By Scott Prater
Adventure racing is arguably still in its infancy. The sport that combines endurance trail running, mountain biking and a variety of other outdoor sports is mostly unknown to the general public, but it continues to build steam around the country as more athletes take notice and begin to find competitions.
That’s the case with four 2nd Space Operations Squadron Airmen, who, come October, will represent Schriever Air Force Base at the Wilderness Challenge in Fayetteville, W.Va.
Only one of the four has adventuring racing experience, but the other three will go in with impressive distance running credentials and the team should perform well against its peers come race day.
Airman 1st Class Cory Marion is the team’s unofficial captain, chief training organizer and the Airman who initiated the team effort. Capt. Joseph Reverteriano, Capt. Stephen Toth and 1st Lt. Caitlyn Diffley make up the remainder of the squad, and they’ll travel to West Virginia Oct. 8 then hit the starting line Oct. 9 for the two-day competition.
“We have a good amount of experience in terms of the endurance running, especially Lieutenant Diffley,” Airman Marion said. “She runs triathlons and endurance races regularly. As a team we’ll do very well. None of us lack ability so no one person is going to bring the team down as a whole.”
The four will compete as a team in four events: an 8-kilometer run followed by a 1- mile rafting leg on Oct. 9 and a 15-kilometer mountain bike leg followed by a half-marathon trail hike on Oct. 10.
Athletes will traverse the rafting course in a pair of two-man inflatable rafts. Since Airman Marion is the only experienced raftsman (he was a river guide through the Peterson AFB outdoor recreation department), he took charge of the rafting training.
He took both Captain Toth and Captain Reveteriano down the Arkansas River near Pueblo, and forced them to steer from the front as he played havoc with the raft from his seat at the back.
“Our water training is pretty much done,” Airman Marion said. “We have enough experience so when race day comes we’ll be pretty proficient at staying in the current and avoiding rocks.”
As trail runners, the team is loaded with talent and experience. Lieutenant Diffley has competed in the Air Force Marathon the past two years and regularly attacks local sprint triathlons and other distance races. Airman Marion took second place in Schriever’s July Duathlon and has two adventure races under his belt, while both Captain Toth and Captain Reveteriano completed the Pikes Peak Ascent (a grueling 12-mile run up the famous mountain) this past August, among other local endurance races.
Airman Marion remains somewhat concerned about the mountain biking competition because he’s unaware of how technically difficult the course in West Virginia will be.
“Depending on what we see, the mountain bike leg could be a big factor as to how well we do,” he said. “We’ve tried to get some mountain-bike training in, but it has continued to fall through thanks to everyone’s differing schedules. The plan is to ride at least as a group to figure out our pace and ability on some sort of technical trail.”
Even if the team doesn’t quite get enough training in, that may not be such a bad thing.
For many adventure racers, a certain amount of uncertainty is desired. It’s part of the draw of these types of events. Adventure racers want something different, but challenging, in a survival type of atmosphere. Some adventure-racing competitions even involve mystery events, where competitors learn of an event only minutes before starting.
Still, as October approaches, team members have no desire to go in cold.
“The race is getting pretty close,” Airman Marion said. “I think we have enough time to get in a few rides so that the bike is not so foreign come race day, but we have had a set back.”
Captain Reveteriano injured his ankle recently and it’s still swollen and bruised. He was told to stay off of it for 30 days, which ends the week before the event.
“He told me he has been riding a hand bike,” Airman Marion said. “I laughed when he told me that. At least he’ll fresh legs.”