March 15, 2010

Ski + Knee = Sad Me

Race report from this weekend is almost done – assuming I don’t have too much green beer on Wednesday night, I’m aiming to get it posted then. However, the after the race part is what I’d really like to discuss today.

On Sunday morning (day after the marathon), I woke up early to try to make first tracks at Keystone. It took us forever to get packed up and out of the condo (there was only one elevator and a ton of people trying to leave), but luckily, the gondola was literally across the street. UNluckily, the gondola was closed due to high winds, so there was now a massive line for the quad lift next to it. We all got our lift tickets and I got my rentals, and headed for the end of the line.

After about 20 minutes, we were somewhat near the front, so I set my skis down and put them on. Problem – although the left ski clicked into place, the brakes didn’t retract all the way up and were still dragging in the snow! Frustrated that I had already waited so long in line and would now have to lose my place, I ran back to the rental building as fast as I could, hoping that maybe I could make it back and rejoin my friends before they got to the front of the line. They fixed my skis within a few minutes and I ran back (hard to run in ski boots!), but it was too late, so back to the end of the line I headed. It was now even longer than before, and took me about 30 minutes to get to the front (and this was the singles’ line – the regular line was over an hour’s wait!). As I finally headed up, I couldn’t believe that I was just getting on the slopes at 11am. What a waste of a morning!

After a quick lunch at the summit lodge, we were finally ready to ski. Though Shaun and Vik had gone skiing the day before, they were nice enough to start off on an easy green trail with me so I could get the swing of things. I was disappointed to find that the snow wasn’t nearly as powdery as I had been told – in fact, it really didn’t seem that different from skiing out East. When we reached the bottom, I mentioned that to the guys, and they said they had been told by some locals that this was basically the worst skiing all season, and the least powdery it had been. Darn it! My luck was not getting any better.

We did a few more runs, but Vik and Shaun were a lot faster than me (probably in part because they had skied all day on Saturday), so I felt like I was constantly just trying to catch up to them. We successfully went down a blue (intermediate) that felt decently okay, so I decided I was ready to head over to the other peak that was primarily blues. Vik and Shaun were relieved (they were bored with the easy greens), so we headed up the lift and over to the connecting trail.

I headed down the fairly steep slope (it seemed more comparable to the single black diamonds back home) and felt pretty uncomfortable. It was slightly icy (though not terrible), but I mostly just felt out of control. Whenever I turned, I couldn’t seem to get my back ski to turn smoothly and stay parallel – it kept flailing wildly out, splaying my legs apart and causing me to nearly lose my balance. I stopped at a flatter section and asked Vik what was wrong with me – it just didn’t seem to be working, and I didn’t feel the usual effortlessness when I was going down. He watched me for a bit, but just recommended what I already knew: try harder to keep the skis parallel. Much easier said than done!

We got to a crest in the hill and another steep part, and I bravely plunged down. Attempting to turn, my legs again splayed out – but this time I lost my balance and started to fall. My skis did not pop off like they were supposed to (probably because of that darn broken brake the rental guy worked on and supposedly “fixed”), and as I was tumbling down, all I could was, “ah, so THIS is how people break their legs skiing!” I didn’t hear a snap, and actually I don’t think anything happened while I was falling (other than me screaming, though it was muffled by my neck warmer), but when I landed, my head was going downhill and my legs were splayed uphill. My left leg in particular was in a really uncomfortable position up in the air, but the weight of the ski was pulling it down to the ground and kind of bending it sideways. Again: “so THIS is how people break their legs skiing!” Because I was still on a really steep slope and my hands were the only thing (just barely) keeping me from sliding down, I yelled for my friends to get the skis off me as quickly as possible. Within about 10 seconds, they were off and the pressure was relieved – but I didn’t know what had happened in that 10 seconds. Even with the skis off, I had a lot of trouble maneuvering around on that steep slope, so I couldn’t tell if I was really injured or just a little banged up.

Shaun went off to get help while Vik stayed with me and tried to use his snowboard to dig in and keep us from sliding all the way down. When the ski patrol came, he put the toboggan a few feet in front of me, and I let go and slid right onto it. With my skis and poles across my lap, it was a terrifying ride down! It got even steeper than the part I was on, and being on the toboggan was even scarier than skiing it because I had no control, and we were going really fast. I was also mortified to be taken away on a toboggan!

The guy didn’t take me all the way down, but just to a flat part where I could get up and try to see the extent of my injury. I walked in a circle around the toboggan, testing my knee as I did so, and it seemed pretty much fine. Next, I popped my skis on to see if I might be able to manage skiing the rest of the way down. I was really scared and went a lot slower than usual, but it was a lot better than being taken down in the toboggan (even though he was right next to me in case I needed to be rescued again).

When we got to the bottom, I opted not to go to the medical center, but instead to hang out in LaBonte’s Cabin and drink beer while Shaun and Vik did some tougher trails. A MUCH better recovery option! I chatted with a few other skiers while I was there, and also gave my dad a call – he used to coach high school soccer, so I figured he might have some good ideas. Unfortunately, the connection was really terrible (LaBonte’s Cabin wasn’t the base lodge, but a lodge at the base of one of the smaller peaks but still way above the actual town), but I got that it probably was a sprain or strain or something that would go away with time. Yippee! Hopefully that would mean no problems for the rest of my marathons.

After my beer (New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale, for you beer aficionados out there), I headed back to the base lodge. To get there, I had to put on my skis and take the chair lift back up to the summit, then take off my skis and take another chair lift down to the base. As with the toboggan, it was SO embarrassing going down the lift, and also pretty scary. When you’re going up, all you see is the mountain in front of you; when you’re going down, you see ALL the way down the mountain and realize just how high you are.

I ditched my ski equipment and changed into some comfy clothes, then settled in at the lodge with my laptop to get my race report written in a timely manner (oops). Before long, Shaun and Vik were back, and we headed off to Denver for our flight. It was a good thing we left so early though – what was supposed to be a two hour drive took almost four hours, due to heavy traffic and a pretty scary snowstorm that made the highway really tough to navigate. Unfortunately, at the airport more trouble awaited us: the snowstorms had cancelled Saturday’s flights, so now all the flights from Denver to the east coast were totally full with reaccommodated passengers from those!

We thought we’d never get out of Denver, but as luck would have it, we got the last few seats on a flight to Boston (no idea how that happened – I thought we had no chance at all). In Boston, we found ourselves totally stranded, but at least then we had the option of hopping on the BoltBus to NYC for $20 each. Unfortunately, after sleeping on the plane on the redeye, my knee was now really sore and ridiculously swollen – you couldn’t even see the kneecap! I could walk on it just fine, but any time I sat for a while, it stiffened up and took a lot of walking before it felt okay again. Once it was loose though, even jogging felt fine – it’s just the sitting that irritates it.

Overall, a lot of mishaps, but a fairly successful trip. I’m just hoping my knee will be okay once the swelling goes down… I have a marathon to do this weekend!


4 thoughts on “Ski + Knee = Sad Me”

  1. The fear of injury is one of the many reasons I never learned to ski despite growing up 15 minutes away from several ski resorts. Yikes!! Crossing my fingers for a complete recovery ASAP.

  2. I love to snowborad – my hubbs goes everyweekend he can. But this year I cut my season short in January because I had Boston2Big Sur coming up and there was no way I was going to get injured!
    Glad you’re able to move – be careful this weekend!

  3. Love Keystone!! Sorry about your knee though. Are you still planning for the marathon in dc this weekend? I will be around to cheer you on!

    PS are you psyched Cornell in is the tourney again this year? The husband is thrilled!

  4. NOTHING like a little fat tire to help you recover!! Ha. I used to live in Colorado, so I know what you are talking about with Keystone and the crazy lines to get on the lift. Annoying. It is probably my least favorite hill because it is soooo busy.

    The other funny thing is that you are totally right about how a blue or even some greens are WAY under classified there.

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