Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Ritual of the Boot

About 40 hours of work over 19 days on these
Today, I got up late after sleeping about 14 hours. I'm trying to kick this cold that I've had for two weeks. Its not awful, but it is definitely slowing me down. I came out in my jammies, to find the boys, who are also sick, on the couch playing a game together.

I made french toast for breakfast, and the coffee was ready finally, and I sat down with the boys. We started talking about being able to laugh at yourself (Bodhi got his feelings hurt when we were teasing), and I told them the story of the day that Josh Spuhler and Joe Krakker took me up the ridge for the first time.

It was a good story, and the boys were laughing, and asking questions, and calling me a gaper, and it was great. Liat came over, ready to go, and I pulled myself together to go train. Liat had offered to film me for the day so I can do some diagnostics and hone my on snow training.

Twice a day all season. Not good.
It was an incredibly beautiful day, the sun was shining, we had got about 2" of fresh snow the night before, and it was chilly but beautiful. We went into the locker room and said hi to Weems and Meesh, and I unzipped my boot bag and got to work.

As I was going through my ritual, I realized that I had this incredibly content feeling going through me. I started sort of watching what I was doing, and I realized that I was happy to put my boots on. They feel so good now, and I take good care of them.

After cooking in the boot bag all night, they are warm and soft in the morning. The liners are snug to my foot, they fill every space around the bones, holding my foot against the shell without any hard pressure on my foot. If I twitch my foot, the boot moves. I move the tongue of the boot around, and push it down into the crease of my foot.

I kick the heel of the boot into the floor twice, forward once, and down onto the heel once more. I pull on the tongue and re-seat it.

I buckle the bottom buckle one, the next one is hard to close, even on its furthest setting. I buckle it down for the moment, but I will come back and unbuckle it once the top two are done.

I buckle the third on one, and then the top on two. I unbuckle the second buckle. I buckle the third on two and the top on three. I do up the built in power strap. I reach back into my bag, into the mesh pocket on the inside and pull out a booster strap. This I wrap around the liner of the boot and pull it snug, so that the liner is tight to my leg.

Testing the new liners in Whistler
I reach into the bottom zipper pocket on my bag and pull out the batteries for my boots. I put one on the chair next to me, and I clip one onto the outside of my booster strap. I plug the end of the heater into the battery, and turn it on. I turn it up just one more, and wait for the light. I check it to make sure the connection is good and its on the right setting.

I reach back into the bag and get my boot gloves. I used to be embarrassed to wear them, because they are ugly and dorky. But my feet don't get cold anymore when I wear them, so now, I don't look dorky, I have warm feet.

I just read somewhere that with "cold" feet, athletes lose about 30% of their balancing skills. With frozen feet, athletes lose about 47% of their ability to balance. I was freezing, to waxy white, my feet twice a day. Not good.

Kipp comes up and we start to chat. I worry for just a moment, I don't want to miss a step, be rushed, or not concnetrate on my boots. But I like Kipp, I don't get to talk to him very often, and I don't know him well, so I want to take the opportunity to connect. I pay attention to the next step, and then give my attention to Kipp, knowing that the step will get completed correctly automatically. Putting on my boots has become like lacing up my skates. This weirdly hypnotic, meditative, repetitive motion with a life of its own, that always feels like I just did it five minutes ago. Its it really another, different day? It seems like I was just sitting here, doing this, only Montana was outside, and I was in the Level 3 prep clinic.

I reach back into my bag and pull out my other heavy, perfect, warm boot. I slide my foot inside and set the tongue. The whole process repeats, in exactly the same order, on the other side.

Kipp and I wrap up our conversation, and I finish up, listening to the familiar humm of the locker room. A ski school is an amazing place to work, and the Highlands has its own particular good vibe. Weems sets an easy tone, but the place is humming. People take a lot of pride in their jobs here, they are proud to work for Ski Co, proud to be good at what they do, and they are generally really happy to do what they do.

Listening to the teasing, and banter, putting on the boots just so sets me into motion, tells me I am about to go push myself in places that are exciting and scary and fun and sometimes dangerous. I'm going to go play in the snow just like my kids. And there's a chance I'll do something dumb like jump off the roof. And if I don't get in trouble, it might be really fun. And my feet are ready to play. They are well taken care of. They can feather and release and edge and stomp. I can feel them like I haven't before.

I look at Liat. I'm sick as a dog. But if we go train now, when I'm at 60%, I'll have an idea of what my skiing looks like under that kind of pressure. I'll see what my default looks like. That's what has to be above the line. Not my best skiing ever. But the skiing I can depend on when I'm tired, and sore, and don't feel good.

We head outside and get after it on Deception, SodBuster and Moment of Truth. The snow is chalky, the bumps are huge and spiney. I'm with my sister, who is smiling and hooting, and navigating these giant bumps on her snowboard with her camera in her hand.

We film for two hours, and my eyes are burning, and my skin is achy. But we have good footage to look at tonight, and I got to play with my sister in the snow.

Later that night, I'm on the couch with my boys, watching a ski movie. They are smiling and laughing while Cody West does a hand drag on a rail while talking to his mom on the phone. Bodhi falls asleep on me watching the movie mumbling about wanting to go camping at the hotsprings in the movie. I sneak out from under him and check my boot bag.

Happier feet, marked for punching.

Its in its usual place, at the end of the bench. I take out my socks, my coat, and re zip it. I unzip the plug from its pocket and plug it in. I double check the light on the switch is all the way on, that it's on "dry". I unzip the lowest outside pocket and take out my batteries. I take them over to the charger under my desk and plug them in. I double check the connections and check that the light is on.

I feel that same sensation of contentment, of rhythm, of ritual. I am soothed by knowing I am preparing for tomorrow, doing all the small things I can do to make tomorrow's training session go well, and smoothly. I am taking care of my feet so that they can feel everything tomorrow. Tomorrow, they need to be in good shape. Because tomorrow, I ski with Ethan and Bodhi.

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