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updated: 5/19/2012 10:40 AM

Adventure Race to challenge hundreds in Aurora

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  • Evie Kevish with Hollywood Casino-Aurora models the Amped Up Adventure Race souvenir T-shirt, which sells for $40 and is covered completely with the race logo designed by Aurora artist Lisa Gloria.

    Evie Kevish with Hollywood Casino-Aurora models the Amped Up Adventure Race souvenir T-shirt, which sells for $40 and is covered completely with the race logo designed by Aurora artist Lisa Gloria.
    Courtesy of Paddle and Trail

  • An almost impressionist style design of runners and athletes created by Aurora artist Lisa Gloria is the logo for the first Amped Up Adventure Race to be held Sunday, May 27, in Aurora.

    An almost impressionist style design of runners and athletes created by Aurora artist Lisa Gloria is the logo for the first Amped Up Adventure Race to be held Sunday, May 27, in Aurora.
    Courtesy of Paddle and Trail


"Adventure Race" says it all.

Adventure, an exciting and remarkable experience involving danger and unknown risks, is what organizers say participants will find during a new athletic event coming Sunday, May 27, to downtown Aurora -- the first Amped Up Adventure Race managed by Paddle and Trail and sponsored by Hollywood Casino Aurora.

"The word 'adventure' pretty much defines the nature of this race," said Matt McCain, owner of Aurora-area online radio station Cynosure, who will be broadcasting live from the race. "The racers are challenging themselves more than the person next to them."

Beginning at 8 a.m., as many as 300 participants will test their limits in running, biking, kayaking and navigating an urban obstacle course.

They'll be competing for possible prizes and raising money for a new canoe chute across the New York Street dam in Aurora. But participants say it all comes back to the sense of adventure they'll gain from attempting the race's four challenges, and the sense of accomplishment they hope to feel after triumphing over the course.

"I'm trying to prove to myself what I have inside and that I have the drive to do something like this," said Blain Oxenreider, a 40-year-old police officer from Beloit, Wis., who will be competing in the Aurora Adventure Race, as well as two races in other cities also sponsored by Paddle and Trail.

"I like to challenge myself just so I can prove to myself that I can do it."

The adventure

With running six miles, biking eight miles, kayaking or canoeing four miles, and then powering through an obstacle course that might include flipping tires or carrying sand bags, the course should offer something to challenge every athlete, said Therese Oldenburg, spokeswoman for Paddle and Trail, an outdoor and athletic store with locations in Aurora, Loves Park near Rockford and Beloit.

"This is something that just lines up so well with our different disciplines we offer in our store," Oldenburg said. "It really speaks to our customers and what they're interested in."

The store sells equipment for kayaking, canoeing, cross-country skiing, biking and trail running. It also rents canoes and kayaks and takes customers on paddle tours along the Fox River. So three of the race's four components are natural for Paddle and Trail customers.

The fourth -- the obstacle course -- adds to the fun, specifically because of its unpredictability, Oxenreider said. Part of the excitement comes from not knowing exactly which obstacles to expect, although a list of 20 possible challenges is posted on the race's website.

Oxenreider said he's prepared for tire flipping and rope climbing after participating in an adventure race last year. This time around, he's in it to push himself, although he says the race also caters to more low-key participants.

"You can make it a relaxing day or a competitive day," he said. "Obviously, I'm a competitive person so I'm going to push myself, but it's not something you have to be really, really in shape to do."

Getting back in shape after an on-the-job injury in 2006 has been part of Oxenreider's motivation to get into adventure racing, though. He said he fell on ice while on duty and landed on his right hip -- on top of his gun -- tearing up cartilage and breaking bone.

"Getting back into shape after gaining 30 pounds, getting back into the lifestyle that I enjoy -- that was the driving force," Oxenreider said.

He invites Aurora area emergency personnel to join him in the competition, which costs $70 for military and protective services members, $75 for general racers and $55 for ages 14 to 17. Registration is available online or on race day, and also includes team options for youths and adults.

Oxenreider and his family will be among the racers and spectators converging on downtown Aurora for the race, along with a pre-party, watch party and post-race celebration that organizers say will highlight the eateries and recreation opportunities the downtown has to offer.

The cause

Adventure Race participants won't just be running, biking, paddling and conquering obstacles for the fun of it -- they're also contributing to a fundraising effort led by Aurora area paddlers to rebuild the canoe chute at New York Street, said Charlie Zine, who comanages Aurora's Paddle and Trail location.

"We're doing this to raise money for the venue for our sport," Zine said.

The canoe chute, built around 1993, could use design upgrades to be more suitable for novice paddlers, Zine said. That way, people can access downtown Aurora directly from the river.

Zine estimates the work would cost between $200,000 and $300,000, and he said he hopes profits from the race will make a dent in those expenses.

The race's other aim is to involve segments of the community not directly tied to athletics -- like artists, radio broadcasters and restaurant staff.

"What's really nice is that local flair," Oldenburg said. "It's about the community and the community getting involved and making it authentic."

Aurora artist Lisa Gloria was commissioned to design the race T-shirt's logo, which will be imprinted once on shirts given to all racers, and emblazoned over 100 percent of souvenir shirts available for $40.

"It's almost like wearable art," Zine said.

McCain's Cynosure Radio team will bring the vibe of the race to family and friends of competitors who couldn't make it to watch in person, he said. He'll even have a broadcaster in a kayak on the Fox River to give updates directly from the water.

"I will have people embedded in the race that will be calling in and talking with me," McCain said.

His broadcasts will be part of a musical celebration that will coincide with the hours of adventuring participants will be doing on downtown Aurora's streets, paths and waterfront.

The celebration

Sunday is race day, but Saturday, May 26, is Pre-Amp Party day. From 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m., adventure racers and their supporters are invited to Two Brothers Roundhouse, 205 N. Broadway Ave., for packet pickup, race insights and live music.

As racers begin competing with staggered start times, the party continues from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the obstacle course in the North River Street parking lot at River and Spruce streets. Small Shiny Things and Alexander Webb will provide live music to those who buy $5 tickets to a beer garden.

An afterparty will follow at 3:30 p.m. at Ballydoyle Irish Pub, 28 W. New York St.

"Even if you're not necessarily athletic, you can come down and hang out in the beer garden and watch the people compete through the obstacle course," said Cathe Stieg of Aurora, who has been volunteering to promote and plan the race. "You don't necessarily have to be an athlete to get involved and support it."

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