Kodiak racers are set to pound new soil on Saturday.
For the first time, an endurance race will take place on Woody Island — the Woody WayFinder Adventure Race sponsored by the Kodiak Baptist Mission.
“Unless there was one (a race) in the 1800s, this is the first one that we are aware of,” said race organizer Anna Marie Wheeler.
The Woody WayFinder fills the void left by the Coast Guard’s Eco Challenge, which was an extreme endurance race that sent competitors on an all-day scavenger hunt across The Rock, rafting rivers, climbing mountains and biking trails. The Eco Challenge’s last competition was in 2016, since then the island’s ultimate athletes have not been battled tested. They will be on Saturday.
However, Wheeler promises the WayFinder will not be as grueling as the Eco Challenge, which lasted 13 years.
“The challenges are not as big. These are fun, little things. A lot of team building things,” Wheeler said.
Because of logistic purposes, Wheeler limited the entries, and on Saturday 48 people — 24 teams — will boat to Woody Island to take part in the race. Wheeler only has one boat, so there will be three waves of races, the first starting around 7 a.m. She hopes the competition will conclude by 1:30 p.m.
The course is roughly 6.5 miles, with checkpoints and challenges along the way. There will be marked trails, but Wheeler said teams could choose their paths as long as they cross the checkpoints. Teams can opt to do challenges for extra points.
The team that does all the challenges, stops at all the checkpoints and has the fastest time wins the race and specialized RockHopper Mountain bikes. The remaining teams will be placed in a drawing to win two specialized Pitch Mountain bikes.
“I think people are excited and nervous about the challenges,” Wheeler said. “I keep telling people don’t be stressed out.”
Wheeler decided to create the adventure race while attending church in January.
“I was in church, and the pastor was discussing God’s vision and how you want to live your life,” she said. “If you do that with the right purpose, he will supply the building or whatever it is you need … God brought it to my heart.”
Wheeler went to Kelli Foreman at the Kodiak Baptist Mission, and the two began planning the race. After getting approval to use land on Woody Island from Lesonoi, Natives of Kodiak and the Kodiak Island Borough, the course was created, with help from Island Trails Network, which supplied maps of the island.
“I’ve done this course in two hours without the challenges,” said Wheeler, who is a marathon runner.
Wheeler moved to the island last year when her husband transferred to the Kodiak Coast Guard base. She said her husband proposed to her at the Rock and Roll Marathon in Savannah, Georgia.
“He ran with a ring in his pocket,” Wheeler said. “After I finished, and he realized I was OK, he proposed.”
Wheeler is hoping that the Woody WayFinder Adventure Race becomes an annual event.
“We are going to see how everything goes and make sure everyone enjoys it,” she said. “We will take people’s comments and see what we can do to improve. I would love to do it every year.”