IDAHO — The Smoke 'n' Fire 400 mountain bike race finished up this past weekend, and the Challenged Athletes Foundation sent three members across the finish line.
"It beat me up real bad, haha," Lucas Onan, CAF athlete, said. "And I did 100 and something miles yesterday and 100 miles today with an hour and half of sleep on top of a pass."
Onan finished the race for the second time alongside first-time CAF finishers Willie Stewart and Mohamed Lahna.
"In a race that maybe has a 40 percent finish rate, three guys, two arms missing and a leg missing, but all three of us proved the point," Stewart said. "I was very celebratory, and I had a really emotional response. It was great to be welcomed back into Boise.”
The race was around 400 miles of biking, hike-a-bike, and surviving in the wilderness for four days.
"You’re stripped bare out there. It’s kind of something that you don’t really want to expose yourself to, but doing it the struggle makes you a better person," Stewart said. "It really makes you open up your mind to what possibilities there are for you."
But these three also had to overcome a lot of other challenges along the way.
"Every time I stopped it was really stressful, to change clothes in the wet and the cold and your fingers don’t work and you only have one hand it was really frustrating," Stewart said. "But I'm also not going to quit cause I am frustrated. I was frozen, ya know it was hard, and it was emotional."
But, this race also had a bigger meaning.
As a CAF ambassador, Stewart said that all too often he sees other people with disabilities sitting on the sidelines or being left out of things either because they don't know about the opportunities available or they aren't given them.
"We can change the way people think about disability in society," Stewart said. "And leaving out 99 percent of people with disabilities that are on the sideline is ridiculous, 80 percent of us are unemployed that's ridiculous."
He said that this race is for them, as they continue to work for change.
"How we are doing business right now is not good, there are very few of our brothers and sisters with disabilities that are born with or acquire that may have opportunities that are there, but let’s create them and we can use smoke n fire to create a better society," Stewart said.
"Let’s come up with some new ideas put some leaders together and say how do we create employment, how do we create education, how do we create recreation. These things are important, to help someone with disabilities to live their life to the fullest without being put on welfare because they are born a certain way or acquire a traumatic injury," he added.
Will they be back next year? Definitely, after they catch up on sleep.
"Well maybe shower if I have enough energy," Onan said. "We’ll see what happens, but yeah I am tired."
"I miss it and that is why I will be back next year cause I think it lets me see really deep into my soul and check out who I really am," Stewart.