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The nation’s biggest AR returns

June 6, 2022

/ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – The nation’s largest adventure race returned this weekend, with a sold-out field of five hundred athletes take part. The seventh edition of the Rib Mountain Adventure Challenge, which includes three-, eight-, and eighteen-hour divisions, drew participants from fourteen states, ranging in age from seven to sixty-nine. While the longer division often draws top teams from the region – reigning national champions Team Toyota Tundra claimed the top of the podium in this year’s eighteen-hour race, their fourth win of the season – the annual Memorial Day event is perhaps best known for welcoming newcomers to adventure racing.

Megan LaDue, an occasional 5k finisher, made the trip up to Rib Mountain, Wisconsin from Florida to participate in her first adventure race. LaDue is in good company; 58 percent of this year’s field chose the Challenge as their first or second adventure race. “We are thrilled to introduce so many to the sport we fell in love with,” said Anna Nummelin, who directs the event with her husband and Rib Mountain Racing teammate, Tim Buchholz.

LaDue teamed up with Douglas Henke, her college sweetheart, in the three-hour race. After she and Doug graduated, LaDue joined the US Army and they parted ways. In the Army, she ran obstacle courses and learned to navigate. “It was challenging and exciting and pushed me to places I didn’t know I could go…” The pair recently reunited after a twenty-year separation. They started chatting remotely, and then by phone – and then Henke flew down to Florida for a business trip and invited LaDue to participate in the 2022 Rib Mountain Adventure Challenge. “Fast forward to the present, after four kids, a divorce, and somewhat forgetting who that girl was… Now at forty, I’m so excited to be doing this race…. and it will be a great way to reconnect after twenty years!”

The duo joined forces with Henke’s cousins, Paul and Hallie. As Team 507, they navigated their way through fourteen of the sixteen checkpoints on the course, strong river currents preventing them from visiting the final two. “The entire experience was incredible,” LaDue reflected. “Riding the bikes through the cow barn was my favorite part. This race was literally the hardest thing I have ever done physically… [and] I would say that adventure racing is a great way to rekindle a relationship!!”

Team Liberty Pups returned this year for their fourth Rib Mountain event. The team – whose name is a nod to their pet dachshund – has historically consisted of mom Liesle Markevitch and daughter Ellise. The pair learned about adventure racing as many have: watching Eco-Challenge. But their journey into the sport was more complicated. In ninth grade, Ellise entered in-patient treatment for an eating disorder. One of her symptoms was over-exercising, and after a year away from activity, part of her recovery included easing back into sports. Her reentry coincided with her mom’s introduction to Eco-Challenge. “It looked like horrible fun,” said Liesle, a longtime Crossfitter. “It was totally outside of my comfort zone and I couldn’t believe people would actually do it.”

The pair decided to enter their first Rib Mountain Adventure Challenge as a local, low-stakes competition. “It was new to us so we weren’t completely invested. If it was too much, we could just walk away.”

They loved it.​

They argued. They laughed. And they grew in the sport together. After their second Rib Mountain race, Ellise took over the maps and hasn’t looked back. In the 2022 edition, she navigated the team – with the late addition of her father, Mike – through the entire three-hour course, clearing the bike and foot portions of the event. “My husband would say we had ‘horrible fun,'” mused Liesle.

Off the race course, Ellise has thrived in her recovery. She started a mental health awareness group at Wausau West High School, where she graduated as valedictorian of her class last week. She will start at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this fall.