Team NYARA was excited to try out the newest AR series to launch in the US — The Happy Mutant AR Series. The first race this year was in St. George, Utah — the desert, in January can’t be too bad, right? Wrong. The race and weather gods had something very non-deserty in store for us. St. George had a lot more snow than usual which caused some last minute course changes — unfortunately limiting the single track mountain biking and taking out what sounded like some awesome ropes sections. What we were left with was a grueling, muddy, cold march through the desert that tested even very experienced racers. The navigation was tricky at times, the elevation gain was significant (around 20K up in 73 hours) and the mileage — especially on foot — was loooooooong! Good ol’ AR fun.
Team NYARA raced with Olof Hedberg as Captain and Navigator; Whitney Hedberg as Mandatory Equipment and two guest stars: Scott Mead (who was doing his first 3-day race) and JD Eskelson (who has raced nearly every single race in the history of AR). We wanted to give each team member the chance to give their “Highs and Lows” of the race. A big thanks to Toby Evans and his crew — Emma Gossett and Cliff White — who somehow managed to pull off a complicated 3-day race with only three people. Thanks for all your hard work! Also, thanks to Cliff for finding time to take pictures in between his hundreds of other jobs. We also want to thank both Scott and JD for racing for NYARA and doing a great job. Special thanks to JD for documenting every step of the way with photos and videos.
Now for “Highs and Lows”
First up, Whitney.
- In one word: Mud.
In more words: That mud was the absolute worst! It was like devil mud that instantly invaded every nook and cranny on my bike and added like 100lbs. Needless to say I was a little bit grumpy through the muddy sections. Just ask JD for an impression. He’s got me nailed.
- The views — seeing for hundreds of miles in all directions and being in awe of how beautiful the desert is.
- Watching JD fall asleep literally instantly. Many, many times.
- Scott’s perfect personification of relief when he realized that we would go up and over a giant mesa rather than all the way around (towards the end of a brutally long foot section).
- Biking down a mesa on a half snowy trail in the dark.
- The climb up from Virgin to the Flying Monkey Trail.
- Pace counting for 1500 meters and nailing it!
- Sleep walking and not falling down. Like a lot.
- Beautiful sunsets and sunrises.
- Finishing and winning!!!
Now for Olof:
This was a cold, cold, cold race with a lot of mud. It was also beautiful, unforgiving and pretty brutal. The weather – which was untypically cold for the season, caused snow to fall just hours before start – which leads me to my low: The need to change the course. The snow and mud made several trails impassable and unridable. We carried our bikes on our shoulders or dragged them along in the mud for a total of almost 12 miles in this race. That is a lot of bike carrying. I don’t mind a good hike-a-bike, actually I like them because other people seem to dislike them – but I hate missing out on single track riding. Unfortunately due to the weather, we missed out on a lot of cool single track. Nothing anyone could do anything about – it’s just the forces of nature and that is why it is called adventure racing (or high speed camping which I like to call it sometimes). The other low would probably be that BBOFF (Big Ball OF Fire) shined a little less on us, compared to what we where hoping for.
Next up, Scott:
- Running on crusty, frozen mud at night. Bad footing + low light + questionable shoe choice = bad knees 36 hours later. Yep, that’s what we’re going with.
- Being “the painfully, slow one” the last 24 hours. Largely circumvented by #2 below.
- The first 24 hours. Great pace, great nav, great communication…well, just feelin’ great!
- TEAMWORK – It’s a beautiful thing when it comes together. Frankly, I wouldn’t have finished this race without it.
- Realizing that descending with balky knees is 3 times as fast going backwards as it is going forwards. Hey, do what it takes, right?
- NASCAR pit-stop tire repair while JD was lamenting his choice of tubeless tires. THAT was funny!
- Whitney stole my #2 (see her #3 above). Somehow trekking miles up, across, and down a mesa seemed much more palatable than trekking miles around said mesa. Go figure…
- Gigantic, warm hamburgers in the middle of the night. I know it happened, just not sure which day.
Last, but far from least, JD:
Well, now folks how looow can we gooo here… seriously overall not many “lows” in this race albeit I’d say these Top 5 count:
- First, off finding out the “Ropes” section was eliminated due to Mother Nature and her evil snow and icy weather– why is it almost ALWAYS the rope discipline in AR’s that get the axe?
- Secondly, all those darn “Out-n-back” routes that we pretty much had to take on the course especially the bigger climbs on both feet and MTB… seriously there is so much terrain and trails out West it’s a shame to backtrack!
- Third, pouding the super-hard/frozen icy high altitude jeep roads (aka as I dubbed them Couples Single Track) on foot while running for CPs– at one point I remember Whitney asking me: “Are you okay, JD… your making a lot of grunting noises over there”? Hahah, that was me venting as the outside of the balls of my feet (especially over the 4th and 5th metatarsals) were going into the “Hurt Locker” zone– bushwhacking was the fix for my feet!
- Fourth, having high hopes for some “epic” MTB single track when FINALLY on day three we rode a few miles of the Gould Gulch which seemed so deserving, but so, so short!!!
- Fifth, running over a damn sheet metal screw on a road and then having my new, high-tech “tubeless” tires NOT stop the leak– WTH is the point of “tubeless” tires, if they can’t stop a leak diameter which is under the max rated size?!
WOW, lot’s of similar “highs” aforementioned by my Teammates above, but here’s more:
- Great race HQ location with plenty of time to Team plan, prepare gear, etcetera
- Keeping the Eco-Challenge days mystery about maps, number of CPs and having to plot during the race
- The great Olof navigation and Teamwork to stay on course and sniff out those elusive CPs which a lot of other Teams had problems with!
- Whitney being the “TA Nazi” to keep us boys on a timely track :0
- Scott for keeping his cranium cavity in the AR game and not giving up despite all the serious pain, plus for being creative and willing to keep up the CFM (Constant Forward Movement) e.g. walking backwards faster downhills than forward– what!?!
- Phenominal Wild West terra firma with killer “alpenglow” sunsets on sugar snow covered mountains, crazy colors (including two types of super-sticky clay– just ask Whitney) and feeling like an old Explorer as we trekked on some famous historical trails like the Escalante Trail
- Eating “real food” at crazy times and places whenever possible and figuring out that the Hotdog rotissier warmer makes a great gloves warmer (on top, of course, not on the rollers) 🙂
- Watching my Teammates go to work on my MTB flat rear tire as I just cussed up a storm and within no time hardly at all “viola” it was fixed in record NASCAR time– thanks guys, great Teamwork, again!
- Finding that elusive (3rd from last) CP36 in “the bowl” after seemingly looking at a whole hillside of said “bowls”!
- Feeling just fine on the mountain biking trails, climbs and pace with absolutely zero, nada, no MTB (not even spin class) workouts since USARA Nationals in last October– apparently snow skiing at high altitude is great AR cross-training 😉