Coast Guard, civilian rise to the Eco-Challenge, win annual race

By Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Mooers and Auxiliarist Tracey Mertens

Late August saw the traditional running of the Kodiak Eco-Challenge. Now in its 11th year the challenge inspires community members to form four-person co-ed teams and race across parts of Kodiak Island.

The Team

Support crew, Joe Mackey, John Campbell and Amber Williams with team Fiery Physical Geniuses On Island Time Shanna Moeder, Shane Williams, Kevan Hanson and Jason McGrath. Photo courtesy Shanna Moeder

The Eco-Challenge, sponsored and run by Coast Guard Base Kodiak MWR, is a race built around the ideas of ecology, good sportsmanship, competitiveness and all around good fun. Though the exact course of the race is held secret until the race starts, the participants can count on events that will challenge them physically and mentally in almost every kind of terrain.

The teams work together to finish each leg of the race and check into each designated checkpoints. They are told only the disciplines and skill requirements they must possess in order to compete. The race takes between 6 and 12 hours to complete.

Teams leave the starting line together and finish together. To be considered ranked, all team members must cross the finish line together. Often several different routes may be taken; the teams choose their own course as long as each checkpoint is passed in order. Therefore, strategy and intelligence are as important as physical endurance.

Physical Geniuses

Shanna Moeder, Shane Williams, Kevan Hanson and Jason McGrath. Photo courtesy Shanna Moeder, U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist Tracey Mertens.

This year’s winning team was the Fiery Physical Geniuses on Island Time, a group of three Coast Guardsmen, Lt. Kevan Hanson, Petty Officer 3rd Class Shane Williams, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason McGrath joined by their friend Shanna Moeder. Hanson and Williams are part of the HC-130 Hercules division at Air Station Kodiak. McGrath is an aviation survival technician also at Air Station Kodiak and Moeder is a civilian and dietician for the local Kodiak Area Native Association.

McGrath is a veteran of the Eco-Challenge, he and Moeder have been in Kodiak for several years while Hanson and Williams are new to the island this year. The team participated in cycling, hiking, running, navigation, rafting and marksmanship.

“We went hard to catch the front team, Victorious Secrets, and we kept going hard to stay ahead of them,” said Moeder. “We had a lot of cramping in our legs, but as we completed each activity we just kept supporting each other and I feel that’s why we did so well…teamwork!”

Raft carry

Team Fiery Physical Geniuses On Island Time carry their raft to the water during the 11th annual Eco-Challenge Race in Kodiak, Alaska, Aug. 17, 2013. Photo courtesy Pam Foreman.

The course varies year to year. This year it included the areas known as Bear Valley, the highway stretching from Kodiak City out to Chiniak and Pasagshak, Cliff Point and the Coast Guard base. During the second biking portion near Kalsin Bay the teams cycled about 20 miles toward Cliff Point. That’s when the Physical Geniuses took the lead. From there they had to hike down Cliff Point and raft across Womens Bay to the Coast Guard Base Kodiak.

“To get the raft to the water we had to hike about two miles with a very heavy raft, which was a bit of a challenge,” said Williams. “I think that was one of the hardest parts.”

The race includes several bonus events including a memory game and scavenger hunt with the potential to deduct time from the team’s overall clock. Ax throwing and archery were also part of this year’s competitive challenge. The Physical Geniuses were able to get one ax to stick in the target and several arrows, including one bulls-eye, knocking more than 20 minutes off the team’s overall time.

Eco-Challenge

Eco-Challenge teams commit items to memory during the 11th annual Eco-Challenge Race in Kodiak, Alaska, Aug. 17, 2013. Photo courtesy Pam Foreman.

The challenge doesn’t happen without the Coast Guard MWR staff, dedicated volunteers and each team’s support crew. The support staff provided the team with food and water and ensured quick transitions from one leg to another by preparing the gear for the next event.

In the tradition of the Eco-Challenge, every participant is required to participate in a local environmental service project that improves the environment. All participants of this year’s race worked with the local non-profit organization Island Trails Network on a trail project on Near Island, close to downtown Kodiak, the weekend before the race.

“It was sunny, warm and really fun,” said Moeder. “We were all happy to be a part of it and to help ITN with a trail we will all enjoy someday soon!”

Out of 17 teams this year 16 finished. This is the first year in several that a Coast Guard team won. Physical Geniuses came in at 6 hours 18 minutes; with time deductions applied their official time was 5 hours 50 minutes and 33 seconds. In 2012, No Murre-C and in 2011 the Tuff Puffins, teams comprised only of civilian Kodiak-residents, won the race. The Physical Geniuses are looking forward to a chance to defend their title in 2014.

For more information on the Eco-Challenge or to sign up for next year’s race please visit the Coast Guard Base Kodiak MWR website.

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