Last spring, when I began to tell people that I was going to continue ski racing after college, I got numerous questions concerning the creation of a blog. I balked at the idea of writing a blog, thinking that my ski racing experience was going to be fairly similar to other people’s, that no one was really going to want to read it, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write one anyways. Then, one beautifully sunny day at the end of June, I took a little slip hiking with Bill Kochers at the top of Mt. Elmore. This little slip, where I wrote in my training log “did something funny to my knee,” turned in to a torn meniscus and two surgeries.
Now, please know that I have been working extremely hard at not letting this injury define who I am as a person or a skier, but it has certainly made my first eight months as part of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project a little bit different than expected. Once I realized that my ski path was going to definitely not be the same as everyone else’s, I decided that I could have a blog, but, I wanted it to be a happy blog, not a sad sob story injury blog, so I needed to wait until something “exciting” happened in my skiing then I would be able to write a happy blog. So, last week I had my “return-to-racing-weekend,” and had a blast, so I figured it was finally time to sit down and start writing this blog.
At the end of July, a month after the Mt. Elmore hike, I went under the knife for the first time. Within days, I was flopping around in the pool, never having been more excited to swim in my life.
Five weeks later, I went on my first across-the-pond ski trip for a training camp in Ramsau, Austria. Austria was beautiful. The Dachstein glacier was beautiful. Everyone else’s pictures from adventure runs were beautiful. My knee was not beautiful. I came back from Austria pretty sure something wasn’t quite right, but I was really hoping it wasn’t a retorn meniscus (it was).
Fast forward another month or so, and I was in Vail, Colorado on a “medical tourism” trip. The highlight of the mother/ daughter bonding trip, besides have knee surgery number two, was driving to the Continental Divide and then continuing on the Leadville and buying a fleece with a cool “scuba” hood.
A week later, after twice a day PT sessions, I was back in Vermont, spending some quality family time and making more baked goods than anyone could ever eat.
After each surgery, I got to slowly work my way back into training. The second time, much more slowly. In October, the reins were tighter and I made (and am still making) many trips to physical therapy in Burlington. Going to PT has been a bit of a humbling experience, where I get to do a walking dynamic warmup and work on balancing on one leg. It has been interesting to see my left leg shrink and grow again, very slowly, getting closer to being back to regular size. It has been wonderful working with my PT, Courtney, and having her as a smiling face several times a week and having her wise words and calming presence.
My primary mode of the training for the summer and fall was skierging. Sometimes there was some spinning mixed in with the skierging. And right after both surgeries, Pepa made me a “contraption,” which involves a spin bike (backwards) and a skierg. I got to spend a lot of quality time with the rowers in their territory- the gym- which was good for perspective and learning how to hammer away on a stationary device. I learned that I was going to have to enjoy being inside if I wanted to train, so I learned to smile while getting my heart rate up and going no where. I have always loved spending time outside, especially being able to go for a long run wherever I want, whenever I want but when I couldn’t do this for a while, I discovered that enjoyment from exercise can come in different forms and in unexpected ways.
Along this vein, I also realized that I plan many social activities around exercise, especially running, so this practice had to come to a stop. I learned that there are other ways to spend time with friends, like sitting outside or eating good food.
This speaks to to an important lesson I’ve learned over the last several months: patience. I don’t consider myself a patient person- actually I would say I’m quite impatient. I don’t like waiting for anything, but I’ve had to do a lot of hanging tight recently. This patience has had to exist on a variety of scales and in different arenas. I wanted desperately to go to Nationals in Houghton, but Pepa wisely reasoned with me that “saving the second half of the season” was much more important than going to the Midwest. I’ve learned that I need to be patient with my recovery, and that somedays skierg intervals will be significantly more beneficial than anything outside. Or that maybe the August rollerski that ended in frustration wasn’t a good idea. Or last week that it was a smart idea to only ski for an hour than spin for an hour, despite the beautiful right out the door.
This summer I learned how to row, which may have saved me from absolutely craziness and boredom in the gym. It gave me something new to figure out how to do and an opportunity to be outside in the sun- or rain or wind. It’s seems that it’s been a while since I learned how to do something totally foreign to me, so it was interesting to learn something from the very beginning- though my first rowing experience did involve being pushed away the dock and becoming slightly stranded in the middle of the lake. I did the Head of the Hosmer race twice, and PR’ed by five minutes the second time (I flipped the first time and had no clue how to get back in my boat).
I also rekindled a friendship with my road bike, while keeping my mountain bike at a distance, except for the occasional dirt road cruise. Biking actually became a fun way to spend time with teammates, both skiers and rowers, spend time outside, and doing some Northeast Kingdom exploration.
A huge part of my time at Craftsbury has been spending time with kids, both on the ski trails and in the classroom, which I’ll talk more about that later! But briefly, I’ve been helping coach the Craftsbury BKLers and juniors and it has been awesome to see them grow and get faster after the last several months. It has also been heart-warming to get to know some of these kids pretty well. I also have been going to the Craftsbury Elementary School to help with the 4 Winds nature program and volunteering in the first/ second and third/ fourth grade classrooms.
As I said earlier, this blog is finally coming to fruition because it can be a happy blog- I’m racing again and am somewhat recovered! Last weekend, myself, Kait, Liz, Pepa, Nick, Anna, Ollie and a whole horde of juniors made the trip to the Quarry Road trails in Waterville, Maine for a joint Eastern Cup and Bates carnival. It was great to see the Bates crew and put on a race bib! I went into Saturday’s 5k skate race with no expectations. I had done one L3 and one L4 skate workout before this race and was just really excited to be racing. I started when a few of the college girls I have raced with a bunch were lapping through and for a moment I thought that I shouldn’t try to hang with them, because who knows how long it would last, but then I figured that I ought to give it a shot, and Ollie yelling “catch those girls!” really cemented that decision. I skied four and a half of the happiest and most smiley kilometers of my entire life. I didn’t go into the weekend with any thoughts of results, but was pleasantly surprised when I was in the top ten and would have been fourth in the college race (my favorite place to finish last year).
Sunday dawned with bright blue skies and near perfect skiing. With brand new skis that kicked like a charm (thank you Nick!) and a face covered in glitter (thank you junior girls and Anna), I was ready to embark on the most intensity that I had done in a long time. I was worried about getting in a tangle up in the mass start, so was quick (for me) off the line and then found myself leading the race. I thought, well, this is cool, and starting smiling. Once again, the smile didn’t leave my face the whole entire race. After the race, someone apologized for making me laugh during the race, but I thought it was great that he was cracking jokes with me while I was mid race. With this gleeful grin, I won my first ever (non Sugarloaf marathon) race! One of the most special moments of the week came when some of the BKLers high fived me and told me how proud he was of me. I don’t think things like that come out of twelve year old boys’ mouths too often.
Currently, the sun is shining in Craftsbury, the skiing is great, my first races are under my belt and I just finished my first week of training with the rest of the team since June! I’m pretty excited about that! Next week we head to Lake Placid for combined Super Tour/ Eastern Cup racing.