Rachel Corey hasn’t given up on her goal of walking freely again — and resuming life as an athlete without the significant physical challenges she’s confronting now.
The 35-year-old Boise athlete, paralyzed after she was struck by a car while training for the Ironman World Championship in September of 2014, hasn’t let up on rigorous workouts with a physical therapist.
She spends hours and hours each week on a treadmill in her garage (a harness helps support her body). She regularly walks with crutches. She also swims and rides a trike on the Greenbelt.
Soon, she’ll be alongside her old running buddies, thanks to a new handcycle, or handbike — which is just a bike that’s powered with arms instead of legs. She sees the bike as another rehabilitation tool, one that can be both fun and strenuous.
“I just want to feel my heart race again and feel my lungs burn, and have sweat pouring off of me and my muscles burn and just really challenge myself again, in a different way,” she said.
The San Diego-based Challenged Athletes Foundation, which provides grants to support athletes with physical challenges, became aware of Corey’s continued efforts to regain full function in her legs from an article in the Statesman last April, according to Boise athlete Willie Stewart. They’ve given Corey a grant of $3,000 to buy a handcycle.
Stewart, who lost an arm in a construction accident in 1980, is an elite endurance athlete who has competed in the Ironman and Xterra world championships.
Members of the foundation — some local and others from out of town — did a check presentation at Corey’s house on Thursday morning.
“We wanted to surround her and let her know that she’s not alone. There’s people to support her, that care about her, and understand what she’s going through,” said Bill Geppert, former CEO of the Challenged Athletes Foundation. “The message is an important one for the people here in Boise to hear about. We wanted to try to help elevate her and encourage her.”
Boisean Craig Cornwall, a 43-year-old adaptive athlete who owns a handcycle and will be helping Cory get her bike, said it meant the world to him when a CAF member showed up at the hospital after he wrecked his motorcycle on his way to a Navy training in San Diego. That was more than 20 years ago.
“Getting right back into athletics is crucial, not only for your mental well-being but also for your physical well-being,” Cornwall said.
Geppert and his wife, Amy, are retirees who split their time between homes in San Diego and Eagle. They’re so committed to the Challenged Athletes Foundation that this week they’re embarking on a crosscountry bicycle trip to raise money for it and visit other athletes who are receiving grants, like Corey. They hope people will follow their travels and make donations to the athletes online via their blog, TheStacheCycler.com.
“Amy and I are matching dollar-for-dollar, up to $10 per mile,” Geppert said. They’ve already raised $70,000 in pledges.
Corey is excited to get out on the road in her new handcycle, even for the simple pleasure of feeling the wind in her face.
“Being able to try something new will be really amazing for me,” she said. “I think it will really accelerate my healing and recovery.”