As the day was very blizzardy and windy, visibility was quite poor, but the snow was acceptable and I managed to get some time on my own to ‘go hard’ in my own special way. I’d had a few reasonable runs up and down by myself and also one with my brother that I was travelling with, but decided to do one last run to the very top of the highest chairlift. Because of the conditions, the top had virtually zero visibility and was very unpleasant.
Then it happened. Just strapping in to my board for my last run, I was being blown sideways. Then, I realised very quickly that I’d been blown off the (very poorly) signposted run. Literally within 45 seconds of leaving the top of the station, I was way off track and boarding down the side of a fairly steep ravine.
Now, I’m not sure if you’ve ever been to the snow, dear reader, but if you have you’ll understand this is at best frustrating, at worst, potentially fatal or, at the very least, dangerous. I very quickly lost sight of where I was supposed to be going and because the visibility was so poor, I had to gingerly make my way down and sideways across the ravine hoping the trail would dip down enough for me to meet up with it again. After about 15 minutes of tacking and jibing and only one or two quick falls of approximately 10 feet when the ground literally just disappeared, I stopped to regain my composure. The ENTIRE time this was happening, I kept repeating my mantra ‘don’t go limbic, don’t go limbic’. Focus on what you need to do. Think about what you need to do and how you’ve gotten out of these situations before and for goodness sake, don’t fall over and break something’.
It was just comforting and amazing to note what was going on upstairs in my brain and being able to name and deal with the feelings as they came up, so that I could stop regroup, deep breathe and continue to think. I eventually found a place that was suitable for me to CRAWL up the ravine to get myself back on to the trail. The irony that all this happens when you are perhaps only 100 to 200 metres from the regular trail and perhaps one kilometre from safety doesn’t help at the time.
Can you believe I got myself back up and going again and within about 30 seconds had somehow managed to board off THE OTHER SIDE of the run and found myself in a virtually identical situation again? First off, I had a ‘oh no he di’nt’ reaction, whilst I continued to board alongside the ravine hoping the trail would meet up again and, then, BOOM, the ground fell away from under me and I found myself on my stomach sliding down a very steep slope backwards not knowing how long it was or what I was sliding into. Fortunately, I landed without incident. If I’d thought I’d had to coax a prefrontal cortex response before, that was nothing compared to this.
After I landed, I actually manoeuvred myself around so that I could lie on the snow, flat on my back whilst I closed my eyes and meditated for a few moments and took a minute to reflect upon the ridiculousness of my situation as an experienced boarder (but just not familiar with this resort or these conditions).
How a Seal saved my day
No, I did not run into a baby seal in the wilds of the New Zealand alps, I’m talking about the Navy Seals video on fear. Closing my eyes, I remembered the four strategies that the Navy Seals train to the new recruits to help them increase their mental toughness and in particular, pass their toughest test, the underwater test. If you haven’t seen this video, youtube it, it’s great.
I made myself remember the four steps (Goal Setting, Deep Breathing, Mental Rehearsal and Self Talk). I broke the goal down into manageable chunks ‘just get to this rock; just get around this hill etc. I spent the entire time breathing as deeply as I could and stopping to slow my heart rate. I conducted conversations with myself around how this would work out. Not only that, I of course, envisioned a positive outcome, not my usual ‘helicopter being called for horrific injury, front page newspager item, me dead and everyone devastated and inconvenienced, not necessarily in that order’ situation.
Importantly, I got through it. It took me 30 minutes to get back. Much longer than it probably needed to but hey, I wanted to use it as a learning experience. The strange thing about the entire experience was that as it was HAPPENING, I knew I was going to dine out on this experience.
Ironically, as soon as I got back on the groomed run, I straight away ran into my brother, who naturally wanted to do another run. Normally, I would have retired hurt (pride wise) to the bar, but I was determined to do another run, make it count, make it FAST and finish on a high. And we did.
Watch the Navy Seal’s video: