Racing the Cowboy Tough (again): Dr. Joe McGinley couldn't pass up another shot at Wyoming's adventure race
By Kristy Bleizeffer Jul 17, 2014
If you’d asked him two months ago, Dr. Joe McGinley would have said he was too busy to run the Cowboy Tough this year. And who could blame him? Who's got time to bike, hike, rappel and kayak 300 to 500 miles from South Pass City to Casper for little more than bragging rights? Turns out, Joe McGinley does. And, with just six weeks before race day, McGinley convinced friend and Casper optometrist Ryan Larsen that Larsen had time too. At 9 this morning, McGinley and Larsen started the second annual Cameco Cowboy Tough Expedition Race with more than 70 races from six countries. For the next 80 hours or so, McGinley and Larsen will bike, hike, kayak, climb, crawl and paddle their way from South Pass City to Casper. Here's what you need to know to track their progress.
* What: Cameco Cowboy Tough Expedition Race, a point-to-point adventure race in which teams must collect mandatory checkpoints, using orienteering to choose their own routes along the daily race course. They can also collect optional checkpoints to earn more points. Depending on the routes a team charts, they will travel between 300 and 500 miles in 3 ½ days, all on 1 to 2 hours of sleep per night.
"The race course is just amazing, you get to go on land and property that you normally wouldn’t get to go on," McGinley said. "I go hiking and biking on trails that we discovered last year, and I would have never known they were there if it wasn’t for this race."
* When and where: Begins today at South Pass City and ends Sunday at Crossroads Park in Casper. It is designed to showcase Wyoming's landscapes and points of interest, and this year contestants will search for gold nuggets, rappel down rock faces and explore caves in Sink's Canyon, canoe or kayak across Boysen Reservoir and maneuver the whitewater near Thermopolis. Each year, the race will highlight another part of Wyoming -- this year is Wind River country.
* High performance: Not only is this the toughest race in Wyoming, it's among the toughest in the world. It is a national qualifying race for the North American Adventure Racing Series (NAARS) and the United States Adventure Racing Association (USARA).
"These are world class athletes that are competing. The team that won last year placed third in the world championships, and they'll be back again this year. It's cool to see these type of individuals coming to town," McGinley said.
McGinley Innovations, sponsored by Black Hills Bentonite and Foss Motors, is a two-person team comprised of Dr. Joe McGinley, 39, and Dr. Ryan Larsen, 35. As the younger of the two, “Ryan's getting the heavier pack,” McGinley said.
* McGinley is a diagnostic radiologist at Casper Medical Imaging and Wyoming Medical Center. He is an inventor of medical devices with a patent pending, has a background in mechanical engineering, and treats athletes from around the world for chronic exertional compartment syndrome. In between, he is a veteran adventure racer, running his first race 11 years ago when triathlons grew too boring.
This is his second time competing in the Cowboy Tough. Read about last year’s race (including his nine hours trying to get off churning waves of Seminoe Reservoire) here.
* Larsen is an optometrist at First Street Vision in Casper. He is the father of four, and he and his wife are also hosting a 10-year-old Ukrainian orphan this summer through Project 143. The project works "to show orphans love, hope, and to promote adoption, specifically adoptions of older orphans," Larsen said. "Project 143 is involved in china, Ukraine and Latvia because children in those countries age out of the orphanages at pretty young ages."
This will be his first adventure race – ever -- though he's done lots of hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, kayaking and skiing. He’s also ran the Big Horn Mountain Trail 30K (about 19 miles) race. “I’ve spent a lot of time on the water, but most of it fly-fishing from the back of a drift boat,” he said.
Officially, Dr. McGinley signed up for the race in December, just in case he had the time. He’s a big fan of the race and wanted to support it, but couldn’t find the time in his schedule until Memorial Day weekend – just six weeks out. “I thought, who is somebody who is in good enough shape and wouldn’t worry about having just six weeks of training time? Well, Ryan’s pretty laid back, he’s in excellent condition, and he’s always up for new adventures …” Because of their busy work and family lives, they’ve trained when they could, mostly separately. Each has fit in a few long bike rides, up to 50 miles. They made sure to get in one long bike ride together and a couple of long kayak runs, other than that, they’ve fit in workouts whenever they could. “It’s been pretty fast and furious, just trying to balance spending time with the wife and kids and work responsibilities while squeezing in some pretty intense workouts,” Larsen said. So, is it something Larsen will want to do again? “You might want to ask me after.”
There are several less intense challenges planned around the expedition race to involve area communities. It's one of the things that sets this adventure race apart from many of the others. Here's a look, but more information on all these events if available here:
Wyoming Medical Center Glow Run/Walk 5K and Wellness Fair, 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday at Crossroads Park. Race begins at dusk, and contestants can watch "Frozen" in the park afterward. Full details here.
- Casper Strong Adventure Race is Saturday. It's a 42-mile race from Crossroads Park to Hogadon -- in one day.
- Urban Adventure Challenge is 10 to 1 p.m. Saturday beginning at Crossroads Park. Use clues and keen navigation skills to find checkpoints around Casper. Checkpoints include taking a silly picture at Fort Caspar Museum, taking a plunge in the whitewater park, a Wonder Bar eating challenge and more.
- Cowboy Tough Beer Garden is 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Crossroads Park. Features live music, food and a beer cup for $15. You can sample brews from eight different local breweries. Money raised goes to Rocky Mountain Oncology to help local cancer patients.
- Family Adventure Race is 10:30 to noon Sunday at Crossroads Park -- also the finish for the Cowboy Tough expedition race. Check in is at 9 a.m. Parents and children will have 1.5 hours to find as many checkpoints as possible around the park. While there, cheer on the expedition racers as they finish their grueling three-day adventure.
Dr. McGinley specializes in musculoskeletal radiology and sports medicine with an emphasis in non-surgical treatments at Wyoming Medical Center and Casper Medical Imaging and Outpatient Radiology. He is an adjunct faculty member at Stanford University in the Department of Radiology.