DFASt Wilderness Challenge team takes 1st in AF

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Four Denver Air Force members that made up the DFASt team took first place out of five Air Force teams in the Wilderness Challenge Oct. 6 and 7 in Fayetteville, W.V.

Dick Fulton, Mike Sonderman and Gene Vesey, from the Defense Finance Accounting Service, and Randi Miles, from the 460th Comptroller Squadron, covered 53 miles of ground and water in the 6th annual two-day, six-event military adventure race in 9 hours, 4 minutes and 10 seconds to place 16th overall out of 51 teams.

Their alternate, Broc Richardson, from DFAS, motivated them through it all.

"I had a major sense of accomplishment finishing that race," said Fulton, author of the team name and slogan "Can't win if you're DSLOw".

The race started off with an 8-kilometer mountain run that, according to C. Mark Brinkley from the Navy Times, was more up than down.

"The mountains in West Virginia are more like hills compared to the Rockies," Fulton said. "But those are some big hills."

DFASt finished the run in 43:36, faster than 35 of the competing teams despite the fact the competition run was the first time the four had run together, he said.

They ranked 27th in the half-mile swim and whitewater rafting, which were combined. Miles swam through a Class 1 rapid and climbed in a boat with the rest of the team to battle 35 Class 3 to 5 or higher rapids through the Gauley and New rivers and finish the first day's events. The team finished in 1:48:07.

In the fourth event on Oct. 7, which was a treacherous 14-mile mountain bike race, the team pedaled through flat terrain, intense hills and tons of mud puddles in 1:40:30, the sixth fastest time. Then, the team split into pairs to paddle the seven-mile duckie race through Class 1 through 3 rapids. A duckie is a combination of a raft, a canoe and a kayak powered by double-edge paddles.

The final event was a 14-mile endurance hike through some of the most rugged terrain in the Appalachians.

"It seemed the last two and a half miles were all uphill," Fulton said.

The team finished in 3:17:30, a time that put them above 33 other teams.

They began training for the event in April, Vesey said.

The team ran a 7-mile loop through Dakota Ridge, biked a 20-mile loop up Mount Falcon, ran the 12-mile loop around the Cherry Creek Reservoir and one 15-mile run by Denver International Airport, among other treks, bikes and hikes, to prepare, he said.

Fulton said at least three of them trained together in one of these about once a month. They also ran in the Cherry Creek Sneak, a local endurance race. Miles ran, swam or biked an hour a day as part of her usual workout routine. She is also a marathon runner.

The training paid off, however. Their goal for the event was to finish in the top three of Air Force teams and top 15 overall. They didn't meet the mark for the second goal, but they blasted the first out of the water, Vesey said.

Fulton said next year, they have to save face and take first in Air Force again. They are also shooting for a higher overall placement.