WYATT EARP DEXTER CHALLENGE— Jackie Hrabok-Leppäjärvi, right, highfives a runner crossing the finish line at last Saturday’s Dexter running, biking and walking race from Nome to Dexter.

Athetes brave strong winds during Dexter Challenge

When I looked out my living room window two and a half hours before the 2016 Wyatt Earp Dexter Challenge race on Saturday I was greeted by beautiful sunshine. It looked to be a great day for racing, until I noticed the bushes on the tundra across the street swaying vigorously.

My daughter and I left on our bikes for the event registration at Old St. Joe’s with quite a push on our backs. We were pleased to see that a substantial number of people were undeterred by the cool temps and the stiff, north winds. The final tally showed ten had come to run the 8-mile course up and over the Dexter Bypass, nine brought their bikes to ride the 12-mile route down the Beam Road, and 17 had opted for the 5-mile walk that started at the base of Anvil Mountain. In addition, seven members of the Top to Top sailing expedition joined in on the fun after the official start.

The Norton Sound Health Corporation’s CAMP Department is the official sponsor of the Wyatt Earp Dexter Challenge, which has been a staple of the Nome outdoor racing scene for some time. It is one of the last big summer races, and serves as a sign that fall is fast approaching.

I had a front row seat as race director Megan Timm started the runner’s at 10:00 a.m., and shortly thereafter the bikers were lined up for their race. After covering many of the local sporting events the past two years it was fun to actually be in the arena.

A confused taxi driver pulled over as he saw the group of pedalers fan out across Bering Street. A spectator called out “ride like the wind,” just before the take off. We would, however, only be able to do that for one block. The lead bikers spread out quickly after the race start. There would be no bike drafting or records set on this day. I could only hope that some of the runners would be able to save energy by tucking in behind one another.

In the end, nearly an hour later, I crossed the finish line in Dexter only able to average 12 miles per hour. The wind had been so unrelenting that I could coast only a few yards along the way. The force of gravity was nullified and it was necessary to pedal hard just to make progress, even on the down hills.

Almost exactly one minute later Aaron Rose came across the line, posting a time of 1 hour, five seconds. Nils Hahn finished a minute later, and a minute and a half after that Greg Finstad concluded his race.

The Dexter Challenge is another great example of a community supported, healthy outdoor sporting event. It gave an up-and-coming high school athlete like Aaron Rose a chance to shine. It also let the community see Hahn and Finstad, two of Nome’s most dedicated runners. These guys serve as great examples of people who have made lifelong commitments to healthy living.

Reports at the finish gave details of quite a duel for first place in the running race, as the leaders took turns out front. Rose led the way to the Dexter Bypass Road, but Hahn caught up, and passed him, at the base of the big hill. About three quarters of a mile before the finish line Rose made his final, and decisive, move to claim first place.

“Aaron went out pretty fast,” said Hahn after the race. “Aaron is a fighter. He a good runner and he gives it his all.”

The younger runner appreciated the competition with Hahn saying, “He's an experienced runner who will pass you if he gets the chance.”

“I should have had a kite, or a sail,” said third place biker Jackie Hrabok-Leppäjärvi, who reported that her weather app showed 20 mile-per-hour winds before the race start. Hrabok-Leppäjärvi was the second female biker across the line, and third overall, with a time of 1 hour, 14 minutes, 24 seconds.

Another great benefit of community races such as the Dexter Challenge is that it allows family members to race together. My 14-year-old daughter Mallory was the first female biker to finish. Her time of 1:11.39 was just nine seconds slower than the fastest female running time turned in by Riley Bennett-Vockner. 

This race is especially significant because of CAMP's commitment to helping individuals in our community develop plans that promote healthy lifestyles. A prime example was provided by fourth place biker Harvey Farley. After the race he told how happy he was in losing over 60 pounds while following a program set up with the help of CAMP.

The incentives for racing on Saturday varied. Hrabok-Leppäjärvi was using the race as an incentive to continue her conditioning. She, too, has used the bicycle to lose weight. In her case she reports shedding over 50 pounds, and has kept it off for some time.

“The wind felt like it was pulling me back,” said Carol Seppilu after completing the running course. She used the Dexter Challenge, as well as the Cape Nome Marathon a few weeks back, to continue on her path of getting ready for a 20-mile race she will run in Louisiana in December.

The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112


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