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Owyhee Challenge!

Supporting community, supporting health, and supporting responsible recreation!

[Most of the] Friends of the Owyhee "team" for the Owyhee Off Road Challenge race!

Left to Right: Amelia Cuomo (55k, 3rd place in women's division!), Sammy Castonguay (10k), MJ Winters (10k), Tim Mazak (5k) and Josh Lingbloom (55k, 7th place in men's division!).

Not pictured here: Ben Hipple (10k), Laurie Castonguay (5k) and Lisa Rittenhouse (5k)

Late March is technically spring, but at 7 am when the Ultramarathon runners lined up for the start of their race it was well below freezing (16° on Adrian resident told me!). Throughout the day, we saw huge towering cumulous clouds with occasional snow flurries or sun. Snow or shine, runners--and spectators--of all ages and distances persevered.

So, what is the "Owyhee Off Road Challenge" (OORC)?

The first run was in 2015, though the conversation started much earlier. This run is hosted by the Adrian

Sports Booster "to raise funds to build a new track for the small rural community of Adrian, Oregon." Adrian is Tim's hometown (the mascot is the Antelope! Sooooo, Owyhee!) and from the track you can see Three-Finger Butte! Though it is called "off road", the run is on dirt roads in the foothills between Adrian and the Owyhee River. On the race website, you can see the map for each race.

As Friends of the Owyhee, supporters of responsible recreation, and supporters of our community, we LOVE this event! Last year, we helped out with a few aid stations along the 55k route (it was the first one last year) and Katalin and Becky hosted an information table at the Adrian Two Rivers park. I was so inspired by the runners last year, that I decided to run... and to put together a "team" of Friends. While there are no official teams, the Friends of the Owyhee team was assembled for three main reasons: 1) to support the race and cause, 2) for our own health, and 3) for each runner to gather pledges for donations to FOTO for their accomplishment.

From top left to bottom right: Ben Hipple; Sammy; Oshen Castonguay; MJ Winters; Neva, Manuel and Laurie Castonguay; Tim Mazak; Teresa R and Lisa Rittenhouse (in white Owyhee shirt); Amelia Cuomo; Josh Lingbloom.

Responsible recreation is a pillar of the Friends of the Owyhee mission. It is also very important to us to support the local outdoor recreation economy. This event is a perfect example of each! As advocates for the permanent protection of Owyhee public lands for future generations, we recognize that tourism will have an impact on the local economy. Adrian is on the doorstep of the Owyhee, both the Lower Owyhee Canyon and the Oregon side of the Owyhee Front including Succor Creek SNA and Leslie Gulch ACEC. Ideally, residents of Adrian can harness this geographic blessing by investing in the tourism services industry. Such as restaurants (Glory Hole Grill food truck is doing well!), guide services, equipment sales or rentals, book and map store, perhaps even a locally owned an operated visitor center! We are thrilled to support the town and residents as they grow into the outdoor economy.

Health! Yes! Cardiovascular health may not be in the FOTO mission but we all understand the personal and community benefits of a healthy lifestyle, including diet and exercise. I'm proud of all that participate in this event to support personal health. It is not easy, takes a lot of determination, and even a bit of pain, but in the long-run, keeping a healthy cardiovascular system allows us to explore the land on our own two legs. If you are reading this and thinking, "yeah, I should do more of that"... there is no better time that the present! Let us know if you'd like to be on the FOTO team next year!

From top left to bottom right: Ben, Oshen and Sammy take a post 10k selfie; Laurie comes in hot giving Manuel (age 7) a piggy back ride across the finish line; Oshen running into the last mile; Neva after her sprint finish of the 5k; perished runner of the 2022 55k (joke!); and the beautiful overlook of Lake Owyhee from about mile 25 of the 55k.

Besides physically training for the event, each runner--being advocates of conservation and Friends of the Owyhee--had been gathering pledges for donations from friends and family, so in addition to supporting Adrian Sports Boosters and the track we were also raising awareness and donations for FOTO! While I do not have a final number quite yet, it is pretty clear we collectively raised over $1000 for the organization. Of this, we plan to make an additional donation (beyond our registration fee) to Adrian Sports Boosters!

Big THANK YOU to folks that pledged their support to a runner and FOTO!

Are you curious how everyone did!?!

Amelia Cuomo - 55k - took 3rd overall and 1st in her age group!

Josh Lingbloom - 55k - took 7th overall and 4th in his age group!

Ben Hipple - 10k - came in 1st in his age group for the 2nd year in a row!

Oshen Castonguay - 10k - also came in 1st in his age group!

And the rest of us I think were just happy to participate and finish!

So, what does all of this have to do with our primary mission of Conservation Advocacy and protecting public land and water?

If you are reading this, you are likely already a conservation advocate and/or a Friend of the Owyhee (if not, consider donating!!) and support the permanent protection of Owyhee public lands by using US Government policy. Sadly, that is not the majority sentiment locally. In 2015, the Malheur County Commission mailed out an "Advisory Ballot" to Malheur County residents asking if they support protections.

The vote revealed the local public sentiment: No to protections.

However, we feel strongly that this was the result of misinformation about "protections", fear mongering, and low-voter turnout of the urban areas.

It is a part of our vision to change this public sentiment. By working within our community -- youth programs, educational activities, conservation advocacy trips, writing and speaking -- we believe we have changed many minds to a "yes for protections" sentiment. This event is a good representation of that work, in addition to our commitment to personal health and the town of Adrian.

Image Credit:

Ultrarunners in the dark - Josh Lingbloom

Ultrarunners on Table Rock with Snake River in background - Angie Sillonis via the OORC Facebook Page

First collage of 10k & 5k runners - OORC Facebook Page

Second collage - SRC; deceased 55k runner and scenic overlook from Josh Lingbloom

Amelia on the winners podium - OORC Facebook Page


Written by Sammy Castonguay

Amelia is my academic sister! I finished my M.Sc. in Geological Science in 2013, creating a map of the "Amargosa Chaos" in southern Death Valley, CA working under Dr. Marli Miller at University of Oregon. After nearly 10 years of no students working in the chaos, Marli recruited Amelia to pick up the project. Saturday she ran 55k, Sunday she few to Las Vegas to meet up with Marli and Monday she went into the field to do rock science!

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