'The LeBron Jameses' of adventure racing… - Wyoming Medical Center

'The LeBron Jameses' of adventure racing come to Casper for third Cowboy Tough

By Kristy Bleizeffer Jul 1, 2015

Watch: This video from race organizer Rev3 Adventure offers a great glimpse of last year's Cowboy Tough from South Pass City to Casper. This year's race is July 16-19 from Buffalo to Casper.

For his third Cowboy Tough, Dr. Joe McGinley has just three goals: Get his teammates home safely, have a good enough time they will agree to race with him next year, and deliver a respectable finish for the hometown crowd. He’s not looking for an outright win.

The early morning sun rises on the transition camp at Miracle Mile during the first Cowboy Tough in July 2013. Racers will typically get just one to two hours of sleep a night during the course of the race. (Photo by Jacek Bogucki/Video Works)
The early morning sun rises on the transition camp at Miracle Mile during the first Cowboy Tough in July 2013. Racers will typically get just one to two hours of sleep a night during the course of the race. (Photo by Jacek Bogucki/Video Works)

“We would need motorcycles and cars to get first place, and we might not even do it then,” said McGinley, captain and namesake of local team McGinley Innovations. “The Cowboy Tough is a World Series qualifying race. The teams that are coming are like the LeBron Jameses of adventure racing. They are among the best in the world, and they will all be in Casper, Wyoming.”

This year’s Cameco Cowboy Tough Expedition Race is July 16-19 from Buffalo to Casper. It is a 3 1/2 –day point-to-point race through Wyoming’s traverse and sometimes brutal landscape. Teams use orienteering to choose their own routes, collecting both mandatory and optional checkpoints along the way. Depending on the routes they chart, teams will travel between 330 and 400 miles, all on a couple of hours of sleep per night.

It’s not only the toughest race in Wyoming, it’s among the toughest races 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). This year, it is part of theAdventure Racing World Series, one of the premier circuits of endurance races on the planet.

This is the third year for the Cowboy Tough, and it will be the third year McGinley Innovations has fielded a team. Sponsored by Black Hills Bentonite, this year’s lineup is the first (and so far only) all-Casper team to compete in the four-person Coed division.

“From the first year, it has always been my goal to get an all-Casper four-person team, just to support the city that is supporting this race,” McGinley said. “Casper and Wyoming have put a lot of work into the Cowboy Tough. It is about showing pride in your community and showing that Casper athletes can compete in world class events.”


Joe McGinley, M.D., Ph.D.

  • Age: 40
  • Occupation: Diagnostic radiologist at Casper Medical Imaging and Wyoming Medical Center; founder of McGinley Innovations and inventor of IntelliSense Drill Technology® for orthopedic surgeries
  • Experience: More than 15 years of adventure racing experience and completed both previous Cowboy Tough races. Read about the first race here and about the second race here.
  • Strengths: As team captain, he will manage the race – setting the pace, leading the strategy and finding a suitable route to Kaycee so they can enjoy a burger one of the days. Other strengths include mountain biking, kayaking and not being the oldest person on the team. “That’s Adam.”
  • Fatal flaw: Midday heat. Last year, he and his partner rode nearly 15 hours from Thermopolis to Hells Half Acre under a blazing sun with no shade whatsoever. He’ll combat it with protective clothing, sunscreen, hydration and salt tablets.
  • Essential gear: What’s the one thing he can’t race without? “Vaseline. Your legs and everything else are rubbing together from morning to night and blisters are a big problem.”

Amanda Dowler

  • Age: 31
  • Occupation: Speech language pathologist at the Child Development Center
  • Experience: Enjoys all kind of Wyoming outdoor activities; completed several 30k trail runs and recently finished a 30-mile gravel grinder bike race through Mormon Canyon near Glenrock. This is her first adventure race.
  • Strength: “I think I bring some energy and laughter to the team,” she said. (Until she hits the midday heat, McGinley added.)
  • Fatal flaw: Mental toughness and not knowing what to expect. For example, until recently she was most looking forward to getting to know the other athletes at the racers’ camp each night. “The racers will have none of that,” McGinley told her. “You have so little time, you get into camp as quickly as you can, leave your clothes on, and go to sleep.”

Adam Johnson

  • Age: 41
  • Occupation: Director of Engineering for McGinley Orthopaedic Innovations
  • Experience: “Zero.”
  • Strength: Too stubborn to stop. “Unless I’m physically unable, I don’t see myself stopping. Even if it is something physical, I’ll try to engineer my way to the finish.”
  • Fatal flaw: He’s more of a winter sports guy than a toiling-in-the-heat-of-summer guy. His training activity was cross-country skiing and his favorite place on Earth is “in the shade, which might be difficult on these trails,” he said.
  • Casper proud: “Anytime you can represent where you live on a national scale is a good thing. We get to practice, basically, right on the course. Some teams out there are training at 1,000 feet.”

Ryan Larsen

  • Age: 36
  • Occupation: Optometrist at First Street Vision
  • Experience: Finished fifth in last year’s Cowboy Tough with McGinley with less than six weeks of training. He’s a Wyoming boy who spends a lot of time hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, kayaking and skiing.
  • Strength: “I feel like I’m pretty mentally tough which is a big part of this. You just have to be able to keep going and keep a good attitude.”
  • Fatal Flaw: Physical preparedness. During last year’s race, the father of four was also a host parent to a 10-year-old Ukrainian orphan through Project 143. He and his wife are now adopting the boy and have spent about four weeks in Ukraine the last couple of months to work through the process. “We weren’t planning to adopt at first, but four weeks into it, it became apparent that it was what we were supposed to be doing.”
  • Why race again? “It was definitely quite an adventure last year. Joe and I seemed to work well together as we made our way across Wyoming, and they’re probably going to take us through some pretty great places this year. It is a great way to experience Wyoming.”
Professional headshot of

Joseph McGinley M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. McGinley specializes in musculoskeletal radiology and sports medicine with an emphasis in non-surgical treatments at Wyoming Medical Center and Casper Medical Imaging. He is an adjunct faculty member at Stanford University in the Department of Radiology.