Swiftwick’s first amputee adventure racing team, Team Valor, competed in the Checkpoint Tracker Adventure Racing Championship this past weekend. Their impact was felt much further than the wooded hills of the tiny town of Oak Hill, West Virginia. They not only inspired other racers to raise their game, they helped raise awareness and funds for the Challenged Athletes Foundation’s Operation Rebound.
Team Valor was met at the starting line of the 30-hour, 100+ mile adventure race with a chilly, constant rain falling from the grey skies; conditions that are less than ideal for any adventure racer, particularly amputees. All four of Team Valor’s team members hit the starting line in their 8-man blue river raft around 10:45am, alongside another 4-person team. An hour and half later, their raft hit the sandy shore of the race’s first checkpoint. Sgt. Sam Cila had adapted his prosthetic arm to be able to maneuver his oar in and out of the river as efficiently as possible. However, his arm would later prove to be an obstacle that could not be overcome.
Following the rafting portion of the course, racers changed from their wet suits and
swimming gear to their hiking and trekking gear. Team Valor transitioned smoothly and started to make their way up the backside of a mountain in the pouring rain. At that point everything appeared to be fine for the team.
Along the way, Sgt. Sam Cila’s residual limb began to swell uncontrollably. Sometimes an amputee can control swelling in their stump by applying pressure by wrapping it up or by working it back into the prosthetic socket that houses the amputated limb. However, Sam’s arm swelled up so badly that there was no way he could get his prosthetic hand onto his arm.
Upon reaching the mountain biking section of the course it was apparent that the team would not be able to continue; you cannot steer a mountain bike in the gnarly, muddy terrain that lay ahead with just one arm. About 12-hours into the race, Team Valor was forced to call in for backup.
Three of team members were brought safely back to headquarters while one, Amy Palimero-Winters, decided to keep going. Amy is a below knee amputee who is no stranger to the adversities that long-distance racing presents. Amy has successfully completed numerous adventure races, the infamous Badwater Ultramarathon and holds more than 10 world records.
When asked about her race experience, Amy said, “adventure racing is life in high definition; taking a person or team and throwing every obstacle at them all while teaching them adversity. As an adventure racer and a mother of two who works full time, I need to do everything possible to protect my real foot from the abuse I put it through and my Swiftwick socks saved the day! In the end, I raced for 22+hrs with a wet shoe and sock….crossing the finish line with no blisters.”
The Swiftwick After Party was the perfect place for soggy racers to celebrate their accomplishment of successfully navigating through the treacherous race course. As the race winners were being recognized, another victory emerged, as the raffle that was set up to raise money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation’s Operation Rebound raised more money than expected. It appeared that the Team Valor had inspired racers to not only push themselves physically during the race, but also to go beyond financially by donating over $2,000 for Operation Rebound.