Yesterday, I strapped on my ski boot for the first time since I broke my ankle. I gingerly stuffed my foot into the plastic, buckled it loosely, and leaned forward, waiting for the pain to come screaming up my leg. It didn’t, so I thought, “Damn, I think can do this.”
I felt a foundational piece of myself return as I rooted around for gear that had sat un-used for seven weeks, as I went through the familiar ritual of donning base layers, braiding my hair, and tossing my skis in the back of the truck.
Driving up to the hill, I imagined that these one or two runs would feel like my best of the season, even if they were just groomers, because they were the light at the end of the long dark tunnel of recovery. The sun came out as I stepped out of the gondola, lighting up those big peaks I’d been missing for two months. I finally felt like myself again.
And then I took my first turn.
No stability. No lateral mobility. It was like I’d been jettisoned back to my first season—I was a clumsy baby giraffe slowly making my way down the green cat track while all the good skiers zoomed past me to the Stoke Chair in enviable displays of coordination and speed.
I bypassed the Stoke, uncertain of my ability to ski a full 5600’ of vertical, even on a green groomed run. I slowly turned my way down Last Spike, wary of people slamming into me and sending me back to square one. I’d expected it to be hard, but I didn’t think it would be this hard.
Hobbling back to my truck at the bottom of the mountain with my ankle burning and my pride bruised, my frustration was a far cry from that high I’d imagined an hour before.
This is the part no one tells you about: the aftermath. After the bone is healed and the doctor gives you the green light to walk without that damn moon boot. The part when your soft tissue is so screwed that the bone mend seems like an afterthought. When you thought you were going to be back to normal but you still have just as long in front of you as you do behind you.
Or maybe people did tell me about it, and I just didn’t want to hear it. I held onto the 6-week timeline for healing like a lifeline, and now I’m thrashing through uncharted waters. I’d envisioned being out touring by next weekend, back to full charging capacity in a month, running by the time the trails melted out in the valley.
But more than missing playing outside, exploring new mountains, and being exhausted at the end of the day – I miss that part of myself that those things represented, that part that went AWOL when I broke my ankle. I realized that my friends in Revelstoke have known me as an injured endorphin junkie trying to cope for longer than they’ve known me as, well, me. Those things are part of my core, because they’re some of the things that make me happiest in the world. That piece has been missing from my identity, and the fact that it’s still out of reach is heartbreaking.
The light at the end of the tunnel is still there, but it looks pretty weak right now.