Going to Europe
Zach was excited to go to Europe while everybody in the USA thought that his career was finished. Zach is really an international person, a world traveler of sorts. Unlike most Americans and motocross athlete’s, Zach is very adaptable to his surroundings and situation. This is something I did not appreciate in him until he lived in Europe. I will never forget asking him if he knew the direction. He responded, “I never get lost.” I had already been going back and forth from Europe as I was the doctor for the Dakar rally for the US Red Bull KTM team for many years (See Chasing Dakar book).
Zach did very well in Europe racing on Steve Dixon’s Yamaha Sponsored Motocross team. He regularly raced with the likes of Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin. He even won a Gran Prix and podiumed several others. Even while he was in Europe, we kept in contact and I would help him through situations. I often helped him with the supplements and medications he was used to using in the US. But I also found many good sources of nutrition in Europe.
Zach learned to be his own man in Europe. He was often alone, with people he didn’t know, and had to travel from country to country in lands where he didn’t know the language. I remember one time he picked me up in Belgium. We raced the GP’s in Belgium and the Netherlands and then we immediately departed for Italy. We had to cross Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, France, Switzerland, and then went to Italy. The Italian GP was coming up and he had some testing to do at the Rinaldi Yamaha factory in Parma Italy.
Zach’s last year in Europe should have been his best. Instead, he had a catastrophic crash while testing his bike and hurt his shoulder needing major surgery. He had just won the British MX championship and got his first podium in the Oakland supercross. He was setting his sights on the world championship. Despite this letdown, Zach called me, came to Las Vegas and we got an awesome orthopedic surgeon to fix his shoulder (he fixed a lot of UFC fighters as well). That’s when he got his ride with Geico Honda.
This is when we made major changes to his diet and training. Basically, we found than Zach functioned way better on a strategic optimized fat metabolism approach (OFM). This meant he needed to limit his carbs on a cyclical basis, and increase nutrient dense foods to optimize his iron, essential fatty acids and other minerals. Also, Zach was very far from his overweight, nearly pre-diabetic periods and this helped greatly as well. Most don’t realize that coming back from a pre-diabetic state or other metabolic disorders can often take years to recover from; even though most athletes want an instant reversal of the problem. I spend a lot of time counseling patients on the fact that it takes a long time to reverse the damage from years of a poor diet and way of living.
With Geico Honda, our journey had come back to the United States. In Supercross, Zach was already finishing in the top three and doing well, despite being hampered by some injuries. But he was inching closer to the podium and getting good results. He was with Geico Honda for two years. Zach was always competitive in the 250 class so he was offered another ride on the Rock Star Husqvarna team in 2015 with Bobby Hewitt. Zach has flourished on this team and has battled for the championship in the 250 class ever since he put his leg over the Husqvarna.
Since Zach has been riding on Rockstar Husqvarna, many things have happened and we have done many things to further his career:
Budd’s Creek 2016
Zach had been having a great start to the AMA nationals and then had a couple of setbacks with bike problems. Any racer can tell you that these times are hard. Especially when you are capable of winning, everything seems to going ok, and then the bike breaks, in one instant, the chance of doing well or earning a bonus just flies out the door. Before Budd’s Creek, this is exactly what had happened to Zach.
Before Budd’s Creek I remember texting Zach. I wrote to him: “try and win this race.” I knew his fitness, heat adaptation, diet and everything was in place. Zach did what it took to win that day, resting patiently behind Austin Forkner and taking the win like an experienced champion. The feeling after Zach won was surreal. It is hard to know whether to laugh or cry. We had been waiting so long for him to get this monkey off his back and it finally came. And how ironic that he won his First AMA National at Budd’s Creek 10 years later, practically to the exact day that Kurt Nicoll brought us together. Quite the comeback story. I guess it comes down to how bad you want it.
Arm pump surgery
One of the things I help Zach with is to find the very best in the industry for when he needs medical help. We had been contemplating arm pump surgery for many years now. I was always hesitant for him to do it because I have been watching closely the other riders who had gotten the surgery and aside from the horrendous scars it left on the forearms, it only worked for a season or two and then the arm pump would come back. I knew that had to be another way. After watching camera guided minimally invasive carpal tunnel surgeries for many years, I knew that arm pump surgery could be done the same way. I searched around the country and read many medical articles and found the right guy, Dr. Cobb. You can read about Zach’s experience in my last blog here.
During the FMX cup in Germany, Zach fell in the third moto and broke his scaphoid. It was a significant break; Zach basically had the same scaphoid injury that ended Rick Johnson’s career. We decided that it would be best to have surgery to give Zach the best chance of coming back for 2017. Dr. Jim Vahey, a board-certified hand surgeon with 25 years of experience fixed Zach’s scaphoid. With Zach’s superior nutrition plan, rehabilitation tools, mental outlook, breathing exercises, and more, Zach had a better than good chance of healing. This is a good example of where a team of people were able to get Zach back on track for 2017 to allow to be his best.
Aldon Baker Factory
Zach made the decision to start working with Aldon Baker in 2017 with the support of his family and Husqvarna. Zach asked me before he signed the deal and I thought that it was a great idea. Zach has always preferred to go about his own program, but we both felt adding in the Baker Factory would only increase his game. Many people ask me if I am bitter or upset about Zach going to Aldon’s camp. Not in the least. Aldon has a great setup and has worked hard to make a world class facility where the likes of Ryan Dungey and others can flourish. I worked very hard to get Zach where he is at this point in time. I am very happy that Zach can further develop his career with Aldon. Since Zach has been with Aldon, he has already won Atlanta and is in the red plate. Zach and I will have many more years working together as an athlete, doctor, and friends.