Saturday, February 2, 2008

Why knee?

Artificial florescence highlighted the snow-capped trees as I glided up the T-bar track. The wind was absent and the snappy 15-degree air was still. Each branch was laden with unfermented white pillows. The darkness wrapped the beefy tree trunks in black as I gazed into the black. Small frost sparkles pulsed as I got off at the top.

My first night ski in 10 years was just as I remembered it. All senses were heightened in the night air. Lazy flakes fell out of the sky, amplified by the light. Dark figures were slowly filing out of the bar at the bottom of the run. Racers readied the run; a drill whined in the night air and someone screwed a gate into the snow.

I took a few warm up runs, the snow was perfectly carvable. Visions flashed me back to my teenage years at local’s night on the ski hill. Wild packs of animated skiers darted through the night. Whoops and hollers played catch up as we started our Chinese downhill. Sparks flew off the ski edges as they passed over tiny granules of dirt.

I slid to a stop at the bottom of the run and a fine spray of snow drifted down the back of my neck bringing me back to reality. Shadows were heavy on the run, dark areas were punctuated by the soft ripples of the gate flags. Skiers slipped down the course removing the soft snow, exposing a fast racing surface.Rebounding chatter on the walkie-talkies tried to remedy the timing problem. A few racers tested the wand, poling hard for the first GS gate. Racers were paired up based on last week’s seedtime, a great format for fun on a winter Wednesday night. There would be 5 more nights to give'er.

After some discussion with fellow Team Rhino mates, my strategy was to ski a solid run but leave some heat in my back pocket for next week. A great opportunity presented itself and I ran the course as a pre-runner. The run was solid, revealing race techniques that I still clung to from high school ski team days. The 174 GS skis were like toothpicks in comparison to the powder hungry fatties I had skied the day before. These were like trains on a rail line, following my every command.

The first race pair of the night came out of the gate on Go, confirming everyone’s speculation that tonight would be fast. A small pit of excitement grew larger in my stomach as I gauged the course. I’d let them open up and start to tuck just as the slope made its last rollover.My number was up and I slid into starting position. Man, it felt like the good old times, but pressure free. It felt superb as I powerfully ripped past the poles. I couldn’t help but notice that the racer on my left, blue course was right there with me. We continued this way until the 2nd to last gate.

I was late for the last gate before the finish line, I could see it........ I stood on my outside edge like my life depended on it. As I tried to compensate for my tardiness, the ski hooked up and my body twisted the opposite way. While my edges lost hold, I knew I was seriously out of control. My edge caught and I spun out into a flurry of white.

In an instant I realized that my knee was in for some damage. I slid to a stop and immediately felt a burning sensation in my knee. It felt like the Snow Trolls had been in my pants with a blow torch, searing my ligaments. My season, my job and the epic days that would be lost streamed before my eyes.

I heard someone tell me to finish. I gritted my teeth in agony and was able to ski the remaining twenty five feet to the finish line. Making a beeline to the bar, I hoped that my knee would somehow miraculously recover en route. I struggled to remove my skis and hobbled with my head down to an open seat. My ugly grimacing face must have looked out of place amidst the giddy faces of the rest of the bar patrons.

Sitting in disbelief and now realizing the seriousness of the injury, I scanned the room for a familiar face. A tall bearded man offered a grin, laced with beer. Jeffery listened and pledged a much needed beer to me. The bartender slung the first of many bags of ice for my knee.

After yesterday’s diagnosis from the knee doc, it is looking like a tough road to recovery. The MRI revealed a grade III tear of MCL and ACL tear with possible meniscus damage. I am bound by a large knee brace, PT appointments next week and a follow up in 2 weeks for further evaluation. Here’s to next winter!

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