US Military Endurance Sports

Cowboy-Up! USMES Challenges the AR World Championships

Posted 21 Sep 2017 in News Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

More distance, more elevation, more gear to haul, more navigation difficulty: heading to the 2017 Cameco Cowboy Tough AR World Championships, the eight-member USMES contingent knew to expect more.

Besides the USMES AR World Championship Team of David Ashley, JD Eskelson, Tamela Swan, and Doug Crytzer; USMES was represented on four additional teams: Melissa Coombes on BendRacing/YogaSlackers (finishing second American team and 13th overall), Ron Eaglin, returning to the course on Good 'Nuff, Shane Hagerman on Odyssey/MainNerve and Jesse Tubb on Untamed New England.

While exact details had not been revealed, USMES racers knew the outline of the dauntingly long (757 km), windy course, beginning with a 100 km packraft stage, a 264 km mountain bike ride, and the physical and navigational challenges of the 60 plus km Wind River Trek.

Desperados David Ashley, JD Eskelson, Tamela Swan, and Doug Crytzer of the USMES AR World Championship Team get ready for six days in cowboy country.
Photo Credit: JD Eskelson

What they didn’t expect was the mechanical bull.

The first casualty of the race was Jesse Tubb’s finger, broken during the race prologue mechanical bull ride.  With less than two days before the start of the race, Tubb said: "I found a doctor who understood that I was going to try to race regardless and found a solution that allowed me to race."

Next, Tubb had to learn to rappel with his left hand in advance of the ropes and caving stage in Sinks Canyon.  Equally important, would he have the strength in his right hand to ride a mountain bike?  "I tested out my finger mountain biking some rock gardens that night and a little the next day to make sure I could ride, but it was unclear if I was going to be able to deal with 6 days of racing."

“Well, I wanted a challenge.”  After losing an argument with a mechanical bull, Jesse Tubb learns to rappel with his left hand.
Photo Credit: Chris Radcliff

“I was racing on Untamed New England this time,” Tubb explained, “and though we had some issues that eventually slowed us down, luckily my finger wasn't one of them.” 

True to the bike racing heritage of USMES, members excelled at the 264 km mountain bike stage.  Eaglin called it one of the most fun and memorable parts of the race, recalling “the great time my team [Good 'Nuff] had riding the tail end of the never-ending bike ride with the USMES [AR World Championship] team.”  Swan enthused that “best of all, we traveled through one of the most beautiful parts of the country.  While at times the treks and bikes seemed endless, all I had to do was look around at where we were and take in the views.”

Big decisions at high elevation: Ron Eaglin leads three teams to safety through the mountains.
Photo Credit: Ron Eaglin

The unexpected crux of the 2017 Cameco Cowboy Tough AR World Championships was the 60 plus km Wind River Trek.  Eaglin’s team grappled with the trek through the mountains:

We were on a lower ridge moving south, struggling with the thick brush.  I called the team together and told them to get a nap while I figured out a plan.  We were at 8,400 feet elevation and looking at the map I knew we were west of the ridge we needed, which was above 9,000 feet.  I roused the team and outlined what we needed to do - go east and south and look for a way to get up the steep slope and onto the ridge.  Along the way, we ran into Haku Ecuador and AR Georgia, also trying to accomplish the same thing.  After a failed attempt to get up a steep and dangerous open area in the dark while big rocks fell past us, we found a path carved into the side of the mountain and gained the ridge.  At the top, we were able to help the team members from the other two teams (Haku and AR Georgia) get to the ridgeline.

David Ashley recalls the dilemma faced by his team:

Many teams, including ours, really struggled with reading the maps and got lost during the first long trekking section.  It was a 38-mile minimum length hike up into the 8,000- 10,000-foot mountains with several sections off-trail.

Completing that foot section and the following bike, the race directors were allowing teams to skip an even longer and more difficult foot section.  You could bike around it, but the penalty was you would be “short coursed” by missing that part of the race course.  The other option was to press onward and attempt to meet a mandatory cut-off time on the far end of that long trek.

We were one of the few teams at that point in the race to keep pressing forward with the official race course, knowing that it was very difficult and we were unlikely to make the cut off time.  I took pride in knowing we didn’t allow the temptation to take a short bike ride versus a push deeper into the pain cave, back up for another two days in the mountains.  Ultimately, we did not make the cut-off time and had to skip part of the course as a result; but that decision was not voluntary like the other teams, it was directed by the race director.  We were just moving too slowly to have a chance at finishing within the 6-day maximum time.

Relief and joy at the finish line of the 2017 Cameco Cowboy Tough AR World Championships.
Photo Credit: Corryn Haynes

Despite fatigue, pain, and the delirium of sleep deprivation, the strongest impression the USMES competitors had of the 2017 Cameco Cowboy Tough AR World Championships was the joy of trail camaraderie.  “The highlight for me was sharing the experience with fellow veterans,” said Doug Crytzer.  “I honestly didn't want it to end.”  JD Eskelson describes the race: "We really pulled together as a cohesive team and helped each other out during our AR highs and lows.  Our team spirit got us to the finish line after almost six days of adventure racing craziness at the world level in wonderful, windy Wyoming."  Tamela Swan sums up the experience: “it was a privilege to participate in the Adventure Racing World Championship, it was an honor to represent USMES and it was a pleasure to race with my teammates. I can't wait to do it again!”

For more information about 2017 Cameco Cowboy Tough AR World Championships and the USMES AR Team visit:  

AR World Series

Cowboy Tough

USMES Adventure Racing Team

The US Military Endurance Sports (USMES) program, a division of American Servicemembers Amateur Sports Inc. (ASAS), is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization chartered to support amateur athletes, endurance sports education and activities for current, retired, and veteran members of the United States Armed Forces.

To learn more about joining USMES, go to

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