By Ryan Cochran-Siegle
Before the start of each ski season, on a standard eight-and- a-half by eleven-inch piece of paper I like to write down my short-term goals for the upcoming year. As each aspiration gets written down, my blank piece of paper evolves into a personal contract, committing me to put forth my best effort in order to attain what I desire. It gives me perspective on where I am and where I want to go, as well as a stronger sense of purpose moving forward into the season. Looking back at the objective goals that I wrote down at the end of this past August, I question what I believed was realistically attainable only a few months ago. At the time, I was still going through the final stages of rehabilitation from a related set of knee surgeries, and understood little about the difficulty involved in my next progression. I figured once I was ready to ski, I would be back to my normal self again, with no limitations or hindrances to hold me back. Why should I expect anything else if my first return from injury went so smoothly?
Of course hindsight is 20/20, and now I see that it was juvenile to presume such an easy return considering the differences between my two injuries. A torn ACL and lateral meniscus in 2013 took just seven and a half months before being cleared to ski again. On the other hand, this second injury has required two separate surgeries, a medial meniscus repair, and a lateral meniscus transplant and an OATS procedure (Osteochondral Allograft Tranfer System), totaling just under 18 months straight of being off snow. Due to the length of time away from skiing and the nature of the procedure, I am starting to realize a longer path has seemingly surfaced along my return than that of which I first anticipated.
Since clicking back into my skis, the process of finding a better feel for my refurbished knee has begun. As much as I may want everything to be normal again, I now know that there is still a long way to go before reaching that point. It may take a few more weeks, a few more months, or even another year or two before I feel free and limitless once again on skis. Because of this reality that I am slowly coming to terms with, I have let go of all my previous beliefs, and decided it best to go into this season without any expectations holding me back.
Photo creds: Ryan skiing: Training Super-G at Vail, Colorado in November, Photographer: Bill Baum Gondola Ride in Sölden, Austria in October, photographer: me
Above the clouds view from the top of Saas-Fee, Switzerland in September, photographer: me