straight down to keep up with me. He commented that my turns were looking “beautiful” (!) and that it was such a pleasure to ski behind me and see my beautiful turns. I’m doing a much better job of keeping my upper body more stationary and pointing down the hill, while my leg pivots under me. One reason why I was hesitant to ski again after my accident was that I thought I would never be able to find skiing on anything but steep, narrow double-black chutes satisfying. But I have to admit, zipping down long cruiser blue runs in good style is pretty darn fun.

Sunday morning was similarly clear and cold. The snow wasn’t in as good condition as it had been on Saturday morning, but Loon does a pretty good job of grooming. We did a bunch of runs off another high speed quad, so we fit in a lot of fast runs. I wasn’t feeling as fresh as I had felt on Saturday. I found the blown off and scraped off, icy slopes challenging, but Scott said that he did not notice any degradation in my skiing. I still felt it though, and was especially tired on some runs which required just skiing straight down, as opposed to turning. When I am skiing straight down a hill, my right quad really receives no reprieve, so it was really feeling it (screaming? :)) at the end of such runs.

We stuck to blue runs all morning. As we parted ways at the top of a chair-lift, Cindy said I should stick to blue runs and continue to just get a lot of mileage on those(*). I kinda agreed, thinking that there isn’t much point in just being able to get down something steep at the expense of my form completely going out the window.

Scott and I skied back down to get a warm drink and warm ourselves up in a lodge. Then we headed out again to get some more runs in. On our way back to the main lodge, we had the option of going down a black diamond run. So, naturally, I hopped on it. Honestly, it wasn’t that steep and it was wide, so I could make big radius turns to get down it. But what made it harder than any of the blue runs I had been on, was the steeper pitch combined with how it was just straight ice. I made it down fine, and overtook quite a few people on the way down. So, yay, I can now say I did my first black run as a three-tracker now. We called it a day soon after because we were really cold. Also, as I was getting tired, it was becoming very apparent with my left leg. I was having an increasingly difficult time holding it up from the snow, and as I grew more fatigued, it was starting to drop and hit the snow more and more. Not awesome.

It is funny…most of the time I see myself as being slow, gimpy and just plodding along. But I have to admit, I was blowing by a lot of folks and with really good form too. Scott is a huge fan/cheerleader of mine, and he said, it was so awesome to see you rip it and just blow by all these people! It is really nice to have people like that who can reflect a more accurate assessment of myself than my own self-perception.

Unfortunately, my back is paying the price for this weekend. I should have expected this, especially since I was having pain issues right before the weekend too. It isn’t hurting in a pleasantly sore/muscular/I had a hard workout kind of way. It is more of a, “Fuck, I want to throw up” kind of pain that is not helping with the sleep issues.

Nevertheless, it was totally worth it. I’ll have to lay low for a few days, get over the pain, and then repeat the cycle, no doubt. I cannot wait to feel/see the improvement in my performance once I get a boot that fits me well. I’m trying to find out if I can get a deal on just a right ski boot; not just for financial reasons, but mainly because it would be a total waste of a left ski boot, if a manufacturer happened to have some defect left side of a pair. I had also requested an increase in my ski length from 140cm from my first two ski days, to 150cm this weekend. I am really glad I did because it gives me so much more stability at higher speeds and more edge for ice; and it makes me feel less like I am on a kid ski. I’m always having to correct myself to using the singular for skis and boots :)

As I’ve had more time to think about it, I am actually deriving much more satisfaction in having to learn how to do something so familiar to oneself in a completely different way, out of necessity.

In my short but eventful life, my experience has been that we have different identities as we go through life, and sometimes we must die to a certain one to grow into another. Either we do it voluntarily, or circumstances push us into it.

William Blake wrote:

He who binds to himself a joy
Doth the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.

I think we all have to learn how to do this in life.

(*) We later ran into Cindy at the NEDS office as we were changing and getting ready to go home. She said, I you were going to get on a black run this afternoon :) Do as I say, not as I do…

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