Natchez residents compete in Alaskan expedition race

Published 12:05 am Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sterling Yarbrough, from left, Lena McKnight and Tim McKnight pose for a photo during their expedition race in Alaska. (Submitted photo)

Sterling Yarbrough, from left, Lena McKnight and Tim McKnight pose for a photo during their expedition race in Alaska. (Submitted photo)

NATCHEZ — Adventure racing was nothing new for Natchez resident Lena McKnight. But for her husband Tim and son Sterling Yarbrough, the experience was a foreign one.

“I’ve been adventure racing since 2003,” McKnight said. “I’ve done shorter races and my first expedition race was last year in Idaho, a seven day race.”

McKnight recently took on her second seven day expedition race, this time in Alaska, and with the help of the people she is closest to.

“A girl that I’ve raced with for years was on my Idaho team, so she and I and some other people were supposed to be doing the Alaska race together,” McKnight said. “But the other two people dropped out, so we had myself, her, my husband and Sterling.”

McKnight said going into the race she had no idea how the team would work.

“At first you worry about the family dynamic, but we had an agreement going in that I wouldn’t try to be his mom if he didn’t try to be my son and we were just teammates,” she said. “That worked out well.”

What worked out even better was Yarbrough coming home with a world record.

“He holds the world record for the youngest person to complete a seven day race, so that was a big deal,” McKnight said.

Yarbrough said he wasn’t even aware he would be going for the record.

“I didn’t even know I was going for a world record until we got to Alaska,” he said. “I thought it was pretty cool. What people can say they hold a world record, especially around here. It is a good feeling.”

Although the team didn’t finish near the top, they were able to accomplish what they went to do — finish.

“Everybody had different reasons for competing it,” McKnight said. “For Sterling and my husband, it was their first race, so it was like wow for them. Even though I had done one before, I knew without a doubt we were going to complete it. I think not only completing it with my family, but completing it in such a way where we worked so well together, I am very confident that we are going to do another one. I feel that confident about our team.”

The race tested the team’s skills in various areas, from hiking to rafting.

“Everything is kept a secret until you get there and are given the maps,” McKnight said. “You know you are going to mountain bike, raft and do a lot of trekking. You are given the maps the night before and they tell you what you are going to be doing each leg of the race. You have to know that you are going from A to B, and the best way to get there you decide.”

With so many different aspects to the race, McKnight said the team had to get creative with their training.

“It is difficult to train in Mississippi for Alaska,” she said. “We don’t have mountains, white water or glaciers, so we had to improvise as much as we could here.”

Ultimately, McKnight said she was pleased with the experience and how her team came together, And for first time racer Yarbrough, another race is most likely waiting.

“It was my first race, and we did a seven day race in Alaska, so I was definitely a little nervous,” he said. “I think we are going to start a little smaller next time, but I think I could see myself doing it again.”