A Spirit of Optimism: Auspicious beginnings for two great new events | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

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A Spirit of Optimism: Auspicious beginnings for two great new events


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Getting wild at the Wild Horse GamesThis past weekend, two passionate race directors brought innovative new events to Central Oregon at a time when entry fees are considered a luxury and sponsors are sparse. The auspicious debuts, however, of the King and Queen of the Cone and the Wild Horse Games were as sweet as Snow Cones and Mud Pie, demonstrating that Central Oregonians have not lost our sense of adventure in tough times.


The inaugural King and Queen of the Cone was a huge success, with 72 competitors taking on the uphill/downhill ski race at Mt. Bachelor. The race required new thinking for some Central Oregon backcountry skiers to embrace a competitive challenge on their "get-away from the crowds" gear. Locals were schooled a bit by experienced out-of-towners from Montana, Washington and Canada who sported ultracool, ultralight AT gear. Knowing Bendites, we'll be back to win next year.

Crowns off to Race Director Kevin Grove for his vision for a new event that is a perfect fit for Bend and Tiaras off to his wife Molly for becoming the first Queen.


At the last minute, and not really having any idea what I was getting into, I was recruited to fill a spot on Team Bend, competing in the first-ever Wild Horse Games (WHG) at the Washington Family Ranch near Antelope, OR May 1-3. Yes, that's the infamous old Rajneesh compound, which later became known as Big Muddy Ranch. It's set amongst 66,000 acres of tussock-spangled hills punctuated by remarkable rock formations.

The WHG was a unique weekend filled with extreme events taken on by about 25 teams of 10 individuals. I met my teammates (brought together by uber enthusiastic Bendite Nancy Hackbarth) Friday night. We were a motley mixture of older and younger, male and female, with a shared sense of adventure and anticipation. The WHG began that night with a team obstacle course, in the dark, that we were required to complete before receiving our race packets. We quickly bonded and then spent the rest of the evening organizing and strategizing.

On Saturday morning, the team divided and then conquered an off-road triathlon relay and a geocaching competition. "Over-the-top" and "above-and-beyond" are the phrases that come to my mind in describing the WHG, one of the best-run events in which I've ever participated.

In the geocaching race, we had four hours to scramble over steep and rugged terrain to find 205 hidden caches using a GPS. Yes, TWO HUNDRED AND FIVE. It took the course designer over two months to plant them all. Now that's dedication.

Steve and Kenny, the mountain bikers on our team, learned why this place was called Big Muddy. Clay-like mud jammed their brakes, deraileurs and SPD cleats and made riding virtually impossible. Race volunteers came through with flying colors, however, retrieving abandoned bikes and power washing them for the athletes afterward. Now that's service.

By Saturday afternoon, Team Bend was standing in ninth place and ready to win more points on the Canyon Swing, the Ropes Course, the longest Zip-Line in North America and the Blob Iceberg Adventure. All I can say is that you had to be there to fully appreciate these fun events, especially the Blob Iceberg. One teammate leaps from a two-story platform onto a huge inflatable tube known as a Blob. When he or she hits the blob, their teammate, perched on the blob's end, is catapulted into a lake. Both swim to a floating, inflatable iceberg, climb to its peak, slip down its slope and swim to the finish line together. Like I said, you had to be there.

The WHG culminated Sunday morning with the Creek to Peak Relay race, which involved a chariot race, an inner tube run, a short swim and a nearly vertical sprint to the top of Communication Hill, fittingly the highest point on the ranch.

Who dreams this stuff up? In this case, WHG is the creation of Nike Executive Mike Yonker, as a fundraiser for the Young Life camp. Yonker likened the spirit of WHG to the Hood to Coast Relay and has a vision for the event to be that successful. Round up nine friends for the 2nd annual Wild Horse Games on June 4-6, 2010. For more information, visit www.wildhorsegames.org.

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