Taking it to the limit

Competitors test physical,
mental strengths in Adventure Races

Biking, hiking, ropes work,
orienteering part of challenges

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(May 2009) – Debora Swinford-Hutcheson leads a busy life as a counselor, fitness instructor and mother of two. But in her “spare” time, she manages to hike, bike, swim, paddle and train with weights one to three hours each day. As if that is not enough, during the summer months, she teaches high ropes skills to students at Indiana State University and can often be found running marathons or competing in triathlons.
Swinford-Hutcheson, 52, is just one of the dedicated athletes who will be competing in the seventh annual DINO Series Mission Adventure Race on May 16 at Carrollton, Ky.’s Gen. Butler State Park. Previously, the race was held at Versailles State Park in Versailles, Ind., but it moves every two years so competitors will not become familiar with the course, said Brian Holzhausen, owner of the DINO Series.


Photo provided

Kayaking is one of the challenges
teams must complete in the
Mission Adventure Races.

“We like to keep things challenging,” he said. “I used to camp at Gen. Butler State Park every year as a kid, and I think this park will be a great experience for the racers.”
His DINO Series, headquartered in Indianapolis, offers racing events in mountain biking, trail running, off-road triathlons and adventure racing.
During the 18-hour Mission Adventure race, participants travel by foot, bicycle, and canoe in teams, using map and compass to find checkpoints. Each team must stay together the entire race. Along the way, they will encounter various natural and manmade challenges that test physical and mental ability and creativity.
The disciplines of the race include navigation throughout the entire event and plotting with Universal Transverse Mercator coordinates; cycling on and off-road; trekking; paddling; ropes and climbing tests; and a few special challenges and surprises.
A shorter, four-hour version of the race, Mission Lite, will also challenge competitors who may not feel ready for the longer race.
After competing in marathons, triathlons and other races for more than 30 years, Swinford-Hutcheson, of Carbon, Ind., was ready for something more. A friend of hers that had competed in adventure races invited her to a seminar about them, and she realized it was something she would love to do.
“Once my friend started describing the disciplines involved, I was hooked,” she said.
She won her first race in October 2008 during an all-women’s race called “No Skirts Allowed.” “My partner and I, Kim McNealy, were lucky enough to win and that was a total thrill,” she said. “I have placed several times, but that was my first win.”
Some of the adventure races she has competed in are 24-hour races. She said the hardest part is about 3 a.m. when one’s body and mind shut down, but there is still a long way to go. “It takes a lot of push to keep moving, and good teammates make all the difference.”
She said she has met many wonderful people of all ages, sizes and professions in adventure racing. “I have made some wonderful friends, and we all love dong these crazy things, together.”
Tina Blakely of Bright, Ind., has been an adventure racer for seven years. She competes on a co-ed team. She said several years ago, she was watching the Eco Challenge on TV and saw a team that consisted of Playboy Bunnies. “I thought to myself, if those girls can do an expedition race, I know I can,” she said. “I participated in my first race the following year, and I was bit by the endurance race bug and fell in love with the sport immediately.”

Debora Swinford-Hutchenson

Photo provided

Debora Swinford-Hutcheson takes
a short break during a race.

She is a mother to two small children and works for an insurance firm and is an assistant cross country and track coach for the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati. She is also a group fitness instructor and a personal trainer.
Blakely, 38, trains in several different ways. Once she decides on a race a year in advance, she then bases her cardio workouts and strength training programs on when the races are scheduled, the distance-duration of the race and the location. “It’s challenging to fit it all in, but the end results are rewarding,” she said.
She said the hardest part of an adventure race for her is the navigation-orienteering aspect. “I am very novice at this skill, and to be quite honest, it’s probably the most important skill to master,” she said. “All of the teams I have been on have had people who are far more skilled in that area.”
She said she has been attending orienteering meets and is working to learn more about navigation.
Lincoln Crum, of Charlestown, Ind., is one of a group of six friends who decided to compete in adventure racing as a way to build camaraderie and create great memories. Five years ago, the group competed at a five-hour adventure sprint race at Carter Caves in Ashland, Ky.
“Finishing that race and with just four minutes to spare was something we’ve never forgotten,” said Crum, an auctioneer and motivational speaker for the real-estate industry. “We want to create the same lasting memories in this upcoming race.”
He and his friends, who range in age from 30-42, will compete as two teams in the four-hour Mission Lite race. For the race, they have all been training on their own, whether it is biking a couple of days a week, trail running or hitting the gym for some cardio work. “It will be interesting on race day to see how prepared we are,” he said. “There will be people more trained and ready for the race than we are, but we are looking forward to it.”

• For more information about the DINO Series Mission Adventure 18-hour race and Mission Lite, visit: www.DINOseries.com.

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