The sound an achilles tendon makes when it snaps is the kind of pop a taut guitar string might make if you shot it with a handgun. Rupturing an ACL, on the other hand, sounds like ripping a fistful of grass out of the ground. Once installed, a full knee replacement clicks softly with every step—unless it’s a step down a stair, in which case it sounds like a bike tire rolling through gravel.
I wish I never knew what music a body makes when it breaks. But I am a skier. After years of moshing through moguls, trenching on groomers, and hitting the bottom on too many tracked-out runs, we must pay our dues—which are, in my case, five knee surgeries, heel surgery, a broken thumb, bone bruises, torn muscles, a torn rotator cuff, and bone spurs that come and go depending on the season. After my most recent trifecta—achilles (pop), ACL (rip), and a total knee (click)—people ask, “You ready to hang it up yet?”
Never. For reasons that are both simple (joy) and complicated (self-esteem), skiing has always been at the core of my life. Everything—my friends, community, career, and hometown—has centered around it. I needed to find something that would alleviate pain and swelling so I could keep doing what I love, without compromising my liver, of course, because après-ski is also something I love. This is how I found Miraflora.
Three years ago, I tore my left achilles. And while not technically a ski injury, it stemmed from one nearly 30 years ago when I tore everything tear-able in my right knee while proving myself to a dumb boy at my home hill of Mary Jane. I chronically favored my right leg and developed achilles tendonitis in my left. But when that small yet crucial bridge of tissue finally gave out, I wasn’t arcing a turn or launching a cliff—I was walking to yoga. And that’s not even the most shameful part. I was walking to yoga to stretch it out after tequila-fueled anger-dancing at a family wedding the night before. It was so inflamed, I could hear it squeaking when I moved my foot.
Hear me now and thank me later: Should your family drama lead you to hurl your shoes into a bush and jump up and down on the flagstone patio for hours, and should you wake up the next day to find that your achilles outranks your headache on the pain scale, please, sit your ass down on the couch with a bag of ice and some Miraflora CBD Recovery Balm. (It’s magical.)
As I crutched around with a hard cast that pointed my toes in the perfect position to catch on door jambs, stool legs, and the ground, it was impossible to imagine I would be able to walk again—not to mention ski. The reconstructed tissue was knotted up and it burned with every step. The only thing that relieved it was that Recovery Balm, so much so that I even dreamed about slathering it on in my sleep. Then one year later, after getting my race boots punched out around my thickened heel, I clicked into my skis again.
I barely made it through a full season before I tore my left ACL ski-testing for Ski Magazine and Outside at Sun Valley. It was a huge 14-inch powder day—rare for Sun Valley—and I thought I could sneak in one more run before heading to the airport for a late afternoon flight.
I ducked into some trees that I knew from previous days had scary stumps and rotten spots lurking under all that fresh, but the line was untracked, glittering in the sun, begging for my tracks. It was glorious. Until I came around a full pine to find a downed tree blocking my path at femur-snapping height. Time is a funny thing in these moments. A split second expands to allow thoughts about un-notorized wills and one’s child becoming a ward of the state. While my brain was busy catastrophizing, my body slid under the log in a twisting limbo that no knee could sustain. The tear was so loud, I didn’t even hear branches breaking.
I sideslipped down, made my flight, and went to the doctor the next day. With the X-rays and MRI images on the screen, he said something disconcerting. “You tore your ACL and meniscus, which we can fix. But I want to talk about your other knee. That one looks terrible.” Thus I embarked on ACL reconstruction and total knee replacement, six weeks apart.
Skiers are tough, but this tested me. I couldn’t drive, so my 15-year-old daughter and I survived on Chinese food delivery and the kindness of friends. I attached ice crampons to crutches and showered wearing a giant leg condom. The pain killers made me sick, so I ordered CBD Soft Gels and went through jar after jar of Recovery Balm, rubbing it in slowly to push the swollen fluid out of my joints. In our 850-square-foot cabin, stuff started to pile up everywhere.
“It’s so messy in here,” my daughter said as she walked in the door from school, tossing her backpack onto the pile of clothes on the couch. “The cleanup fairies are on sabbatical!” I may have yelled. Seeing the tears brimming in my eyes, she looped her arms around me through my crutches and then started bringing dishes to the sink.
Injury sucks, but there is nothing like not being able to carry a glass of water that teaches you to be grateful for the small miracles your body does for you every day—and especially grateful for the large ones it does for you on a powder day. And so I kept my sights on skiing. Skiing—and Miraflora—got me through.
It may seem silly—idiotic even—that I have built my life around this dangerous pastime of sliding down snow. But I wouldn’t trade this sport for anything, certainly not an achilles tendon or a few ACLs. Skiing made me who I am.
It’s fall now, and I still take the CBD Soft Gels every day—they will replace the Advil my ski pants pockets are always full of—and I continue to be Miraflora’s biggest Recovery Balm customer. I know the FDA hasn’t approved it yet, but I know what I know: This stuff works. And after three years of reliving the sounds of my injuries every time I close my eyes, normal sounds are finally returning—the roar of wind in my bike helmet, the rustling of leaves under my feet, the exhale of my own breath.
It’s good to be back. Just in time, too—the snow is about to start flying.