Athletes from across North and Central America will gather Thursday to begin the toughest race in Wyoming.
Rev3’s Cowboy Tough Expedition Race, sponsored by Cameco and the city of Casper, will start in Cheyenne and send 80 athletes in 32 teams across mountain ranges, reservoirs and rivers to finish in Casper. The course could be between 300 and 400 miles long and include running, mountain biking, road biking, rappelling and kayaking, among other disciplines, said race director Michael Spiller.
It may be the first of five adventure races held across Wyoming as part of Gov. Matt Mead’s idea to bring a world-class athletic event to the state, Spiller said. The weekend will also include family events, smaller races and outdoor demonstrations.
“He wanted to bring a high-end race to Wyoming and highlight the natural wonders of the state and history of the state,” Spiller said of the governor. “Racers will be hitting state parks, historical landmarks and highlighting all of the adventure spots.”
Spectators can see the racers at the beginning in Cheyenne and the finish at the whitewater park in Casper. Along the way, racers will be in the woods taking a variety of routes, he said.
The race is planned, but the exact route is kept secret. Racers will mountain bike in Curt Gowdy State Park, rappel in Vedauwoo and ride some more on day one. Day two includes paddling across Seminoe Reservoir and trekking to the Miracle Mile section of the North Platte River. On the third day, racers will pull historic hand carts for five miles in Martin’s Cove, paddle the North Platte River and go through the whitewater park, he said.
Fewer than half the teams will likely finish the race, Spiller said. Racers will face dehydration and digestion problems, blisters and breakdowns. A doctor and wilderness medicine experts will be at every transition area, and teams that do not check in at night will be picked up, he said.
Racers are in teams of two or four members. If one member breaks down, has a debilitating blister or can’t finish, the whole team is out.
Some racers may not carry enough food, and others might take too much, said Darran Wells, an assistant professor at Central Wyoming Community College and experienced adventure racer.
“There is a constant battle as you plan these kinds of races to make sure you have enough calories to get from point to point, but you’re not carrying extra weight,” he said. “That can be tough. Inexperienced teams will carry too much food, or if they’re too bold will carry too little food.”
Serious injuries in these races are fairly uncommon. He would expect more because of sleep deprivation and unfamiliar terrain, but statistically, a person is just as likely to be injured playing basketball or football, Wells said.
Sprained ankles, infected blisters and torn muscles, on the other hand, could be the big problems.
Mechanical issues can also mean the difference between finishing and dropping out, said Casper doctor and adventure racer Joe McGinley. He and three other elite athletes, who are from California, will race this year.
Competitors will carry spare parts, but sometimes things break that can’t be fixed on the trail.
“You have to have good luck, too,” McGinley said. “Training, luck and skill.”
Wyoming’s rivers and mountains are why McGinley moved to Casper. He thought it would be the perfect place for an adventure race.
The next four years will showcase different portions of Wyoming, all ending in Casper, Spiller said. And after the five years of racing is finished, he hopes the series will start over again.
“It will be a different route,” he said. “Adventure racing is always different. We could race in Curt Gowdy ten times and it will never be the same course. There’s always mystery involved.”