I hate being sick, and while not a revelatory statement—as I suppose it is a fairly universal feeling to prefer being healthy to being ill—I believe it applies particularly to me. One of the great challenges I face every day is sitting still. Being a proponent of trying to do something active everyday, I hate being brought to a halt by illness. More often than not, the prescribed treatment for feeling under the weather is rest and relaxation and, to me, the cure is almost worse than being sick. Furthermore, it is a guarantee that the best climbing or ski day of the year will occur on the day I am feeling the worst.
For the past few years I have been incredibly lucky as I have avoided any major colds, flus, and stomach bugs. (I’ve proven even more charmed if you consider I worked with the public the last few years, and had been subjected to god knows what type of vile bacteria and viruses.) While it has been a blessing to avoid any major illness the last few years, I’m afraid that it has made me forget just how hard even a common cold can knock you down.
Ironically, this year I have found myself fighting off chest colds twice already. Despite the fact that I now work in a cube and have minimal contact with the general public, germs seem to be finding me this season. True to form, I’ve attempted to fight these colds every step of the way, although not with cold and flu medicine but rather with sheer will and a refusal to be slowed down. I guess you could argue that it has only been one cold, and since I never truly gave myself time to feel better, it never really went away.
The other night, with an early morning skinning session scheduled with a few friends at Mount Wachusett, I struggled for sleep as this brutal chest cold made breathing difficult. Giving up on sleep for the night, and opting to catch up on Netflix movies, the sound of the alarm signaling time to ski was almost welcome. I convinced myself that getting outside into the fresh air and a little exertion was sure to help me feel better in spite of no sleep and difficulty breathing while just lying on the couch. I perhaps should have known that this was a terrible idea when I was winded from merely bringing my skis downstairs to the car.
Not to be deterred, I set off toward Mount Wachusett and, after eluding me all night, sleep finally decided to come. I battled to keep my eyes open on my drive to the mountain, still believing that everything would be better once I was outside and moving. Managing to fend sleep off, I finally made it to the parking lot and immediately started begging my friends to take it easy on me as I “wasn’t feeling a hundred percent” (the understatement of the year). For a moment I began to feel better; pulling on my boots and donning my pack, I was sure that I could gut out at least one lap up and down the mountain.
I truly believed I would be able to complete a lap and tried to no let on to just how bad I felt. I quickly became winded as we skinned across the flat base of the ski area toward the uphill route. Once moving uphill, I used the excuse of “needing to drop a layer” to pause and catch my breath. A little further uphill, I paused again to “get a quick drink” and try to refocus my energy. It should come as no surprise that someone who was having difficulty breathing on their couch was truly struggling to keep pace skinning uphill. Not much further along when I needed to switch something or other, I looked back down the hill to discover we had barely covered a quarter of the route.
I sadly resigned myself to the idea that the day was a loss (made even worse by trying to sneak an extra ski day in, rather than simply relaxing and recuperating). I lost a little pride as I told my friends to go on without me and got ready to return to the car. I stripped skins alone in the dark and hoped I would be able to keep enough speed to ski to the parking lot, enabling me to forgo expending much effort to get to my car. Oddly enough, I’m not even that upset that I went out and gave skiing a go that day…and that’s probably the mentality that will have me doing it all over again the next time I’m feeling a little under the weather.