Recovery Season


The wait, I hope is over.

I missed competing in the 2011-12 season after sustaining an injury in early February. It’s funny how injuries happen. I didn’t even think I was hurt when I took a fall on a groomed run on my homehill, Whitefish Mountain Resort. I wasn’t training or competing. I was simply skiing with friends on a Sunday morning when I lost purchase in a telemark transition and slammed to the hard pack snow on my right side. Completely embarrassed by my gaffe, I didn’t check in with body or else I would have noticed the sharpness of breath, the ache in my ribs, and instead, stood up and continued to ski. On the chairlift ride, it was difficult to breath, but I ignored the rising pain. It wasn’t that serious of a fall, so I assured myself that nothing was wrong.

Yet, as I tried to negotiate the trees on a second run, my entire body seized with pain. It felt as if my rib cage and scapula had been kicked by a horse. I couldn’t fill my lungs with enough air. I shared my pain with my ski friends and they looked at me in surprise: “The fall didn’t look that bad,” they said. With the help of ski patrol who splinted my right side, I downloaded the main chairlift and was transported to the slopeside clinic. When the physician on duty removed the layers of ski clothing, as gently as he could–and this time I was grateful that I wasn’t wearing my speedsuit–my entire right side was a swollen mass. My ribs were cracked and my racing season, before it had even begun, was over.

I had planned to attend the World Cup race series in Steamboat and I was focused on returning to the podium at the US Nationals at Gunstock. I was even hoping to ski powder. But plans change, and while I’m no stranger to injuries (in the past five years, I’ve sustained three major ski-related injuries in the month of February) and I had to quickly move away from devastation and focus on healing. Easier said than done. I think the most difficult aspect of recovery is the emotional healing. For me, I had no trouble going to physical therapy — yet I had to struggle to maintain a positive attitude.

I’m eight months into my recovery. My rib injury also revealed that my lower spine was subluxed — a result of years of skiing and crashing. I’ve had to devote the past months to recovery. It’s a process that requires a lot of patience. A willingness to stay focused and not push my body before it was ready. This past summer, I had to make specific athletic choices that would contribute to the progression of healing and not the regression. That meant no mountain biking, although before the injury, I bought a new mountain bike. The jarring of riding trails wasn’t the best decision for my healing spine and ribs. I had to be careful how much I climbed in Glacier National Park, always consciousness of how my back responded to a loaded pack. When my body called for rest, I rested. When my body called for ice, I iced.

With this injury, I realized that I had failed to listen to my body. If I had listened when the crash first happened, I wouldn’t have tried to ski another run. I wouldn’t have felt the need to push my body, to show off to my friends that the fall meant nothing. What did I have to prove?

The wait is now over, I’ve pushed through the long recovery process and my physical therapist and chiropractor are proud of my progress. I’ve rebuilt my foundation, regained strength. Training for the upcoming season is now my main priority, yet the most important lesson of body awareness is not lost on me.

My recovery season has come to a close. I’m ready for the next season: telemark racing.