At a certain point, it’s just damage control
Amy called around, looking for someone to ski with. The season was about to wind up, though the snow was thick and soft. But one friend had torn her meniscus, and another had just had bone spurs removed, and someone else had thrown her back out.”Couldn’t find anyone,” Amy says. “Everyone was hurt.”I am wearing an ice pack for tennis elbow, though I do not play tennis. I gained tendonitis through climbing, and despite rests, cortisone shots, massage, threats, and prayer, have been unable to shake it for a year. An X-ray comes next. I’d also consider voodoo.My husband just hobbled by. He pulled a hamstring running on the track last week. Yet he’s still training for a 20-mile race, Collegiate Peaks, near Buena Vista next month.And we wonder why we hurt.The friends with whom I go outdoors stretch in age from their 20s through 50s. As is typical in mountain towns, many are really active. Some, overactive. Hammerheads. Psycho.A 23-year-old friend we’ll call “Andrew,” smiling, ascribes an arc in the air, and asks mercilessly, “See this, Alison? This is the hill. And you’re over it.”I first had elbow problems, though, at 26 or 27. After having ventured up, chickened out, and retreated more times than I will admit to on a strenuous “layback” crack climb (finally glorying in a purported first ascent, until finding out someone had already done it), I woke in the night to what felt like electric shocks in both elbows. Such problems came and went, though.This past winter, I thought I was completely resting the elbow. I skied, occasionally musing, “Funny how that thing still hurts,” only belatedly realizing that poling aggravates it. My chiropractor, Eric, who had already said no climbing, nixed skiing.”You’ll just have to start running,” my friend Lisa said.”I can’t.””Why not?””My ankle.” Three years ago, I shattered and dislocated my heel, climbing.The problem is accumulation. It’s not the years; it’s the miles.So I have a bad ankle. And what used to be my bad ankle, which underwent surgery after a fall skiing Snowbird 20 years ago, is now my good one. And so I hike. And hike more. I like hiking. But this is ridiculous.Early this year my friend Jim, from Jackson, sent my young sons an Indo Board, a balancing apparatus. When I was growing up, we had one, called a Bongo Board.Soon, muscle memory held me on the board a long time; I showed off, twitching and dancing.The boys immediately watched the accompanying “advanced” instructional DVD, and eventually began doing tricks.”Do a 180, Mom,” they’d shout during my turns, but I demurred.I used the board a lot, as ankle therapy. Sometimes my younger son hopped on and we balanced tandem.And then one day, when no one was around, I shyly tried a 180. I don’t even remember if I wiped out or not. I do know that I was so busy rotating I somehow didn’t prepare to land, and hit with a smack that shot straight to the middle of my spine. I slunk away, mumbling.Soon afterward, I followed a friend skiing hard-packed moguls, incidentally dealing my elbow its deathblow, while my back kicked in, suddenly on the verge of spasming. I meant to go inside for Advil, but thought I would just first hike Highlands Bowl, since I had the chance. Skiing down from it, by halfway I could barely move.Of course I still had to ride a lift up, and ski to the restaurant where lay my stashed pack. I rushed in and gulped the tablets with a crazed expression.A friend, Peter, an exceptional skier and longtime athlete, approached. He smiled sympathetically.”What Shari and I say,” he said, “is: First we had dreams. Then we made plans.””Now, it’s damage control.”Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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