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Great day to run, paddle and bike; 28 complete Kinniator Challenge

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Jake Wisse of Hudson lets out a yell as he crosses the finish line on his bike to win the Kinniator Challenge Sunday, April 28. Wisse completed a two-mile run, nine-mile kayak paddle and 11-mile bike ride in 2 hours, 52 minutes and 52 seconds. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 4
Women’s winner Tawna Pogreba of Whitehall begins her paddle down the lower Kinnickinnic River during the Kinniator Challenge Sunday, April 28. Pogreba finished in 3 hours, 20 minutes, and 22 seconds. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 3 / 4
Cory Novinska of Columbus, Minn., center, Jake Wisse of Hudson, back left, and Jared Cutts of Osceola, enter the Kinnickinnic River at the foot of the lower dam for the kayak portion of the Kinniator Challenge Sunday, April 28. The race featured a two-mile run, nine-mile paddle and 11-mile bike ride. Wisse topped a field of 28 competitors, Novinska was second and Cutts finished fifth. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 4 / 4

Lots of people go for two-mile runs, or kayak down the lower Kinnickinnic River, or go for long bike rides. But to do all three of those things, back-to-back-to-back, in less than three hours?

That's what a handful of the 28 competitors in the Kinniator Challenge, hosted by Kinni Creek Lodge and Outfitters, did Sunday, April 28.

The race began with a two-mile run through the streets of River Falls from the American Legion Post 121 to Glen Park, where participants picked up their kayaks and portaged down to the Kinnickinnic River before paddling approximately nine miles to Kinnickinnic State Park. There they had to portage their kayaks up the hill to the upper beach parking lot inside the park for an 11-mile bike ride back to the American Legion Hall.

Jake Wisse of Hudson was the first across the finish line, completing the challenge in a total of 2 hours, 52 minutes and 52 seconds.

"Portaging out of the river up to the state park; straight up, carrying heavy kayaks, that was brutal," Wisse said when asked what was the toughest part of the race. "We had to stop four or five times and huff and puff, just trying to get up to the top. And then you've been in a kayak for who knows how long, and hour-and-a-half, and you've got to get the legs moving again for the biking part."

Wisse was followed by Cory Novinska of Columbus, Minn. in second place in 2:54:52. The pair, along with fifth-place finisher Jared Cutts of Osceola (2:59:16) and sixth place finisher Jason Eccles of New Richmond (3:02:59), are co-workers at Bending Branches Paddles in Osceola and decided to try the challenge together.

"We all said, well, it's a paddling event; we should probably get some guys and enter," Wisse said. "So we've been trying to run and do a little paddling during the week and a little bit of biking since the snow melted and just kind of pushed each other. None of us wanted to be the last out of our group."

Dan Holter of Hudson and Chad Clark of Hammond also decided to try the challenge together, the pair grew up in River Falls and described themselves as "staples on the Kinni," but hit a snag after the drain plug on Clarke's kayak came loose.

"I bet I emptied 100 gallons of water," Clark said. "The drain plug is on top but every time I went through a rapids it dipped a little. Once it got enough in it it just stayed underwater."

Clark said the run went better than the pair thought, but like Wisse, he said the portage up the hill from the state park beach to the parking lot was a killer.

"With a kayak on your back; that was the low point," he said. "You've been stuck in a kayak for an hour and a half. Your legs aren't moving, and you're trying to carry a kayak up a hill for a half mile.

And he didn't get a lot of help from Holter.

"We were planning on helping each other but then one of his handles came off so I was like, 'OK, you're on your own,'" Holter said.

The pair still managed to finish in a virtual dead heat, with Clark clocking in at 3:39:55 and Holter in 3:39:57.

Peter Rayne of River Falls completed the trek in 3:24:39 and saluted Kinni Creek Outfitters and its owner Paige Olson for hosting the event.

"It was a great race," he said. "The river is cold and fast but who doesn't love a cold, clear Kinni. I took on a couple of waves, because it's tricky paddling out there; there's some swirling currents. And the run and the bike were great. It was a great day, it's a really great race."

Rayne said the toughest part for him was the uphill bike portion about halfway back to River Falls on County Road M.

"The hill by the trailer court," he said. "My legs could not handle that. Then the downhill was blazing fast. I'm not sure I've ever gone that fast on a bicycle before."

Olson and Kinni Creek Outfitters hosted the first Kinniator Challenge in August of 2017. After a hiatus last year she decided to revive the race and move it to April this year. She said proceeds from the race will go back to the American Legion to support local veterans and thanked the more than 20 volunteers it took to pull the race off.

Rayne was happy to see the race come back.

"It was great," he said. "There were people along the trail clapping so it was great to see the community out supporting the race. And it's an altogether different river than last year after that wash. But you can't help liking the scenery. It's a great way to get outside and spend some time in the great outdoors."

And while Holter said he and Clark's times weren't as fast as they had hoped, he was able to put their performance into perspective.

"We survived," he said. "The key to happiness is low expectations. And we finished."

Bob Burrows

Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.

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