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Team Outek - Wisconsin/Illinois/Iowa

Team OutekRESULTS: 1st, 2024 Trekkineer Adventure Race, Michigan; 2nd, 2024 Northern Route 24-Hour Adventure Race, Wisconsin; 1st, 2024 Watertown Challenge, Wisconsin; 2nd, 2024 Milwaukee Urban Frog Adventure Race, Wisconsin; 2nd, 2024 REI Mad Dash, Wisconsin; 2nd, 2024 IATOS Adventure Race, Chicago; 1st, 2024 Planet Adventure 24-Hour Adventure Race, Indiana; 1st, 2024 Illinois State Championship Sprint Adventure Race; 1st, 2024 Trekkineer Adventure Race, Michigan; 1st, 2024 Driftless Zone Adventure Race, Wisconsin; 1st, 2024 Southern Kettle Moraine Challenge, Wisconsin; 2nd, 2024 Best of the Midwest Points Series.

THE PLAYERS: Stacey Dean, 38, the team’s captain, is a Registered Nurse, YMCA boot camp instructor and freelance writer from Tomahawk, Wisconsin. Although she didn’t get involved in the multi-sport scene until 2024, she has already competed in more than 30 adventure races and the 2024 G4 Challenge. One of the strongest adventure racing women in the Midwest, her strengths are mountain biking and Nordic skiing.

Mark “Shep” Szczepkowski, 42, is taxidermist who also happens to be Stacey’s husband. Shep has lived an adventurous northern lifestyle, which Stacey says, gives him a peculiar “instinct” when it comes to reading the land and topography in the bush. He’s also known as a relentless mountain biker, trail runner and paddler. His only weakness? Teammates say he’s “like a hyper dog, chasing everything he sees.”

Keith Boever, 43, is a human services administrator from Dubuque, Iowa. His background includes marathon canoe races (past national champion), dragon boat festivals (past gold, silver and bronze medallist at the world championship) mountain and road bike races, cross country ski races and orienteering events.

Brian Pfister, 32, who hails from Wilmette, Illinois, is a senior research scientist for an engineering firm. A former collegiate track and cross-country athlete at Beloit College (where he held the school’s triple jump record for several years), Pfister has also competed in triathlons, mountain bike races and cycling events.

THE SCOOP: Stacey formed the team, previously called LooseGravel, in 2024 after many frustrating attempts to find a competitive team. Twisting her husband’s arm to race with her, they competed in about a half dozen events that year and, amazingly, won every one. They decided to try their hand racing as a co-ed team of four and picked up Pfister, Boever and Rob Nytko (who has since moved to Tennessee). The success continued as they placed first or second in almost every race they entered in Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois. In April, the foursome of Dean, Pfister, Boever and Nytko won the Planet Adventure 24-Hour Challenge against probably the deepest field in the Midwest, despite Nytko having a severe case of bronchitis and vomiting over the gunwales during a paddle section.

HIGHLIGHTS: In May, the team had a big lead in the Great Mississippi Adventure Race, a 24-hour race in Savannah, Illinois. But after they got lost on a paddling section, they arrived at the next transition area cold, wet and dejected. They switched to skinny rims on their mountain bikes for a flat 35-mile ride, but they forgot to pack skinny tubes. When one of Stacey’s tires went flat, they wound up losing a lot of time on the course trying to re-inflate the tire. With about six miles to go the finally resorted to stuffing the tire with grass, to no avail. The team survived and wound up sixth overall, second in the master’s division. “Right now our biggest obstacle is ourselves,” Stacey says. “When we lose, it’s because we make a dumb mistake. We’re very fast and very intense. Unfortunately, because we are so new to the sport, that intensity leads to carelessness and we miss simple things.” The team didn’t dwell on its mistakes and followed that race up with podium finishes in their next four races. It also won the two-race Adventure Week Challenge in Wisconsin, which netted the team $2,500 and a trip to Arizona.

NOTEWORTHY: Team Outek is one of many teams who have raced with AR navigator extraordinaire Vytenis Benetis. He helped them win the 24-hour Trekkineer in Michigan in August. “He is quite the character — funnier then heck,” Stacey says. “He’s a real cornball like us, but very, very humble. And what a gifted athlete!”

The team’s primary sponsor is Outek.com, an outdoor sports shop based in Lincoln, Nebraska. Hammer Nutrition, Seairsports, Titec, Leki, Simon River Sports and Rudy Project are among the team’s other sponsors. For more about the team, visit www.loosegravel.org.

WHAT'S NEXT: The team plans on racing at the Balance Bar 24-Hour Race in New York (October 10-11), the Illinois Sprint Adventure Race Championships (October 16) and the USARA National Championship in French Lick, Indiana (November 5-6).

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