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.”


Jackson Hole, WY: The reward for a very fraught driving day

Well, I am doing my best to roll with the weather punches. Feeling pretty sloth-like and fat from no skiing. I knew today was not going to be the best day at Snowbird, UT, but I still got up early, drank my coffee while I looked at the weather/mountain reports. Reports were for rain at the base, snow higher up, and wind gusts of 50 mph. Hrm, not ideal. But I still decided to pack up and make my way up the road towards Little Cottonwood Canyon. Precipitation was coming down as rain but the air temperature was reading 24 degF. Uh oh. Before I even began climbing, at a very large 4+ lane intersection and with plenty of time and distance to brake for the red light, I found myself unable to stop because of how bad the black ice was on the road. It was fortunate that it was still early and there were not many cars on the road. I decided to pull into a nearby parking lot and reassess. Now, there were reports of continued warm temperatures, rain/ice/black ice on the road, and 70 mph gusts on the mountain. Even if a foot of snow was projected to fall on the mountain, I thought, getting into a terrible car accident on the way to Snowbird to be lifted off the ground by 70 mph gusts sounds like a terrible reason to die/get hurt/total my car. I took a deep breath and made the call to call it quits on Salt Lake City for now.

Because the system was so warm, it was wreaking havoc on the roads. All of us were driving no more than 35 mph, with many car lengths between us, on the usual 70 mph I-15 interstate that runs north-south out of Salt Lake City, in the part that was still within the city and therefore very well maintained. And, still, two cars spun out right in front of me. The first car did a slow spin out to the right and I thought it is good the car is spinning out of the way of traffic. Then the car between it and me decided to step on their brakes….NOOOOO!!! That car also spun out to the right, and a car accident involving me was narrowly averted.

I elected to drive the longer driving route from Salt Lake to Wilson, WY to try and stay on the large interstate for as much as possible. It was still very slow and stressful going, and what should have been a 5 hour drive took close to 7 hours (there was a nice cold, dryer spell through Idaho). Teton Pass was open, but the drive was also very slippery so great caution was taken. It was awesome to see so many skiers parked though for a day of touring/laps! I really miss living in a place where that is just the thing you do with friends!

Today's almost-7 hour drive

Today’s almost-7 hour drive

I made it to Wilson, WY without incident and have decided to park myself here for the next while because:

  1. Snow conditions are great
  2. I love the Tetons
  3. I am very tired of driving around and just want to stay put in a place, ski, snowshoe, and recharge
  4. I got an excellent deal at the Bentwood Inn, only 12 minutes away from Teton Village – yes, this trip has been one of contrasts. To be some times sleeping in my car to staying at one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World. As an aside, I was chatting with the male part of the innkeepers, and it was pretty great to learn of overlap. It turns out that he and his wife lived in North Conway, NH for a long time and are going to be returning there after a few years here (he’s an attorney and she is a teacher). He offered to do a caravan for the drive back East, although I do not think it will work out since I am probably under greater time pressure than he is and they are probably going to drive a more southerly (warmer) route.

Right now I am thinking I will ski at Jackson Hole and also Grand Targhee, a small resort renowned for how much powder it gets (along the lines of Revelstoke and the other inner British Columbia resorts). This is just more kind of scene…small resorts with steep, amazing terrain, lots of locals, and fewer tourists (like me). It helps that I am here mid-week and not having to fight the crowds.

Due to some late emails, I only found out that I received an invitation to ski with the US Paralympic ski team this week after I left town. The team practices Monday to Friday, so I am tempted to drive back to the Salt Lake area and ski with them on Friday, perhaps “avenge” my no-skiing-time in SLC over the weekend, then decide whether to head back up here or to Colorado, depending on snow conditions. Another option is to try and connect with them next week. Colorado seems to doing worse conditions-wise, which makes Jackson Hole all the more appealing. However, this would mean missing seeing friends in the Telluride area, especially.

The warm storm following the very very cold spell screams avalanche danger, so I will be continuing to stay in-bounds. It’s a bit unfortunate I have not been able to use any of my touring stuff, but the terrain is so amazing at these places, I am sure I will not feel sad. A gentle snowshoe in the quiet of the snow sounds perfectly satisfying too.


Looking out of the window right by my bed

As I was driving, I remembered so many strangers’ comments to me as I’ve been skiing, telling me how incredible I was, what a great attitude I had to life (my response to that one was, “you make do” :)), what an inspiration I was etc. It would be incredibly ungrateful and unkind of me to dismiss these sincere and wonderful comments from people. I hope I can continue to do others and myself proud.


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).


A study in human and non-human equipment limitations

Limitations/failures, depending on your mood for euphemisms…

I have been struggling. This trip, or at least the last week, seems to have been a study in human and non-human equipment limitations and failures (in very cold weather) :( After the debacle around my outriggers, and to a much lesser extent my stiffer, narrower (96mm) ski, I thought I was ready to move forward with the primary objective of this trip: fuckin’ SKIING, eh??!

Sun on the other side of the parking lot. It was shaping up to be a very cold but clear day.

Sun on the other side of the parking lot. It was shaping up to be a very cold but clear day.


The non-human part

I knew it was going to be very cold today (I did not realize it was not going to get above 0 degF (-18 degC), and it was mostly around -6 degF (-21 degF) when I was out, before the slight wind chill).  I thought I had gotten use to dealing with these cold conditions and I had suited up my usual Himalaya-winter style, and was ready to enjoy skiing in Alta for the first time in many many years. But I did not anticipate the effect all this prolonged exposure to very cold conditions has had, except on my car key battery.

After my usual routine of suiting up like a clown, I inserted my cargo box key into the core to open it. It was not entering/turning. I try the other side/core. No luck. Now my cargo box has been a total champ on this trip. It has withstood very very high winds, and I purchased it based on its ease of operation, opening/closing.

I know the cargo box has been exposed to really really frigid temperatures, especially when you’re driving 80-90 mph on the freeway in ambient air temperatures around 0 degF. I have had the experience of having difficulty inserting and turning car keys in older cars in cold weather. But this was still surprising me. I keep fiddling around, jamming the cargo box key as hard as I can without breaking it (I worried that if I was too rough, the cargo box key would snap and be stuck in the core. I try the following things without success:

  • Breathing into the core, but I knew this was likely going to be totally useless
  • Pour my hot coffee over the car key to try and warm it up and thaw any frozen water that might have entered the core
  • Heat the car key with a borrowed lighter
  • Heat the core lock with the same borrowed lighter
  • Start the car, turn the heater to full blast, heat the car key in the vent, and quickly insert the key into the lock

As I mentioned before, a few days ago, I had my first minor accident where I steered my car into a snow bank. I knew that a ton of snow had gotten into the passenger side rear wheel and that the weather had not been warm enough for this to thaw. So I had been driving around with a bunch of frozen ice jammed up there, possibly affecting how the wheel and brakes work. Thus, I was heavily incentivized to get rid of this snow. I should have known the car washes would not be operational in negative Fahrenheit temperatures, but I still looked for one in Hailey, ID. No luck. I tried self-cleaning with one of those spray wands, but even with very hot water coming out, the temperatures and pressure were not high enough. So I was keen to look for a place to get a car wash in the relatively warmer Salt Lake City area. Before my road trip, as an experiment and also to get rid of Vermont mud/filth, I had taken my cargo box through a car wash in Somerville, MA, to see if the car wash would damage the box and if water would enter the box. The cargo box and its contents were unaffected. So I did not think twice about bringing my cargo box through a car wash here. Well, it turns out that temperatures even in the low teens are enough to possibly affect the functioning of the box. Water must have gotten into the core lock and frozen.

Last resort: Go to the cafeteria, get a cup of scalding hot water, hope it doesn’t get much colder by the time I get to the car, pour hot water over the core. Yes, I knew this water was just going to fuckin’ re-freeze but I had to get my cargo box open. The cargo box opened to my relief, and I took out both skis (my fat ski and my harder pack snow ski and outriggers). As a precautionary measure, I will now keep my skis and outriggers, as well as a thermos with hot water inside the car when I am going to a ski area.

So that made for a very fraught start to the morning :(

This was when temperatures were WARMER.

This was when temperatures were WARMER.

The human part

Well hands were very cold from dealing with wet, but I was ready to ski. I thought that the snow from previous days called for my fatter, softer 109mm underfoot ski. The snow was actually rock solid chunks, although the groomed runs would have been super fun on my stiffer Aura. I wasn’t feeling stellar but thought I just needed to get a few warm up runs in me. I also made the decision that I would give my 109mm ski another few goes but if the snow remained hard and chunky, I would head back to my car to get my 96mm Aura, which ended up being the decision I made.

There are many things about skiing on one leg that a lot of people who don’t ski the way I do don’t think about. Heck, I don’t even think about these things until they rear their ugly, highly inconvenient, heads. Today, three things came together to make me have to cut my day short:

  1. I ski on one leg, but I am not missing my other leg, so I still carry all its weight and my entire body weight pushes against my right shin when I ski. My outside (pinky-toe) edge is the more difficult side for me and I really need to bear down on that outer shin to make good turns on that side. I’ve had some right shin aches and pains before but never a huge deal. I was experiencing some soreness last night but thought it would be fine by the morning.
  2. I ski on a pretty/very stiff ski boot, especially for someone by size/weight.
  3. I have been skiing in very cold temperatures

So while I have not had that many ski days given how long my trip has been, the fact that I have been pushing myself/skiing hard, in a stiff boot whose stiffness has been exacerbated by the very cold temperatures, on one leg has caused my outer right shin to hurt so much that I was openly weeping as I skied today. I am a big, emotional cry-baby, but it takes a lot of physical pain to make me cry. I just wanted to make it back to the car without getting into an accident, which was challenging because I couldn’t exert that pressure on my shin to be in total control.

I know the cargo box thing could have happened to anyone in these weather conditions, and who had to get the snow off around the wheels. But I am particularly upset because yet another ski day was cut short by something related to my spinal cord injury. I am applying heat, external analgesics, will take anti-inflammatories, and was using a compression wrap to try and get the pain and inflammation down. But I am feeling very down and thwarted. I am not even sure there is a solution to this; just “management.” Maybe it is about limiting number of skiing days in very cold weather; skiing in milder temps. Portable battery or car-battery powered hair-dryers. Or staying at home, sitting on the couch all day, and eating bonbons.

“Hold on, Hold on. Whatever happens: Hold on”

This video from Cafe Kraft brought tears to my eyes, even before the music swelled. Maybe it is the combination of the ever present thought of making peace with ones physical state etc., but pushing yourself and going for it, and thinking about my own aging father. But the attitude of these men is something I am in awe of. It will continue to be a struggle and require much practice, but their Lebensfreude is something that I can aspire towards. Maybe, one day, I might even be a Lebenskünstler, but that is unlikely.

Equipment setback and recovery – Sun Valley, ID

I am thankful to Higher Ground, the Sun Valley Adaptive Sports program that helped me fix my outriggers. The person I was supposed to meet did not show up, but after a phone call, the director of operations made sure someone did come by to try and help me. We could not find a stand alone spare spring, but I suggested that we find a broken outrigger and take the spring off that, and that is what we did. Outriggers fixed, yay.

It took me awhile to find the lift area and get my pass, but that happened and I was ready to ski. Finally.

It was a beautiful morning as the sun rose and clouds cleared.

It was a beautiful morning as the sun rose and clouds cleared.

But, WTF, what was wrong with me??! I felt like I could not ski at all! My ski was not holding an edge at times, or hanging on for too long. Was it because I was fat and had been a lazy sod the last 3 days and sitting on my bloody arse? I took a few more runs trying to figure out what was going on. It must have been because I filed my own ski edges the day before and I must have fucked that up. I went to the ski shop in the main lodge to see if they might be able to take a look and do a quick tune. When I brought my ski in and explained what was going on, the ski tech immediately nodded and was like, yep, I see what is going on. I had taken off too much off the base edges, and my side edges were totally trashed (from use and my attempts to fix it as well). He was able to get my ski turned around in 20 minutes so that I did not have to throw away yet another day due to yet another piece of equipment failure.

I took the ski out and breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, it was the ski and not entirely me. Although I was skiing out of sorts today just from sitting in a car all day and eating McDonalds :( I was able to rail on that ski though.

Clouds clearing in the distance

Clouds clearing in the distance


Conditions were dust on very hard crust, so it actually was not that fun skiing. Sun Valley is a good mountain if you want to rail on your downhill and GS turns; I can see why Picabo Street came from here. But the whole vibe and place is not really my scene. It seems like there are a lot of rich douchebags. Not that being rich makes you automatically a douchebag, but I am trying to characterize a particular type of skier. The kind who feels entitled, complains and grumbles about even the most minor of inconveniences. The kind who will knock down skis/snowboards on a rack and not pick them up. I found the town of Ketchum, ID to be extremely dull, and I am generally suspect of ski towns with a Lululemon in them. The highlight of Ketchum will be going to the Pioneer Saloon and eating an Idaho potato that weighs in at over a pound. Seriously.

That being said, I can say in retrospect that despite the shit show on New Years Day and the equipment setbacks with my outriggers and ski, I managed to find a solution and get things back on track. On a big trip like this, stuff is bound to go wrong. I will make use of my second day at Sun Valley that comes with the Mountain Collective pass, and continue on my way to Utah and Wyoming.

I also realize that there are not many people with my physical situation doing what I am doing. That’s probably why Whistler Adaptive was so not helpful for me. A lot of adaptive skiers require more supervision. Whereas I am on this big road trip, managing on my own for the most part, until a key piece of equipment fails and I am a long way from home to get the part fixed/mailed to me. Adaptive programs also tend not to be located in the places I enjoy skiing the most.

New Years Day setback – leaving Whistler, BC for Sun Valley, ID

Well, Happy Fuckin’ New Year. That was how this post initially started, and I’m keeping it there as a reminder of how I found myself feeling dejected, depressed, frustrated, and feeling like all my efforts were totally futile. These are not good feelings have, especially in combination. I had been dealing with some tough personal matters that left me starting the day feeling close to tears. But I still thought I should try and make the best of things and headed out for a day on the hill, even with cold and very windy conditions higher up.

Following the recommendation of my buddy Mike, I parked in the parking lot near the Tube Park so that I could just ski down to my car at the end of the day. I got my shit together, clicked into my ski and started to pole my way across a flat section, before I needed to lower the blade of my outriggers to descend. One outrigger did not lower and I thought, crap, I was experiencing this in Revelstoke a bit but had thought I had fixed the matter. Perhaps snow was stuck or things were a bit sticky; but the outrigger blade still did not lower or flip back up. Shit. This started to trigger a cascade of emotions around my accident, and thinking, Fuck, if my accident had not happened, I would not need to ski with these stupid outriggers and have them break on me. I realize comparing my current situation to my old pre-accident self is not productive but I am just being honest in expressing how I felt.


The part in question is a single steel wire spring. This is what it looks like on the functioning outrigger

Well, I had to find a way to fix this key show-stopper of an issue. I thought Whistler must have an adaptive program with participants using outriggers who could help diagnose the problem, so I called them. No one picked up the phone, so I followed Google’s directions to the 2010 Winter Paralympic Village, where they supposedly are located. The place was pretty deserted and I could not find signs of an office, program meeting location. So I drove back to Mike’s place (where I was staying) to try and see if I could fix the issue myself. I took apart the outrigger and saw why the outrigger was not flipping down/up. The metal spring had broken.


Why my outrigger was not functioning: the spring had broken

Upon more Googling, I saw that Whistler Adaptive had a desk at the Carlton Lodge in the Whistler Village. So I jumped in the car with my broken outrigger and headed over there. The desk was unmanned. I asked around and found out that there was usually only someone there at 9am when lessons started and 3pm, when lessons ended. Okay, it was around 12.30pm at this point. Maybe the ski tuning folks might have some spare wire around and might be able to help me out. So I raced down to the basement to seek their help. The guy there was, not surprisingly, totally unfamiliar with this equipment but was willing to help me out if I could find some steel wire stiff enough, as anything they had was just too flexible. He suggested the hardware store in the Village. So off I went. They only had super flexible 18 gauge aluminium wire but I was desperate and thought, maybe this stuff could work if I put in extra wraps. I realized it would have been super helpful of me to bring my working outrigger with me to show the ski tech guys but, of course, I had left that behind. So I had to drive back to Mike’s place to get it. When I drove back from Mike’s to the Whistler Village, the parking situation had worsened considerably and I could not find a parking spot; and now my keyless remote car entry was saying the battery needed to be replaced. All the time in the cold had just sucked the battery life and I did not know if my car would even be able to start without a functioning car remote. Each of these are minor things, but when it was all compounded and layered upon my current emotional state, I just felt like crumpling into a heap. I composed myself and headed to the hardware store, again, to pick up a battery, and then back to the ski tuning desk.

Well, the wire was just too flexible with too low a yield strength. Fuck. Okay. I suggested, well, can we maybe try and make do with the remaining length of wire, unwinding it, then recoiling it to only have one loop on each side and see if that will work? So we tried this idea. This was the result.


The wire was too short and the bits sticking out need to be seated inside the black plastic

The ski tech guys were very nice and trying their best, but without a stiff enough wire, they could not do anything. So I headed upstairs to make sure I would be there when someone from Whistler Adaptive got there. Around this time I noticed my bowels had decided to malfunction. But I could not leave and risk missing this person(s). I waited until 3.20pm. No one showed up. I called the outrigger manufacturer to see if they might be able to expedite ship me the spare part. They were closed till January 3rd. I was tired of life. Of every thing.

My next stop after Whistler was going to be Sun Valley, Idaho. So I thought I would check to see if they had an adaptive program there that might be able to help me out. According to the internet, they did, and I received confirmation that it was sizable program. So I decided that my plan was going to say F-you to Whistler and drive there first thing in the morning. For good measure, I went by another ski shop to see if they could possibly help me. They could not.

I told Mike my situation and plan, and he kindly offered to pick some steel wire up in Squamish where he was, and maybe try and patch together something that evening. I was wavering, saying, nah, fuck it, but also not wanting to close out the option of a possible fix. So I took him up on his offer. Mike is very handy and managed to fashion a very similar looking piece out of the steel wire he purchased. We reassembled the outrigger together, but the steel wire still had too low a yield strength, and was deforming undesirably! It was not a diameter issue, but a material one. I did not know you could purchase different kinds of steel wire? (I also finally found out why a lower gauge wire is larger in diameter than a higher gauge wire).

I was sad to leave Whistler prematurely, because I wanted to spend more time with Mike. But I did not want to waste another ski day; dealing with this equipment failure would already cost me three full days.

I left Whistler in the dark, so most of the beautiful drive along the Sea-to-Sky highway was in the dark. I did manage to catch glimpses of how beautiful Vancouver is as dawn came upon us. I really want to find a way to live in Canada, especially British Columbia.


Back in the USA.

The drive into Washington was beautiful and seeing the Cascades in the morning light made me think about living in the Pacific Northwest. As I entered Yakima, WA, I found it amusing to see a sign that called the town the “Palm Springs of Washington.”

Driving conditions deteriorated though and became quite treacherous. I was driving 40mph on the 70mph I-84 highway through Washington for about 2 hours. I counted at least 12 over-turned vehicles, a few more vehicle “incidents,” an over-turned 18-wheeler. It was really icy and treacherous.

Monday's drive from Whistler, BC to Sun Valley, ID (well, Hailey, ID)

Monday’s drive from Whistler, BC to Sun Valley, ID (well, Hailey, ID)


A few hours were spent driving in very foggy, low-visibility conditions over a few passes.

I am finding myself back in Idaho after in less than 2.5 months. I must really like this state.


Visibility cleared as I descended into Idaho.

Conditions made for slow-ish driving to Hailey, and after about 14.5 hours on the road, I arrived at my destination with plans in place to fix my outriggers the next day.





A glorious day with an old friend (Tai Tam Reservoirs)

Today was a glorious day to meet up with an old friend and experience a place so fully that it makes your heart swell with joy and gratitude. Connie and I go back to primary school, and had not seen each other in over 16 years. Yet when I first saw her again, it felt like not a single thing had changed. She looked like her youthful, happy self, except even more accomplished and beautiful now :)

We decided to do a hike and as usual, I had my doubts about what it might be like after my accident and all. My doubts were erased as the conversation and path passed freely and easily, even after all this life. Don’t get me wrong; a lot has changed in my physical situation and circumstances. But another friend who I met up with a few days ago said: “It was great seeing you too, and despite all the difficulties you’ve faced I’m glad that you haven’t changed much at all.” I find this simultaneously hard to believe and reassuring.

Looking down on the Tai Tam Reservoirs

Looking down on the Tai Tam Reservoirs

16 years later, and it honestly seems like we have not aged, at least on the surface.

16 years on and it feels like we haven't changed

16 years on and it feels like we haven’t changed. We are both a tiny bit sweaty from the steps up to this point.

Looking down on the Tai Tam Reservoirs

Looking down on the Tai Tam Reservoirs – pano view

By one of the reservoirs

By one of the reservoirs

We actually ended the walk by taking a bus, followed by the MTR to, of all places, Le Pain Quotidien, a cafe that I first experienced in Paris this past Fall. It seems like a small thing, but to be able to go from one amazing city to amazing city, and experience the same cafe, yet with a different person in different circumstances, makes me feel the world is both small and vast, and entirely wondrous.

An excellent hair day, as usual.

An excellent hair day, as usual.

The walk was so nice I went back the next morning. I took a different route since I departed from my home. From the terminus, I caught a mini-bus to take me to Chai Wan MTR station, and then took the MTR and then another bus home. It’s pretty awesome that I can do this without needing a personal car. In all my years of living in Hong Kong before, this was the first time I took the MTR from Chai Wan MTR station!!


The to Tai Tam Road (the end of the hike) from my home


I had been extremely worried and upset about possible permanent cognitive damage that may have resulted from the sepsis (getting very upset about a lot of things was probably one of the effects too). As recently as 1 to 2 weeks ago, I just felt so dumb. I knew I had come a long ways from being easily distracted and aphasic, but I was still having difficulty absorbing information and just generally not my usual sharp self. I was getting constant headaches from tensing my head muscles hard all the time, trying to comprehend concepts that are not usually difficult to me. I had difficulty writing up thoughtful and clear analyses for work; my memory was still impaired. There were a few times where I would be staring at my computer screens and start crying. It was hard to feel like I could not tell anyone at work about all this. I felt like tasks were taking longer than they should, and this affects the project budget. “Ummm, could I bill part of my time to Temp Project – Stupid from Sepsis?” Fortunately, my work space is quite private, so I could wipe away the tears without anyone noticing.

My handwriting had morphed from its usual small, fairly neat font to highly slanted, large, messy handwriting, which scared the shit out of me. If I concentrated really hard and wrote slowly, I could write close to my normal handwriting, but it was not natural. It made me think of the stories you hear of stroke victims speaking a foreign language post-stroke. My parallel parking skills had totally gone to shit and I was now either bumping the curb in parking spaces as big as a boat, or having to pole vault from the car to the side-walk because I had parked so far away (and totally not parallel) with the curb. I was petrified that dendrites had just been decimated, that I would not be able to get back to my “normal” self.

I decided I needed to make a concerted effort in neural regeneration. For example, by concentrating on writing how I used to until it became natural again, and taking as many opportunities as I could to parallel park. It seems like the effort, and just time perhaps, has paid off and I think I am back to my whip-smart self again :p I have to say though, the idea of losing even bits of ones cognitive abilities and personality was one of the most upsetting things I have felt in recent memory (ha, but since my memory isn’t as good, this must cover a very short time-period. Yes, I can still make un-amusing quips :))

I have certainly noticed progress physically, as has my partner. I think a certain activation energy needed to be overcome before I could put on muscle as easily as I usually do again. I am pushing/pulling considerably heavier weights than even just a fortnight ago. My shoulders are no longer bony; my biceps are approaching their usual Popeye size; my back muscles are bigger. I have basically added on a significant amount of muscle-mass. Obviously, a lot of hard work has gone and continues to go towards this. But it is slightly gratifying (and at the very least reassuring) to see the effort paying off. The question is, am I progressing quickly enough to put on a good show of things at the World Championships in September? August is going to be very condensed, training-wise, which is far from ideal. I will not be able to do proper periodization, and will have to smush a lot of things e.g. strength-power-endurance all together.

A very very small part of me does think it would have been nice for me to have defended my US National Paraclimbing Champion title for the third year running. However, I knew that I would not be well prepared for this competition, but did stand a good shot of being decently prepared for September’s competition. More importantly though, I knew that I would benefit much more from continuing with my training versus having to take time to travel to and take part in this past weekend’s competition. I am fortunate to have received USA Climbing’s blessing for me to be on the US Team in September despite not competing yesterday, based on my very strong track-record and this freak health thing that appeared out of nowhere.

I am going to continue doing the best I can to prepare for Paris, while also reminding myself to enjoy the experience no matter how well (by my standards) I climb. My partner noted this morning that I “clearly did not have the killer instinct,” in response to me saying something like how I was not interested in competing if my competition was not strong. It was hard not to feel a bit dismayed about this, as if this was a failing of mine. His point was, if I did have this highly competitive instinct, I would show no dismay whatsoever in taking advantage of a weak field, or a rival’s off-day etc. But I have to acknowledge that Scott’s assessment is indeed true. I do not possess this trait, and never have. It is why I know free-skiing is what nourishes me versus hurtling down ice, around gates, in spandex so that I could beat other people. It has always been about pushing myself as far as I can, and being disappointed when injuries/circumstances/whatever prevented that. Sure, one can think about pushing oneself locally (i.e. against a current situation) versus globally. But for some reason, I have a difficult time with the former. Thus it will, and does, take a very conscious effort to remind myself that I went from almost dying in June, to competing at a World Championship.

I think it is essential to have purpose (which is a major reasons why I have been struggling with life the last while). But I am only just learning that maybe muddling ahead, putting one foot in front of the other slowly and unassured, is not incompatible with intention and objective. This seems to describe the lives of the overwhelming majority of Earth’s population, who by just “continuing on” show tremendous courage.

The road back!

I had not been in the mood to write about how I have been feeling in the weeks after my hospital discharge. I was bummed about my physical state, but in the last 2 weeks, I have gotten back into doing strength and climbing exercises. Still haven’t spent much time roped in, but that is due to the lack of partners. After my first sessions for strength, climbing, I was pessimistic about regaining strength and muscle mass rapidly. Fingers, contact strength, still there. But I had lost all my deltoid, bicep, lat muscles, which meant I could not lock off, do pull-ups etc. I was also dejected about losing muscle mass in both my legs, including my left one which I have worked so hard on to strengthen.

Anyway, I am feeling much more positive about things. I started hangboarding, bouldering, lifting and see the progress I have made in just 2 weeks. I think it is still possible for me to compete at the IFSC World Championships in Paris this Fall. I probably will not climb at my absolute best; I just want to climb at a level that  acknowledges all the time and hard work I would have put in to doing this.

But life is not all about climbing, right? Yet, one reason why I was feeling so down was because I was not exerting myself. I need whatever chemicals are released when I am active. Unfortunately, the only “sport” I play now is, well, climbing (and skiing and the time spent maximizing strength for those). I feel like I have fallen back to where I was before my accident. I felt unsure, anxious about the future, feeling like I was not really leading a meaningful and purposeful life. I am angry at myself for letting things fall back to that, and now I must find a way to correct this.

Climbing is a very personal thing, but the main thing I remember from these trips/climbs are my partners. It’s the people. And I have found it difficult to find that sense of community here. Is it partly my fault for not, like, advertising myself as a gimp who can climb pretty well? Or is it a function of where I live, where a lot of people just do not get it. I am not criticizing them at all! It’s just that our interests and personalities are so divergent.

We can muddle ahead, placing one foot after another. And that often takes courage too. Or, we can move ahead more purposefully, with intent and live life as much as possible. Obviously the latter is more desirable, but practical, personal constraints can impede this.

I mean, what I want to do is just move back West. Not necessarily the Bay Area. Maybe some place in Colorado (although I do like the ocean). A place where I can obtain the fulfillment that kind of geography gives me. So why the hell am I not doing this?? It is partly due to anxieties about how I would support myself, getting my significant other’s buy-in, being farther away from my sister and her family


So how to satisfy your obligations (e.g. family), remove some, of these constraints? That is the tricky part.