By Madison Baumann – On June 20th, 2005, my world turned upside down. I was eleven years old and on the precipice of what could have been the greatest summer of my life. We were set to kick-off the season with a road trip from Washington state to southern Utah, then head abroad with a trip to Europe. I was ready for an incredible adventure with my family and friends. But, it all came to a shattering halt.
All I remember is leaving our hotel in Park City, and then it is blank. We were in a car accident. We were hit by a dump truck, and I had taken on all the impact.
Fast forward two months. I was discharged from Primary Children’s Hospital, blind in my left eye with only partial vision in my right and tasked with building a whole new outlook on life.
Because of my injuries, I was no longer allowed to play the contact sports like soccer, softball, and skiing that I had enjoyed throughout my childhood. And, my dreams of becoming a professional soccer player in the summer or a professional skier in the winter no longer seemed within reach. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.
This is where my new journey began, leading me to the most amazing adventure ever – I just didn’t know it yet.
A summer later, and I was going crazy. My life and friendships had revolved around sports, and now I was stuck on the sidelines. I turned to books, trying to figure out what sports I could still play. That is how I found golf, which was my jumping off point. With golf under my belt, I was able to convince my mom to let me start skiing again, albeit at a much lower level than before. Five years later, I had been enjoying an active life of golfing, skiing, and looking for my next challenge. I learned about the National Ability Center, or NAC, an adaptive center for individuals with differing abilities – Individuals just like me.
I moved to Utah, excited to get involved with the ski program at the National Ability Center. At first, I was only interested in skiing as a hobby. But then I discovered that, not only did the NAC have a high performance ski team for skiers with differing abilities, they also had openings for visually impaired skiers. I had found the right place for me.
The NAC quickly became my new family. Thanks to the help of the incredible instructors and coaches who guided my training, I was back to my old crazy skier ways of flying down the race hill.
I soon discovered that NAC also offered a large variety of outdoor recreation, ranging from cycling and whitewater rafting to rock climbing, archery and more. Many of these activities sparked my interest. After a long debate with myself, I decided to take the leap and try cycling for the first time in over 13 years. I went out on a tandem bike with my friend Tom. It was amazing! With Tom at the helm I was confident I wouldn’t hit a pothole or fall off a curb that I was unable to see. It was just what I needed. And it lit a new fire inside me.
I decided to train for the NAC’s Summit Challenge, an inclusive road ride for cyclists of all abilities that travels some of Summit and Wasatch County’s most scenic roads. But, I still needed a buddy rider. I needed someone to lead the way on the tandem bike and pedal together with me for the 16-mile ride. And so, it began.
I asked around, looking for a reliable buddy rider until I found the perfect person. While chatting with coworkers, one of them, Laura Dusold, looked up from her desk and, without hesitation, said “I’m in.”
Laura was ready to go all-in and cycle to the moon and back on the 100-mile loop for the Summit Challenge. As for me, I was not quite ready for that big of a climb. After much discussion we compromised on the 50-mile loop and began training.
To say that our first ride was a little nerve racking would be an understatement. We did manage to make it around the parking lot a few times, without falling, but that was it.
As you can probably guess, trusting somebody else to guide you on a bike is very challenging. When you are on your own bike you make all the decisions, where to ride, how fast to ride, how long to ride, and how much risk you are willing to take. When you are on a tandem bicycle, those decisions are not just up to you. Everything is up to the team. So, Laura and I took the slow and steady approach to our ride. For me, it was about learning to trust her to make the right choices on which path to take and at what speed to take us. For her, it was about learning how to communicate to me what was happening. From a bump on the path to a sharp curve along the road, Laura has had to learn how to share what I need to know in order to help keep us both on the bike, and she is absolutely crushing it!
So far, we have only had one spill, which we recovered from quickly. And, we have enjoyed every single ride together. While in the saddle, we’ve discussed serious topics and shared silly stories to become great friends.
Come ride with us at the Summit Challenge on August 24th. Whether you are taking on the 16-mile, 50-mile, 80-mile, or 100-mile route, riding as a team or getting back on an adaptive cycle after years away from the bike, let’s take this challenge on and shoot for the stars together!
The Summit Challenge is a benefit road ride for the National Ability Center on August 24, 2019 in Park City Utah. To learn more, sign up or support adaptive cyclists like Madi and Laura, visit summitchallenge100.org.
Ride information: August 24 — Summit Challenge, Park City, UT, Riders of all ages and abilities will hit the pavement for a 100, 80, 50 or 16-mile road ride event in support of the National Ability Center's mission. All three fully-supported routes of this event follow paved roads in and around the beautiful Park City mountainside. This exciting event promises to serve up a challenge for a wide range of cycling levels and abilities. And don’t forget – all Summit Challenge riders who have a disability can register and ride for free! The 100 ride goes through the prestigious Wolf Creek Ranch property which is usually closed off to road bikers. Enjoy a ride length of your choice and end up back at the National Ability Center for food, drinks and music., Tommy Youngblood, 435-649-3991, 435-200-0990, [email protected], Whitney Thompson, 435-649-3991, [email protected], summitchallenge100.org, discovernac.org