GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Charlie Mullins

Tuesday Toolbox: Charlie Mullins

Wednesday, August 12, 2015 | 3:30 PM
Wednesday, August 12, 2015 | 3:30 PM

Charlie Mullins is a familiar name to the GNCC Racin’ Nation. He’s been in the top 5 overall points for the past 10 years, has won the National Championship once (2011), been runner-up twice (2010 and 2013) and was having a blow-out battle with Kailub Russell in 2014 when injuries took him out of competition. sat down with the famed racer and talked about his injuries and what the future might hold for him. Hi Charlie. Looks like you are healing up and getting back into the swing of things!
Charlie Mullins: Yeah, it’s been a long road! Harder than I thought it would be, but the doctor has released me to start riding.

Awesome! So the rumors are true? You’ll be coming back this fall?
Well, rumors are just that: rumors! It’s not going to happen. I just got released the end of July. My tentative plan is to start riding here in the next week or so. Hopefully, it won’t take long to get up to speed and get the body conditioned. From that point on, October to March will be my timeframe to really kick it in gear. My focus right now is 2016. There’s no championship hope for 2015 so all I can do is come back before I’m ready and that’s just not wise. I’ve only ridden 5 times since November (2014). It’s been a long recovery and I don’t want to rush into it.

Take us back through your injuries. You were in a battle last year, then a practice crash took you out. Since then, it’s been one thing after another. What’s the full story?  
Like you said, I was in a championship battle last year, doing really well. I was practicing after Masontown and just had a bike malfunction. I crashed really hard and dislocated my right wrist. That was the obvious injury, but I also broke the scaphoid in my left wrist. I had them both operated on right away. I was in casts during the Penton and Snowshoe rounds, and then doing rehab all summer through Unadilla and Somerset. I was cleared to ride and felt good enough to come back for the last two rounds. I got 4th in St. Clairesville, but at the Ironman I broke the screw that was holding my scaphoid together.

We haven't seen Charlie in action since last year's Ironman GNCC, but he'll be starting fresh in 2016.
We haven't seen Charlie in action since last year's Ironman GNCC, but he'll be starting fresh in 2016. Photo: Ken Hill

Oh wow. That couldn’t have been good.
No. It really put me back. I met with a specialist in Charlotte, NC and he discovered that not only did the left wrist need attention, but my right wrist hadn’t healed properly, either. It was still partially dislocated. My only option was to get the right wrist partially fused and get a bone graft on the left scaphoid to try and get it to heal. That was November. From then on, it was a waiting game to see if the surgeries would do what we intended. 

And now here we are in August. What’s the prognosis?
Well thankfully, my right wrist healed! The fusion took and I was out of the cast in 8 weeks time. My left scaphoid took a lot longer. I was in a cast until the GNCC opener in March. That’s right about when the doc took me out of it and wanted me to start working it to see if we could stimulate the healing process. Initially, it looked promising! There was healing, even though it was a slow process. We got to the 6 month mark and the doc felt I was good enough to start riding. So at the beginning of May, I took the bike out for some laps. It was painful! I tried a couple more times, but I knew something wasn’t right. I went back to the doc and he had to do yet another surgery and partially fuse the left wrist, also. That required a cast for another 8 weeks. I just got out of that cast at the end of June. I’ve been rehabbing ever since. I’m feeling good. The doc is confident with my progress. He released me to ride and I’m anxious to get back at! Just, one step at a time. 

You still have that fire burning, even through all this adversity. How do you maintain your focus?
It’s not been easy! There’s been some hard days and some dark days. My wife, Rachel, has stuck by me and helped keep me motivated. I’m determined to get back. This is definitely not the end! It’s actually opened a breath of fresh air and revived me to get back out there. I’ve been racing dirt bikes for a long time and now that I haven’t been able to; I know that I want to race dirt bikes! It’s showed me how much I love the sport and it’s what I want to do.

Charlie battled with Kailub Russell for the points lead through the beginning of 2014 and hopes to pick up where he left off in 2016.
Charlie battled with Kailub Russell for the points lead through the beginning of 2014 and hopes to pick up where he left off in 2016. Photo: Ken Hill

As you’ve been on the sidelines this year, you’ve witnessed Kailub Russell dominate the championship. Does it frustrate you that you aren’t able to be out there challenging for the win?
I mean, it does, but you’ll drive yourself nuts if you dwell on it and worry about something like that! Obviously, he’s having a stellar year. I’d love to have a year like that! It just motivates me to be better. Hopefully next year, I’ll be in a position to battle for those wins.

However, I’m more realistic this time around. When I came back after summer break last year, I don’t think my goals were realistic for the type of injury I had. Now, after going through this whole thing all over again, I know in my mind what I’m expecting of myself. I’m not setting the bar too high, but I do know what I want to do! 

Great! We look forward to having you back! I know much of the GNCC Racin’ Nation was hoping for this fall, but we want you healed 100% and fully competitive!
That’s the goal! I’ve been staying active and doing what I can, but there’s only so much you can do with one arm in a cast! So, although I’m staying fit, there’s nothing like on-the-bike training. That’s why I need these next six months to prepare for the 2016 season. It’s all about building grip strength, rebuilding those calluses on the hands, building up the forearms…there are so many things that can’t be duplicated off the bike and they take time.

I had a chance to bump into Justin Brayton (SX/MX racer). He said he doesn’t live too far from you there in North Carolina and you guys did some training together before your injury.  
Yeah, we became pretty good pals. He lives a little over an hour away. Before I got hurt I was riding quite a bit at the JGR track with him. We would mountain bike and road bike together. Now, I just go to the Wednesday night mountain bike races and hang out, cheer him on.

With a fully healed wrist, many are wondering how big a challenge Charlie will be when he returns.
With a fully healed wrist, many are wondering how big a challenge Charlie will be when he returns. Photo: Ken Hill

Well, the Racin’ Nation needs to know: Who was faster on the mountain bike?
[Laughs] I don’t know! I would say before my injury, I might have had an edge on him. But he’s on it now. Back in May when I was cleared to start riding (the first time), I tried a couple mountain bike races. He’s clearly a lot faster right now!

We have a lot of confidence that with your work ethic, you’ll get it all back! You kind of live in a nice little corner of the world there in NC. Lots of off-road guys. 
There’s a good group of us over there. Wattsy (Shane Watts) and I road bike together quite a bit. There’s a growing number of us that are starting to jet ski as a means of cross training. I just bought a new stand up ski. I actually had my cast on when I went to the dealership to buy it! The guy looked at me strange! But it’s really good rehab for the wrists. Plus, it’s so hot this summer, it’s nice to hang out on the lake. Hopefully, we can get a little group together and have some fun with it.

We wish you all the best with recovery! Heal quick and we’ll see you in Florida. Who would you like to thank?
First, I’d like to thank my wife. She’s been by my side through the whole experience. She’s been there through the ups and downs while raising two kids. I owe a lot to her. Of course, FMF KTM. They’ve been so supportive. It’s been frustrating on my end that I haven’t been able to deliver or do my part. But, they’ve been behind me 100% and want me to heal proper before I get back out there. We have a lot of team sponsors that stand behind us. Thor, Oakley. There’s a whole bunch of sponsors who have stuck by me through this and they have been a big motivator to keep me going. Thank you!