Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Knee Saga Pt III

Well Jed has been dominating the blog and people have been asking about my knee- so I guess its my turn to write a little. As of today its been 4 months and 17 days since my surgery. I am pretty damn functional at this point. My knee has more physical, inside, medical issues than outside-I-notice-them-kind-of-issues. In smarter words, the ligament still isn't grown onto the bone yet but I don't notice. This won't happen until July 26th- my 6 month mark. This means that I am currently in a little bit of the danger zone. I feel fine, but I'm not so I have to constantly remind myself not to do things even if they feel ok.

In the mean time I would like to think I am fitter than ever. My big mountain high altitude endurance fitness may not be up to par (I have yet to see) but I am certainly stronger than I was before. My current schedule includes 5 or 6 days of crossfit a week, a couple of bike rides a week, and maybe a day of climbing here and there. I also do two days of week of ski specific conditioning to replace the two days a week of PT that I was doing. I am only allowed to do climbing well within my limit on top rope. We went to Clark Canyon the other day and I have to admit it was pretty nice to just bring a harness and shoes, toprope and sunbathe all day. I also managed to climb two 5.10c's which was pretty nice considering I haven't climbed in 6 months or so.

What else? Jed just started his full time gig again, I'm still working in the SMG office three days a week. I have a couple of trekking guiding trips lined up for the summer. My friend Cori and I are going on a cruise to the Caribbean in August with my father and his girlfriend. We are getting super excited and girly about it. I have gone so far as to have bought a new bathing suit at full price (the last one of these I had I think my mom bought me in 7th grade). I have also started a regular tanning regimen which I am pretty proud of. The worst thing? I have started whitening my teeth too. It the summer of vanity! Why? Because we're going to the Caribbean baby! Jed already told you about our trip to New York.....Paulapalooza is coming up on the 19th. This is easily my favorite day of the year- its better than my birthday and Christmas combined. I guess thats about it. Hope you enjoyed!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Not Skiing or climbing...

With Annie's injury, and my busy work schedule, we've been reveling in non-mountain activities more than usual. Like off-road cycling: (we circumnavigated Casa Diablo Mountain )

... on-road cycling (in New York and California- two big rides stick out, one over towards Eureka Valley here in CA, and one connecting Schenectady, NY and Margaretville, NY.)

And Partying down, two different ways.
Family Style, for my Grandpa's 90th birthday:

And FAMILY style: (with cousins, at a pig roast, in a field)I was looking through old posts and they start to look sort of monochromatic- big mountains everywhere. We do other things too, and this is supposed to be the proof...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jed's Annual "Bike-to-Bag" 2010

Most might already know the whole story- Every year I've lived in Bishop, once a year in fact, I've ridden my bike from town, up into the mountains, and then skied up and down a new-to-me peak. Bike to the mountains, "bag" a peak... Bike to Bag. As part of the tradition, I've 'blogged' each year on the website. I started my backcountry skiing career on telemark-style skis and this website and its "residents", helped me out quite a bit early on- still does, for that matter. Entries from 2003 and 2004 disappeared when that site was hacked. If you're interested in the pattern, and really bored, check out my Trip Reports (TR's) of ever increasing length at these links: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.
The bike ride starts out in the dark, takes way too long, and almost always feels like the hardest part. Not this year, however. Ample recent training on the bike, mainly with Annie and her knee recovery, plus an ambitious ski-portion plan, made the ski part of the day definitely feel like the crux.

So far, with each of my eight bike trips to the mountains, I've been able to climb and ski a peak new to me. Eventually, should I be fortunate enough to do this in future years, I'll have to repeat old peaks. Especially if I do multiple peaks each trip, like I did this time.
My first peak was the Keyhole Plateau- I climbed up it's SE Side. Incidentally, this would be a great down-ski too.
The top of the plateau showed a few signs of this spring's, and today's, weird weather. First of all, there's been more snow than average. This covered the plateau with a nice smooth blanket, rather than sand and talus. The east edge of the plateau held a pretty significant cornice- evidence of recent, consistent and moderate winds. Finally, at the very summit, recent snow, from just two days prior, had melted off the rocks and dripped down into the shade where it refroze into big icicles. Then, the very morning of my trip up there, some clouds rolled in. (It actually rained a bit at one point, snowed a few flurries through the day and heavy clouds would again move in for the evening) These morning clouds, plus a little wind, pushed some rime ice onto these icicles. Maybe not the most spectacular picture, but a phenomenon I had never seen before.I skied down to the west (further from home) up the next peak (still further from home). Here I am on the summit of peak #2 (Mt. Goethe)
I skied down the North side of Goethe (again, further from home... what was I thinking?) My exit was grueling (over two passes and up over the Keyhole Plateau again), increasingly storm-threatened, and held excellent skiing. All these factors combined to make it particularly non-photogenic. And solo skiing isn't all that exciting in photos anyway. At some point, after the last climb and it was all downhill, I figured it was in the bag. I made an unlikely call home, enjoyed some excellent cloudy corn snow, and snapped this picture. I liked it, and it reminds me of that satisfied sense of accomplishment. Even though I was still 3 hours from home.
Looking back now, I can say I fully met my goals with this trip. I wanted a challenge, I wanted to meet that challenge, and I wanted to do it in style. Accomplished, on all counts!

Monday, May 24, 2010


I've been finding inspiration all around me. In this case, for personal athletic endeavors. It comes lately from two very distinct and divergent directions.

On trips I'm guiding, especially the recent spate of Whitney Winter Expeditions, I'm taking people well beyond their comfort zones. They rise to the occasion in an unfamiliar, strenuous and difficult environment. These folks are digging deep, going "all in", going balls-to-the-wall if you will. Incidentally, only such euphemisms seem to adequately describe the phenomenon I'm talking about. These clients I climb and ski with give themselves a rare combination of opportunity, motivation, and oversight that allows them to express their full potential. They have dreamed of the trip, accepted the challenge, given up hard-earned dollars and time off, trained as best they know how, and then put themselves in the care of a professional.

Climbing mountains is brutally physical, especially for the inexperienced. It is also very insecure feeling for the uninitiated. As a guide, I can do very little to mitigate the absolute volume of work required. Nor can I fully alleviate any of the insecurities and uncertainties associated. I can, however, provide a true and valuable margin of safety for climbers pushing their limits. These folks end up faced with a significant personal challenge and the peace of mind that they can give themselves fully to that challenge. The result is inspirational athletic performance after inspirational performance. I get to see clients regularly surpass anything they ever expected they could do. It's rarely "pretty" and always enlightening. I envy and respect these performances in the mountains- doing that which is difficult and uncertain and unexpected, and doing it with precious little prior experience.

As mentioned, I recently completed a binge of Mount Whitney trips. Specifically, 5 4-day trips in about 6 weeks spanning March and April. As I came up for air at the end of that period, jonesing for my own adventure, I thought I wanted what my clients had. I thought I wanted to similarly work myself. However, I soon had the opportunity to watch our friend Jeff Kozak express a totally different kind of inspiring athletic accomplishment. Annie volunteered to run an aid station at the Bishop High Sierra Ultramarathon and I got to help out. Jeff holds the record for the 50 mile course, runs like its his job, and came cruising through mile 26 this year way ahead of the pack. He was clean, fresh, lightly laden and knew exactly what he had to do. Despite "not feeling it", Jeff held his lead, won the race, and was sitting around at the end drinking beer and looking clean and fresh and on top of his game. He puts monumental and directed effort into his training. He has years and miles of experience plus a careful approach to planning that allow him to express the potential of his training and running predisposition. Folks at the back of the pack in the same race looked far more haggard and frantic, and had far more stuff hanging from their packs and bodies. And they still didn't win.

I wanted to be like Jeff- top of my game, smooth and in control but still performing at a high level, doing something difficult and doing it very very well. With inspiration from these two different angles, I made myself the time for a grand adventure and went and did something difficult. Maybe I'll tell you about it...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jed's Winter, in 5 Photos

While Annie's been diligent with documenting her remarkable recovery from ACL reconstruction, I've hardly been responding to e-mails, much less contributing to this running tally on our lives. Here's my effort to catch up. The dominating factor in my world has been my full-time, seasonal guide position at Sierra Mountain Guides. While I'm overwhelmingly thankful for all the days out and the steady income and the comfort of a real, full-time job, it's been a lot of work! It was a bit of a shock to be "on-call" and close to home for the past 3 months. Scheduling time for fun and socializing has been tough. Thanks to Annie, friends, and my employer for all being flexible as much as is reasonable. Anyway, I started this work binge immediately after Christmas with a steady diet of avalanche courses and backcountry ski guiding in the June Mountain area. It's a beautiful place to work and play and one couldn't ask for a better mid-winter ski and avalanche-training location! Check out the sweet powder skiing!
Early and mid-winter also bring ice climbing and gym time. As Annie has mentioned, we rented a place in June Lake and enjoyed some quiet, civilized evenings playing "grown-up". We missed the chaos back at the Zoo, but also appreciated the time in our little mountain cabin. Forever seeking balance... As the days get longer the ski adventures get bigger. In early February I scored a trilogy of big days- two guiding, one just for fun, all of them more than 7000 feet of human powered turns!

Sunrise while headed to Tinemaha Creek:March has brought overnight trips (twice to Mount Whitney):
And steeper, firmer skiing:
As of right now, I have one more day of my full-time obligation. That leaves me free in April to work more than full time. Well, I'll actually end up working the same amount, but it's hardly the break I had once envisioned. In any case, it'll be a little more relaxing because in this model, when I have a day off, I can count on keeping it free. And the trips just keep getting cooler and cooler!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Knee Saga Pt2

Well, inquiring minds want to know: How are you? How's the knee? How are you feel-ling? So, I thought I would write a little note about the knee so far.

To sum it up with yet another quote that never meant much to me before: "Slowly but surely." This whole process is much slower than I anticipated but so far I haven't really stopped improving. I think my leg is finally done shrinking. I am happy that it didn't seem to get that skinny- though it is skinnier than I would like it.

For the last few months, Jed and I have been renting a cute little place in June Lake where much of Jeds guiding work was being done and where I was teaching skiing. That was a great place to recover since there wasn't the commotion of the Zoo (what we call our place in Bishop) and because of its proximity to the awesome Double Eagle Report and Spa. Many of my weekends following the surgery were spend in avalanche courses with Jed (the classroom portion) and in the gym. Typically I would spend 4 or 5 hours Friday through Saturday working out there and doing my PT. At first I would bike with all my might with one leg to get a cardio workout in, then I would do weights and different crossfit exercises and then head to the yoga room for an hour or so of PT. The DE had everything I could ever want for recovery and fitness (except maybe a better rowing machine). Plus they have towels, razors, and brushes to use! So deluxe.

Our lease ended in June and we are officially Bishop residents again. I am still working in the Sierra Mountain Guides office three days a week and pretty much all I do otherwise is Crossfit and Physical Therapy. Yesterday I did two Crossfit workouts as well as my 2 hour PT and my plan is to continue to ramp up my fitness and training. My goal is to come out of this experience fitter and stronger than ever. It used to be that I didn't want to work out too hard since it would potentially interfere with my climbing or skiing. But now days I really have no excuse for not being sore. I wear my soreness with pride since it was several weeks before my body could even handle a workout intense enough to make me sore.

People are surprised to see me out and about. For the record, I am crutchless, braceless (except for at Crossfit) and walk kinda normally. Ok, I don't walk that well yet, I am working on getting rid of a limp that is caused by tightness as opposed to pain. Apparently my ACL was put in tighter than my other one, so a lot of my PT has to do with stretching it out which is a strange feeling at best.

I have 4 new unnatural looking scars that I thought I would like but am not so sure about now. I've been told that they will fade and not be so obvious at some point.

What else?
Have I told you a time line yet? 6 months (end of July) for climbing, opening day for skiing.

Oh yeah- this is kinda cool: the new ligament that they put in my knee is dying right now. Apparently they freeze it in a way that your body doesn't recognize it as a foreign protein. This means that your body won't reject it and it also means that your body doesn't feed it nutrients and stuff. So, as any living thing would, it dies. Then my body is like, oh wait! We can use that thing! So it uses stem cells and some other magic stuff to bring it back to life again. This is why it is so physically weak for 6 months after they put it in. Because it is in the process of dying and coming back to life just like Jesus!
I guess that's all there is to report! Peace!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Knee Saga

For those of you who may not know. I (Annie) took a fall skiing on the 2nd of January while training with June Mountain Ski School (where I was working). The rule at ski school is if you take a fall while training and especially if you 'yard sale' then you owe your co-workers a six pack. In my case, I think I may owe them a keg or two. Here's my story:

The Fall:
The way ski school works is that every morning you show up. If there is work available, you take it, and if there isn't, you get to train with the best. Inexplicably, on an embarrassingly easy run, while practicing a new drill, my edges caught and I went for it. I tumbled for long enough that I had time to think several things before coming to a stop: Am I ever going to stop falling? Why the fuck haven't my skis come off? This second thought, I believe, is the biggest factor in this saga. So, when I finally came to a stop my left ski was buried to my heel in the icy groomed slope. The front of my right ski had come to a stop behind the left ski, twisting my knee to the left. A co-worker had to pull my ski out of the snow. I tried skiing down since my knee didn't hurt too bad but every time I weighted it my femer would feel like it was slipping past my tib-fib. The last thing I wanted was to get a ride out of there since my boss (an owner of Sierra Mountain Guides) is also a ski patroller. But my co-worker Bob convinced me that it was the only way to go. Then the ski patrollers called Neil (my boss) and he convinced me that going the whole nine yards (splint, toboggan ride down, emergency room) was the only smart thing to do given workmans comp and what not. So there I was, sliding behind a snowmobile, leg immobilized, tied in, thinking I would be terrified of such a thing. Instead, I was oddly calm and loved the bit of spray that hit my face as I marvelled at the whispy clouds in an otherwise completely blue sky.

The ER:
The payroll girl from work was asked to drive me to the hospital since Jed was working and I couldn't get a hold of any friends. She is a no nonsense kind of girl that might not have cried since she was 7 or so. I , on the other hand, could not stop crying for the life of me. Everytime I saw or talked to someone I knew I would just lose it thinking that I had disapointed them. The ER doctor pulled on my leg and said I probably had a torn ACL. The x-ray didn't show anything and I wasn't in any pain. Right before I left I started noticing a little sensitivity in my tailbone but didn't think much of it.

Long story short since this is getting pretty long already. Saw the Doc (Dr. Karch), got an MRI. Both said that I had a blown out ACL (the MRI guy said very monotone when I asked how it looked: "I'm surprised your not in more pain") and probably a torn LCL as well as a broken tailbone. A few days after the results I slipped on the ice out front of my house in June Lake and my knee collapsed inward. My virtually pain free injury turned into a frusterating painful injury for several days which resulted in the first experience with injury related depression and a foul mood that my poor Bishop roomates and friends had to put up with. But soon it faded and I got back to exercising and feeling better as my range of motion increased again.

The Operation:
The battle plan was this: fix the ACL arthoscopically and deal with whatever miniscus tearage that might have happened in my secondary fall. When the ACL was fixed he would pull on my leg and then fix the LCL in a second surgery if it still felt loose. I received a cadavers ligament that was bolted and screwed and hammered in, doubled over, as my new ACL. An inconsequential amount of miniscus was repaired and there was no LCL damage. So this was probably the best case scenario. Plus, now I have a mans knee. Karch said he was probably a motorcycle rider. Once its healed, my new knee should be stronger than my old one.

I opted for a spinal tap for the operation since I learned that general anesthesia requires a machine to breathe for you and that just sounded wrong to me. So, my legs were supposed to be dead and I was supposed to be a awake. I dozed on and off but then it was discovered that I wasn't a very good patient when I woke up and realized I was having surgery and I wanted to see. So, according the the anesthesiologist, I was "ripping down the curtain wanting the see, and my other arm was hanging over the table," so he said "I just knocked you out after that." My doctor was kind enough to allow one of the nurses to take photos with my camera. I don't recall a single one being taken despite my smiles and thumbs up and torn open knee.

Best parts of the whole experience:
Workers Comp. Feeling like a real skier now because every skier tears up their knee at some point. Getting to have mom come and take care of me. The time to do crafts and write and be creative in general. The opportunity to at some point go visit family and friends. That I didn't do more damage.

Worst parts:
Missing out on powder skiing. Inevitably making Jed miss out of skiing and climbing. The numb HooHoo after my spinal tap that didn't allow me to pee unassisted (coughcathetercough). Missing one and maybe two AMGA courses.

The Future:
If I had to sum it up in one word? Cycling. Basically I am only allowed to do in-line sports (biking, rowing, um....biking) for 6 months. For all of my climbing partners reading this: From the 4-16 weeks mark I will be feeling the best but my knee will be at its absolute weakest. This is when all of you are going to tempt me to go out climbing or whatever- but I must resist if I am going to want a totally healthy knee in the future!! If anyone out there wants to go riding though- give me a call and I will love you forever.

I have come across many quotes since I've been hurt that never meant anything to me before. They now have significant meaning: ...'No one said it was going to be easy'... 'Adding insult to injury' ...'It is what it is and it ain't what it ain't'... 'One day at a time'.
Currently? I am in pain. I have found that if I take the heaviest dudiest meds my leg doesn't hurt but I barf everywhere. So now I am trying lighter duty stuff so I don't get nauseous just looking at a computer or talking on the phone but then my knee hurts more. Mom is here taking care of me, doing all the things I ask and even the ones I don't. I thought I would be doing crunches and legs lifts to stay in shape but its all I can do to move my leg to adjust or get up to go to the bathroom. I have been so happy and excited when I get calls and e-mails and texts- those are definitely the highlight of my day (no pressure -haha!). I think today my leg is less swollen than yesterday and I hope that the trend continues.