Run, paddle, bike, crawl

Wander in the woods, then run for four miles, one of which is in sand. Next, paddle four miles then run a mile on a hilly trail to a mountain bike. Then venture out on a 10-mile ride only to be welcomed by a net to crawl under.

And this one is a sprint.

Welcome to adventure racing, a multi-sport event designed to test the hearts, will and bodies of the competitors.

“I do it because it’s fun,” competitor Georgia Daniels said. “It’s more fun when you’re done.”

Daniels said she usually participates in the 24-hour version of this exhausting test of fortitude. Sunday, however, she was competing in the second annual Challenge the Island race at Fort Ebey State Park.

“This is easier mentally because you know you won’t be out there all night,” she said.

Daniels’ team, the Rubber Chickens took first place overall, completing the course in 3:29. Her teammate, Mike Millar, said the shorter format makes the event more enjoyable. He usually runs ultra marathons — 50- or 100-mile off-road races.

Team Rubber Chickens had the lead for the duration of the race, but came into the kayaking section nine minutes behind Festina Valens. That team had skipped a portion of the orienteering section of the race.

The chickens made up the deficit in the ocean and emerged from the sea with a 10 minute lead.

Festina Valens finished third overall with a time of 4:13. Team Big Ring made a charge on the mountain bikes to take second, finishing eight minutes behind the chickens.

The event combines tests of physical and mental prowess in an effort to push its competitors to new limits, Race Director Jennifer Curd said.

It takes a special person to compete, Co-Director, and Jennifer’s husband, Kelly Curd said.

“It’s just the right mental attitude,” Kelly said. “It’s more mental strength than some of the physical aspects.”

Just finishing the race is often what drives competitors, Daniels said.

“I like the feeling you get afterward and the strong sense of accomplishment,” she said.

The sport is in its infancy, Jennifer said. It is the fastest growing sport in America, according to a survey the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association released in June.

This is only the second year The Challenge Series has been putting races on, Jennifer said. Prior to the series’ inception, only one adventure race could be found in Washington. That race, The Wuhoo Adventure race is now defunct.

Kelly said he had the idea to form his own series after competing in the Wuhoo race. When he found himself unemployed after competing, he had the idea to start his own series.

“I was looking for more races to do, but there weren’t any,” he said.

The series began last year with two races, the Whidbey Island race, and Challenge the Lake at Lake Wenatchee. This year, the series added Challenge the Mountain in Bellingham. The race can return to a site because racers do not know the exact route until shortly before the race begins.

Kelly said he enjoys the Whidbey Island location because of its strong mountain biking trails. The kettles created by glaciers give the single-track trails a roller coaster feel instead of a long climb followed by a descent, he said.

For some racers, the challenge is not the course.

“The hardest part for me is keeping up with my partner,” said Doug Zimmerman, one half of team Festina Valens.

Zimmerman and his teammate Todd Degreen train for this type of event year round, Degreen said.

“We do this every weekend any way,” he said. “When there’s a race, we race.”

Zimmerman said he first competed in an adventure race while living in Florida in 1997.

“You don’t even know how to train,” he said. “This just lends itself to a healthy life.”

And being healthy is a key to being competitive in the sport, but other traits help, Daniels said.

“You’ve got to be dedicated,” she said. “You’ve also got to be a little bit looney and not mind getting dirty.”

The Challenge the Mountain race is next in the series and takes place August 8 at Larrabee State Park in Bellingham.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at eberto@whidbey or call 675-6611.

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