Race Report: USARA National Championships

USARA National Championships recently took place in the great state of Maryland. Team NYARA was there in full force with two teams — one in the Master’s division (Rodney, Amy and Bruce) and one in the elite co-ed division (Brice, Cara and Mikal). Both teams did an AWESOME job. We are excited to share the race report from Team NYARA (elite coed division).

From Cara:

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We arrived in McHenry, MD on Thursday to discover beautiful rolling hills and fall foliage in full effect. We checked in and got some pretty nice swag including Darn Tough socks, a USARA baseball cap, warming gel, and a race t-shirt.

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After settling in and checking out the white water rafting paddle board course, we headed to the pre-race meeting. It was during this meeting that we realized that we were missing a paddle! Mikal frantically called some local outfitters, and explained that we had an emergency and needed a paddle “STAT!” The guys at High Mountain Sports were kind enough to stay open late and provide us with our missing gear.

Race morning came and we got our maps and began plotting the points. While Brice and Mikal were off somewhere acting like a bunch of goofballs, I came up with this BRILLIANT plan to bypass the paddle section. You see, none of the points were mandatory, and you can do the legs in any order, as well as double back to pick up checkpoints from a previous leg as long as you use a means of equal or lesser travel. This would save us several hours on a cold and windy paddle, and we would only lose 3 CP’s. We got confirmation from the race director that it was legal, and so it was set. I guess we weren’t going to need that paddle after all!

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The race started with a trek up to the top of the ski mountain where Mikal did 3 rounds of the white water paddle course while Brice and I looked over the maps. Mikal did a spectacular job and got faster with each trip. Most other racers were coming out of there exhausted, refusing to go another round, but Mikal did it three times like a champ!!!

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We were one of the first few teams to finish and head back down the mountain to start the mtn bike leg. We had a bit of miscommunication which cost us some time in the mtn bike leg, as I was giving Brice the clue for CP 4 when we were in fact looking for CP 5. This was, of course, a learning experience which we quickly remedied with better communication throughout the remainder of the race.

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Following the mountain bike leg, we ran with our bikes to the canoe put-in to get the CP, then started the bike section. We rode to CP 10 (which we would not receive credit for) and set out to collect the foot O points as well as 2 mtn bike points on foot. Our plan was working out very nicely. We then proceeded to do the course in reverse order.

We were the first ones to arrive at the score-O where we received a new map and had to accumulate 100 points total. This is where the real fun started. The elevation was unbelievable and had your calves screaming almost immediately. Luckily after climbing a few of the mtns, you just got numb and it started to get easier. It began pouring off and on, but it was actually quite refreshing, it just made things a bit more slippery.

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Brice’s navigation was spot on, literally having us walking right up on CP’s. Unfortunately, there was a recent story in the news of a hiker on the east coast who was killed by a bear. I had been warned about a large population of bears where we were and we heard a very close by camper yelling at a bear to go away. Well, this combined with a little too much caffeine, and I got myself pretty paranoid. Luckily Brice and Mikal knew the right things to say to alleviate my worries and we spent most of the night trying to make as much noise as possible. Some of the noises were just plain comical and it ended up providing some amusement and helped to pass the time.

Aside from climbing one extra mountain, the O-section went pretty well. As we made our way back to the TA, it was about 3:30 am and we were lucky enough to have my husband Gregg and Derek Lawrence waiting for us 🙂 It was so uplifting to see friends and family at this point in a race! (I think most racers would agree the 3-6am time frame is usually the toughest). It was just what we needed as we fueled up and transitioned into to our biking gear.

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We started to get more and more pumped to finish strong. We then headed out onto a 7-9hr bike leg. We had some long climbs ahead of us, but we kept a tight pace line and were religious about refueling and staying hydrated. Everything was going great until in an attempt to take a shortcut we came upon a really spooky old abandoned house and a broken down trailer in the middle of nowhere. It reminded me of something out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough! This led us into an unbelievably thick never ending bike whack. It was such a relief when we finally saw another team and eventually got the CP.

After one more mtn bike section, we had a long windy road ride back to the Wisp resort. The sun was up by now, however the temps remained in the 30’s with an occasional drizzle. It was during this leg that we had the pleasure of being chased by an angry little dog. It was trying to bite my foot as I attempted to sprint away (uphill) when Brice started calling him towards him. I thought “is he crazy?” but little did I know he had a plan. When the dog began chasing him, he proceeded to squirt him with his water bottle and the dog ran away! It worked like a charm!!! We arrived back at the resort with enough time to head back up the ski mountain to get 1 more CP, after which we ran to the finish! 🙂

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Overall this was a very fun and challenging race. I believe that our strategy to skip the paddle section helped us very much as some teams spent several hours on the water only to gain 1-3 more CP’s. It was also great to see everything we have learned as a team this season really come together. In the end, we finished in 11th place!!! I’d like to give a big thanks to Mikal and Brice for being such enjoyable and hard working teammates and to Gregg Guilfoyle, Kevin Marx, and Derek Lawrence for coming out to show your support!!! I can’t wait until next season!!

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From Mikal:

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Team NYARA had a very successful race at this year’s National Championships. It was a gorgeous venue and my teammates were, as always, great company for 30 hours of racing. We put together our best race yet at the biggest race of the season, which was awesome. I am very proud of the improvement we made over a short period of time and that it resulted in an 11th place finish! Cara gave a great overview of the race, so I won’t repeat all that. I do, however, have to clear the air: the brilliant strategy was my idea, not hers. She must still be a little tired from the race and not remembering correctly. When we got our maps, both Brice and Cara were stoked about the paddle and talking about how that was the leg where we would pass everyone and make up some serious time. I politely interjected that it might be a good idea to skip the whole thing, since there were only 3 points and the paddle was at least 6 hrs of cold, wet kayaking into a headwind (both ways). They were both hesitant, but I eventually explained the whole strategy and convinced them. Turns out it worked perfectly, just like I had planned! Brice was great with the Nav, Cara had her strongest race of the season and when you combine those two ingredients with my strategy, you get one hell of a race! I can’t forget mentioning the MVP of Team NYARA, Gregg, who infused energy into our team at the perfect moments and was constantly finding us on the course to encourage us. Thanks Gregg and thanks to Cara and Brice for a great season of racing and a fantastic finish at Nationals!

From Brice:

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I’m ecstatic about our performance at the 2014 Nationals, taking 11th place among a large field of the best adventure racing teams in the country. Among all the things we did well, there’s one that really stands out: skipping the entire paddle section. I’m usually pretty humble and prefer to give other people credit for ideas that were developed as a group. In this case, however, it was no team effort. Put simply, this was my idea. However, as the race progressed and it became obvious that the strategy was a good move, Cara and Mikal started saying it was their idea. Thirty hours later, they each had completely rewritten history. Unbelievable. I can assure you this was my idea, and you should greatly discount anything Cara or Mikal write or say. At this point, they have brainwashed themselves and I think they each actually believe that it was their idea.

In addition to my remarkable idea of skipping the paddle, here were some other highlights for me:
· Gregg’s support. It was awesome seeing Cara’s husband so much during the race. Being an experienced adventure racer himself, he knew exactly what our next challenges were at each point during the race. He did an excellent job keeping us motivated all the way to the finish line.
· Making noises for bears but not spooking Cara. Whenever Mikal or I made some noise so that animals would hear us, Cara would think we saw a bear or something. Eventually, we figured out some noises that worked, but this was more difficult than you’d think. Every time Mikal did his “wwwwwwhoa!” I would laugh so hard I could barely stay upright. This was pure comedy.
· Improving on things as a team. This was our third race together. After each race, we discuss how we can improve for our next race. At this race, we made meaningful improvements on a variety of issues because we had talked about them. This was a great success for us as a team.

So we took 11th place as Team NYARA in the Coed Division, while our NYARA Masters team (Rodney, Amy & Bruce) took 3rd in the Masters division! Great showing for NYARA at Nationals!

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