In this new age of ultra endurance, athletes are constantly pushing the limits. This valley is a year-round cradle of astonishing athletic adventures — road races, triathlons, obstacle races, multi-sport relay races, road bike competitions, kayaking contests, winter mountaineering races, lake swimming events and more.
There’s a new addition to the list. Helmet and headlamp required.
Dubbed “24 Hours of Flathead,” the second annual fundraiser mountain bike race is back at Herron Park outside Kalispell later this month, testing riders’ endurance and late-night prowess.
The goal is simple yet challenging — solo riders, or teams of two, four or five people, try to log as many laps as possible in a 24-hour period. Laps are roughly 10 miles along the winding, up-and-down trails of Herron Park, a popular scenic destination for biking enthusiasts.
This year’s race, sanctioned by USA Cycling and one of only two 24-hour contests in the state, is the Montana State Championship Ultra Endurance Race in the 24-hour format. The competition begins at noon, Saturday, Aug. 30 and ends at noon the next day, followed by a concert featuring Keller Williams at the Red Lion Hotel in downtown Kalispell.
Last year’s event drew 48 riders, including Dave Franks, who logged the most laps among solo participants – 21. A four-person team, named Keto-Acidosis, logged the most overall laps, 28, which ended up being roughly 224 miles.
Although it seems like a competition for only hardcore riders, it’s not, according to organizers.
“It can be just for fun. You don’t have to race the entire time,” said co-organizer Tia Celentano. “You can make it as competitive as you want.”
Participants can set up tents in the adjacent grasslands at Herron Park, and with each registration comes four meals throughout the 24-hour duration. There will be festivities during the contest, including games and a live performance by the talented band 17 Mile. Showers will also be available on site.
“We hope to get more popular as the years go on and keep doing this, and expand into a festival with lots of live bands and other activities taking place,” Celentano said.
All proceeds from the race go toward DREAM Adaptive Recreation, a local nonprofit that provides summer and winter outdoor activities to children and adults with disabilities. The organization is in its 29th year, and had 650 participants in its winter programs last year, a 22 percent increase over the previous year. A recent three-day summer camp drew nearly 100 participants.
“The participation numbers are increasing and we’re raising a lot of awareness,” said Cheri DuBeau Carlson, the organization’s executive director.
Two local friends, Celentano and Heather Cauffman, created The 24 Hours of Flathead race as a support system for DREAM Adaptive. Both women have loved ones living with paralysis due to injuries they experienced while participating in the recreational activities they love. The women wanted to create an event that raised awareness and showed support for those affected by life-altering disabilities.
“We really want to see more adaptive equipment be brought here. They’re the one facility that provides adaptive equipment and opportunities. If we can get more equipment for people who are paralyzed or disabled, the more people will use them,” Celentano said.
Organizers are encouraging anyone with a disability to attend the race to be recognized. The event is also accepting donations for DREAM Adaptive, which is fundraising to help for an expansion project at Whitefish Mountain Resort. The organization operates an existing facility in the Spruce parking lot at the resort that holds equipment and other gear as a makeshift ski shack for winter programs.
“We have outgrown the capacity of this building,” DuBeau Carlson said.
The organization has raised roughly $12,000 and needs an additional $8,000 to reach its goal for the addition, which will hopefully be constructed this fall.
Park Side Credit Union in Whitefish is hosting a free lunch and fundraiser for DREAM Adaptive Friday, Aug. 8.
Celentano said she hopes that the funds raised at the 24-hour race will help build on the nonprofit organization’s vital mission. She also hopes it raises awareness for those with disabilities.
“Our overall goal, just like last year, was to provide awareness that there are people here, even if you don’t always see them, who are disabled,” Celentano said. “We wouldn’t be having this race if it wasn’t for them. This is for them.”
Great Northern Brewing Company in Whitefish is hosting a registration and volunteer night for the event at 5 p.m., Aug. 7. Those who register to race or volunteer, or buy tickets to Keller Williams will receive a free pint of beer.
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