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Kickapoo Valley Reserve’s Dam Challenge halted midway due to weather

Kickapoo Valley Reserve’s Dam Challenge halted midway due to weather

With 370 registered and roughly 100 choosing not to race understandably due to weather conditions, a majority of racers braved the elements for the 2019 Kickapoo Valley Reserve Dam Challenge, along with team supporters and spectators.

The challenge, a major fund raiser that benefits the reserve’s educational program, eventually was stopped due to thunderstorms that moved into the course area. Ultimately, it was determined it was not safe for the race to continue with lightening occurring.

“The rain was bad enough, but when lightening moved into the area we had no choice. Safety of the participants, volunteers and staff meant we needed to shut it down,” Kickapoo Valley Reserve, Executive Director Marcy West said.

“Initial estimates are that we raised nearly $18,000 for the year-round outdoor education program,” she added.

According to the reserve’s website, the education program at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve offers hands-on environmental learning opportunities that promote positive environmental values to people of all ages. The reserve’s Visitor Center offers interactive museum exhibits as well as classroom space, and stresses that some of the most exciting learning happens on the trails and in the woods of the reserve’s almost 8,600 acres. The education program provides structured hands-on nature education year-round.   Programs include Saturday and evening public programs, school field trip experiences, summer credit courses for adult and high school students, and summer day camps for middle school students. 

The triathlon competitors paddled seven miles down the Kickapoo River, biked fifteen miles, and finished with a three-mile run. Recent heavy rains to the area though, saw the paddling course shortened to three miles due to a log jam about mid-way on the river course.

Race categories included, individual racer-tandem boat, individual racer-solo boat, and an open 2 and 4-person relay team. Race classes for the event were Citizen (new or recreational racer with limited race experience or training time), and Competitive (an experienced racer that trains and has above average ability).

With the start slated for 9 am this past Saturday, the weather broke, offering a halt in the rain. No strangers to the Dam Challenge and back for their 6th year of participation, Cari and Katrina Forest of Madison, WI, said the weather couldn’t be better, admitting they favored running a high river. “This is going to be fun for us, we love the paddling,” Katrina said.

Local racer Theresa Marquez of LaFarge, WI, one of a handful of competitors in the Guru, or 70+ age class, said that besides being a great community event, thinks the Dam Challenge is awesome. This was Marquez’s 7th time competing in the challenge.

“For me personally since I am over 70, it’s my way of saying you can just keep doing these kinds of things and it helps you age in a good way. For me, it is a challenge because it keeps me thinking throughout the summer ‘hey I need to get ready for the Dam Challenge’, it keeps me on my bike, and keeps me trying to stay fit and eating healthy so I can do this. I just want to finish it and do the best I can. I love being with all these people who are just like me. That’s another really wonderful thing, to be with people that feel the same way you do about something. I really am excited about it, it’s awesome, I love doing it,” she said.

Event Coordinator Ali Dickson noted, there were so many great volunteers that showed up and who are always so excited to come help with the challenge. “I don’t think they notice the rain after a while because there is so much excitement around here,” Dickson said.

The Friends of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve volunteer every year the night before the event, putting on a pasta supper, giving racers that boost of carbohydrates necessary to maintain energy.  

With the Friends of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve one of the Gold sponsors, which is the highest tier of sponsorship that you can for the reserve, Dickson said that it is a fun event for them. “We like to take care of each other we provide some things for them, and they provide some things for us, so it’s a hand in hand kind of relationship,” Dickson exclaimed.

She continued, “It’s a really great way to get to know your sponsors. Because all of our sponsors are local mostly within a 30-mile radius, but at least within a 100-mile radius. It’s really great to see who is in our community, who appreciates outdoor recreation. You get to meet new folks that are excited about the same things you are, or just excited to help out because we have a plethora of volunteers that show up and do whatever they need to do,”

Dickson stressed that the reserve has always had reviews with their surveys that they send out, that show their volunteers are the happiest that they’ve ever seen at an event.

Dickson also shared that the Hocak (Ho-Chunk) Nation is also a Gold sponsor. Like the Friends of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, the Hocak have made a monetary contribution with their sponsorship.

“They have land within the Kickapoo Valley Reserve as well, so it’s nice that we have that kind of relationship with them. We take care of land; they take care of land and they help us sponsor events. We like to be available to sponsor their events when they have them as well,” said Dickson.

When asked to sum up the event Dickson said, “It’s a fun triathlon, even for people for who aren’t super into outdoor recreational events. It’s a really great introduction, just a fun way to wrangle some family or friends and do something great. If you have any inclination, come out and help the reserve because the whole triathlon is a fundraiser for our education program. It’s a great way to meet your neighbors and have a great time outside,” she said with a smile.

Race results reflect those that finished, and those that did not, due to inclement weather and the KVR’s interest in competitor safety.

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