Thursday, August 18, 2005

Ouch, Shep Hurts Himself

I had been skiing very well this season. Not since 1999 had I been consistently getting through -22 and into -28 off. My personal best in a class-C tournament remains 5 at -28 at the Reservoir Dogs classic. My recent strength and consistency was in part due to being in decent shape, meaning not-hurt. But I feel a bigger part is that, over the past two years in specific, I’ve developed a better mental picture of the body dynamics needed to swing yourself through the course at short line. Dave has coached us relentlessly on this and I know it has really changed my appreciation for the sport. Not just knowing, but feeling how to
  • “Ski `da gate”
  • “Ski out to the end of the rope”
  • “Handle-In through the pre-turn”

Are all just mnemonics to help you mimic a pendulum’s motion in its arc from bottom (behind the boat) to the top of its arc (out around the buoy). What an awesome rush when your ski finishes the turn, your body is in good alignment, you are well up on the boat down course, and you are ready to lean against the line to progressively accelerate yourself (like a pendulum’s downward arc) and do it again for the next ball.

So after a 9-day hiatus I was perhaps over-rested and over-eager to run all over my starting 34 -15 passes, run -22 and poke into -28. Five passes into my first set I had run a few -15’s and stupidly blew great gate/1- and 3- balls at -22 by being too aggressive. I knew I was muscle-ing through with my biceps to go hard off the ball, but it didn’t register. Paradoxically, I knew the fix to this was just to be a little more patient and get the progressive lean off the ball that peaks behind the boat. Like so many things in this sport, going harder earlier is not always the good thing that it seems. The other danger clue I missed was that throughout the set, particularly at -22, I was wide, early and so far up-course that I was running over buoys on the back side. This was the clue that should have been saying “you are fine, don’t panic, no need to try to be superman off the ball".

On my sixth pass I had everything I wanted, maybe except for the confidence of running another -22 earlier in the set. A +5 RPM adjust headwind was right out of the south and I felt that with a good gate/1, this would be 6 in the bank. I was already thinking about translating -22-ness to -28-ness. Anyhow, had a fine gate and turned well on the backside of one. Did it correctly 1-2 as I leaned, then progressively edge-changed at the second wake and had one of my most patient 2-balls. I may have been a little lame at building angle out of two. I probably released the handle a little early into 2 and that widens the arc of the ski. 2-3 is my strong-side lean, so I stayed on edge a little too long and tore into 3, probably with crap for angle and heading just up course of 3-ball. There is no question, sensing the boat a bit down course, feeling a little late, that I wanted to make something up coming off of 3. Bad idea, and we all know it! I was patient enough in letting the ski come around three, but as soon as it was remotely pointing in the direction of four, I wanted to lock and go. Again, paradoxically, a few hundred more milliseconds of rotation around 3, and a progressive, instead of impulsive, lean and I would have made it up behind the boat.

Instead I went hard off 3-ball too soon. Real hard, and I stupidly used my biceps for help. I quickly felt this was more than enough to shoot me out to four, but there is a problem: First, I peaked well before the first wake using my biceps (not my hips) for the lean. This created a front-rolling moment on my ski-body system. Not only did this contribute to launching me into the air nicely over the first wake; but I was now prematurely rolling my ski from accelerate-lean edge to decelerate-turn edge IN THE AIR, BEHIND THE BOAT. Another few hundred milliseconds later we find the front-right edge of the very responsive Connelly F1 landing around the second wake. Many of you know how progressively that ski decelerates with subtle tip pressure: Thus my mid-air edge change, in conjunction with the forward roll moment, meant that I would be slowing down really quickly at the second wake.

Of course the ski stalled instantly and abruptly, as you would expect. My cross-course velocity translated into collapsing forward on the ski. As I came out of both high-wraps, the tip of the ski first took a glancing blow at my right shin puncturing it slightly, hit my right knee very hard, and then as my upper body was driven downward and the ski driven upward, the tip of the F1 was driven into my right forearm and elbow, ripping the skin to the bone peripherally for about 5 cm, and leaving a substantial part of the ski tip in my arm and tattooing my ulna in Connelly purple and blue.

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