BELLINGHAM -- Nobody knew what to expect from the Kulshan Quest.
The 22 participants didn't know where they would have to go, the race director didn't know how the racers would plot their routes and nobody knew how much fun it would turn out being.
But as racer after racer, riding their bikes, turned the corner into a grassy area on Saturday afternoon, June 21, behind Fairhaven Bike and Ski, each had a smile on their face.
Each racer complimented the course, the challenge and the fun Kulshan Quest produced while they turned in their "passport" - a race guide that helped organizers keep track of where the participants had been and at what times.
The passport included questions of certain locations, such as "who was the bench at checkpoint-A dedicated to?" to make sure the racers visited each marker. For every question answered incorrectly, the racer or team of racers had 15 minutes added on to their time.
Kulshan Quest is Bellingham's first adventure race - an event combining two or more endurance activities with map-reading skills. The race was divided into two sections - the six-hour race and the 12-hour race.
Racers had to kayak to Teddy Bear Cove and Wildcat Cover, run through trails in Larrabee Park and Fragrance Lake and bike on Raptor Ridge and through Arroyo Park. By no means was it a typical Saturday race.
Racers didn't even know the course until 30 minutes before the race and that was the biggest challenge - choosing what route was the best.
"The night before I'm wondering where is it going to go and how it's going to be laid out," racer Dusty Caseria said. "Even the places we know pretty well, the checkpoints were designed where there was no obvious route to connect them all. ...That's a little nerve-racking."
Kayak rudders broke, some racers legs burned with the sting of nettles, others just had a hard time finding the checkpoint markers between bushes and trees.
After all was said and done, Darrell Sofield blazed the six-hour race the quickest. His time of 2 hours and 44 minutes impressed volunteers and other racers alike.
"I really like the challenge," Sofield said. "Strategizing what makes sense in the order to do it in, that's what I really like about these races. ... It was really well put on, well thought out."
He beat all other six-hour competitors by more than an hour and didn't even appear to be fatigued. He knew he had a good shot of winning after the opening kayak section, when he gained a sizable lead over the competition.
The competition wasn't high intensity but the real challenge was navigating the course while the body wore down, Sofield said.
"As you get more tired, you can forget things," he said. "You have to keep your wits about you the whole time."
The next six-hour finisher was Tim Keigley, who came in at 3 hours, 55 minutes.
Keigley's legs burned as he stood on the lawn, but it wasn't because of the physical endurance part of the race, but the "bush-whacking" of finding checkpoints. At one location, Keigley came across some stinging nettle and his knees were covered in it when he arrived back in Fairhaven.
"The best thing about the race is you don't what to expect until race time," Keigley said. "Some of the orienteering flags were pretty challenging to find. A little bit of bush-whacking and tracking back and forth got me into some nettles. But for the most part it went pretty smooth. I felt like my route was good."
Keigley was the first of a slew of teams that came in within about 30 minutes of each other.
Brian Dunnington finished off the solo competitors with a 4:06. He was followed by team TCB, which included Kevin Hodges, Ryan Eernisse, Jeremy Price and Chad Dale. They came in at 4:20.
Team Trainwreck recorded a 4:30. Trainwreck included Kert St. John and Caleb Edwards.
On the 12-hour side it was favorites Caseria and Emily Morehouse of team Kulshan Brewing Co, who blew away the two other 12-hour teams.
Caseria and Morehouse's time of 7:29 was far quicker than the Manny's Pale Ale team of Marty Couret, Colin Ness and Connie Ness that clocked a 9:01.
Caseria and Morehouse, who will be competing in the U.S. Adventure Race National Championships in October, clocked a quick time despite breaking a kayak rudder while the day was still young.
"That made it hard to keep going in a straight line," Caseria said with a laugh. "We were shooting for (first) today. ... We were hoping to win today but you never know who's going to show up."
"Or what's going to happen," Morehouse added.
Race director Brent Molsberry was pleased with the outcome of the race, especially after the time it took to set up.
Molberry ran the race several times to ensure it's success. Because he had to run it so many times, he made sure it was scenic - not too hard a task in Bellingham - placing checkpoints near waterfalls, in places of populated parks that were rarely known and in locations that would challenge even the most experienced Bellingham outdoors enthusiast.
"Course design is fun but challenging," Molsberry said. "I try to find locations that are beautiful and challenging. I end up running the course a lot of times before hand. So I want to make it really aesthetically pleasing and fun stuff because I have to do it a lot."
Molsberry hopes the inaugural Kulshan Quest is the first of many. The next challenge will be finding routes that are different and exciting for racers.
Reach Joshua Hart at email@example.com or at 360-715-2851.