By Richard Rhinehart
Eagle, Colorado, August 21, 2015 – One of the greatest challenges faced by individuals who have become disabled through injury or illness is taking the step to become physically active again. For Oregon’s Jamey Stogsdill, participating in outdoor sporting events like this September’s Adventure Team Challenge from national non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports was something she initially resisted.
“I didn’t realize until the adventure race last season how much I missed that in the nine years since my injury,” the 29-year-old Montana native said, recalling her participation in the 2014 Challenge in Colorado’s high Gore Range. “On my way home after the race last year, I was reflective about all of the really hairy parts of the race where it had literally taken the whole team everything we had to reach the check point.”
Permitted by the Bureau of Land Management and sanctioned by the United States Adventure Racing Association, the September 18-20 Adventure Team Challenge Colorado features multiple teams of five athletes, two of which on each team are disabled, one being a wheelchair user. From the inaugural competition in 2007, the Challenge has grown in reputation for difficulty.
Receiving a spinal cord injury in a 2006 skiing accident, Stogsdill reports she began relearning how to ski as an adaptive athlete using a mono-ski in 2007. She was “completely blown away by the terrain” she could explore with her mono-ski, reaching areas otherwise out of bounds to persons on crutches or in wheelchairs.
In March 2014, Stogsdill became the first female monoskier to descend the Big Couloir at Montana’s Big Sky Resort. The double black diamond route from the summit of 11,166-foot Lone Mountain descends 1,400 feet at a sustained pitch of 50 degrees or greater, leaving skiers with little room for error. Captured on video, Stogsdill safely descended, becoming only the third monoskier to complete the run.
Invited to participate in the 2014 Adventure Team Challenge, Stogsdill was supported by Oregon Adaptive Sports, a Bend, Oregon-based non-profit organization that offers multiple outdoor recreational sports experiences for adaptive athletes, including skiing, snowboarding, cycling and kayaking in central Oregon. Serving 300 athletes annually, Oregon Adaptive Sports assisted Stogsdill’s participation by loaning her their ReActive Adaptation’s Bomber handcycle. They’ll support her again in this year’s Challenge.
“This is a bike that puts Jamey in a kneeling position and allows her to make minor adjustments to the steering mechanism with her chest on a platform while pedaling,” explained Cara Frank, the nonprofit’s office manager. “She received some tips on how to work the bike, issues such as the fact the bike is front-wheel drive, which is challenging when climbing steep grades, as well as pointers on risk management.”
Riding the hand cycle for the first time, Stogsdill and her team found the route exceptionally challenging. Along one canyon side trail high above the Colorado River, she recalled “there were rocks and obstructions all over the trail we needed to navigate, and one misstep would have been pretty ugly.” That evening at dinner, discussing the route with ride director Billy Mattison, she “told him it was really refreshing to be given a challenge like that. The kid gloves came off out there!”
With the Challenge including off-road bicycling, orienteering, rope work and river rafting, Stogsdill said that after a swimming stage in the Colorado, she hung her wet clothes up to dry in the late afternoon sun before going to dinner. At 6,840 feet above sea level, the host Rancho del Rio Resort becomes very cold at night in September. “The next morning when I woke up,” she recalled, “some of my race clothing, including several key undergarments, was frozen solid. Thankfully, I was saved from this unenviable situation by one of my teammates who graciously started the heater in his truck before the race.”
For athletes participating in their first Challenge, Stogsdill offered some advice. “Review all the prep materials such as the recommended gear list and get some training in so that they are as prepared as possible. But also keep in mind that they will need to be flexible and shoot from the hip.”
As for Stogsdill, following the Challenge, she plans to stay physically active in outdoor sporting activities. A U.S. Forest Service employee, she spends much of her time outdoors. Starting adaptive Nordic skiing this last winter, she intends to continue to learn this sport. She also is “dabbling” in biathlon, which she says is “a lot of fun.”
Remaining active throughout the year is critical, as is participating in team sporting activities. “It is phenomenal the way a team experience can elevate you as an individual,” she said.
The 2015 Adventure Team Challenge Colorado from World T.E.A.M. Sports is supported through sponsors and partners including American Portfolios Financial Services, Deven’s Recycling, Pearl Meyer & Partners, Skanska USA, TimeCapital and Timberline Sports. Additional financial support is provided by Jim Noland, George Puskar and James Benson.