By Michael Antonovich
Photos by Jeff Kardas, Chris Kinman, and Brendan Lutes
After filling the eight week break by riding for Team Honda Muscle Milk, Cole Seely was prepared for one last surge in the West Coast Lites Supercross championship. But when a crash during the first practice season of the penultimate round in Salt Lake City sent the TLD rider to the hospital with internal issues, the ever building season came to a close. The injury, a lacerated liver and damage to an artery leading to a kidney, will force him to the sidelines for the entire summer as it heals, but Seely remains optimistic on what the future holds.
What happened in Salt Lake City? You went down in the first practice session of the day and it seemed like it was a routine crash, but as the day went on it escalated.
It was practice and I was feeling out the track and went to do one of the tougher sections on the track. I came up short entering it and got ejected from the bike, which sent me into the single. I took most of the impact on my chest and my side so I was conscious the whole time. I never hit my head. I knew when I got off the track, because I immediately got to my feet, something in my chest didn’t feel right so we went to the hospital.
I talked to your team right after it happened and they said there was a chance that you would be back if you passed the concussion test, but the longer you were gone the more serious it seemed. When you got to the hospital, were you rushed into the emergency room?
They rushed me in and did a bunch of tests, a CT scan and all that to see what was going on inside me, but I never went into surgery. I lacerated my liver. It was a stage three of five laceration, and what that basically means is I cut it, but I didn’t cut it open, and it bled, but it didn’t keep bleeding. By the time I had gotten to the hospital, it had stopped bleeding and there was a tiny amount of blood in my stomach from that. I had also damaged the main artery going into my kidney. Because it is bad for your kidney to have it injected with the dye to see how it is doing, I’m still waiting to have it done and see if I could possibly lose it. I’m still not sure yet.
How was your time in the hospital? Originally, it was only going to be overnight, but you were there until Wednesday.
Yeah, I thought I was just going to stay overnight, but when night came, I was in so much pain and had to keep taking pain medicine to be comfortable just sitting there. They told me it hurt because there was a little bit of blood in my stomach and that can make you uncomfortable. I ended up staying for five days and the reason I was there for so long was when something like that happens, your organs and your body doesn’t know what to do, so they have to keep an eye on your blood pressure. I was having fevers and my temperature was going up and down, so they wanted to clear me from any risk of my blood pressure going up and stop having fevers.
What is the recovery process? Is it just rest or is there anything you can do to help speed it along?
There is not much I can do. I got the okay two weeks ago to start doing light stuff like swimming and stationary bicycling, and I can lift up to 15 pounds. I try to stop at the gym and do as much as I can to keep the ball rolling, but it is tough. I went from riding every day, training every day, or doing something every day for motocross, and now it is “Stop what you are doing and wait for three months.”
Is that the estimated time that you will be able to ride again?
Yeah, three months, but I might take a little more time off to really make sure everything is okay. It’s not dealing with bones, it’s dealing with organs, so I need to take the right amount of healing time to make sure that everything is okay and in one piece before I get back on the bike and do anything.
What have you done with all the downtime? Granted you can’t do anything to physical or strenuous, but you can hang out. Have you done anything exciting?
It’s weird, because I don’t know what to really do with my time (Laughs). Like I said, when you do something every day, and I’m midseason trying to find every little bit of time to sit on the couch or relax, even if it’s an hour. It seems like I am constantly riding or training, and now it’s like, “What do I do?” I have been playing the guitar a little here and there and working on my car quite a bit, and I might go drifting here in a little bit. I even had to wait to go drifting, which kind of sucked. They basically told me it’s what I can handle, nothing contact sports though, but even driving my truck hurt for a while with the bouncing of the road. I’m waiting until I can tolerate driving my car.
Now that you have so much time, are you taking any trips?
I do plan on going to a couple of the races, I want to go to Washougal and a few others, but I don’t plan on going on any trips. I am going to Hawaii in September for a week for one of my best friend’s weddings, but other than that, I’ll just be hanging out, which is different for me.
Have you stayed active working with the team and with Jessy Nelson?
I talked to Tyler a little bit, because he always picks my brain on what he should do, and he asked me what I thought about Jessy filling in for me in the outdoors and I told him I thought it was a great idea. I had been riding with him for a little bit just before I crashed, right when I got off the Honda 450. He is a great rider and it shows, because he has the speed. It’s funny because I talked to him after Hangtown and he said, “Dude, my stomach hurts so bad.” You learn those little things when you first turn pro, like I learned my first Nationals that my stomach was hurting so bad from nerves and hanging on for so much longer than you are used to. I am still hanging out at the shop and I try to see everyone at least two or three times a week, so I am still involved with the team. I might go down a paint a couple of helmets, because Troy asked me if I wanted to come and mess around in the paint shop.
Sitting out racing this year has to be tough after the season you had. What are your thoughts on the field from a spectator’s point?
It’s crazy. I was watching Hangtown, and the 450 guys are obviously battling really fast but watching the Lites class is insane with how much talent there is and how many fast guys and names there are. It is crazy to take in and think, “Damn, I’m not out there every weekend racing with these guys.” The field is stacked.
Where did you see yourself coming into the Nationals?
I felt like I was a lot more prepared going into this year. Last year I wasn’t really ready to be a top guy in the outdoor series, but this year I felt like took what I learned last year and trained really hard for it. I was in great shape before I got hurt and felt I could have done really well in the outdoors. But I am going to take what I learned from these past years and take it into next year. I feel so much hungrier watching the races, thinking, “Damn, I wish I was out there.” That fire is lit underneath me again and I can’t wait to get back out there.