It’s ok to fall.
According to my yoga instructor, anyway, and I think she’s right. Because really, once you take embarrassment out of the equation falling just teaches you how to avoid falling again next time. And since hardly anyone ever dies from falling while cross country skiing, now that I’m too old to be self conscious about looking dumb I find every fall I get up from to be a confidence booster. Once the uncertainty of how bad it could be is replaced by the actual experience of how bad it really wasn’t, it’s easy to feel a little bolder, a little more relaxed, a little less worried, and a little more bad-ass. And just maybe, learn a little something.
We’ve encountered deer on and off this winter, so I’ve taken on more than one exhilarating thrill ride. But until today we had only seen them on the part of the trail that’s a long, straight open shot so all I have to do is hang on and enjoy the ride. And until today, I hadn’t had the GoPro running.
The way this encounter started was quite frankly a little weird. We were on part of the trail that winds through the woods, and once we saw the group of deer in the distance and they saw us, one of them started running towards us right down the middle of the trail. My thought process went something like this:
Whaaat is that deer doing? Charging us?
If that’s a buck in rut WE’RE SCREWED
Wait, no, it’s a doe…
…also, it is March.
WHYYYY OH GOD WHY STAY AWAY FROM MY DOGS OR WE WILL ALL DIE
And then the deer zagged down a game trail that was between us and its original position, while the rest of the herd more sensibly ran in the opposite direction from the lady and two dogs.
It’s very hard to see, but put this on full screen and right after I say OOOOHHHH LORD you can finally see the deer in the middle of the trail, then see it cut off to the right.
So one thing I’ve learned today is that a thrill ride becomes significantly more challenging when you need to navigate turns in the woods. If your timing isn’t perfect, if you haven’t learned to compensate for being whipped around on the end of a line because so far you’ve been thrill-riding straight down the middle of a perfectly straight trail, if your ski so much as bumps against the edge of the groomed portion of the trail and you haven’t had very much practice adjusting your balance in this circumstance… well, then, you are probably going down. For the most part, I was able to “practice” some pretty nice controlled falls, but this one was a pretty spectacular barrel roll kinda thing:
Watching it now, with the backs of my skis stuck there in the snow while my momentum spun me around pretty hard, I’m not entirely sure how I didn’t break a ski. But I didn’t break anything at all, and the most dangerous part was when I got back up facing the wrong direction with the line pulled under and between my legs and the dogs started pulling me backwards in their zeal to make up the head start I’d just given the deer.
One thing I learned is that under those circumstances, the full length of the line is definitely not my friend until I get better at taking those turns at speed. With the dogs running full out, I was getting whipped pretty far out to the sides, much farther than I was accustomed to because PHYSICS. I wasn’t able to compensate, so I kept bumping up against the sides of the trail. When I choked up on the line, it was far easier to control my turns. You can see in this video, where I squeal, I juuuussstt cleared the turn without bumping my ski. This also gives a fairly good idea how fast they were going.
One thing I was reminded of is that my dogs are really good dogs. The way deer almost always run away from us (charging deer being a bizarre outlier) is parallel to the main trail in the woods until they reach a game trail, at which point they peel off deeper into the woods. Not once through this entire experience did my wonderful Mush Puppies try to cut off the main trail into the woods or follow the deer down the game trails. And for the most part, apart from dragging me backwards that one time, they waited with amazing patience and self-control for me to recover from my multiple falls. So I was really proud of them today.
Another thing I was reminded of is that despite the falls, this stuff is pretty ridiculously fun. Deliriously fun. As we were heading back to the car, we passed a couple on the trail who had obviously seen us skijoring from wherever they had been walking because the gentleman remarked “You were going pretty fast down the middle there!” and in response, I sang (me, among the top 5% most stoic people in a state full of stoic Scandinavians, SANG to a total stranger) “There were DEEEEEEEER out there!” and he laughed and said “Well, it happens!” and then we all laughed together and it didn’t even seem weird that I was singing to and laughing with total strangers about deer.
THAT is what this stuff is. Pure, unabashed joyful delight that usually lasts the rest of the day. And for that, you bet I don’t mind spending some of the time learning how to avoid falling again next time. I don’t mind at all.