BUILT SOME KIND OF TOUGH
The 2011 X-Games were coming up and I was out in Colorado training. I had about two weeks to prepare and was confident that this year was going to be my year. My son Landon was coming out to the event for the first time with my family. I think all parents understand the drive to make their kids proud of what they do. To me this meant standing on the podium so Landon could see what all the hard work and traveling was for.
I was training hard and was super focussed on my goal. During a training run 13 days before the competition I got a little sideways and then got a lot crashed, hard. I got up and Shawn Palmer came over and told me right away that I broke my collarbone. I wanted to doubt him but it sure felt like he was right. I headed in for X-rays and sure enough my shoulder was busted. My heart sank. The thought of Landon being at his first race to watch everyone but his dad compete crushed me.
I took a picture of my X-ray with my phone and sent it to the US Snowboard Team doctor (Dr. Hackett). Don’t read into the name you’ll see how unfitting it is in a second. He got the text and immediately told me I needed to be in his office at 9:00am the following morning. I made the trip and had surgery that day. It took Dr. Hackett, a metal plate, and 15 screws to fix up what I had done to it.
I had 11 days to competition when I came out of surgery. I spent the next 9 days taking it easy and nursing the shoulder. Luckily I have a pretty tight network of friends and that meant a comfortable place to crash and some good guys to help take care of me.
I knew I had to race. There was no other option with Landon being in Aspen to watch his dad compete for the first time, let alone the fact that it was the X-Games as well. With two days to competition I strapped on my board and took a few runs. The shoulder felt good. Or maybe it didn’t but the thought of racing for Landon made it feel that way.
The day of the competition I was on cloud nine. Landon was at the hill with my family and I had 15 screws in my shoulder but I was cleared to race. At the time it didn’t seem crazy at all that I was about to compete. I knew that if I went down my shoulder was only going to be in worse shape but I knew I wasn’t going down. I knew I had to be the first one to the bottom of the hill to see my son.
The goal was there for years but now it had a whole new narrative that was driving me like I can’t even explain.
I made it through to the finals and at that point there was no doubt in my mind that I was gonna be the first one at the bottom of that hill.
I was out of the gates in the finals and in the lead from the start. Headed for Landon. The race got a little intense about three quarters of the way down the hill but I corrected and there it was the finish line and there was no one between me, the bottom of the hill, and Landon. That was it, X-Games Gold Medal and atop the podium holding my son, with my good shoulder.
Putting that feeling into words is impossible. If you watch the video at the end of the race as I head towards the crowd you can definitely see it on my face.