Jeremy Martin wasn't sure where his motocross career was headed -- or if it was possibly over -- as he lay on the ground at Muddy Creek Raceway in Blountville, Tenn., on June 23, 2018.
Martin hit the ground hard after a mid-air collision with Justin Cooper during a 250 class moto and suffered a burst fracture of his L1 vertebrae, ending his 2018 season.
As he was beginning to train and get back in a rhythm late in 2018, in hopes of competing in the 2019 AMA Pro Motocross national championship series, a routine checkup revealed some terrible news: The fracture in his back had barely healed. That meant not only would Martin, a Millville native, miss the entire 2019 supercross season, but he'd have to miss another motocross season, too.
That news didn't sit well with Martin, the 2014 and 2015 250cc class national champion. But, he eventually dug himself out of a funk and set his sights on returning for the 2020 supercross and motocross seasons.
Martin made his return to competitive riding in late October last year at the Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas, an exhibition race with a gigantic winner's purse up for grabs. That motivated him to press harder to prepare for last spring's AMA Pro Supercross series, where he placed sixth in the 250 East standings.
With the start of the AMA Pro Motocross season two weeks ago, the 27-year-old Geico Honda Factory Team rider looks on pace to regain his status as one of the top 250 motocross riders in the world. Through two rounds of the nine-round series, Martin is in second place with 84 points, just six back of leader Dylan Ferrandis and 13 ahead of his older brother Alex, who is in third place. Jeremy Martin earned his first overall win in more than two years last Saturday at Loretta Lynn's Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.
The rider affectionately known as "J-Mart" to his fellow riders and fans talked with the Post Bulletin this week about everything from the tough times he went through while recovering from his serious injury, to winning in Tennessee last weekend, to coming back to his home track -- Spring Creek MX Park in Millville, owned and operated by his parents, John and Greta -- next month.
Post Bulletin: You had a heck of a weekend at Loretta Lynn's. What worked well for you and how'd you survive on a rainy, muddy day?
Jeremy Martin: It was brutal. I'd watched the forecast all week and saw rain, rain and more rain, and more rain (laughs). I was ready and mentally prepared for a mudder. It wasn't bad when we went out for practice, but before the first moto, in about 20 minutes we got about two inches of rain. It was a lot in a short time.
PB: What's the key to success on a track that's mud and standing water everywhere?
JM: The biggest thing is getting a good start, putting yourself in position to ride your own race as best you can. You're not going to get through a 35-minute moto in those conditions without going down, or not being able to see out of your goggles. You're all over the bike in those conditions. You're just out there going wherever the bike takes you.
PB: Describe the emotions of getting your first overall win in more than two years? You and your brother finished 1-2 in the second moto; did you think of trying to run him down?
JM: I kind of knew 10 minutes into the second moto that I had the overall on lock. I went into survival mode at that point and just said 'Alex you're going to win this one.' (laughs) I didn't want to let him go, but I'm in it for the championship, not the short term. I got a little emotional after winning the overall, but I'm still looking for a moto win.
PB: It's been a long road back for you. Did you ever feel at times like this day would never come?
JM: Absolutely. There were times where I remember being in ... a really dark place. I could barely get up and out of bed. The pain was pretty gnarly for awhile. I was taking the drugs that I was prescribed and feeling the effects of that and the pain from the injury, and losing muscle and range of motion.
PB: Were there any positives you took away from the recovery process?
JM: I learned a lot about myself and the true meaning of life and what we value. As long as you wake up every day and have a goal ... I had to take baby steps. A lot of people were telling me I was nuts to go back to racing. I didn't take it lightly. This is my profession. I got better and better as time went on and you get back to doing what you do.
PB: How is your body, specifically your back, doing now?
JM: I feel pretty good. Obviously it was a big deal, a broken back. It wasn't an arm or a leg. Those are still gnarly injuries, but just the atrophy of what I went through ... your back, it's the foundation, the core of your body. It took some time to get back up to a good level and physically feel good.
PB: What was it like when you first started training again?
JM: Initially when I started riding again, the hardest thing for me was the impact from jumps and landings, sitting on the seat and hitting the square-edge choppy bumps. It's a lot like going for a run. If you go out and try to do six miles right off the bat, your knees would sore. It took a long time for my stamina to get good again, but I feel the best I have in a long time.
PB: You were living in Colorado and training with (3-time 450 class national champion) Eli Tomac. What did you gain from that experience?
JM: If you have a training partner, someone to do your daily grind with, it definitely helps quite a bit. You're building a bond with that person, whether it's on a bicycle or running or in the gym, and you're also out on the track pushing each other.
PB: What was it like to line up at the Monster Cup for your first race back?
JM: To line up after all that time off, it was the first time I really felt like I was alive again. I'd even got a part-time job when I was rehabbing, working for someone else. That first time I lined back up, my heart rate was up just sitting there in staging, then you're on the gate with an opportunity to do something that not a lot of others get to do or can do.
PB: A championship is always your goal. What’s it going to take to catch Dylan Ferrandis and hold off him, as well as Alex and others?
JM: Consistency. Constantly being the best guy out there every Saturday.
PB: What are you looking forward to about coming home to race next month?
JM: I think, No. 1, I haven't raced that race in two years. It'll be nice for all our friends and family, and the local fans to watch Alex and I. With all the COVID stuff going on right now, the (races at Spring Creek) is something positive that will allow people to get together, social distance and have a good time.
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SPRING CREEK PRO NATIONALS
What: AMA Motocross Pro Nationals, Round 6
When: Saturday, Sept. 19; gates open 6 a.m.; pro practice and qualifiers, 8:30 a.m.
Where: Spring Creek MX Park, near Millville
Tickets: Visit SpringCreekMX.com for more information