“Welcome to the Wilderman” Race at the Pembina Gorge, July 16

Extreme North Dakota Racing (ENDracing) will be bringing the pinnacle of extreme sports to Pembina River Gorge as the infamous Wilderman race takes place starting on Saturday, July 16.


Posted on 7/9/16

By Melissa Anderson

The grueling 28 hour race will start at Mt. Carmel Dam and will end no later than 11 a.m. on July 17 at the Walhalla Country Club.

The Wilderman is an iron-distance triathlon, consisting of an approximately 2.4 mile swim in the Mt. Carmel Dam, an approximately 112 mile bike ride on the gravel roads and trails in and around the Pembina Gorge, and finishes with a 26 mile run on the trails and river bottom of the Pembina Gorge.

“We are offering a half Wilderman as well which will be approximately half of each of the above distances,” ENDracing stated.

This year’s race will take place on July 16 with the swim starting at 7 a.m. The half Wilderman participants should start finishing around 4 to 5 p.m. at the Walhalla Country Club. The full Wilderman participants should reach the finish line between midnight and 11 a.m. on July 17.

ENDracing has been bringing the toughest races to endurance enthusiasts in North Dakota since 2007. If you have never heard of the Wilderman, here are the categories of participation:

• Wilderman full: 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of mountain biking, 26.2 miles of trail running.

• Wilderman half: 1.2 miles of swimming, slightly more than 66 miles of mountain biking, slightly more than 13.1 miles of trail running.

• Wilderman relay: 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of mountain biking, 26.2 miles of trail running. Teams can be composed of two or three male, female, or co-ed.

ENDracing advises that those interested be fully aware of what this event demands, “This is an epic race. Please, before you decide to do this race, read the race reports from previous races. Go in to this baby with your eyes open.”

According to information provided by ENDracing, more people have been to the moon than have completed an off-road, full distance triathlon, “but we are not sure how long that is going to last, because the off road full distance triathlon is back”.

To explain the challenges that the course will offer those that dare to take it on, one must first appreciate the Pembina River Gorge and the area that surrounds it. ENDracing has created a course that pits the terrain of the gorge against the participants creating an overall course that gets progressively harder as the racers tackle it. Here’s why:

• The Swim: The swim will take place in the Mt. Carmel recreation area reservoir, outside of Langdon. It will be a two loop swim with a beach start.

• The Bike: The bike course will start at the reservoir, connect to a loop through the Gorge which will be completed twice, and end at a remote location. Bikes will be transported from the remote location to the finish line for you.

About a third of the bike course takes place on a state maintained multi-use trail system. General mountain bike skills are all that is required. Although there are many hairpin turns and undulating terrain, the trails are relatively wide and do not require expert biking skills.

Each loop will involve at least one river crossing (without a bridge), which in most years is fordable at thigh deep or less levels. If it is a high water year, ENDracing will provide life jackets at the crossing and possibly a rope and/or raft for ferrying the bike.

• The Run: Starting at a remote location, the run is a continuous one way trip to the finish line. 75 percent of the run’s length will be in the Gorge proper on a network of hunter trails and creek bottom running; 20 percent will be on gravel roads; less than 5 percent will be pavement.

The spectacular countryside of the Pembina Gorge will offer many challenges with the ascents and descents being frequent, sometimes very steep, and often punishing.

The run will involve one significant river crossing, at which life jackets will be provided in the event it is too deep to ford (extremely unlikely). As if that wasn’t enough, most runners will more than likely be tackling the run, at least partially, in darkness making the run portion a real doozy as it will be extremely grueling to complete.

Those competing in the half Wilderman will do one lap of the swim and one lap of the bike course– with a few extra miles at the beginning and end of the bike portion which means they will do about 63 miles of biking total.  They will then face the second part of the run.

This means that the half racers won’t have nearly as much elevation gain as those on the full course but will have some of the tougher creek sections and the river crossing on the run. The run will be about 17 miles.

With such a tough course to race, ENDracing asks that those who will be enjoying the Pembina Gorge the weekend of July 16 please be aware of these racers as they compete in the Wilderman. The organizers and racers will be out in the gorge starting on Friday, July 15 until late into Sunday, July 17.

So who are these daring “Wilderman” and women that will be taking on such a tough and brutal course? They range in age from the youngest racers at 30 to the oldest at 64. They come from California, Texas, Colorado, Georgia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, and even closer to home like Hawley, Blaine, and Maple Grove, Minn. Homegrown heroes from Grand Forks, Bismarck, and Dickinson will represent North Dakota. Making it an international affair, one racer from Toronto, Ontario, Canada will be competing.

A total of 27 racers will be competing in this year’s Wilderman races. Nine men and three women will take on the full Wilderman course while another nine men and four women tackle the half course. One relay team composed of two of the oldest racers, 56 and 64, respectively, will be competing.

“If you thought Ironman™ was the end of the road – the big enchilada – the pinnacle of multi-disciplinary solo effort endurance sports – think again,” ENDracing said.

For more information on the Wilderman, please contact Joel Larson via email at or view the web page at to find the complete roster list, photos from previous Wilderman’s as well as upcoming races hosted by ENDracing

“Think Harder–Think Better–Think Wilder. Welcome to the Wilderman.“