Untamed New England 2014 – Race Report

UNE starting picture

Untamed New England was a huge success for NYARA with their first team finishing as the third US team and 11th place overall, while the second team, NYARA-Krell placed 16th overall.

Official results are here: http://www.untamedne.com/2014Result.aspx

Below is a short summary by Olof Hedberg – Team Captain for NYARA as well an interview with the team from MadAthlete – NYARA sponsor and general supporter of Adventure Racing. NYARA-Krell will publish their race report next week, so you have a lot more to look forward to. Happy 4th of July everyone!!!!

Like all expedition adventure races, the race starts weeks before you actually reach the start line. For us, the biggest problem this time was that our original team member Chris Rice, got injured and had to withdraw a week before the race. Luckily we have a deep squad and Eric Caravella was able to step in with short notice.

As usual, it was actually a relief once the race started and we were on our way. We decided to race hard to the rappel section. With a rope section so early in the race, we knew it would be a bottle neck–so we pushed hard from the start. Unfortunately there was a lot of paddling – by far our weakest discipline – so even while we pushed the pace, we still had a 1h 30 min wait at the top. After that we went slow and steady during the first 24h trying to take it easy and not burn up. After the O-Relay (about 24h into the race for us) we increased our speed and started passing teams over the next day. Then the last day we raced and pushed ourselves really hard just focusing on the next CP. On the last leg, we met up with the other NYARA team and biked to the finish line together in an 8 person NYARA group – absolutely wonderful! – Olof


 

After the race – MadAthlete had some questions for the team:

Q: So tell us a little about the race and how it played out.
Olof: Overall the race went fantastically. We had some small problems during the first 24h, with a navigation mistake from my side, and some slow going after that. After the orienteering relay we hit our stride, and from that point home it was all smooth sailing. We only slept 2h and 10 minutes during the entire race, but that meant that we managed to make all the cut offs (one was luckily extended). I’m just so proud of my team and especially Eric and Whitney who did their first and second expedition race respectively.
Q: What was the highlight of the race for you?
Whitney: Getting CP 43. We knew the timing would be tight and maybe even impossible, but we worked really hard and strategically as a team to get to CP 43 with enough time to make the cut off. When we found the CP and knew we had enough time to get to the rafting start, we were on top of the world. It felt so good to know that through teamwork and sheer determination we would be completing the full course. It felt like we won 🙂
Eric: That was my best AR moment to date. We developed a strong strategy and as a team we covered the 40K, grabbed the point, and made the cutoff, securing our full-course finish and improving our ranking to 11th place. It was flawlessly executed and a monumental achievement for us as a team, and I’ll never forget it.
Q: What was the lowlight of the race for you?
Whitney: Probably finishing the long paddle leg on the first day. I was wet, freezing and really tired. Olof seemed to be leading us on an exploration of all the inlets on Moosehead Lake except the one with TA1 🙂 I was so happy to get out of the boat and into dry clothes. Also the folks at Good To Go had delicious warm food waiting for us. Talk about a turn around!
Q: Was there an MVP on your team?
Olof: I don’t believe in MVPs in Adventure Racing. In other team sports the concept is significant and valid as one person can turn a whole game around. In Adventure Racing you can never go faster than the slowest person, which means that the most heroic accomplishments you often see are made by the person who is the weakest at any given point. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any team sport where your performance is so tied to each individual on the team.
Q: What was the funniest moment on the race?
Eric: My funniest moment was during the whitewater rafting leg. Whitney evidently was frustrated by too few wildlife sightings during the race, and too few hours of sleep. She began pointing out bears and moose along the river shores, where there were zero actual animals. In Whitney’s mind, she was convinced the river edge was a veritable zoo. But in reality, she just needed a nap.
Whitney: For me it was Bruce and his ability to be asleep before even sitting down. He put up a strong effort to stay awake, but when sleep took hold he was out. Watching him fight the sleep definitely make me giggle a few times during the race.
Olof: I get a trail mail from Switzerland saying “There is a funny picture of you sleeping on the main website.” It was so absurd that due to the fantastic internet updates during this race, I’m in the middle of the Maine forest not knowing anything about the rest of the world, and my sister-in-law in Switzerland knows more about my sleeping habits than I do. Just created a really funny feeling.
Q: What new gear did you use or try in the race? How did it perform?
Eric: Trekking poles!! Expedition pace is slower than 24hr AR pace, of course, but even if you’re not running, the relentless hours on your feet can still take their toll. Walking with trekking poles did wonders for alleviating some of the stress on my feet, I would have been so much worse off without them. Additionally, if the race course is mountainous, the poles will allow you to use upper body strength to get you up those hills. I’m convinced this is a major reason my legs felt so good for the whole race, because lord knows it wasn’t because my pack was light. Who carries a packraft over so many mountains??
Whitney: I used the Sea to Summit Traveller Tr I sleeping bag to meet the individual gear requirement. I assumed that I would only be carrying it, not actually using it so I was glad it was super light and compact. But then I did end up using it for the 2 hours we slept on the course and I loved it. It is designed to be a quilt or a bag — the foot has a drawstring closer, which gave me flexibility and allowed me to strategically leave my feet outside the bag to air out 🙂 I was perfectly warm and comfortable while sleeping in it — way better than a regular bivy (which isn’t much smaller/lighter). It will be a new staple in my pack.
Olof: Hand paddles. We had practiced packrafting with a normal kayak paddle in the back and hand paddles in the front. It worked amazingly for the pack raft section. The slow down during the paddling was minimal, and they were so much easier to carry during the Abenaki trek.
Q: What was the most important piece of gear you used during the race?
Eric: Bean Burritos and Bacon
Whitney: My Ghost Whisperer puffy. While I don’t use it much, it is like an insurance policy. I know that if I start to freeze, I can throw on my puffy and be fine within seconds. I ALWAYS bring it.
Olof: I loved our Alpacka GNU. It’s fast, light and super maneuverable. Every time I got in it I was so happy to be flying over the water and resting my feet.
Q: What do you wish you had during the race that you didn’t carry?
Eric: A chain saw
Whitney: More salty food. And plain old water. I was really not happy with my food/sports drink for this race and will be changing things up a lot next time.
Q: What is something new you learned during the race that you will apply to future races?
Whitney: To do the thinking before hand so that I can just go when I am on the course. I think working modularly helps here — in terms of food, clothes, gear, water. I found that using water bottles instead of a bladder worked so much better and could easily transition between disciplines. With clothes, using arm warmers and calf sleeves meant I could quickly regulate my temperature without having to stop — they also provided good protection when bushwhacking. For food I thought in terms of 10-hour bags so that I could quickly grab what I needed for the next section without having to think about it. Breaking everything down into small, simple pieces that can be multifunctional is key.
Q: If I had to do it again I would…..
Whitney: Sing more songs — its a tradition to sing ridiculous songs while racing and for some reason this race was lacking in the singing department.
Eric: If I had to do it again, I would wear long sleeves in the Abenaki bushwhack.
Olof: Take my jacket off in the Abenaki section so I didn’t destroy my brand new rain jacket.
Q: Any parting words?
Olof: It was just an amazing experience and the team really got together and put up a great race. It was great to see that we could pull off such a great finish even with an inexperienced team and the potential for future races is just so much higher. We learn new things in every race and continue to become a stronger, more cohesive team. I have high hopes for Team NYARA in upcoming races.
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