I Blew my ACL … Now What?

I Blew my ACL … Now What?

“Pop!”

The sound associated with something bursting, perhaps a thought, a vision or a dream.

It’s also the sound you hear when you tear your ACL.

I have many friends that are familiar with the sound first hand, but I had never personally experienced it, until a week ago.

Twenty days prior, I had quit my full time corporate job, packed up my belongings, sublet my house, left behind the life in Vancouver I had spent the last 10 years building, and moved to Jackson Hole.

I had a good career and my life was steadily moving forward in the direction that would make any parent proud, so why put it on hold and potentially throw it all away?

It took me a long time to make this decision and the answer simply came down to the desire to live a life with no regrets.  Albeit risky, intimidating and scarier than anything I had ever done, I needed to investigate what potential I had as a skier if I committed to being more than a weekend warrior. So it was decided, Jackson was where I needed to be to pursue my dream of being a professional skier.

The more I became committed to this decision, the more I felt the universe was telling me “this is what you are meant to be doing.”

I received incredible support from my employer, my sponsors, my friends. I had my first TV appearance after being nominated as Vancouver’s athlete of the week, my ski trip from the summer was getting exposure, I found a place to live with ease, I was accepted onto the Mountain Athlete team to train with my peers for the upcoming competition season, and Jackson was the only place in North America that was getting any snow!

Ten knee deep pow turns later on Teton Pass I took a minor crash and I heard the notorious “pop.”

In that moment, I knew my ski dream bubble along with my knee had exploded and my season was over before it had even started.

Friends swiftly stabilized my knee with shovels, jackets, rope and ski straps and split into two groups; one to retrieve the vehicles, the other to help me get out of the backcountry without causing further damage.

I skied down on one leg, ironically enough using the techniques I had learned at ski practice the day before. To dump speed I’d fall to my good and my friend Travis would then ski beside me, so I could use him and his skis to push myself up out of the deep snow.

Ski and fall. Struggle up.
Ski and fall. Struggle up.
Ski and fall. Struggle up.
Get off the mountain.

In the car on my way home my mind swirled with heavy thoughts and hard questions.

How would I tell my parents? How will they react?
Will I get kicked off the team?
Will insurance cover it?
How long until I can walk? How will I make money until then?
Do I stay in Jackson?
This will be my 5th knee surgery. I’m 30. Can I keep doing this?
What now?

“Failure” echoed in my mind as I processed all I had given up for the dream that popped with my ACL.

I was ashamed. The tears came.

Here’s the deal with pain. The sooner you get to it, the easier it is to overcome and the quicker you recover.

On my way to the hospital I called close friend who had gone through the exact same thing just a year prior.   I had not asked her to share the news. What would people think of my failure?

It was wrong to worry. Before I left the hospital my phone was overflowing with text messages and voicemails with words of sympathy and encouragement from more friends than I knew I had in Jackson.

The pain eased some.

Despite my season ending injury, and the subsequent insecurities, no one thought any less of me. My parents were supportive, not disappointed. No “I told you so’s.”

The more people found out the more support and encouragement I received to persevere and come back stronger than I’ve ever been.

Instead of defeat, I’ve felt more confident in my abilities as a skier physically and mentally and I’m reassured that my decision to come to Jackson was the right one. I could not be surrounded by a better more supportive community than I have here.

Despite the disappointment I’ve decided my ski career bubble never actually popped, it simply got put on hold.

2 Banger

2 Banger

Packing it in for a rookie

 

 

Packing it in for a rookie

Packing it in for a rookie

 

 

Crank It Up a Notch

Crank It Up a Notch

What exactly does it mean to “crank it up”? How much should I crank it up? What is enough crank? How much are others cranking it up?

I am a semi professional skier that competes on the Freeskiing World Tour. When you live and spend time with other incredible skiers and professional athletes, “cranking it up” means business and I often worry if I’m getting down to business enough.

 

Scaring myself a bit jumping off cliffs in South America
Party waves on Maui

As an athlete, I was elated at the opportunity to work with and represent an amazing brand through their ambassador program and excited for the upcoming winter to be a part of and share my “hard core” ski world to #thetribe.

One month into the program, while Jackson Hole was getting 16″ upon 16″ of fresh pow, I blew out my knee, had to undergo knee surgery and have been slowly recovering since.

 

After I hurt myself, skinning up was not problem, getting down however was a different story!
Working on bending my knee past 30 degrees at physio

This challenge has been particularly meaningful to me because 8 months ago I mostly compared myself to a small group of competitive and professional skiers and felt that “cranking it up a notch” had to be on skis or a bike and it was only legit if I was pushing myself at the highest level I knew I was capable of.  How was I suppose to “crank it up” when my peer group is learning double back flips and hucking off 30 foot cliffs in competitions, while I was barely able to make a full pedal rotation on a stationary bike.

 

Finally able to ride a bike outside!
Back on the DH bike and starting to jump of things!

While I’ve been experiencing other MTW Ambassador adventures, I’ve come to see that “cranking it up” is not about doing the most extreme and crazy thing you can share on the internet, it’s about pushing your physical, mental and emotional limitations and comfort zones.  It’s about building the stoke no matter the level you’re at. What’s important, is that you’re getting at it.

As much as I haven’t felt like I have accomplished much over the last 8 months, in hindsight I’ve come to realize that I’ve been “cranking it up a notch” a bit every day since surgery.

 

I have not been in a canoe since I was 15. A boat across the river with all your gear is mandatory for the hike to Lake Lovely Water
That is our destination!
Figuring out how to use a camping stove to make breakfast.

I have done things I would never have done, if it weren’t for being injured or for the other MTH ambassadors who have been sharing their adventures, experiences and accomplishments. I would have been less inclined to push the comfort zones of what I already knew let alone the things I barely knew anything about i.e. hiking and camping, especially in the dark.

Before my injury I was a pretty fearless. I rode lots of gnarly trails without much hesitation on my mountain bike and would say yes to almost any adventure. Since then, I’ve mostly been riding green and blue trails and declined some adventures as I didn’t trust myself not to fall and reinjure myself.

Sometimes your friends trust your capabilities more than you do and despite your fears you go to the “Top of the World” in Whistler Blackcomb and you ride 13km of ♦ and ♦♦ trails all the way to the bottom. This creates so much stoke that you embark on a 3 hour hiking trip into the mountains, mostly in the dark, simply because you can and you want to keep the stoke alive.

 

Conquering my fear of the dark. It took 3 hours to hike here, 2 of which were in the dark.
I almost walked this until my friends ensured me I was capable riding it!
I'm not a fan of cold water, but when you've come all this way...

 

This last week I have come full circle and truly see the physical, mental and emotional barriers that I have been pushing and feel so excited at what I have accomplished not only in the last week but in the last 7 months.

Mostly, I am thankful for the great friends, that have adventured with me in person and online through MTW, that have pushed me to do so.

 

Hayden taking in the view after arriving at Tenquille Lake. My first hike since I was 14.
Started our 4hr hike at 6pm - We made it in 2.75 hrs, how you could not be stoked!
If you're going to "The Top of The World" you might as well share it with some friends!

 

“Cranking it up a notch” I’ve come to see, it not about who is the most bad ass, it’s about getting outside, experiencing new things and doing anything that makes you feel badass!

 

How can you not feel accomplished when you're taking in this view for the first time!