Quick Chile trip recap

Outrigger power

As usual, there has been considerable delay in my brief write-up of my brief trip to Chile in early August. It took a full 24 hours of travel each way, from Boston to Las Trancas. South America is big! I think people outside of South America don’t realize how large even countries like Peru and Bolivia are.

The group accommodation was simple and very pleasant. It seems like there are a ton of accommodation options in this town.

Unfortunately, the weather gods were not on our side. It was raining half the time, and when it was snowing decently, the resort would stop running their lifts due to high winds. Certainly a bit of a bummer.

Not what you want to see during ski season

But I did get a day or two of decent skiing in. I also met another three-tracker in the group. It has never happened where I meet (1) someone who skis on one leg and ski, (2) Rips, too, (3) Skis on the same leg as I do. Holy shit, the trinity is complete!

I think we have a good shot at qualifying for the US National Synchronized Outrigger team. (Photo: Maria Peters)

We just look fuckin’ weird here (Photo: Maria Peters)

It is pretty cool to ski in August! And it was nice to visit Chile again; it has been a very long time since I was last in South America. As I am currently teaching myself Portuguese, my Spanish is totally mangled, and I spoke some kind of Portuguese/Spanish hybrid when I was in Las Trancas. I was able to get away with this because the area gets a lot of Brazilian skiers/tourists, so most folks there can speak some basic Portuguese.

An unfortunate health problem cropped up for me on this trip  and it made me wonder about what kind of medical care could I get in Chile, let alone a place like Las Trancas. Access to excellent health care and specialists is a huge factor in deciding where I will live, and that elicits a lot of negative feelings and emotions in me. I hate feeling and being limited in my choices.

I was pretty wrecked after so much travel, and connections in confusing airports (i.e. Santiago). It’s not that fun lugging around a huge ski bag twice my size around airports. I am very mobile given my disability. However, I was thinking the whole time about the difficulties someone less mobile than me would have in the same situation, and what assistance they would receive.

If you are making a connection in Santiago, the process and airport are very confusing. You might be approached by guides or people with official airport badges offering to help you.  They aren’t doing it to be nice; they expect a sizable tip.

I will be off to Portugal again soon. It is kind of cool to go from the Andes to sunny Portugal. I love contrast.

Quarterly Update – Another Round of Travels Begins

It has been four months since my last post :( Even I do not let so much time pass between posts. March, April, and May were the toughest times of my life; even more so than the process of being pieced back together, and acquiring a Spinal Cord Injury. The physical/health issues I was dealing with had me house-bound for much of March; I was desperate for an answer as to what/why I was experiencing such symptoms. Ultimately it was a self-diagnosis that got treatment going, even though my condition was/is tricky to treat. This period was also a reminder of how woeful our medical system is. Call after call, email after email, going from one specialist to the next, going to alternative medicine practitioners, rinse and repeat…now I am probably as proactive a patient as you can get and familiar with dealing with our health system. But this experience totally eroded me. It is ironic how I live in the Boston area, probably the densest concentration of medical professionals and hospitals in the country, and yet, had so much difficulty trying to be seen by the people I should be seen by. Things reached a nadir in mid-May; I was just done. Fortunately, I have been on an upward trajectory since then, after finally finding some doctors who actually help me.

Given my health issues, entering climbing competitions was the last thing on my mind. Earlier on, I firmly dismissed the idea of competing at the Paraclimbing Nationals competition, held at my local climbing gym. I didn’t just want to show up, and I knew I would feel bad for not being able to climb at my best/well. But upon seeing how fun the routes looked, encouragement from many people, I altered my itinerary and registered at the last possible moment. I actually had a blast, even though the top-rope format usually does not interest me.

A super fun climb. I am actually pushing off a hold with my left arm, not humping the volume. (Source: USA Climbing)

This was actually the first climbing competition where I was not super nervous because I did not have expectations about how hard I would climb, placing, etc. And it showed in my climbing!! I climbed loose and relaxed, having to dyno for many holds (I am very short), entertaining spectators with my moves, and climbing well. In short, I climbed with style.

I ended up placing; not bad for someone in really rough physical and mental shape a month earlier, who did not train at all. Unfortunately, I had to dash off before the awards ceremony because I had a long drive ahead of me to Acadia National Park. Ironically, I am currently climbing at my very best! I am climbing routes at a grade I would usually never touch, and actually climbing – not thrutching or hang-dogging at each clip. It is rather strange. I guess not being injured from overtraining (as in the past) helps.

Tomorrow I head to Lisbon, Portugal for a fortnight. Although the city does not have a rope climbing gym (?!!), and I don’t want to regress in my climbing abilities, I predict I will dig the place. I am glad to be spending a fair bit of time in Lisbon and fully exploring the city and surrounding area. It will be interesting to see how I fare with my Portuguese. Then, at the beginning of August, I head to Chile, and then likely back to Lisbon at the end of August. Given the depths of despair I was trapped in, it feels especially good to be back on my feet, exploring and experiencing new places again.

(N.B. I am trying out using the AP style guide for my blog post title, even though unnecessary capitalization annoys me; probably more than it should :))

Peroneus longus muscle – continued injury and pain, and action plan

Today was storm riding day at Jackson.




A momentary respite from the snow and wind


Unfortunately, I was hardly able to take advantage of these epic conditions because of the excruciating lateral lower right leg pain previously experienced in Alta, UT. I thought the almost one week of rest would have fixed the issue, but this was not the case. I found that I could not ski safely on even easy terrain. Every little bump or any kind of pressure/exertion on the outside (right) turn hurt so much that I could not control my boot/ski. I focused on trying to reach the base area safely and went into the boot-fitters therefght to see if they might be able to offer any suggestions. After briefly explaining my situation and skiing setup to the boot-fitter, I decided to schedule an appointment with him tomorrow morning (his earliest opening) thinking that there might be stuff that could be done to my boot around the cuff to help alleviate the pain. I tried using some silicone shin pad protectors, as an interim solution, but they offered no relief (this was before I identified the true cause, so I guess the fact they did not work for me is not a surprise and should not be a judgment of the product’s intended use). I was/am feeling very desperate, and wasn’t sure whether to seek treatment here e.g. get cortisone shots to deal with the pain (this would be a very short-term fix and would not treat this pain in the future, such as when I am supposed to ski in Chamonix in February), call it quits and drive back to the East Coast, or what to do…

This is definitely not simple shin bang. I had initially thought it was a shin issue, but after an internet search for lateral leg pain related to skiing, I am positive it is my Peroneus longus muscle that is hurting so much. This is actually not a common muscle to be injured for skiers (or for runners, or people/athletes in general for that matter). But, this excerpt from the linked Wikipedia article explains it all:

“Taking their fixed points below, the fibularis muscles serve to steady the leg upon the foot.[2] This is especially the case in standing upon one leg, when the tendency of the superincumbent weight is to throw the leg medialward; the fibularis longus overcomes this tendency by drawing on the lateral side of the leg.[2]”

So this really sucks right. My leg pain is due to the very fact I ski on one leg. Having high arches exacerbates this issue : “However, due to your high arches, the bones of your feet including the cuboid tend to be in a more rigid and fixed position. Therefore, your Peroneus Longus experiences extra stress from this lost mechanical advantage because it pulls harder in an attempt to bring the medial arch closer to the ground. Over time, this excess pulling causes strain to the muscle.”

After much calling around, I have made some short-term plans:

  1. Wednesday 8:00 am: Appointment with boot-fitter (I made this appointment before identifying the true issue, but I still hope this might help with pain)
  2. Wednesday 10:00am: Appointment with physiotherapist in Jackson, WY
  3. Friday PM: Appointment with orthopedic specialist to perhaps get cortisone shots

This is not how I wanted to be experiencing Jackson Hole, WY.

Depending on the above, I may have to truncate this big road trip and drive back East. I’ll be even more upset if this issue prevents me from snow-shoeing or walking. I was in tears as I told this to Scott, who responded with, this could happen to anyone Wendy. I know he was trying to console me. But I said, NO, my outriggers wouldn’t have broken if I didn’t have to use them because of my accident. NO, this part of my leg would not be hurting so much and preventing me from skiing if it wasn’t because of my accident and I had to ski like this. I realize this sounds petulant, but I get very upset when something related to my SCI prevents me from just skiing one run, let alone taking advantage of amazing conditions in Jackson Hole of all places. I feel like I am not asking for much. Skiing isn’t the most important thing around by a long shot, but like I said, it seems like yet another thing I love that I cannot do.

I am having a hard time making peace with myself and physical circumstances. And to not be resentful. I have to though, right?? I can’t live a life feeling this way, feeling cheated or robbed, because there would be no joy in that whatsoever. I know pushing through (hard) things is one thing people admire about me; but I am tired. I am just tired.

My good friend George said that at least I am learning valuable information about how my body responds to skiing. This is true. I just wish I was not having to learn this information during what is supposed to be an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime trip.

The short-term steps are just that, short-term to get through this acute stage of the injury. Longer-term plans: I was just told I should consider ankle physiotherapy to stabilize/retrain this process in my leg. Apparently this is a “known thing.”


With our thoughts we make the (our) world

No new snow and hard pack and the continued shin issue made me decide to sit today out as well. I felt bad that I was letting another ski day slip away, but I also thought that I did not want this shin to inhibit future skiing on this trip, especially at my next stop, Jackson Hole. A dear friend read my last blog post, after I directed her towards it to explain why I was feeling so low lately. She pointed out what we both know already and that is, I am constantly manifesting, and bringing my unhealthy thinking patterns along  with me wherever I go. “Underneath all of these experiences is a less than ideal thinking pattern for you which seems to be keeping you from living the life you want. Address that thing that is sitting there deep dark inside you that goes with you no matter where you go.” What I struggle with is how to go about doing this. When I think about how I might never break free from this pathology, I despair the most.  When I told my friend about this fear, and clarified what I meant by “pathology” (who I am), she pointed out that who are you are is not pathology.

I know there are positive components to me that have allowed me to push myself to where I am today, allowed me to befriend some wonderful people, and have incredible experiences. Like this trip I am on. Adventure, even? But as you have probably gathered, there is this highly punishing part of me that reacts poorly to setbacks and can always find a way to blame myself, blame my reactions etc. And, of course, judgment is at best, unhelpful; at worst, a cruel siphon of energy and joy. A reader kindly reminded me to not let the frustrating experiences overshadow the awesome ones, and how correct he is.

I am not going to have the overnight epiphany Eckhart Tolle said he had (I am highly highly skeptical this is what happened, but whatever, he has helped a lot of people I guess and done well for himself), but I will try to move forward with renewed purpose and optimism. That, fuck it, shit happens. I am doing something not many people have the balls to do on their own, let alone without the weight of my accident. I will get to see beautiful places, maybe meet some cool people along the way (I already have) and, yeah, ski. Because skiing is awesome. Maybe I am doing all right after all.

(By the way: lock de-icer spray + PB B’laster to keep the water out of the lock. WD-40 is too lightweight/freeze in really really cold conditions).