DeCook wins second M22 Challenge

From staff reports

Saturday, June 11, was the perfect day for a race in and around the Glen Lakes. Sunny and a cool 64 degrees Fahrenheit made it an especially beautiful day in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

There was excitement in the air celebrating 14 years of the M22 Challenge as 900 athletes took off on foot southbound on M-109 towards the Dune Climb. The event, which returned to its June date after last year’s postponement due to COVID-19, is known as one of the most beautiful races in the nation. The Challenge includes a 2.5-mile run in the dunes, a 17-mile bike ride through downtown Glen Arbor and around the Glen Lakes, and a 2.5-mile paddle on kayaks and standup paddleboards in Little Glen Lake.

Ryan DeCook, 41, from Washington, Michigan, won this year’s race with a time of 1:14:59. This was his fifth M22 Challenge.

“Every year it’s got something a little bit different,” said DeCook. “I think it’s you against the course. It’s a tough course and it’s about pacing and figuring out how hard to go in each phase.”

“It’s one of the most beautiful races anywhere, I love the Challenge and the technical aspects of climbing the Dunes. Being out on the paddle isn’t particularly one of my strong points but I love doing it. The bike is challenging and I love doing it, it pushes me every year. I had some tough prep this year but I had to come back.”

Mandy Paull, 25, from Cheboygan, Michigan, won the women’s group with a time of 1:25:24. This was her fourth Challenge and second win in a row.

“I think the best part of the race is the run and the most challenging being the kayak,” said Paull. “Overall the weather was just incredible and it was just a fun race.” On what keeps bringing her back to do the M22 Challenge, “I really like the energy of this race in particular. It’s a cool time of year and the dynamic is really fun.”