Let me tell you about how I decided to return to alpine skiing after 15 years of telemark skiing.

It all starts with how I joined an indoor soccer league this spring. My thought was that I’d get to play that old sport I loved in high school, hang out with some friends, make some new ones and get a workout in. What could be better, right?

That’s what I thought, anyway. Until after the first 50 minute game which boasted only one sub who had to leave with 15 minutes left of the game. Don’t misunderstand me, it was fun. It was amazingly fun to play soccer again— the satisfaction of winning the ball, of being competitive, of winning a game and playing as part of a team. I loved it.

And then it was over. The buzzer rang and the adrenaline faded as the next teams took to the turf. As I slowly and achingly peeled off my socks and shin guards I was left with a very sore body. A shockingly sore body for it being just minutes after the game ended. I basically limped to my car. I’m not sure how I even made it to bed that night. But I know I was asleep very soon after my head hit the pillow.

I woke the next morning, stiff as could be, muscles tight. It occurred to me then, as I stare down 40, what this actually meant. The event symbolized a fact that I was reluctant to face: it completely interfered with my self-concept.

No longer was I the twenty-something athlete who could mostly drop into any activity with reasonable finesse. My six years as a mother of two had taken me out of the cycle of regular physical activity and this year, it seemed, my muscles were not willing to support without protest even the occasional high intensity activity that they once did.

I was reminded of an old friend with whom I backpacked in Yellowstone National Park a few times in my twenties. He was probably in his late forties then and laughed good-naturedly at night as he popped Ibuprofen or “trail candy”, as he called it. It struck me as odd then (candy?!) and I wrote it off as something a forty-year old must do. I thought it was cool that he was ‘out there’ on the trail. You know, at his age.

The night before my family had shown up at the arena to catch some of the game. When they woke up that next morning my daughters, ages 5 and 3, had some questions.

“Mom. Why weren’t you running when everyone else was running?”

“Mom. Why did you have those blue shorts on when everyone else’s were black?”

“Mom. Why didn’t you run after the ball when you kicked it?”

It would seem I had some work to do. I’m not throwing in the towel or anything, but this experience has reminded me that maybe at this moment in my life, I’m not ready for the kind of aggressive level of play I once was. It’s okay. I’ll still get out there. It might just look a little different than it once did.

So when this week my husband asked me for the fifth time in three months, ‘Why don’t you get some alpine skis for next year and then we can actually ski together?,” the subtext here was how my slow tele-turns compared to his alpine ones and, admittedly, how lately it’s been hard to last the whole day. I was reminded once again of this discrepancy between how I imagine myself and how maybe reality actually pans out.

And, in the spirit of humility, I think he’s onto something. This winter’s snow is almost gone from northern Vermont, but I think I’ll opt for the alpine turns when the snow flies next fall. Maybe, I’ll even get some black shorts so I can at least look a little bit more like a soccer player. And definitely, I’ll try a little ‘trail candy’ after the next game.