Bloody Elbows, Steep Cliffs, & Passing the Test

“Will you succeed?  Yes!  You will indeed!  98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed. Kid, you’ll move mountains.” – Dr Seuss


“The View”

I looked out over the valley.

Nothing but mountains out to the horizon.

I reached for the tree branch.

My 4 year old was in my other arm.

She decided her hike was over.  Smart girl.

The mountain trail dropped a few feet below us.


The branch broke.

I bounced off the ground.

When the dust settled (literally):

  • My 4 year old was untouched.
  • My elbow was not so lucky.

There are benefits of busting up your elbow in the middle of nowhere.

You forget about your knee.

Nothing like being lost in the mountains.

Family fun at its best.

One Week Earlier

Exactly one year to the day from ACL surgery, almost to the hour, I had my last official PT session.

My PT played the Rocky music (TY Mike!) on his phone as I signed the discharge papers.

Awesome experience.

PT pushed me hard.

But no simulated training can replicate real world adversity.

A few days later we took our trip ever to the Adirondacks in upstate New York.

Amazing scenery.

Steep cliffs.

Take A Hike 

Our last hike of the week did not go as planned.

After two hours of hiking in the wrong direction and scaling up surprisingly steep rocks, we were flat out lost.

The terrain was uneven. The trail was unfriendly.

If you had to design a course to eat up a new ACL, this would be it.

My safety blanket – my custom fit knee brace, was only 400 miles away.


The Test Finds You

I had been avoiding “it” for weeks.

I thought “it” would happen on the jiu jitsu mat.

But “it” found me on top of a mountain.

“It” was the ACL test.

And “The Test” was at hand.

I knew the time would come when I would have to test my surgically repaired knee in the real world.

I just didn’t think it would happen lost in the mountains, low on water, and carrying a 4 year old.

The injury created a mental barrier that I had to overcome.

Was my knee really ready to be pushed full speed?

How do you know when you are 100% healed?

Go All the Way

Before I realized it, I was jumping, pivoting, and cutting my way down the mountain on uneven terrain.

All the while carrying my 4 year old hiking buddy.

As we approached an amazing cliff view, gratitude flowed.

After 12 months, a few hundred hours of rehab & a bloody elbow later, the healing process was complete.

My knee is back.


I took a photo of the view to remember the moment.

Test passed.

Chapter closed.

Life can test us at any moment.

How we respond determines who we become.

Running away from a challenge is AVERAGE.

Climbing life’s mountains leads to REMARKABLE.

-Joe Ciccarone

About Joe Ciccarone

Host of the “Built Not Born” podcast, Blogger ( & BJJ Black Belt. "Escape Average, Be Remarkable."
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4 Responses to Bloody Elbows, Steep Cliffs, & Passing the Test

  1. Kristi says:

    Hiking with 4 year olds gives us new perspective indeed. Glad your knee survived it!

  2. Jim Szymaniak says:

    You showed us the spirit that has made you so successful Joe. That hike will not be forgotten. Looking forward to the next one…. and I think Dawn is too.

  3. Well done Joe Chick, I never would have doubted you. In crossfit they call it functional fitness – it wasn’t just the rehab that allowed you to conquer the trail, it was the lifetime of training that made your mind and body strong. Shortly before you and I first met, a series of very unexpected business and personal events “forced” me to form the business we now know as The Neve Group. You are right, sometimes that’s what it takes. As you know it led to many adventures for many people. Hear is to the fun and surprise continuing for you, and conquering new challenges!

  4. Great write up and so happy to red it and see you on the mend with your buddy!

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