It was a solid weekend of racing in the Midwest, where two Team GearJunkie/WEDALI squads competed in North Dakota and Illinois. Our team split up to tackle a pair of marquee regional races, both 24-hour events, including the Thunder Rolls adventure race in Illinois and the annual END-AR event near the Canadian border in the no-man’s land of a place called the Pembina Gorge.
After biking, boating, trekking, and orienteering for many collective hours on end, both our teams emerged from the wilderness with a win. Here are the squads’ respective reports on the events. Solid work all around! —Stephen Regenold
Thunder Rolls Adventure Race — The clock struck midnight, and 26 teams took off from the start line of the 10th annual Thunder Rolls 24hr Adventure Race in Mount Carroll, Illinois. The 3-person coed team from GearJunkie/WEDALI was on a mission to locate all 55 checkpoints on the course and return back to Race HQ with the fastest overall time. Things didn’t start out smoothly for the team of Scott Erlandson, Andrei Karpov and Emily Korsch, but we stuck to our plan of “race smart, race steady” and gained the lead after 14 hours of racing and kept it for the remainder of the day, finishing the entire course in a time of 19 hours and 8 minutes.
Overall, the team covered approximately 40 miles on the bike, 10 miles in a canoe, and 15 miles in the woods orienteering on foot. These may seem like short distances for a 24-hour race, but the team put in over 13,000-feet of ascent and descent in the hilly country. Highlights of the race included a 100-foot rappel in the dark, two checkpoints located in caves, a 3-mile “coasteering” leg along a creek, and successfully navigating the canoe through a tricky slough on the Mississippi River. We were challenged by the steep terrain and tough competition from teams Bushwhacker and Alpine Shop, but we were thrilled to come away with the overall win! —Emily Korsch
END-AR — To most, a double date would consist of dinner and a movie. However, for two couples on Team GearJunkie/WEDALI, this past Saturday night’s double date included hours of bushwhacking at Extreme North Dakota’s 24-hour race in the remote Pembina Gorge of North Dakota. Justin Bakken, Molly Moilanen, Tom Puzak and Kelly Brinkman made up the squad. We had a blast competing together and ended up on top of the podium.
The Pembina Gorge was a perfect setting for an adventure race. The area offers outdoor enthusiasts diverse terrain with rolling meadows, thick forests, big elevation, creeks, and muddy river bottoms. Race highlights included fast and fun mountain biking on a vast multi-use trail system, scrambling up the sides of the steep gorge to reach our checkpoints, and pausing to appreciate the views.
Unfortunately, water levels were so low this year that the paddling and pack-rafting sections were cut from the course. Teams still had plenty of time in and near the water, running the river bottoms and navigating creek beds blockaded by boulders, fallen trees and fresh, thick mud. At one point, Tom got stuck up to his thighs in quicksand-like mud and Justin used nearby branches to help pull him out!
The overall distance was shorter than a typical 24-hour event, but the challenging terrain and a high ratio of off-trail travel resulted in only a few teams completing the entire “long course.” Without a trail in sight, we spent gobs of time pushing, pulling and throwing our bikes through steep wooded hillsides and thick grasslands. The grasses and woods were so overgrown in some areas the only option we had was to take a compass bearing, put our heads down, and keep inching our way closer to the next checkpoint, and finally — after hours on the move — to the finish line at the end. —Molly Moilanen
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