“You probably won’t be skiing or climbing. You should not be this calm for what you’ve just done.”
I sat in the hospital bed, trying to stay jovial, trying to stay calm, and internally destroyed. Those were the words of the doctor who had just seen the x-ray of my destroyed tibia and fibula. That same night, I promised myself that I would work harder than I ever have in my life to regain my fitness and my athleticism. Up until the fall, I was at the brink of one of my best climbing seasons. The fall took a lot more than just my summer. I lost my strength and in the months that followed, spending much more time alone than I wanted, I lost a part of myself as well.
But after the 12 weeks of rehab, something clicked, and for the first time in my life, I developed a full training plan of three-day-a-week gym visits, two-day-a-week yoga, and gaining as much movement back as I could. The toughest part was dealing with one massively atrophied leg. Balancing on one side was nearly impossible, my ankle would only move so much until it felt like it was about to crack off, and I had virtually no flexibility. About a month earlier, circa-late October, I tried to pull plastic, and every small nerve in my foot was on fire whenever I tried to point my toe onto a small foothold.
The more I kept up with the consistency, the more that it became easier. Box jumps were more solid, lunges and squats became deeper, and I started to gain my balance and confidence, especially with plyometrics and explosive movements. Slowly I felt myself regaining control of my body as I felt my shoulders widen, my legs become more firm and I started to carry myself higher and with a greater sense of well-being.
I also changed my diet. During the summer, I tried to stay eating relatively healthy, but limited movement from the couch and not a lot of freedom to cook for myself, cut by the occasional painkiller-cocktail, led me to eating whatever was available. Most of it just survival food. I got into roasting and steaming mass amounts of chicken and vegetables and trying to go more lean and efficient. While I couldn’t exactly break a coffee habit, or a steady diet of beloved Oreos, I started cutting out most heavy sugars and concentrated on simpler meals rich in vitamins, proteins, and some carbs like pasta, couscous and rice.
And then there was skiing.
After that one time in October, climbing intimidated me a little. While I waited for my foot to heal, I managed to slip my foot into a ski boot, and this one little detail warranted me buying a ski pass for a season that I didn’t even know was going to last. The ski boot, like the cast, was tough and protected my foot well. Yes, it sometimes felt like putting it on and taking it off was about to snap off my ankle, but it provided some sense of security.
While I was already planning to ski well before the season had started, pre-accident it was just a way to pass the time before climbing season started again. But the more I went out, the more I got into the community, making friends, spending long days and enduring the winter chill of December and January, the more it began to feel less like a ‘thing’ and more like ‘my thing’ before, by the end of the season, I was a cautiously more confident skier than I imagined myself being. While I’ve nervous about hucking off cornices or dedicating some time to the park, I forced myself into stepping out of my comfort zone and just going for it.
25 Days. That’s been my ski day count this season thus far. It’s a number I’m proud of because it’s there despite the days my leg felt like it was about to snap clean off and despite the days when I didn’t want to drag myself out of bed to make first chair but did so anyway. I’m proud because it includes six touring days across Colorado, and earning my AIARE I.
But really, the credit for this season goes to the incredible ski and climbing partners who refused to let me give into lethargy. It goes to the trainers who gave me the space and the opportunity to show up week after week without judgement, even when I felt slower than everyone else. It’s been far from being an easy season, but it’s really been a hell of a ride.