Dealing with downtime: PT, Rehab, and Football

Hanging out post surgery

Last Thursday, I went under the knife and got my knee fixed up.  Now it’s time for the hard part and the long road to recovery.  My surgery ended up being a pretty intense scope to clean up the cartilage under my kneecap and smooth out the movement of my patella.  It was a lot of cleaning up, but a success, according to the doctors.

It was a good move on my part to decide to get surgery since the damaged cartilage was quite severe with actual chunks missing and flaps hanging loose.  On the pictures, it looked like I had an ice axe swing away at it, and I could have kept damaging it more if I had continued skiing on it.  Sometimes you just have to listen to your body and fix it, and I’m glad I did.

The good news is that my knee should be fixed and should feel much better now.  The bad news is that I need to stay off my knee for the next six weeks to protect the soft cartilage that is now exposed, and give it a chance to heal.  Luckily, I have the time now that my season is over.  I’ve never gone through anything like this though, so it’s going to be tough for me to deal with sitting out for so long.

The last few days have been pretty painful so I’ve gladly been letting it rest.  I started physical therapy the day after surgery, but so far, I’ve been limited to mobility and some stretching to keep my knee moving, prevent scar tissue from building up, and keep it from seizing up on me.  It’s coming along great though and I’m ahead of the curve so far as it is moving pretty well.  I even got on the bike yesterday spun slowly, just to get it moving.  Even though it is feeling better though, I have to restrain myself for the next month.  It’ll be pretty boring, but I have to let that cartilage heal or else I’ll just be back to where I was before.

Of course I’ve been following the World Cup competitions and my teammates’ successes without me there.  I was even following live timing of the Zagreb World Cup and yelling at my phone as the nurses hooked me up to the IV, preparing me for surgery.

Ted Ligety put in another solid GS result in Adelboden, Switzerland with a fourth place, just over one tenth of a second off the win.  He has been so consistent and skiing well, but I’m sure he’s not happy, since Marcel Hirscher has been dominating ahead of him, winning the last 3 of 4 races.  I can see him stepping it up another notch and showing up some amazing skiing.  Nolan Kasper came back to form with a great top 10 result in the Adelboden slalom.  And Will Brandenburg scored his first World Cup points of the season in the slalom in Adelboden, coming into 22 position.  Not quite what he was looking for I’m sure, but look for him to start punching it in there after that finish, and I have a feeling Jimmy Cochran’s speed will start showing soon.   Rip it up boys!

Stocking up on snacks

Finding ways to entertain myself while watching the guys slay the World Cups overseas is probably the biggest challenge.  It certainly helps watching my Broncos pull off an unbelievable playoff win last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, although in dramatic fashion and adding a little more stress to my afternoon than I’d like.  It’s sets up for more guaranteed entertainment today against the Pats!  (Insert smack talk to all the New Englanders reading).  Other than that, I’ve just been trying to get outside at least a little bit, if only to go shopping in a motorized cart.

It seems like I’m making big strides as me knee is feeling better and better every day so hopefully I’ll be back in business soon.  With all the time now before I go skiing again, I’ll be stronger than ever going into next year.  Go Broncos!

Season over, asking Santa for a new knee

Team before Pozza di Fassa SL

Hi everyone,

After pushing and pushing, doing everything I could to rehab and strengthen my knee from the patella injury, it’s still lingering and I’ve decided to call it a year to get it fixed. I fought through the last few months, but I realized there is no use for me to go through the season without being fully recovered. I won’t do me any good to ski through a World Cup season when it’s not 100%. I wouldn’t ski to my potential and my rankings would just dwindle. This way, I can save my rankings for next year through injury protection and be fully recovered ready to go next season.

The last month my knee actually felt pretty good, and I was getting confident it would hold up through the whole season. There are still days that it feels great, but there are times where it swells up and gets pretty painful. That’s why it took me some time to make the decision. I was back and forth for a while, but I think this is the way to go to protect my future. It’s a very difficult pill to swallow, especially since I am still able to ski, but I just need to get my knee fixed to be able to ski at my prime.

Based on the surgery procedure they do, my recovery time should be between 4-6 months. I’ll be spending a lot of time in the gym this winter, but I am hoping to be back on snow in May or June…a perfect time to start skiing again…ha. By getting back on skis again in the spring though, I should have great training and prep and be back to 100 percent by the time the racing starts again next year.

At least I did get to ski a little bit of the season and got to start my first World Cup slalom in the US, which got rescheduled to Beaver Creek after no snow in Val d’Isere. I skied well, but not super fast and missed qualifying for the second run by only a few tenths of a second. My family and a few of my friends were able to take the workday off and come watch and that was awesome! It was great to have my close fans present!

Watching from the sidelines at Flachau World Cup

I also did get a little bit experience out of the Europe trip the last few weeks that I just got back from. Even though I didn’t start either of the World Cups, I did ski the Europa Cup slaloms leading up them. At a night race in Pozza di Fassa, Italy, I skied from bib 36 to 12 place. A pretty solid result and a nice race to put my mind a little at ease as I prepare for a long rehab process the rest of the winter.

It’s going to be tough to watch from the sidelines, and it will be my first time in my career doing it. The rest of the crew heads back over to Europe on Dec 29 for the rest of the World Cup season so best of luck to them, to all of Team USA, and to all my fellow friends racing! I’ll be cheering and hard at work. I’ll get the strongest I ever have been and back in no time.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and happy New Year!

Welcome Winter

Hello again everybody! Yes, I’m finally back. It seems like winter is here already, marked by this Wednesday’s start of training at home. We are headed over to Vail, CO for the next couple of weeks to get ready for the opening World Cup slalom on November 13. It’s getting colder and snow is starting to fly so we should be ready for some good water injected training in the days ahead.

Summer prep in New Zealand was amazing as we had some near perfect days of sunshine and hard snow. I competed in a few races down there and gained more confidence in my Giant Slalom skiing and put in a few solid runs to get my GS rank a little bit lower. The conditions degraded a bit when the island’s storm of the century rolled through, but still a very successful camp and great preparation for this season.

Unfortunately, I suffered a bit of a setback when we flew overseas to our October camp in Soelden, Austria. I was ready for some GS training and gearing up for my first World Cup start of the season, the Giant Slalom opener in Soelden that happened just last weekend. I injured my knee during dryland and strained my patella. I stayed over there and try to push through the injury to try and start the World Cup, but my knee still wasn’t quite ready for race time. Not worth trying to push too hard and risk further damage. I flew back to Park City to get it checked out and spent the week and a half rehabbing and strengthening my VMO, quads, and hamstrings to relieve the knee. I should be ready to get back on snow on Wednesday, and I hope to be full strength again for the Levi, Finland World Cup slalom in a few weeks.

Happy Halloween!

A Huge Thank You!

I really want to express my gratitude to everyone who has helped me the past few years and made it possible for me to accomplish everything I have to this point.  There is no way I would be able to achieve what I have without all of the support I have gotten from you guys, financially and morally.  I want to send a special thank you to my old headmaster at Crested Butte Academy and now fan, and probably a good reason why I got into Dartmouth College, David Rothman, fellow Dartmouth alum John Norton, Brian Krill of Peak Education and Consulting, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, and the World Cup Dreams Foundation for setting up a fundraiser for me during this last Christmas season in Crested Butte.  And thank you to all the individuals who donated to my cause.  I would not have been able to fund the year without your help, race the Alpine World Championships, and finish the season as strong as I did on the World Cup circuit.

Thank you also to those following along with my career, sending me messages of congratulation and even when things didn’t go quite so well.  All are a help and I love hearing from my fans.

On another note and skiing update, I have been officially named back to the 2011-2012 U.S. Ski Team.  This time, I am a member of the B Team and will be fully funded by the Team for the season. I have also secured World Cup spot in slalom from my success on the tour last season.  I also brought my points and ranking down in giant slalom pretty dramatically so I hope to have a few more opportunities in that event as well.  I’m excited for the next season and it seems like it’s already here with us heading over to Mammoth Mountain for a small ski camp next week.  After that it’s more of a summer break and time to hit the gym as I’ll head to Park City for the dryland season.  I hope everyone has a great summer and again, a HUGE thank you to everyone!  It really means a lot.

Hoping for a Brighter Spring

2011 U.S. Nationals SL (Photo: Flickr - shiffs'11)

The season is over now according to the schedule, certainly not according to the recent 6 inch dump and continued cold and snow in the forecast in Colorado. If somebody could let me know some place where it’s warm and spring-like, that would be great!

Anyway, to continue from my last post (I know, a long time ago), the World Championships were an unbelievable experience and I am so happy I was able to be a part of it. That definitely made my season. Especially since I was coming into the season off the team and not really knowing what to expect. Pretty unreal. The actual event didn’t quite go as I would have liked. The snow was much different, softer and easier, from what I’ve experienced on the hill so my first run ended up too conservative. I tried to make it up with run two, but the snow was breaking down a bit too much from where I started and I crashed out of thecourse. Oh well.

I came back with another, 4th, qualifying run at the next World Cup in Bansko, which was great. I was pushing hard to get a good result the second run, but ended up crossing my tips and going out. I went out again in Kranjska Gora during the final World Cup slalom of the year for me. In all of them though, I felt like I had some good turns and good skiing happening so pluses there. The day after the World Cup, I finished the European season with a 5th place in the Kranjska Gora Europa Cup slalom and the fastest second run… a good way to head home.

Spring on the North American continent was a little rough. I went up to Whistler for Nor-Am finals and some races held in bottomless powder, both of which are great but not together. I had a great GS podium the first day and then crashed and tumbled hard on the second day of GS. I couldn’t put weight on my leg at all at first and a good bulge was coming out of my shin, so instantly I though broken tib/fib or something. Luckily, after a closer look and some X-rays, it was just a contusion and a small cut. Still, it was bad enough to keep me off of skis until Nationals came around 3 weeks later in the beginning of April. I was hoping for a little redemption there after a difficult spring. The snow again was terrible with a warm and then snowy front coming into Colorado, but it was looking good at first as I got off to a first run lead. Second run, the course completely deteriorated though and trying to ski aggressively did not work. I jetted out on my skis and a good few feet skyward and out. Sort of sums up the end of the spring season. The season as a whole was amazing, however, and a real break-through for me. Coming off of a rougher year last year and getting cut from the team to coming right back and qualifying off the bat, making second runs in four World Cups, and representing the US in the Alpine World Championships. Very cool!

I am feeling good and healed now though with my leg and time to reset for the spring and get ready for next season! It actually starts right back up with a training camp in Mt. Bachelor in about a week and a half. I’m hoping I’ll see at least couple days of sunshine and t-shirt weather before then.