Teams work together to navigate with a map and compass to paddle, pedal and trek in central Wisconsin. Photo courtesy Ann Ilagan Photography.

The Rib Mountain Adventure Challenge, the largest adventure race in the United States Adventure Racing Association series, plans to expand this year.

Wausau native Jason Myers works with his family to complete the special challenge at the 2019 Rib Mountain Adventure Challenge. Photo courtesy Ann Ilagan Photography.

Race directors Tim Buchholz and Anna Nummelin brought together racers from eight states in 2019, raising over $10,000 for student scholarships for those attending the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point at Wausau.

Adventure racers use a map and compass to navigate their way through an unmarked course, often discovering hidden gems off the beaten path. The 2019 race included Eau Claire River paddling, singletrack at the new Ringle trails and trekking various Ice Age segments.

Buchholz and Nummelin pour hundreds of hours into organizing each year’s event, which requires a completely new course annually. After racing for a decade, they wanted to give back to the community and the sport.

Their efforts paid off fast. By its third year, the race had grown into the largest adventure race in the national adventure racing series. And Buchholz and Nummelin aren’t stopping there. They plan to reach even more participants this year by adding two more races to the three-hour and eight-hour races. New this year, the event will feature an overnight 18-hour race and an urban navigation event.

With the 2020 USARA national championships in Wisconsin for the first time, the pair expects to draw teams from the entire Midwest in preparation for the national championship.

Buchholz and Nummelin want to remove barriers for first time racers. They finished dead last in their first adventure race, but were determined to continue in the sport and were the series champion of the USARA in 2017 and 2019.

To do so, they design a beginner-friendly course each year that has allowed racers as young as 8 compete. To make the 2020 event even more beginner friendly, they have partnered with UWSP to hold a free Introduction to Adventure Racing course on March 4 at the Wausau Campus, where they will demonstrate how to use a map and compass to navigate.

For those who may not be ready to cover 3 miles on foot, 3 miles paddling, and 9 miles biking in the three-hour event, they are adding a shorter urban navigation event that will allow an even wider range of fitness levels to participate.

The Rib Mountain Adventure Challenge will grow in a second way in 2020, by joining the Ironbull series.

“Based on the mutual goals to promote the beautiful outdoor amenities in central Wisconsin, healthy lifestyle, and give back to the community, Ironbull is a natural fit for the Rib Mountain Adventure Challenge,” Nummelin said.

The Rib Mountain Adventure Challenge aims to provide a challenging, fun and adventurous experience to individuals of all ages and ability levels and strives to highlight parks and wild areas in central Wisconsin. Last year 11 family teams finished the course, with racers ranging from 8 to 70 years of age.
Buchholz and Nummelin hope to replicate the success they have in the family division by expanding team categories to include a corporate division.

“I’ve been to Eau Claire Dells dozens of times, but I experienced the park in a completely new way through Rib Mountain Adventure Challenge,” said Wausau native Jason Myers, who competed with his family.

The Rib Mountain Adventure Challenge is held every Memorial Day weekend, with the exact location remaining a secret until race day. More details available at

Source: Ironbull

Feature photo courtesy Ann Ilagan Photography. Teams work together to navigate with a map and compass to paddle, pedal and trek in central Wisconsin.