Looking for a good race this year?

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Check this out! Our friends over at Rootstock Racing have been putting together some great events. Eric Caravella has this great report covering two of their events: rootstock-racing

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Race Report: HMARS Mojave

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Dude – where is my water ???

NYARA recently raced in the Happy Mutant Mojave desert race. One of the most scenic and desolated races we have ever done. We have a fantastic photogallery from the race thanks to race photographer Ken Moehn. I usually say that pictures doesn’t do it justice – but Ken has captured the landscape amazingly and you can relive our struggles through his lens.

Photogallery here: (FB gallery coming soon)

Full race report is found here: hmar-mojave-desert

Gear Review: Montbell Downhugger

MontBell Alpine Downhugger 800 Thermal Sheet

I have had the opportunity to race with the Alpine Downhugger 800 Thermal sheet from MotnBell US for almost 18 months now and I think I have reached the point of use where I can write a review of why I think this is the best off-the-shelf solution for adventure racing as well as a fantastic sleeping bag for your camping, hiking and bike packing trips.

First I want to start with some background. As the team captain for New York Adventure Racing Association I have the opportunity race adventure races all over the world. A requirement from the AR World Series is that in many races we have to carry a sleeping bag with a minimum weight of 400 grams. The MontBell Downhugger thermal sheet fits that category perfectly as it weights in at 427gr. On my kitchen scale the actual weight is often somewhere between 435gr – 445gr depending on how much dirt is in the bag.

As an ultralight bag, one would think this is only something that can be used for adventure racing and ultralight backpacking but I have used it in a number of situations: car-camping the south island of New Zealand, climbing and mountain biking trips in Moab, Utah, a mountain biking hut-trip, and hiking in the Swedish mountains. On top of that it has served me well in adventure races like Primal Quest in Lake Tahoe, GodZone in New Zealand and the Happy Mutant races in Utah and New Mexico.

I have no idea how many “nights” I have spent in the bag – but if you count the 90-180 min sleep you usually take per night in AR as “nights” – it is a lot of them. At least it is too many for me to count.

First – let’s start with the best. If you are reading this you probably already know you want something ultra-light but you don’t want to throw away your money on something that doesn’t help when you are cold. This is the bag for you! The weight speaks for itself but it is filled with 800 fill power goose down. This makes it incredibly warm for the weight. The warmth rating is at 50F/10C, but I would say it is ok at way colder temperatures. As an example I slept in it (granted together with the MontBell Plasma 1000 puffy) at the top of a mesa in Utah in January at 15F/ -10C, with no tent or any other protection from the elements. That is 35F colder than it’s rating! Was this a cozy and warm experience? – no, but it was completely doable. I’m constantly surprised how warm it is for the weight and on many adventures there is just no reason not to bring this little “life-saver”.

While I talk about warmth – I need to point out one thing right away. There is no hood. Would it be possible to construct a warm sleeping bag for $200 that also weights 400gr and has a hood. Probably not – I haven’t seen one. This bag is not meant for situations like winter camping or sleeping out in the open when the temperatures are in the teens (even though I did). If that is what you are looking for – this is not for you. This is the lightest possible bag that will keep you warm overnight and allow you to keep moving light and fast through the environment or towards your objective.

MontBell has a patented spiral stretch system. This gives the bag a little more extra stretch than a “normal” sleeping bag. It is actually a nice feature and somewhat of an extra plus, but for me it’s not the selling point of this bag. If you are having leg cramps during the night it helps slightly, but overall the difference between it and a normal bag is not enough to tip the scale. Again – this bag is unbeatable because the weight and the warmth, not for any special features.

One last thing I want to talk about – it’s durability. This was a non-factor when researching sleeping bags for us. We wanted light and warm. If it broke down on us after a week of use we would have been ok with it, as with most high level racing equipment the focus is going extremely fast and not durability. This is true for your running shoes, bike, Formula-1 car and your adventure racing gear as well. I have now slept in this right on ground in a gravel pit, on a soccer field, beside a forest trail and multiple other places. Somehow it doesn’t show any extreme wear and tear. Anyone who knows me knows that I rely pretty heavily on my equipment, which is basically a nice way of saying that I’m ok with abusing my equipment equally hard as I’m abusing my body during races. Somehow this bag still looks new-ish. I might just be really lucky with this one – but it has definitely been a huge surprise to me. We do take care of the bags immaculately between uses, dry and store in a non-compressed state in a dark place without large temperature swings – but we do this with all our bags. So the fact that this looks like it just came from the store even though it has traveled the US and the world is fantastic and not what I would expect for an ultralight bag.

So, is this bag for you? If you are an adventure racers – YES! It’s basically impossible to find something better unless you have an enormous budget and can put in the time and effort to have custom made bags for you team. If you want to have something that is warm and light, carry your own stuff for long distances or have remote objectives – absolutely. If you need a hood and don’t mind to carry extra weight for some extra comfort – please look somewhere else. This bag is not for everyone or for every occasion (even though I seem to treat it like that sometimes) but it is the best bag in its category.

Olof Hedberg – NYARA Team Captain.

How to Make Any Bed Comfortable – Team NYARA Heads to the Bluegrass State

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By: Eric Caravella

Several months ago, Olof, Whitney and I decided to plan a little trip for the first weekend in October. “Where should we go?” I asked.

“I hear Pineville, Kentucky is lovely that time of year,” said Whitney. And since you simply don’t argue with Whitney, even when she does something as ridiculous as suggest Kentucky for our little getaway, it was settled. We booked a cabin and our trip to Pine Mountain State Resort Park was on the calendar.

We arrived, and the cabin seemed rustic and lovely. Olof and Whitney took the bedroom. Ever the third wheel, I was relegated to the pull-out couch. We tested out our beds and were less than thrilled. Olof and Whitney’s had a cavernous depression in the middle which forcibly smushed the two of them together. My pull-out felt like truck springs thinly covered with a sheet of cotton, my ribs and spine were not pleased with the prospect of spending three nights on that torture device.

I groaned, “How are we going to sleep in these conditions? I don’t know about you two, but I’m used to a certain standard of living and these mattresses do NOT measure up!”

Olof chimed in, “This may sound silly, but I heard there was some sort of race going on here this weekend. If we tire ourselves out enough, perhaps we won’t mind our uncomfortable beds.”

“That sounds perfect!” Whitney exclaimed. “It just so happens we have two cars full of gear that will be perfect for this so-called ‘adventure racing!’ And we will even be racing overnight, so one less night sleeping in these awful beds!”

And so it came to be that we entered the USARA Adventure Racing National Championships.

nats10Stephanie Ross (of Flying Squirrel Adventures) was this year’s Race Director, and she put together an interesting course sure to challenge the 60 or so teams that showed up from around the country. The field of competition would be tough, so we had our work cut out for us. We wouldn’t receive our maps until the morning of the race start, so we had plenty of time to fiddle with food and gear the day before. Strategizing is tricky without maps, but we received enough clues to put together what we thought would be a good plan. It seemed clear that the race organizers expected us to carry most of what we needed throughout the race as there would be no access to gear bins, so in a lot of ways that made planning easy.

nats5We decided that between the three of us, we would have one big pack (for Olof the Super-Swede), one small pack (for Eric the Not-So-Super-Runner) and one running vest (for Super-Whitney so she could afford to take my pack when I got super lazy). I, for one, loved this plan. The only problem was when Olof felt less “Super-Swedish” than normal and the heavy pack ended up on MY back. Then I was cursing that strategy. But, that’s why we race as a team. Or so I’m told.

nats7The running prologue went swimmingly. And I say swimmingly, because parts were actually more of a swim than a run. I didn’t mention that it had been raining the whole week leading up to the race, and the forecast called for rain throughout the whole race weekend. We were in for a cold and wet 24 hours. We got to our canoes and set out on the river paddle only a couple of minutes behind the leaders. Paddling has never been our strong suit, so we spent most of this leg just trying to go straight and not flip. A couple teams passed us, but we didn’t lose too much time to the leaders.

nats8Next came the King of the Mountain leg.. a bike ride up a roughly 5 mile switch-backy hill that just seemed relentless. Fortunately, I was thankful for the opportunity to warm up and felt pretty good on the bike. Olof, on the other hand, was not feeling this bike ride. I spent a little time pushing him but soon realized it would be better off to just take his pack. After that we moved pretty well, and ended up with one of the fastest KOM times of the field.

nats4At the top of the mountain, we dumped any non-mandatory weight and made a speedy transition to foot. This was a short 1.5 hour O course with a ton of steep hills. We flip-flopped with a few teams but ended up coming out in 5th place. Then it was time for the misery to begin.

The rain continued as we approached the big bike leg of the race, 5 hours on the dirt roads of a local “off-road park” that used to be a strip mine, but is now evidently where the local Kentuckyans bring their 4-wheelers and coolers of Natty Ice. On the surface, it was apparent this leg would be tricky because (due to the fact that it was a strip mine, and everything had been dug up) the contour lines would be wholly unreliable and we would need to navigate primarily by trail markings. When we arrived, we realized that the REAL reason this leg would be tricky, is that it had been raining for a week and the place was a mud pit. I kept the MonsterPack (which was now soaking wet), and Olof focused on not getting us lost. With the exception of one little hiccup, he did a great job of keeping us from spending more time than necessary in those god-awful bogs they call dirt roads. By the end of the ride, the mud had rendered our bikes virtually unidentifiable. And by the grace of some higher power, we suffered a grand total of zero mechanical problems. I was amazed.

Time for the second paddle of the race, on flat water this time and…. (you guessed it!) in the rain. I was dreading this paddle because I was certain we’d get there in the dark and it would be cold and tricky navigation, but it turned out to be quite a nice, placid lake paddle. Plus, we managed the whole thing in the daylight and actually ended up with the second fastest time on this leg! Quite an accomplishment for the paddle-averse NYARA!

We got back on our bikes and had to go up another hill. Olof’s tire decided to randomly spring a leak on the pavement, which I found especially odd considering how resilient our bikes had been during the previous leg. I stuck a tube in his wheel and we were back on our way. We took a little detour through an apartment complex because the trailhead we were looking for wasn’t immediately apparent, but once we were on the right track we could properly suffer our way up the (muddy) monster of a hill. The descent off this hill was steep and more than a bit slick, so it took us a little extra time to pick our way down without any catastrophes. We lost some time on this leg, but got into the last TA at Pine Mountain Lodge primed for the final leg, a long foot O course that was sure to be the crux of the race.

We took a few minutes in TA to change socks and prep our feet, and then we were back at it with packs as light as we dared. We left the TA at the same time as Team Kuat, tied for 6th. We approached the first attack point, and with some double checking between Olof and me, we chose a spot and began bushwhacking. We found the first CP with little problem, and then continued our bushwhack descent down a steep re-entrant utterly choked with mountain laurel and other various unfriendlies. Our progress was much slower than we would have liked, and those unavoidable doubts about our route choice began creeping into our heads. But we held firm as we were confident with our direction, and the foliage started to open up near the bottom near where we figured the second CP should be. Another team ran into us and continued down the same path. But then we hit a road, (our backstop), and we hadn’t seen the CP. The other team continued on. Why hadn’t we seen it? Back up the re-entrant we went, this time stopping to more carefully assess a minor divide in the ravine, and when I checked up a less prominent re-entrant to the right, I stumbled right onto the orange flag. 20 or 30 minutes lost. Not ideal, but not the end of the world.

We continued on. Olof made the navigation a team sport, and with all of us in touch with the map we were spot on. We ran everything but the steep uphills. We crossed paths with the team that passed us in the ravine, and got an extra charge of adrenaline to stay out in front of them for the rest of the race. We kept checking over our shoulders, certain that there was a team right behind us. We ran our hearts out all the way to the finish line where we found out that not only had we held off Team Kuat, but we jumped ahead of Checkpoint Zero for a 5th place finish overall. (A review of the record after the fact revealed that the 6th place team came in over an hour after us. We’re not really sure which “team” we kept seeing right behind us. It’s entirely possible we were hallucinating).

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It was 3:30am and we were soggy, muddy, sore and tired. But thrilled with our Top 5 finish. And not only that, but the points we gained bumped us up to 3rd overall in the USARA Rankings! An awesome finish to a great year of racing.

But now, the moment you have all been waiting for. The answer you have been desperately seeking. The reason you have read this entire stupid race report. It was time to put our theory to test… was it possible to sleep in our beds (aka medieval torture devices) after pushing our bodies to the max for almost 20 hours?

VERDICT: YES!! We are happy to report that adventure racing makes it possible to sleep anywhere. However, we discovered a problem with our methods. While redlining for 20 hours makes sleep come easy, it also makes every other daily function unbelievably painful. You know, like walking. Or bending over. The day after the race I dropped a $20 bill on the ground and considered just leaving it there.

Oh well. No one ever said we were brilliant for participating in this crazy sport.

nats1Big ups and mad props to my awesome team the Hedbergs. It was swell racing with you, as always. And from all of us, huge thanks to Stephanie Ross and her staff, the volunteers, to NYARA and MontBell. Thank you everyone for making all of this glorious suffering possible. We wouldn’t be nearly as miserable without you.

2015 Primal Quest Tahoe: A list of firsts

Olof Hedberg is here giving us the details about Primal Quest Tahoe 2015. He raced with Journey Racing and had an epic experience! Read on…

olof pq 2

So – It has been two weeks since we finished Primal Quest with (under the circumstances, fantastic 3rd place finish.

There have been two race reports out from other Journey team members. Both provide a much better and more detailed summary than I could ever give.
Katie’s can be found here:
Fletchers can be found here:
So instead of writing up something that has already been done better, I just want to reflect and list of some “firsts” for me in what I would like to call……
Things that happened in PQ that I have never done before:
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Start a race with fever. 

This is a horrible idea. No one should ever do this. I don’t recommend it to anyone. If you do it – have a frikking good reason for it.

Do a 49h bike leg – that ended with 8h of “hike-a-bike”

This is long. About as long as it sounds.

Get to within 1 inch of being bitten by a rattle snake as he strikes. 

Luckily I speak parseltongue so he called it off during the last millisecond. Still by far the most scared I have been during an adventure race – EVER! Only thing that can rival it are avalanches and climbing desert towers.

Do a 1200ft, partially overhanging ascent (on a rope)

That is also extremely long. It is also extremely beautiful. Check out the cool pictures in Fletcher’s race report.

Do a 1200ft ascent in a G-string (mountaineering) harness

This scratches your hip bone skin until they bleed pretty bad. When you start a race with a fever – you have bigger issues than bleeding hip bones, so you really don’t care.

Walk around campgrounds asking for food

We quickly figured out that we got the best results from using talkative Julian and beautiful Katie as the people who asks for food. We struck “gold” (or in this case turkey, watermelon and grapes) at one camp ground and it made it possible for us to move a lot quicker during the last 10h of that leg.

Try to jump a barb-wired fence and completely fail.

I’m glad my legs aren’t 3 inches shorter. I’m glad PQ had the best medical crew there is. I’m glad my teammates are the quickest I have ever seen bandaging up a man who is fainting. I wish my leg would look better by now – but it still looks like shit.

Borrow a bike during a race

I have raced on a borrowed bike before – but have not had my bike break during a race, then after about 3h of walking, find a guy with a bike out in the woods to switch bikes with for the next 7 days. Phil – you are a race saver!!!!!

Rappel with a borrowed bike

“I don’t always rappel with a bike, but when I do I like to go first”

Racing with Journey

Thank you guys for letting me join the team. Julian, Katie and Fletcher – the experience we shared will be with me for the rest of my life.

Finishing Primal Quest

I hope this was the first of many PQs for me. Hard to imagine a better course!

Pictures of us doing some of the shenanigans that made up PQ2015 can be found in my facebook album here: https://www.facebook.com/olof.heberg/media_set?set=a.10153537527582698.1073741832.593662697&type=3&pnref=story
Thank you everyone in my life for providing me with the opportunity to live my life epicly. Without your support nothing would be possible.

10 Questions with the Jersey Inferno Race Directors

Wejersey_inferno_feature are super excited to have John and Aaron Courain as this year’s Jersey Inferno race directors. We’ve asked them a few questions that we hope will help you plan for race day!

1. This is the Jersey Inferno’s third year, but it’s your first year as race directors. What can we expect to be different from prior years?

This year we are going back to the basics.  We have a lot more room to work with so we plan on keeping you moving forward always, you won’t be retracing steps and you won’t be revisiting a single transition.  Hopefully you’re going to get a great look at a really huge chunk of NJ at the Inferno.

2. NYARA’s course designers all seem to have a signature style — Olof loves hills, Rodney and Amy have lots of tricky navigation. What would you say is your style?

We tried to give navigators lots of route options. Not all of the points are super hard to locate but we definitely didn’t want an obvious loop to present itself in each section. Hopefully on race day we will be very surprised at the way different teams choose to attack this course. Go ahead and be creative navigators!

3. Is there anything special I need to know about this race that will make me more successful on race day?

Definitely be ready for a hot day. Don’t under estimate how much hydrating you’re going to need to do. Also get ready for some PTS (poison ivy/ticks/stickers).

4. Will this race include the normal disciplines: paddling, biking and trekking?

Paddling, biking, and trekking are all present and accounted for. Just add a ropes section and you’ve got the course. Old school, no gimmicks, perfect for the veteran racer and the newcomer.

5. What about swims or rappels?

No need to hold your breath you will only be going underwater if you fall out of your kayak.  The rappel will be professionally situated and perfect for all comfort levels. Don’t forget your gear!

6. Is there water on the course or do I need to plan to carry water for the full race?

There will be some water out there on the course that will need to be purified.  Potable water will not be an easy get, but you do have a chance to stow some water with your paddle gear so take advantage.

7. Is there an oasis box or opportunity to buy food on the course or should I plan to carry enough for the whole race?

Allamuchy is pretty devoid of snacks so make sure you pack for the day… and of course the paddle bag.

8. How tricky will the navigation be?

We’ve worked really hard to make sure these maps are perfect so there wont be a bunch of guesswork. If you can find a bearing and walk straight you should do well.

9. What about after the race — will there be food and awards?

Classic NJ Italian fare will be provided after the race, we’ve got plenty of swag for our finishers as well so be sure to stick around (I hear NAARS is providing some awesome trucker hats).

10. Any last minute tips, tricks or suggestions?

DON’T BE LATE FOR REGISTRATION!!

Thanks John and Aaron! We can’t wait to see what you have in store for us.

2014 in Review

NYARA had a banner year in 2014! Congrats to all the members of Team NYARA for racing hard, pushing limits and taking podiums. One of the strengths of Team NYARA is the size and breadth of the team. This year we had several teams racing under the Team NYARA banner in races all over the country–even one in Belize!

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Here’s a rundown of the results:

Team NYARA — Olof Hedberg Team Captain

1st Place NAARS Championship (ENDRacing)
(Eric Caravella, Whitney Hedberg, Mikael Mattsson)

2nd Place Cradle of Liberty (G.O.A.L.S)
(Mikal Davis, Whitney Hedberg)

3rd Place Mayan Mountain Challenge Belize (NAARS/AAS)
(Jason Brown, Whitney Hedberg, Mikael Mattsson)

3rd American Team (11th Place Overall) Untamed New England (ARWS)
(Eric Caravella, Whitney Hedberg, Bruce Swanson)

Team NYARA — Eric Caravella Team Captain

1st Place The Savage (G.O.A.L.S)
(Mikael Mattsson)

4th Place (2nd place two person coed) Krista Griersacker Memorial AR (G.O.A.L.S.)
(Ann Marie Joyce-Hunt)

5th Place Lionheart 24 hour (NAARS/AAS)
(Mikal Davis, Cara Guilfoyle)

Team NYARA/Krell Adventures — Rodney Villella Team Captain

3rd Place Masters Division USARA National Championships
(Amy Bartoletti, Bruce Swanson)

6th American Team (16th overall) Untamed New England (ARWS)
(Amy Bartoletti, Jonathan Neeley, Pete Spagnoli)

Team NYARA — Brice Wilson Team Captain

3rd Place The Jersey Inferno (NYARA)
(Mikal Davis, Cara Guilfoyle)

5th Place The Longest Day (NYARA)
(Mikal Davis, Cara Guilfoyle)

11th Place USARA National Chamionships
(Mikal Davis, Cara Guilfoyle)

Great season Team NYARA! Looking forward to all the fun and adventure 2015 will bring.

Race Report: NAARS Championships – A Badlands Sufferfest

NAARS Championships 2014 — North Dakota

Was this the best 1-2 day course ever designed? Possibly.

Was it the best 1-2 day course we have ever done? Without a doubt!

A simple race report will never be able to capture what we saw during ~26h of hammering through the badlands of North Dakota – but we will try. A ton of thanks are in order – I’ll get to that in the end – but I need to mention one right away, Legendary Randy Ericksen is responsible for all photos in this report. You can see all his photos from the race here.

The whole team studying the maps. This is going to be a big course!

The whole team studying the maps. This is going to be a big course!

The team is starting to behave like a well oiled machine before the race. Everyone has their own tasks — I worry about the race and count down the minutes until I can get the maps, Mikael and Eric take care of bikes, Whitney works out all the logistics. Once we finally got the maps at 4.00 pm everything was ready and we started pouring over the race course. Like any adventure race, it is a relief when you finally get to see the map, make your time estimates and see if you can stick to your pre-planned strategy. Here ours was to go fast, eat little, keep packs light and hammer as hard as we could to the dark zone. We went to bed surprisingly early and all had a “good” night’s sleep.

Night flaas over North Dakota's Badlands

Night falls over North Dakota’s Badlands

Morning rose over the Maah Daah Hey trail. The race started with 35 miles of single track on the trail. Our plan was to take it easy during the first third or so – just to see that everything was in working order and then make sure everyone was fit for fight. After that, the hammer fest began. The scenery was amazing. Luck wasn’t really on our side–we got two flats and dropped from first to third place both times. Rev3 with the Courain brothers (Aaron and John) and Julia Pollock and Journey Racing with AR legend, Danelle Ballengee, Fletcher Hamel, and Ian Hoag were always close behind and passed us during both our flats.

Briefly in the lead - on our way to our second flat, so we could drop down to third place again. Seriously - the landscape was amazing. Never experienced such a beautiful first leg of an AR race.

Briefly in the lead – on our way to our second flat, so we could drop down to third place again. Seriously – the landscape was amazing. Never experienced such a cool first leg of an AR race.

Towards the end of the section all three teams looked significantly tired and there was suffering all around. On the positive side – we had put a huge gap to the rest of the field and it would basically be a 3 team race from here on.

The next section was one of the coolest foot sections we have ever done. Ridges and canyons stretched out over the landscape and 95% of the travel was off trail. We headed out first on the section with Journey a couple of minutes behind. After checking the first CP we took a bearing towards CP 2 – it was a Class III ridge scramble down to it. While none of us lead 5.12 trad climbs, all of us are pretty comfortable in the mountains and thought we kept good speed down the ridge. To our surprise – Journey came flying down the same ridge and almost caught us. Very impressive speed from them in such a “high consequence area.”

It is a lot harder to keep your balance when you are so tired that you have problem standing up straight.

It is a lot harder to keep your balance when you are so tired that you have problem standing up straight.

The section continued and as we took the next couple of CPs our teams were never more than a couple of minutes apart. We both started climbing the same Class III reentrant together and both teams basically gave up on getting a gap during the section, so we start traveling together. We met Rev3, who were doing the section in reverse order, near our second to last CP — which was the last time we saw them during the race.

Yep - one CP was on each of the ridge lines. While navigation was pretty straight forward on this section route choice was critical. Descisions had o be made each minute of what would be the fastest. Scramble up/run around/minimize vertical. Brain was working constantly.

Yep – basically one CP on each of the ridge lines. While navigation was pretty straight forward on this section – route choice was critical. Decisions had to be made each minute of what would be the fastest. Scramble up/run around/minimize vertical. Brain was working constantly. Also anyone afraid of heights would not have done well here.

As we checked in to the TA we are told by race director Andy that the next 40 miles is mostly be on dirt roads. Great – quick miles is our first thought. I bet Andy would laugh really hard if he had seen us after an hour. Hiking our bikes over some sort of washed out trail, which was occasionally closed off with barb wire. Not what we expected, but that is why it is called adventure racing, right? After about 20 miles, the roads opened up and we started pushing toward the next TA. As night fell we saw Journey Racing’s headlamps behind us. Sometimes close, sometimes farther away. We overshot one CP a little and that allowed enough time for both teams to reunite again. We rode the last 10 miles towards the TA within a minute of each other. At this point, I hit my deepest bottom in adventure racing so far. My legs could hardly push down on the pedals. I handed my backpack over to Eric (who biked with two) and he and Mikael took turns pushing me up the hills. It was just something I had to work through — and now with hindsight it is funny to know that less than two hours later I would be the strongest person on the team.

Night falls over the race course. Biking past oil fileds breathing fire out into the night was a memory we will never forget.

Night falls over the race course. Biking past oil fields breathing fire out into the night was a memory we will never forget.

One of the things I love about racing with NYARA is that all pride is left at the door. If you are tired you hand your backpack over to the strongest racer. This is not something that is ever argued about or even discussed. It is what we do and it helps to maximize our speed. Often that means that I carry two backpacks at some point during a race. This time it meant that my teammates took my backpack and towed me. Since I started racing with Whitney I have said that this moment will come “at some race at some point I will be the weak one and you will have to take care of me.” Well, it happened and it was amazing to see how quickly and seamlessly the rest of the team helped me through it. It is truly an amazing experience to be the weak one because afterwards you know you couldn’t have done it without the rest of the team. We rolled in to the TA after about 12 hours of racing. During those 12 hours the difference between us and Journey had never been more than 5 minutes. It started being comical – we joked that they had a secret teleporter because as soon as we thought we had gotten them out of sight they managed to pop back up.

Eric getting ready for the night trek. Fast TAs are a key to our success.

Eric getting ready for the night trek. Fast TAs are a key to our success.

Mikael and myself working together to shave off a couple of more seconds of our TA time. We are still unaware of how much determination and pain will be required to get through the next couple of hours.

Mikael and myself working together to shave off a couple of more seconds of our TA time. We are still unaware of how much determination and pain will be required to get through the next couple of hours.

The next section was a night foot-o rogaine, with some interesting night scrambles and a lot of route choices — we knew from early on this would be the crux of the race. We headed out first, but both we and Journey overshot the first CP,  so we were back together again. Going over how many times the lead shifted during this section would be impossible and boring. It was a night of despair (when we thought we had lost them in front of us), hope (when we thought we had lost them behind us), speed (running close to 6-7 minute miles after 12h of racing on trails), complete tiredness and as we approached CP 4, more self inflicted fear than we have ever experienced in an adventure race.

So by the time we hit CP 4 – there were only two CP’s left. We approached the CP and and saw an enormous ridge shooting up out of the landscape. As we shined our lights on the ridge (which at some points is a knife edge) we saw Journey Racing (who is now in the lead) looking like three small fireflies clinging to the side of the ridge. We climbed after them and noticed that the ridge wall is close to vertical. I got up to the lowest part of the ridge and threw one leg over. Sitting with one leg on each side of the wall I shined my light trying to find the CP. I realized it must be higher. I climbed after Journey higher up the ridge and screamed to my team to follow. About 300 feet higher up the ridge we found the CP and I got up there just as Journey punched and headed out to pick up the last two CPs. We were not more than a couple of minutes behind. The rest of the team gets up to the CP after the somewhat terrifying scramble and everyone looked at each other. Eric spoke first, “I almost died!” Turns out he climbed the east side of ridge, instead of the easier west side. His side was basically Class V climbing on crumbling sand stone. Whitney had moved along the knife edge basically hugging it – with one leg and one arm on each side before semi-intentionally sliding down the less steep side. All of it Insane.

With two CPs to go and Journey a couple of minutes ahead there was no time to stand around and share stories of how frightened we all had been. Journey had taken a direct route over another ridge to the second to last CP – we decided to run around instead. After we climbed down, we took out the tow ropes and ran faster than we ever have during night navigation. As we hit the CP we didn’t see any headlamps ahead of us and then had only one CP left between us and the dark zone. As we headed off for the last one, we saw Journey coming over the ridge about 5 min behind us. We pushed, tore our clothes, screamed, pushed some more and battled our way towards the TA and the dark zone. Finally, I could payback my team for their help while I was dead — it was my turn to carry two backpacks. We ran and powerhiked the last 3 miles to the dark zone knowing that every minute counted. It was intense. When we checked in at the dark zone we all fell down lying in the cold night with heartrates towards 180 bpm — unable to do anything other than scream out our joy over being first (well, I guess I was the only one who screamed, but we were all beyond relieved). We had three and a half hours of rest off the clock until we needed to get going again. Every minute Journey wasn’t there was one minute they needed to beat us with after the rest.

It took Journey 18 more minutes than us to complete the “first day.” This was the biggest gap we had all day – but it was nowhere near enough time to make us comfortable. In AR 18 minutes can disappear with one wrong look at the map.

Feeling like we just had gone to war and come back home alive we dragged our sleeping bags out of our TA box and set the alarm clock for 5.00 am – over 2h of sleep in a 34h race – and it was the best feeling in the world.

The next morning we woke and got ready to leave when the dark zone would open at 6.00 am. No other team was in yet – so it was clear that the two team race would continue with at least 3.5h down to third place. Six miles downhill on gravel and asphalt roads brought us to the paddle put in. Journey hit the TA right behind us. Our plan was to continue to race aggressively, be first on the water and control the race from there. A silly fast TA gave us a 3-5 min gap at the put in. Then we started an amazing, and amazingly cold paddle. Well it was amazingly cold for me, because I jumped out of the canoe into the water a couple of times – once to save a paddle, and others to drag the canoe out of sand bars.

Sun rises over little missouri river.

Sun rises over little missouri river.

Let me tell you - the water is not super warm when you get in it.

Let me tell you – the water is not super warm when you get in it – and those sand bars are not as easy to see when it is pitch black.

As the sun slowly rose, I stopped shivering. Our spirits rose as we seemed to put time on Journey – and by the time we reached the only CP on the 18 mile paddle (which was up on a hill) we had about 7-10 minutes on them.  Mikael our master paddler, directed the team and for the last part on Lake Sakakawea we put our heads down, pushed hard and tried to ignore our aching bodies.

Finishing up the paddle

Finishing up the paddle

Fighting faces.

Fighting faces.

The last 20 miles of biking was more a formality. It started out with a huge climb up from the river/lake – but being so close that we could taste the win put a smile on every one’s face.

No one behind us, as we are climbing up the last hill!

No one behind us, as we are climbing up the last big hill!

I don't know if we have ever done a 2 mile climb with so tired bodies - and it has felt so easy. Probably because we allowed ourselves to slow down for the first time in the race.

I don’t know if we have ever done a 2 mile climb with such tired bodies – and it felt so easy. Probably because we allowed ourselves to slow down for the first time in the race :-).

Almost all smiles.

Almost all smiles.

As the climb mellowed out – it was just 18 miles “rolling” terrain home – all on roads. Sometimes 18 miles of biking feels long – but compared to the rest of this course, it sounded like a Sunday morning picnic.

Wind in our backs and the climb behind us!

Wind in our backs and the climb behind us!

We put up a pace line but couldn’t muster the energy for an all out effort. Instead it was all high fives, smiles and stories.

Approaching the finish line. We are giving out high fives like they are free.

Approaching the finish line. We are giving out high fives like they are free.

Crossing the finish line was so incredibly wonderful. We have never had a better race and even better, the finish was completely a team effort.

2014 NAARS Champions ! It's a dirty job but someone gotta do it.

2014 NAARS Champions ! It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.

A true team effort

A true team effort

What we all have been thinking of over the last 26h - The finish line!

What we all have been thinking of over the last 26h – The finish line!

Securing the NAARS trophy was the perfect ending on our first season with NYARA.

Sweetest trophy ever!

Sweetest trophy ever!

First of all we want to thank Andy Magness and ENDRacing for making the race course unbelievable. It was a true race – with sections of complete hammer fest. It was also a true adventure – where you sometime doubted if the outcome would be success or a short trip to the hospital. Not only did you put “Adventure” race in Adventure Racing – you also put “Race” into it. An amazing accomplishment.
Second – Doug Crytzer and NAARS – your energy and effort to grow the sport and bring it back to where it belongs is amazing. Team NYARA is trying to do everything we can to help you in that task.
Third – All the volunteers. Nothing but smiles the entire race. Clear communications and directives. Thank you for all your time and positive energy!
Last – NYARA as an organization (and Denise Mast), who supports us racing – without you none of this would be possible!

Looking forward to 2015!!!!

Check out the results with splits HERE

NAARS Championship in North Dakota

Team NYARA is at again. This time Olof and Whitney Hedberg along with Eric Caravella and Mikael Mattsson are headed to North Dakota to race. The team is currently pretty spread out — Mikael is in Sweden, Eric is in New Jersey and the Hedbergs are in Breckenridge. Needless to say, there have been nearly endless emails in preparation.

This team is super excited for this race — which features the famous Maah Daah Hey mountain bike trail. We thought it might be fun to take a peak into their preparations…and they seem organized, sort of. 🙂

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Good luck Team NYARA!!