Adventure TEAM Challenge around the corner!

In just a couple of weeks, 5-person teams from across the nation will converge on Leadville, Colorado for what is truly an amazing race. The 4th Adventure TEAM Challenge is a two-day event featuring trail running, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, rappelling, zip lines, and race orienteering. What sets this apart from other adventure races: each team has at least two disabled athletes, one of whom is a wheelchair user.

I dreamed up the idea for this race about five years ago after participating in several conventional adventure races. Organized by World TEAM Sports, for which the guiding principle is The Exceptional Athlete Matters, we wanted to increase opportunities for people with disabilities. Athletes participating in the event include decorated Paralympic athletes, members of the United States Military, world-renowned climbers and a number of elite hand-cyclists.

The intent of the Adventure TEAM Challenge is to push participants and teams physically, mentally, and spiritually while exploring and experiencing the wonders of the great outdoors. The event requires adventurers to navigate their way through wild terrain to find checkpoints. Racers are not allowed to use motorized transport or outside assistance to complete their journey.

Crossing the finish line as a unified team is a stunning triumph that provides for a lifetime of memories. I’ve competed in the past three Adventure TEAM Challenges and trust me, the organizers don’t make it easy. Whether able-bodied or not, to actually complete the Challenge is a remarkable feat reserved only for those extraordinary athletes that have excelled in teamwork, self sacrifice, perseverance, and endurance.

The event kicks off Friday, June 25th, with a day of ability testing and safety training in the upper Arkansas River Valley, surrounded by towering 14,000-foot peaks of the Sawatch Mountain Range. The following two days will take the athletes deep in the remote mountain range south of Leadville, rafting the unpredictable waters of the Arkansas River, hiking dramatic peaks, and biking through beautiful alpine meadows before completing the race on Sunday.

Our race director this year, Billy Mattison, is a veteran adventure racer who has competed in over a half dozen major adventure races around the world, including three Eco-Challenges—one of which his team won. Billy is also a professional raft guide in the summers and the avalanche director for the Vail Ski Patrol in the winter. Suffice to say, he’s got a mean, yet safe, course planned for us this year! Did somebody say whitewater swimming in Class III rapids?

If you are in the area, I hope you will come out to cheer the teams on! I’ll be out there sweating with my teammates and can use your support! Lumber Liquidators, the primary sponsor of the Adventure TEAM Challenge, is returning with their team to defend their championship.

Here are some photos from last year's event:

My team, Lumber Liquidators, paddles hard against the current in
the 2009 prelude to the Adventure TEAM Challenge.
The one day prelude seeded teams for the next day's launch.

Willy Stewart member of Team Varsity pushes his teammate's One-Off
hand-cycle up the boat ramp before embarking on the raft section of the course.

Ben Witherell and I use the bungee technique to stay efficient as
we help teammate, Sarah Will pull her One-Off up hill.

John Lemon, Matt King and Josh Sharpe of Team Cisco use a bungee system to help make climbing more efficient in the mountain bike section.

Willie Stewart, known affectionately as "One Arm Willie," cranks on a mountain bike with a special prosthetic that connects to his handlebars.

Brett Landin and Rob Harsh of Team Lumber Liquidators pull teammate,
Sarah Will on a One-Off hand cycle.

Here's some cool video from last year too: