The story you’re about to hear is both gut-wrenching and inspiring.
It’s about one of my climbing partners and friends, Zach Carbo, an extreme athlete and dedicated family man (yes, he can do both).
When I first climbed with Zach, I watched in amazement at the summit as he carefully arranged his speed-flying “rig” and pointed his skis down the steep mountainside.
Gaining serious speed on an intimidating slope, he lifted himself in the air, flew over a cliff and down the mountain. Needless to say, he reached safe ground much sooner than I did, but it was awesome!
Since then, I’ve been fortunate to get to know Zach more. We’ve found many commonalities beyond climbing (family, fitness, etc.) and I have nothing but crazy respect for this fun, spirited adventurous guy. Zach and I are part of a committed group of “brothers” who are passionate about mountains, pushing our limits and supporting each others’ accomplishments, and occasional failures.
Earlier this summer, Zach got injured in the Bitterroot Mountains of Missoula. His path back to health has been grueling, but his story is loaded with WORK Like and Athlete lessons.
It shows us how an elite athlete responds to the unexpected, deals calmly with adversity, plans for recovery, and endures the suffering to get back at it.
After you read Zach’s story, stop for a minute and ask yourself:
- What situations in my work (or life) have gone awry and require a quick change action?
- Where is positivity and resiliency needed in my mental game?
- What creative solutions might be worth trying, despite pain or discomfort?
Zach: “I took a trip recently to Missoula to soak up the awesomeness of Montana with a good friend and fellow jumper. My car was loaded with gear and toys that I was sure we’d be able to use in the playground of the Bitterroot Mountains. With speedwings, BASE rigs, a wing suit and cameras, it was sure to be a good time.
After about an hour climb and 2000 feet in elevation, we arrived at the exit and took in the view. In that moment, I remember reflecting on life and the people I cherish most. After discussing logistics and checking each other’s gear, we were ready to go. I watched my buddy have a fantastic flight and an equally awesome opening, canopy flight and landing.
I took a deep breath, walked to the edge, gave my count and exited. After the suit pressurized and inflated, I banked hard left and flew along the wall I had just jumped from. What a spectacular view! After what seemed like forever, I banked from the wall and deployed my parachute. The opening was great, although a little off to the left.
I grabbed my steering toggles and turned the canopy around. Feeling a little discombobulated, I began to search for a landing area that was closer to me. I set up for my final approach and landed right on my mark… Well, almost.
My left foot landed on the trail while my right foot landed on a large rock. My foot slipped from the side of the rock, sending my foot one way and the leg another. I heard and felt the snap and fell to my butt. Even through the wing suit, I could see my leg was broken.
I quickly removed my helmet, wing suit and rig. That’s when I saw that my right foot was on the side of my leg. I reached with both hands, pulled the foot back, began to sit up and yelled for my buddy. Once he arrived, he agreed to take both of our gear to the truck and I would start hopping down the trail.
After he left, I broke off the top of a burned down tree and used it as a walking stick for the next two and a half miles. It was long, tiring and tedious with several stops to rest and put my foot back in place (it kept flopping out of place and back off to the side of my leg).
My friend met me halfway, right when I was greeted with a log crossing over the river. On my hands and knees, I gingerly made my way across the narrow log with the freezing cold creek charging below. My stops increased in both duration and frequency, but eventually, we made it to the truck.
We drove to a hospital in Missoula where they took x-rays and splinted me up. I learned that I had a trimalleolar fracture of my tibia and fibula and it would require surgery. I explained to the doctors that I lived in Washington State and would opt to have the surgery there where I had a support system. I’m sure they thought I was a little crazy.
Under the fog of pain killers, I took my buddy and his wife out to dinner that night. I got a bit of sleep before getting up early to make my way back to Washington.
Thank goodness for cruise control. Driving a standard transmission for 7 hours is quite the chore. I arrived home safely and scheduled my surgery for the following week.
After surgery, the next 10-12 days were spent in a horizontal position. After 3 weeks, the doctors gave me a removable splint/boot and I began rehab and physical therapy. A steady diet of lean meats, nuts, fresh spinach, greens, fruits and vegetables was required for my healing… and I was ready to get after it.
I have been injured before and know the trials and tribulations of recovery. A strong, positive mindset along with a good diet and rock solid support system is key to getting back out there and getting healthy again. I have a long road ahead of me, but I know that it’s worth every bit of pain, sweat and tears that I will endure. It’s what I do, it’s what I love and I will do whatever it takes to get back to it.
It’s moments like these that I say to myself… “Stay strong, stay positive and WORK like an ATHLETE!” -Zach Carbo