Tiredness comes in all forms. Sick and tired. Emotionally wrung out. Mentally exhausted. I workout fatigue. Shock.
I am physically and emotionally tapped out tonight. This happens when you are a hero. When you put your own safety behind the lives of others. When your country calls. When the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. . . or one.
We got a lively call yesterday to invite us cross-country skiing. We hadn’t been since last year but it would be fun and promised a picnic lunch and a hot tub afterward. A gorgeous day getting our exercise with friends and enjoying the beauty of Muskoka in the winter.
This morning dawned cold and sunny – a reverse omen of things to come. The sun was glinting off the snow and Emile and I fuelled ourselves with leftover pancakes and green monster smoothies. We pulled on our polar linings, mittens, toques, scarves and super warm socks. We prepared well for the day’s events. Or did we?
The day began at the rental shop and purchasing of passes and getting our skis. The first person we ran into was our massage therapist. Yes, we are the kind of people who have a massage therapist. Yes. Why? Because when you get working notice of unemployment, you max out your benefits. Emile and I had $500 each to spend in 6 weeks on massages. And spend it we did, we are regulars now. And now another NEW start of benefits to spend in 4 months. I am going to be so limber. But I should have taken the sign – a raven so to speak.
As I left the rental centre, I looked at the trail status sign – everything was open, and most everything groomed. As it was such a beautiful day and Family Day Long weekend, it was busy at Arrowhead. It was nice to see so many people out snowshoeing, skiing and tobogganing.
Muskoka’s weather has been warm and cold as of late and this has resulted in a sheet of ice covering most areas and icy packed snow. While Emile and I readied ourselves at the rental shop, our friends waxed their skis and selected the trail we were going to handle. Emile and I seem quite competent in everything we do, but let me assure you it is the attitude in some cases, not actual skill. But Rob believed in us and selected Hardwood Hills, a moderate trail that was only 3 kms long, not hard, not easy, but moderate. Only 3 kms long? Easy!
Terror began right at the beginning with a “gentle” slope. When you grew up on downhill skis – which are twice as wide as cross-country, and the technique is tremendously different – getting down a hill cross-country is different (and very tippy). Let me tell you something about me downhill skiing – I NEVER fall. I doesn’t matter what is happening, I will never fall. I will twist my body in weird contortions, stop quickly, use my poles, – whatever it takes to stay upright and away from the cold and injury inducing ground. As I do not know how to telemark, and my feet are wider than the skis, and I was terrified as I didn’t really know how to stop, I fell. And I couldn’t get up. How you get up on downhill skis is not how you get up in cross-country skis (apparently). After a few minutes of graceful manoeuvres, I made it up again. The worse part is this gentle slope was to get you to gain speed to make it up the hill next. But in this case, we needed to use plain knee-pit grease to get ourselves up that hill. I somehow managed to, but Emile eventually took off his skis and hiked up. At the 200 meter mark, we both needed a rest.
And the trail continued like this, with marginal increases to our skills in the face of patient coaching from Rob and Nancy. Emile ran me over one time, but other than that, I didn’t fall again. Soon 3 kms were near and one last hill to go down. We all stopped at the top and we each took turns going down – I suspect Rob and Nancy didn’t want to get run over. I went third. I took the hill as slow as I could, but despite my efforts, was clipping along at a very quick speed (at least in my perspective) Near the end was a turn and as I clumsily rounded it, 8 skiers – including women and children – gathered at the bottom getting directions from Rob and Nancy.
We all ask ourselves how we would handle situations that require heroics. Would cowardice rear its ugly head, would our actions be effective, would we panic? I considered my options, trying the brakes, trying to turn into a little run away lane. But with my normally unused cross-country muscles exhausted and my lack of skill, I simply could not steer well enough. In desperation, I threw my body to the ground and came to a rest about 10 feet from the group. They were saved. I was broken.
February 19th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary Event: The tremendous bruise on my left thigh and buttock – a reminder of the hero I am. And the people I saved.