Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.
A few days ago — Thursday evening, perhaps — I thought, “Gee, it’s been a while since I updated my blag. I’ll do something about that tomorrow afternoon.”
The following afternoon, however, found me horizontal on the couch, unable to painlessly move anything below my neck. Sitting up was a trial, as it involves legs and back. Typing — holding my arms out — forget about it. Much better to just lay on the couch and occasionally groan. In fact, it’s only today that I’ve had the oomph to stay upright long enough to blag. No, I didn’t get in a bike crash; and, in fact, I’ve had crashes that left me feeling less battered than I did on Friday evening.
Nope. I went skiing with my friend Ellen.
Although I know Ellen from the bike world — we’ve taught a number of classes together — she is an avid winter sport person. She loves skiing, snowshoeing, anything that involves snow. For our get-together this month, we decided to play to her strengths and head up to the snow. I’ve never skied before, but figured Ellen could teach me. Her family has kids of a variety of ages and sizes, and handily I was able to borrow her daughter’s skis and boots (her daughter, by the way, is going into middle school). Should be an adventure, right?
We optimistically set off from her house at 7:30 am and reached Cabin Creek, up in Snoqualmie Pass, about an hour and fifteen minutes later. We went by Hyak and she said, “We could ski there, but it’s really boring because it’s totally flat. Let’s go to Cabin Creek, where there’s terrain.” I agreed. Little did I know what “terrain” would mean for me, skiing noob that I am.
Here is a picture of Ellen.
Doesn’t she look nice, happy, and innocuous? A totally misleading image, as it turns out.
Here’s me, partway through our ski adventure, at Hyak.
By the time we took this picture, I’d spent a couple hours slipping, sliding, and — most of all — falling on the “terrain” at Cabin Creek. Despite my big smile, I was already getting some inkling that this was going to be a deeply painful experience, and that the pain wouldn’t go away after we got off the skis.
We started out and I skied for about 3 seconds… and then fell on the first gentle slope. I laughed, got up, and started again. And did it again, and again, and again. I couldn’t keep the skis parallel very well, and those inner-thigh muscles soon began indignantly letting me know that I don’t usually use them, and what was I thinking? Although Ellen did her best to teach me, I never really figured out how to turn, go up hill, go downhill, or stop. That, however, didn’t stop us from going up and down hills, around corners, etc., because that’s what “terrain” involves.
At one point, though, I was skiing along by myself, with Ellen off the front making it look easy, and I had a moment of easy grace that felt like flying. It was beautiful, exhilarating, elegant, joyful, fun. In that moment, I understood why people would choose to ski. Then I fell down and that was the end of my epiphany moment.
After about a mile and a half, Ellen asked if I wanted to go into the woods. Sure, I guess, it can’t be worse than what I’m doing now, right? WRONG. The woods were an intermediate skiing course, and it quickly became abundantly clear that there was no way I’d make it. I fell, and fell, and fell — this time on steeper slopes that were harder to recover from. It was really (a) embarrassing, and (b) painful.
At this point, Ellen decided that maybe terrain wasn’t such a great idea for somebody who’d never skied before, and maybe we should try something a little more boring after all. We decamped to Hyak, which was populated almost entirely by retirees and parents with toddlers on skis (who, by the way, still skied better than I did).
So by the time we took the picture of me at Hyak, I’d had my feet slip out from under me pretty much every way you can imagine. In fact, a few times I was astonished that my legs could get into that tangled of a mess. My inner thigh muscles — whatever they’re called — were really hurting by then, from unaccustomed use as well as all those times I ended up doing some ungraceful version of the splits. My ankles and knees were battered and bruised (still are!). My arms and shoulders started getting tired, too, because in addition to falling on them a bunch, I kept catching myself with the ski poles and, frankly, I have a cyclist’s upper body (which is to say, nothing).
Hyak went better, as it was perfectly flat and I skied in the tracks, which requires almost no skiing ability whatsoever — just right for me. I only fell a couple times. Here’s us partway through Hyak.
Ellen was right, though; I’d never skied before, and I still found Hyak boring on the way back. Boring, but not painless. I could feel my legs getting really fatigued, and it got increasingly difficult to control those already-unruly skis. My ankles also really, really hurt where to tops of the boots were, like maybe I’d put the boots on wrong… or maybe just all the falling bruised my ankles badly and I was just starting to feel it.
In any case, we got back to the parking lot, and I took the skis off… and the car was like a million miles away. It looked like a tiny speck, a car you’d see from an airplane during takeoff. I gritted my teeth and walked, every step misery on my ankles. Somehow the distance dilated to be much shorter than it looked originally, so we got to the car without my collapsing in a puddle of exhaustion (and slush). Putting on my regular shoes, which don’t reach my ankles, was heaven.
The drive back to Ellen’s house, and then my drive home, were exercises in stiffening up. By the time I arrived back home, I could hardly pick my legs up, couldn’t lift my left arm or touch my left ankle (and my right arm and ankle were only a little better), and both my knees had swollen up and were covered with bruises. Verdict: Hot soaky bath required. That didn’t really help, though, as we had no hot water. I dragged my carcass to the couch and hardly moved until Ian levered me out to get into bed.
All Friday night, changing position proved to be an exercise in minimizing agony. It was awful. I cannot even express how much pain I was dealing with. It wasn’t unbearable, but it was really, really bad. It was more than just muscle pain; I know what hard exercise does to muscles, and I’m familiar with that feeling. This was worse. I think I must have pulled a few things in all the falling. Fortunately, I’m young and resilient.
I went for my team bike ride on Saturday morning and confirmed that biking muscles and skiing muscles have very little overlap. My legs did feel fatigued, though. Skiing was hard work. When I got off the bike, the pain all came back. I hobbled around groaning the rest of the day. Sunday was the same, but noticeably less so. Today, on Day 3 After, I’m still sore, but I have almost full ranges of movement back.
Now that’s what I call a good time. Oh my, yes. Because as a cyclist, I understand that pain and fun aren’t incompatible. I’m not sure I want to ski again any time soon, but it was really good to do something I’ve never done before and that I’m really terrible at. It was humbling. And everybody can use a good humbling experience now and again.