Travis Foreman, a 45-year-old Wasilla man, knew the wreck was going to hurt.
The seasoned motocross racer slammed into an unexpected jump on June 20, 2015 at Twin Cities Raceway during the Veteran’s Novice heat for the State Motocross Races. He and his KTM 300SX bike went down in an impact that broke his back and his legs.
“My competitive bone got in there and I kind of forgot about one of the jumps on the track,” Foreman said. “I was expecting a small set of doubles, and to make up some time I was going to overshoot it… I forgot there was a big scrub jump, and by the time I realized it was there I was already in the air and it was too late to go back.”
Foreman wasn’t planning on competing that day. He attended to act as a support and coach for his girlfriend Shannon Marotta’s son, Jaydon Nelson, who was there to race throughout the weekend. At the last minute, he decided to make the circuit.
After hitting a small jump, and seeing the large, unplanned ridge before him, he tried to land with his feet above the ground. Just the toes made it and his ankles smashed into the dirt.
X-rays revealed a broken tibia in his right leg, and broken fibula and tibia in Foreman’s left leg, as well as a burst fracture in his first lumbar vertebra, which is one of the five spinal vertebrae that support the most weight. Foreman lost 70 percent of that vertebra in shattered shards.
Marotta said she had just finished photographing her son’s race, and moved on to document Foreman’s. She too knew before he even hit the dirt that the results would be significant.
“I saw his bike was going down and he was flying through the air and I knew that was going to be bad,” Marotta said.
The medics and flaggers ran to Foreman who was taken by to Central Peninsula Hospital. His doctor released him expecting he would take head to the Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage, but the family returned to the tracks to stay for Jaden’s Sunday races, and then Foreman slept in his own bed in Wasilla the following evening.
Once on the ground, Foreman said he remembers worrying about “the kids” — the youth riders in the Sutton Racing Lions that he coaches and races for.
“You see them every weekend, you get pretty close, you do the best you can to prepare,” Foreman said.
He said he didn’t want them to see the extent of his wreck. Foreman said he does what he can to prepare younger racers for challenges on the track.
“You can’t really train someone on how to wreck,” Foreman said. “You do your best to make sure most of the time they know the best deal is to stay on the bike.”
He said relying on the machine’s suspension to help absorb impact, wearing safety gear, tucking the arms and relaxing into the fall are all factors that can ease the impact. And, there is always an ambulance on hand.
Extensive injuries like Foreman’s are not common, he said. He has had his fair share, but none that put him out as long as this most recent one.
Six months out, he has a long way to go. After leg surgery, Foreman was in a wheelchair for a month and regularly bedridden for the first two months, but has recently made it back on the bike and back to work rebuilding homes for his day job.
“Getting hurt like that is pretty life changing, “ Foreman said. “…it’s pretty much just a fact it’s never going to be back to what it was before, but I got real lucky.”
Marotta said the first few months of living together with the new injury were rough.
“At first — that was the hard part, and it was hard to wrap my head around and it seemed so overwhelming,” Marotta said. “The only way you can do something like that is by one day at a time. It was really crazy, it was really rough for a couple months.”
But the pair agrees it brought them closer together.
“It would have been nice to get closer a different way,” Marotta said with a laugh.
Despite the wreck, Foreman isn’t going to give up racing. He said he couldn’t, even if he wanted to.
“Once it’s in your blood,” he said.
Marotta said she is not keeping her kids off the track, and Foreman agrees, there isn’t any reason to quit the sport altogether. It is what brought the two together in the first place. The couple has known each other for more than two decades and were introduced through friends in the motocross community.
“If it wasn’t for motocross I would have never met you,” Foreman said to Marotta.
He calles the Sutton Lions and state racers he has known for decades his “motocross family,” and he isn’t sure where he’d be without them.
“The closest thing I can compare it to is church, and don’t want to say religion, because I am Christian, but we give our thanks on Sunday at the track, you know what I am saying?” Foreman said.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org