We were invited to spend a day on the river with friends yesterday. They are wonderful people who own a boat and love to tool up and down their favorite body of water in the summertime.
The proposed activities including water skiing, a sport that I’ve done a few times over the years. But probably not in the last 15 years now that I think about it. That meant I had not been on water skis since tearing my ACL not once, but twice. And with no ACL to stabilize my left knee, I have not played soccer or basketball or done any real ballistic sports for quite a long time. It’s not worth the risk.
But I did do something stupid a few years back and hurdled a traffic cone during a race on a snowy January day in southern Wisconsin. The knee hurt for months from the hyperextension and required a meniscus repair another year after that. Since then all I’ve done is go swimming, cycling or running. All pretty much straight-line activities.
So the opportunity to water ski actually made me anxious. I told my wife that I probably would not try it. But we drove out to the river and climbed in the boat and my eagerness to respond to the hospitality of our guests overcame my reticence and I plunged into the water and pulled on the skis.
I know how to get up in the water, but when you haven’t done it lately it usually takes a practice pull or two to rise up on the skis. So I sat back and steeled my arms for the pull and tried to keep the two skis aligned in the water. Then the boat pulled away as I rose about two feet and plopped forward like a stalled Asian carp into the river.
Instantly I knew that what I’d just done was a bad idea. The tendon running down the inside of my hamstring to the knee was tweaked. It already hurt. Yet I swam around to get the rope and get into position again, then thought better of it. I waved them off and said, “Nope, not gonna go!”
Which was a wise and mature decision. Today my leg’s a bit sore but nothing major is wrong with it. That tendon has given me problems from speed work and other activities. I should have known it would not hold up to the torque of water skiiing.
Actually I did know that something would be a problem. Trying to be a good sport about something as radically different as water skiing when you haven’t done it in ages is a really good way to get good and hurt. I’m fortunate, because a friend of mine actually did tear his hamstring while waterskiing. It furled up like a slap of curly bacon inside his leg and left a black and blue wake on the back of his leg.
So I clambered back in the boat and agreed only to sit on an inner tube and be pulled around the water like a chunk of pale ham on top of a bagel. It was fun. Nothing else got hurt. The clouds were pretty in the blue sky and my wife had a laugh watching me hang on for dear life.
What I learned from the experience is that I’m still a good sport, just a little older and ultimately a little smarter than I used to be. And I’ve lived to tell the story without another six weeks off for injury. I hope.