The Wilderness Challenge is almost here! This year’s race will be totally different than in the past.
I’m starting to get very excited, and a little nervous, about this upcoming event. Months of preparation (started back in April), a lot of hard work, and we are now only days away from the start.This will be the first time ACE has hosted this prestigious event, and it’s going to be a totally different experience for the racers — done in a way that only ACE can do it.
On October 8, 58 four-person teams (232 racers — one of the racers on each team must be a woman) will converge at ACE to compete in the annual MWR Mid-Atlantic Region’s Wilderness Military Challenge. We have active-duty military teams from all over the country: California, Florida, Massachusetts, Colorado, Lousiana, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., representing the best of the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and Army, coming here to compete in a grueling, 50-mile race.
The first day is easy. Yeah, right! The race starts off with an 8K run that descends more than 700 feet down to the Gauley River. One section is so steep, dropping more than 300 feet in less than a quarter of a mile, goats would go around it, Not my kind of thing but, hey, this is the military, after all.
Then the teams jump into rafts and race 10 miles down the Lower Gauley — challenging, world-class whitewater. Surprise: We upped the challenge this year. In the past, two teams (luck of the draw) would jump into large rafts and plow downstream; this year, ACE is only putting one team per raft and we are using our fleet of 14-foot high adventure rafts, making the challenge even more exciting. The smaller rafts are faster and more maneuverable and it will completely change the dynamics of the race.
And it will be pure whitewater this year. (Only at ACE!) We will start the race farther upstream, at the bottom of Wood’s Ferry, adding more miles of rapids. Challenging rapids like Koontz Flume, the Mash Brothers, Heaven’s Gates, Upper and Lower Stairsteps in a smaller raft is going to be a rockin’ good time. And the best part is the race ends at Pure Screaming Hell, the biggest rapid on the Lower Gauley. This is another ACE exclusive, because we will be ending the race at our private Sugar Creek access, eliminating the last 3 miles of flat water that other rafters must endure!
With day one over, it will be back to base camp to rest tired muscles — hope they booked one our cabins with a hot tub! My next blog post tomorrow will describe day two of the race, so be sure to check it out.
What do you think of day one?