It has been one week. One week since I came careening down snow at 75 miles per hour, a bit out of control yet completely in my element—calm, crazy, and contented. Now I’m sitting at my dining room table at home; wondering if my black eyes will be better tomorrow so I can go out in public, hoping my face will stop oozing and bleeding so that I can start sleeping on my stomach and sides again, expecting the ghost riding on my shoulders to quit pinching me in the forehead. But I am lucky…so very lucky. I have not a single bruise on the whole of my body, aside from my face. My injuries could have, and probably should have, ended up being a whole lot worse. There was something out there helping me, although I’m not sure what…and for that I am mighty grateful.
But it is so easy to turn around and see things from the other viewpoint; to feel unlucky and accident prone, to feel like the crashes happen to me, to accept that I will usually be the one in the fence, the one in the sled, the one in the hospital…because it has happened so many times before. I was not skiing recklessly—I didn’t even fall before I ran straight into the fence. I simply hit a bump in the middle of a turn, as racers often do, and was regaining my composure as I looked up to see a b-net fence 20 feet in front of me. And when you’re going 75 mph on 215 Downhill skis, avoiding any sort of obstacle that is 20 feet in front of you is practically impossible—especially when it is a long, lifeless fence. So I accepted the fence helplessly, and barely had the time to think, “it’s just a fence…it will cradle my fall. I am not even crashing!” Ha! Cradle! At 75 mph! That was a silly, naïve thought. The most dangerous way to crash is to go from a very high speed to a complete stop in a matter of seconds. I haven’t yet watched the crash, but I believe I stopped within the matter of 1 second. It was so fast, I don’t even remember what hit me in the face. I do remember the pain, though…and that is something I surely wish to forget.
The pain. The blood. The fact that whatever sliced my forehead to the bone could very well have cut my eyes, my throat, could have killed me. These are things that often return to my thoughts and make me want to return to my bed, to college, to my guitar, to something other than downhill ski racing. I question my choice of career, feeling sorry for my body and for the stress and harm it does to my mind. There is surely something out there for me that is painless, peaceful, and still enjoyable. There is something that is less scary, more predictable, and certainly safer. There is something still. But the more I think about it, the clearer I understand that that something is to come later. I have already reached that point of no return—of fracturing my pelvis in five places, of already slicing my face to the point of needing over 100 stitches, of dislocating my shoulder five times, of tearing my ACL…the list goes on. But each time I have healed. I have returned to the deranged sport, regardless of the repercussions—hungry, antsy, and in search of something greater—something greater than before, a speed faster than before, a more perfect run than before. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else at this point in my life.
As a ski racer there are many things that I have come to accept: I will crash, I will probably break some more bones, tear some more ligaments, and incur serious injuries to my body that would otherwise be avoided. These thoughts are scary but they simply come with the way of life, and every single ski racer knows this. I am learning that I can find peace within the chaos of my life, by calming my mind and accepting what comes my way. I have learned a few things about myself in the past week: I am emotional. I need a better mattress. I am a loud yoga breather. I desperately need this time at home with friends and family. I love skiing. To death. So I will get back on my skis as soon as I can…maybe it will be scary, maybe it will be perfect. Either way, I know the risks I am taking and I know that I need to treasure the time I have because there will soon come a day when I will have to obey slow signs on the mountain, get a real job, and lead a more steady, quiet life. If I can cannon into a fence on the fastest part of the fastest course on the women’s World Cup circuit and only suffer some cuts and bruises, I can handle anything else that is thrown my way. I have experienced the worst…so it can only get better, right?
Besides, ski racing wouldn’t be as entertaining, interesting or fun without the flailing, high speed crashes. At least I don’t have to run the Hahnenkamm…
I am home now until December 29th, when I will hopefully depart for Europe with the rest of the speed team. If everything works out accordingly, my next race will be in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria on January 7th and 8th. Until then, I will be recovering, making music and movies, taking pictures, enjoying Christmas at home, and hopefully working out and getting strong soon! Stay tuned for videos and more posts, as I will certainly have the time to create both. Peace, love, and happy holidays :)