Where Do I Begin?(Chapter 1)
I guess it all started with push-ups and sit-ups in the back of the boxvan on the way home from practice each day. It just evolved from there to drinking only water to start jogging a few miles each day. I thought I was a young Lance Armstrong! How wrong I was! Again, my father kept a tight leash on me but showed me what hard work was all about. It started to progress from there to eventually with him working to support my racing I no longer had a training partner/mentor. Around the age of 12, I would jog 2-3 miles (I thought that was pretty far) a day,400 sit-ups, 400 push-ups, hit the gym 3-4 days a week and ride my bmx for 30 minutes to mix up the cardio during the summer! As time went on I began to realize how much jogging affected those long days of racing, plus I absolutely enjoyed it! I would converse with top riders my age like James Stewart to see how they would train, then mix the two together. Remember, I was young and really didn’t know exactly what I was doing but tons of heart and desire!
Things started to bother me, like if I didn’t reach my goal over the weekend. If I were to win by less of a margin than expected (according to me) or lose a moto due to anything, i.e., falling, bike failure, vision problems, whatever the case I would punish myself Monday. There would be no rest days that week. I remember losing a moto and the overall to a local rider Jason Gaddis at a local racetrack called Mills Road. But no mercy on myself, I was so pissed off that when the van hit the driveway, I went for a six mile run with other exercises afterwards. I was just disgusted with myself but, hats off to Jason; he laid wood to me that day. Good race friend.
Time passed…hard work paid off…I got the chance every 17 year old dreams of through Honda’s amateur program as an amateur expert. I still believe that I was training hard or hard enough but like we always hear RC say, “surround yourself with good people.” That’s where things went wrong! I eventually found myself with the wrong practicing partners, trainer, etc. Going to a friend’s ranch’s to train turned into sleeping in, no one else wanting to cross-train, only riding motos, and the list goes on. But good results turned into better results with teams keeping their eye on me, so…I thought that I was “ok.” At the time I wanted to be a member of the GEICO Powersports/Honda team (formerly AMSOIL, Chaparral). I eventually broke my collarbone at Mammoth that year. My trip downhill begins here…
I went to Loretta’s with a poor showing from being injured the entire month prior. Luckily I was introduced to a wind trainer to keep up my cardio, although I used my full suspension mountain bike I only made things harder for myself! At this point I had no idea what a roadbike could do for me, heck; I didn’t even know what they were! Injury after injury, I changed trainers a bit but riding with the same group of people results were the only thing that changed…they worsened. In fact the only thing that changed was I got one more motorcycle in my contract. I believe I had three surgeries that year, both shoulders and a dislocated wrist while leading an arenacross. Sad story…I know…
My best result that year was second at Ponca City in the “motocross” A stock class, only after dislocating my right shoulder at the start of my second moto of the week. So it’s not like I wasn’t pushing through injuries and gritting my teeth to make sure my butt was on that starting gate at each race possible.
So Ryan and I made it through supercross then made my trek up north to race the Canadian nationals and got the perfect opportunity to work with Drew Robertson, owner and founder of EvolvedNutrition. With someone there willing to hold my hand and really help me go piece by piece to understand the human body and how to fuel it properly prior and post race, I began to learn. Since he sponsored the team I rode for, I took full advantage of Drew’s knowledge, plus I think he enjoyed working with me because if he said I needed to eat a certain amount of whatever the meal may be, I would and the same for training off the bike. There was a family who had a private track, the same track we did our photo shoot and bike testing who left the option of practicing during the week open for me. I believe this was the best thing for me! I didn’t know anyone, so I had no distractions! I trained and trained to prepare for the West Coast MX2 Canadian nationals. Thinking I would win and feeling fast enough, those cats showed me the quickest way around the west side of Canada! I continued to work and push very hard through my summer up north learning quite a bit. Drew and I continued our working relationship as I returned to the States.
I finished the nationals in America then set my sites on supercross in ’05. The team I was set to race with the following season had us post up in Cairo, GA at MTF. After a few riding sessions with Davi and his mother Colleen, I was invited to stay on their land in the barn with Martin Davalos and Charles Ellis. Not only did we have more than the perfect training facility, there were three supercross tracks, we drove south into Tallahassee at 6:30 four times a week to weight train with Titus and also Colleen trained us from 1-4 or 5 each afternoon. Then after practice we would either ride road bikes or the concept rowing machine. We always took the weekends off from riding but we usually road roadbikes or did some sort of cardio. I remember leaving the driveway with Davi and Charles on roadbikes where we were instructed to ride to MTF and back (18 miles one way). As we were leaving I told Colleen I was gonna destroy ‘em (she hated that, but I was a punk)! I already had about a minute on them by the time we got to the stop sign which was maybe a half mile from the house. So I took off at my own pace and I probably got there in a little less than an hour. I went into the barn and told a few people hi while they played ping pong. Davi and Charles still hadn’t showed up yet and I’d been there maybe five minutes so I thought they may have gotten a flat or something else. So I headed back. I got about a mile away from MTF and they ride up. Charles instantly says jokingly, “You’re in the wrong sport!” I just laughed and suggested they just turn around and I would ride slow on the way back. They then said we’re not riding back. We’ll get a ride back. So I kept on going and had a nice relaxing ride back. There were a lot of hills and the sun was starting to come down leaving for a beautiful scenery. For some reason, I remember this particular training session like it was this morning. It took me around the same amount of time to get home but when I got there Colleen instantly wanted to know where the boys were at. I said they stayed there…eww, she was worked! So I went on to get cleaned up while she called to find her son. On other rides with Bryan Johnson and the crew, I remember them trying to draft so I would cruise a bit then cut either left or right and sprint. I would look back and I would have a gap! God, I loved to train! So Colleen, Davi and Bryan Sr. taught me to train for supercross and ride it. A lot of credit given for these few helping me! I went to Indy on a Bardwell YZ250F to finish 14th at the opening east round (Davi won). The following week preparing for Atlanta with the Millsap’s, my motor seized on the face of a triple so I ejected. When I hit the concrete feeling ground, I dislocated both shoulders, broke my wrist and had a raspberry on my face, neck and arms, etc. that was a wrap on supercross ’05.
My left shoulder needed rotator cuff repair and my wrist needed a pin. After both surgeries I would put all my gear on and do 45 minute motos on the wind trainer outside under the sun. Anything I could work on, I did. I wanted to make a strong return outdoors, but unfortunately that would never happen. I rode Glen Helen in the motocross class and finished 21st.
I rode races here and there to make money while ’06 came together. I went with my mom to visit her family in Missouri; while I was there I raced the St. Louis arenacross. I ended up 11th but was just unhappy with my performance. We had about a 13 or 14 hour drive home so I’m thinking about my racing in a whole and wondering what piece to my puzzle is missing? I thought long and hard about it, so I called a friend who I remembered was a personal trainer by the name of Michael Keating. I told him what I had been doing, result wise and what my goals were. He said he could get me there physically and help with the mental side as well. Our first session was obviously an assessment but we went for a 2.5 mile jog with some other evaluation exercises afterward. I thought I may have made a mistake by calling this guy! And I even told him this! Well, he sure made up for it on our second session. We trained for a few hours starting out jogging 11 miles with intervals (gnarly) then a few different exercises topped off with pilates (I know, I thought the same thing). Haha, that stuff was HARD! He started me on a different supplement line to keep my mind and body ready to race. I thought I would not do well considering we had a race that Sunday but Michael said, “If you listen and do as I say, you’ll do great!” So I did what my trainer said and he was right, I felt great. It was a 2 moto, thirty minute plus two format sponsored by BooKoo energy drink. I finished second and second winning the overall. Although not winning either moto, I knew things went well for me. I was lapping riders still charging forward with one thing on my mind the last lap…winning! For the first time during my professional racing career, I knew I was doing things correct. Had the best people around me, trainer, great mechanic, a few believers and one more chance to make this dream come true. I spent the rest of 2005 working religiously towards supercross starting in January at Anaheim.
Feb 11, 2006 QualComm Stadium; San Diego, CA
This day is one that I will never forget. Not only because it changed my life in its entirety but for the fact this day was not of the norm. I was up late on race night doing laundry on the phone with Josh Rogers @ EBR. The next morning, Dave and I got to the stadium late (I can’t stand that), but it gave us a better parking spot. Who would have known? Then I called Todd for a late breakfast, he brought McDonald’s, even though it was WAY off the diet, it felt good to eat unhealthy for once; like my body being able to catch up with itself. I had no goggles and couldn’t find my Scott guy, John (currently still with Scott USA). Bad or weird things turned into positive things. On the track in practice it was almost like I didn’t have to try to go fast, I was just having fun! The layout of obstacles and the flow was great and felt like a peewee track compared to what I had been riding. I was 18th fastest after practice.
I had been on the west coast for six weeks and had missed the Supercross class main event by one spot the past few consecutive weekends. I was done with that, my work ethic made me believe I was supposed to be featured in the main show. That was a spot in the main if I could hold it together for all the qualifying. I found myself battling up front in my day qualifying but landed on a tough box (hay bale) and my shoulder came out. I still tried racing. That didn’t happen, so on to the LCQ just to go to the night program. They were taking two to the evening show & with last gate pick I had some work ahead. I finished second. I was already sore from the week before where I dislocated the same shoulder when I went flipping into the mechanics area. I went to the Asterisk Med Unit to get some pain relief. Little did I know, these would be my last few hours without a Spinal Cord Injury. I made my way back to the truck and talked to a few different people, took a couple photos, just doing the friendly privateer thing. Plus with verbal offers for 2007 and outdoors 2006 on the table, my dreams were coming together right in front of my eyes.
Back inside the truck, getting geared up for the evening show; two things were on my mind. 1, how much fun I was having and 2, I knew that night something was going to happen. Dave said a lot of the factory guys were in the first heat race. That great, that fun, I was in fifth when it was done. I hit neutral going onto a plateau, endowed and laid motionless but 100% conscious. I tried to roll off the track to avoid extra havoc with other riders. I couldn’t move a muscle but I didn’t hurt anywhere. Unfortunately, I did get landed on. Unbelievable. Then blood started coming up, blood on the inside of my goggles, asking the doctor (Dr Bodner), the on-scene medic unit “What’s wrong with me?” He said “I’m fine and I’ll be ok.” They put me on the stretcher, and as I heard San Diego stand and cheering I tried to raise a hand to say thank you and I’ll be back. I was still unable to move anything. I was not ignoring you San Diego, I promise.
In the tunnel in the ambulance, a phone touched the left side of my face and I heard my dad’s voice asked if I was ok. Yeah, of course, but don’t fly out because I’m coming home tomorrow. (Remember, I was being assessed during all this). He could hear them asking me to wiggle my toes and me responding, “Yes.” Then they would ask the same question. With all this craziness going on I thought “I’m in too good of shape to have something like this to happen to me. Of course my nickname is “outlaw” but I was extremely strict on what I put in my body leading up to this point. My trainer Michael and I worked as a great team. He was very, very knowledgeable and with this in mind considering how hard I’ve worked up to this point. My conditioning was up there, to say the least. In the end it didn’t matter, the result is in my higher powers hands. Everything we had done…down the drain. I still remember the ambulance hauling to Sharp Memorial with them starting IV’s, putting oxygen on, etc. But I still felt like I was in some sort of shock, not even thinking I had a broken vertebra. Once getting to the hospital it was chaotic. I had nurses and doctors going through my peripheral view while I stared at the ceiling because of my spine being stabilized. I got in a cat scan & that was my first time the idea of something really wrong went through my mind. I went back to my room where one person at a time looking down at me speaking encouraging words.
Then the surgeon on duty put me in traction almost immediately. That thing stung (Big Time) + with an eight pound weight hanging over the bed connected to my head. Time went by with the same old, until my surgeon on call came, looked at the x-rays & took me out of traction. They put me in a neck brace but over time my cervical 2 was twisting towards my cord, we had to put on a halo. Uh, that was intense. Probably the worst pain I’ve experienced. So now I don’t have to worry about C-2 although this halo is killing me. I fly home to Houston because I just wanted to be near my family and friends. Fought battles each day but definitely won the war! Between bed sores, chairs; an entirely different way of living started now. A definite shocker!
After being released, that is when we discovered Project Walk in Carlsbad. Right around the same time Leatt Brace and I began our relationship when Geoff Patterson and Dave Martin, the owner of Honda of Houston came to my house. It was an honor to be part of Leatt Brace and what they were about. Off to post-up and reunite, San Diego for rehab. They had such a hard work ethic. Much more my style; I enjoy hard work. We went there (ree), my fiancé at the time, set out to get me on my feet. We worked and worked. I set my goals pretty high, but SCI’s come in a wrapped box; you never know what you’re going to get. My left side began gaining function much quicker than my right. Although I could move my right arm some, we worked HARD on upper body. Using a hand cycle mostly, time filled with hard work was hard but worth it. Stretching, stretching, stretching. Oh hey, did I mention we stretched a lot? When I mean hard work, it was intense, very intense. Literally bringing tears to my eyes at times. We traveled back home after a few months because of living expenses. Heading back to Houston was good and misfortunate because of the therapy. So, I kept that same mental focus (beating this). My girlfriend surprised me with a hand cycle that I had been wanting. So we trained a lot on it. In racing, there was never anything I couldn’t overcome, but now there weren’t trainers surrounding me ready to get me on my feet. I got in my stander, I began riding my FES (functional electrical stimulation) bike that spins my legs while your legs have a tens unit that stimulates as if you were riding under your own power, weights, bands, hand cycling, acupuncture, even a diapulse machine. Keep in mind I was age 22, so I was starting to think of my financial future and everything that comes with it. Putting the two together was a tough transition, as I’m sure it is for any quadriplegic or paraplegic. I started giving lessons here locally and also started a vending service around the Houston racetracks.
My fiancé and I learned the hard way for my care. We split up off and on for a while when she was taking care of me, but she did a fantastic job. Still focusing on taking steps again; I rehired my trainer from racing. His name is Michael Keating from healthylifeunlimited.com. We began a new program after he got certified SCI pt trainer. We had fun too! Before and after, it didn’t matter. But the business side of life was really beginning to catch my eye and began to take away from therapy. I loved it though. So I had to have a muscle flap to heal a sore that had been lingering on. I laid in bed for a few months then slowly began to sit for a few minutes each day until I could sustain a full day sitting up. I wanted to get back in a good rehab facility to see what my results would be without my soar. We moved over to San Antonio and began training at Pressing On. With the same style of training, nothing really seemed to change. Then my fiancé and I were bumping heads a bit so we split up and I came back to Houston. I was hanging out with old buddies and good friend of mine wanted to start some sort of business together so we thought since there weren’t any consistent food vendors we would try to fill that spot. We went and bought a trailer and began to transform it into a serving trailer. Our business name was “Replenish”. The concession trailer was going great but my partner and I weren’t on the same page. Since I’m in a chair now, I only saw what was going on outside of the trailer. I began hearing different stories of it not being sanitary. Which definitely bothered me because I feel if my name is on it, it must be as perfect as possible. My partner and I kept Replenish going for a few more months then things began to get sour and that’s when things went south. He took the trailer with all the appliances that we bought 50/50. I tried to reason with him and at least get my half back and even held gun point by his brother at one point, I guess they needed it much more than me. Not to mention I lost my best friend over basically nothing. So I converted my own set-up and kept it going for about another year and that’s when it started to become more than I could chew. Always wondering who was going to work the van. Plus I was and still selling the Outlaw clothing, along with frequent UTI’s, and as a title sponsor for an AMA sanctioned Main Event Series along with announcing races here locally; my body needed a break to recharge my batteries. So in the mist of all this we began talking of putting together a non-profit foundation for spinal cord injuries as well as traumatic brain injuries (dedicating TBI’s to my brother, Christian who passed due to shaken baby syndrome). After I let the concessions I stayed home to try to let my body rest; I even got admitted into the hospital twice. Once for a bladder and kidney infection and the other ………… it’s better that we don’t share that.
We traveled to San Antonio (April, her mom and I) to get my chair more comfortable for everyday living. I am so glad we did that too, I would be miserable if not. And each trip we made they were setting up a custom power chair that is Incredible and surprised me at the Houston SX with it in 2008. Todd over at ADI did a great job with it. Now when we would go training it made things so much easier.
Remember, we’re still lining up the JMP (jamesmarshallproject.com) during this. I took my mentor’s advice and took the six other GREAT individuals which he recommended, many who are very successful business owners. We needed to have our yearly meeting so we all met at a small restaurant between Houston and San Antonio. That is when I realized some of our board members had really tough trials and tribulations, but their perseverance pushed them through to success. That’s exactly what they had in mind for me. The chairman, Cody Lipps and I began to work more and more together. His work ethic was much like mine, the never-say-die attitude, so his family made the decision to move east over to north Houston. My never-say-die attitude rewarded me with the 100% Award in 2006 from the American Motorcyclist Association. So we began to get the domain name secure while we waited for all the proper papers went through the state to make the project official. Unfortunately it was no overnight process. It took around six months just to get our tax ID. But time took care of that. We had everything in line ready to help some misfortunate person. Late one night, I got a phone call from my best friend April, crying hysterically, saying my childhood friend had a bad crash and things didn’t look bright. His name was Randy Childers. I sat on my front porch and cried like a baby. But once the tears stopped, I knew exactly what to do. What God wanted me to do, make a difference in this young man’s life. I talked to Cody and we instantly went to work looking for the right date, place and timing were EXTREMELY important. These three obstacles would make it a success or a failure. Considering neither Cody and I did not understand failure. Approximately three to four months later we made the JMP debut and his benefit fundraiser a success.
Since February 11, 2006, I asked God why? Although, I feel I left motocross on a high note, but the motocross community never forgot me. Although, He has put me in a much better place and position in life, I know when this ride is over I’ll be back near the top, if not on top. I’m surrounded by the best, most positive people. See you somewhere down the road.
So far 2011 has been one huge test it seems! There has been many ups and downs. I've made a lot of changes in my personal life but only for the best. It was a long, painful winter but brought huge rewards with extremely hard work. I've been able to donate some of my time to The FCA Motocross Camps as well as a few different things. But I give all the glory to the Man above. With a few hospital visits already this year, I've still accomplished a Ton of goals. My board has been fantastic and I take my hat off to them. God Bless!