Ice, ice baby.

The most traumatic (well, the only traumatic) part of my trip home was a visit to the doctor’s office. For almost a year now I have been suffering from tendinitis in my left elbow, the result of a little too much rollerskiing. Feet are designed to absorb the body’s impact on a hard surface; arms are not. This spring the tendinitis was identified as medial epicondylitis, better known as golfer’s elbow, and even though I did everything I could to minimize the damage, it continued to be a problem.

So I decided to get a cortisone injection.

Which turned out to be way more intense that I thought.

Don’t get me wrong, I still would have gotten the shot, because I really want this problem to go away. But it would have been nice to be better-prepared, mentally. For some reason I thought it was going to be like getting a flu shot, but in my elbow instead.

Then they wheeled in the ultrasound machine, took several minutes to shoot me up with a numbing agent, and then quite a few more minutes with a big needle stuck in my arm, spreading the good stuff around in there.

It hurt.

It hurt in an unnatural way.

And afterward, the numbing agent ran down to my hand and I couldn’t feel my fingers for the next four hours.

I just really wanted my mom to be there to drive me home. Instead, I cruised along the windy back roads from Sharon to Lyme trying not to hyperventilate while thinking about how much it still hurt, and reaching over the steering wheel with my right hand every time I needed to use a turn signal.

The good news is that things got better fairly quickly. For the last few days I have had random-ish shots of pain when I flex my arm a certain way or grab something, but the constant pain faded after an hour or two. I’ve been icing it quite a bit – “Ice will be your new best friend,” the doctor said – and I think that tomorrow I might even rollerski with poles. Just for a little while, to see how it feels.

The other good news is that being forced to take some time off from rollerskiing (and biking, since leaning on handlebars wouldn’t have been good) gave me an excuse to do a long run I had been dreaming of for months. The Dartmouth team always runs Cube-Smarts, a 16-mile jaunt over two 3,000-foot mountains. It’s one of the toughest OD workouts of the year, second in my mind only to Kinsman (which they don’t even do every year). I wanted to make the run a bit longer and harder by running back to my house from the Smarts trailhead, another 5 or 6 miles on dirt roads.

My mother agreed to drop me off before she went to work (even though it was NOT on the way), so I started running at about 7 in the morning. The only thing I hate about being the first one on the trails is that you have to run through the spiderwebs! I have this terror that the spiders are still in the webs and will be crawling all over you. It took me about an hour of running/hiking to reach the top of Cube, where I was offered a lovely view of my next conquest.

Shortly after beginning the run down Cube, I banged my ankle on a sharp rock. Hard. A large gash immediately opened up and started bleeding everywhere. Great. If my elbow hurt at all, I sure wasn’t noticing it now.

When I reached Jacobs Brook 45 minutes later, I had another sip of water (which I had to ration carefully) and the first of my snacks. It was kind of a bummer not to have Cami there with the bus and a cooler full of fresh water, but I was having fun. I put my drink belt back around my waist and started heading up Smarts.

I was getting tired, so I was walking a bit more than I had on the first mountain, but still carrying pretty good speed. I made it up the mountain in less than an hour, which had been my goal. Even though I’ve been up the Smarts fire tower a million times, I had to climb up those wooden steps again to enjoy the view of the ground I had covered and relax for a moment while I had another snack.

By the time I was running down Smarts, I was really tired. I had to remind myself to slow down as I picked my way over the rocks, because tripping and hurting myself would have been a disaster: Tuesday morning on the AT, miles from home, with nobody to pick me up or find me except for the occasional through-hiker…. yikes.

Once I finally reached the trailhead I finished off the last of my water, ate the last of my snacks, and started trudging along the road. It seemed like those five miles were really thirty, and it felt like it might take me hours to get home. But as I jogged along, the reliable pace and the fact that it was no longer necessary to place each foot so carefully meant that I felt a little better, and I actually covered the distance in a respectable amount of time.

When I got home, I chugged at least two liters of water and had to fight hard to resist the urge to sprawl out on the floor. Food: I knew I needed some. I had just run most of a marathon over some fairly gnarly trail. Luckily, we had yogurt, raspberries, maple syrup, and apricot nectar in the fridge, so I crushed up some ice and made myself the smoothie that I had been dreaming about for the last three hours (since I had started up Smarts, more or less). It was great.

As I drank my icy treat, I slapped a cold pack back on my elbow. There’s no such thing as too much prevention.

Tomorrow it’s back to rollerskiing. I loved my mountain run – and the one we did on the Long Trail yesterday – but my running and uphill-hiking muscles are tired. I never thought I would say this, but rollerskiing will provide some welcome variety, even to my most-favorite training type.

Homegoing.

photo: Geof Little

This was the last weekend before Dartmouth homecoming.

It was a coincidence that before I spent most of the weekend elsewhere. But after all, in order to come home to Dartmouth, you have to leave first.
So I went to my real home in Lyme.

We Hanover High graduates are made fun because we could do our laundry for free if we wanted to, but the truth is that most of us get sucked into campus life and don’t spend much time with our parents.

I only go home about twice a term, and it’s usually on a moment’s notice. Sometimes I don’t even bother to warn my parents I’m coming (hi Mom and Dad).

I’m not the only one. A lot of my friends on the ski team are from Vermont and are grateful to be able to go home if they want to.

Freshman Sophie Caldwell headed back to Peru, Vermont this weekend to recuperate after being sick ever since she arrived at Dartmouth.

When Sarah Van Dyke had mono three years ago, she went to her parents’ house in Stowe, because it was nicer to spend all day in bed there than in a noisy dormitory.

Illness is one of the most obvious reasons to go home. There’s nothing quite like sleeping in a quiet house, in your own bed, with your parents and making sure you take your cough medicine and eat enough meals.

But it’s not the only reason we seek comfort outside our dorm rooms and apartments.

Kristin Dewey and the women of the Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority met, greeted, and deliberated over potential new members until 4 a.m. on Thursday and 2 a.m. on Friday.

By the time Saturday rolled around, Kristin wished she could go home to recharge. Unfortunately, our Sunday morning practices made it impractical; while I can drive down from Lyme by 8, she would have had a challenge.

“I think going home on a weekend or something is a really good way to relax and chill out and kind of re-group,” she told me. “I only go home if I have free time to hang out with my dog and my family… I’m glad I live close by.”

Pavel Sotskov’s family just moved from Gilford, New Hampshire to Meriden, where his father is the new athletic director at Kimball Union Academy. Even before the move, Pavel spent the majority of his weekends with his parents.

“I tend to relax more when I am at home – I can sleep in and get a good breakfast cooked. On the other hand, most of the time I don’t get as much work done… I get carried away with stuff I want to do at home, from going to the store to tinkering with bikes.

“If I didn’t live so close I probably wouldn’t go home as often, but I think it’s a convenience that I might as well use.”

As I left my apartment on Saturday, Hannah Dreissigacker asked, “are you going home? I’m so jealous! It’s going to be beautiful up there!”

And she was right. Our family has the kind of house you are probably familiar with: an old farmhouse with a barn that’s sinking into the ground, miles and miles of decaying split-rail fences and crumbling stone walls, and more grass than our animals can possibly mow.

I spent Saturday afternoon sitting in a field across the driveway, with my dog, Bravo (who is only partially mine after four years of college), sitting next to me watching over the farm.

When I looked up from the biology papers I was reading, I could see across the valley to Thetford, where the hills were blanketed in color.

Did I do as much work as I might have on campus? No.

Elsa Sargent would head home before final exams and finish her term papers days before the rest of us. I’m not so focused. To me, mental recovery is more important.

Hannah and I discussed how a lot of students forget that there is a “real world” outside of campus. Maybe going home isn’t the best way connect with the real world, but at least you get out of the Dartmouth bubble.

Hannah hails from Morrisville, Vermont, but her family has a farm in West Fairlee. “It is my absolute favorite place to escape to.  I like going there with friends to pick apples or tap the maple trees for sugaring, and it reminds me that school is not really that important after all.  The only problem is that it makes it hard to go back to classes.”

Right, classes. Maybe I should have spent more time on them this weekend.