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

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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.

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…

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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.

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.

Solo Racing with Chris Obara

Chris Obara, a longtime Team NYARA member, gives us some insight into solo racing.

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Traditionally, adventure racing is a team based sport, but borrowing from orienteering, more and more adventure racing organizations are opening up competition to solo racers. As a big fan of racing solo, I’d like to share some tips and observations I’ve made over the years.
First of all, why race solo? While I’ve been accused of being antisocial, I don’t think that’s the case (well not entirely). For me the biggest draw is the sense of accomplishment that I feel after completing a race, especially a long race resulting in a podium or a win. Racking up checkpoints while being completely on your own in the woods with nobody to lean on for hours and hours can be really satisfying.

People usually ask if me racing solo is lonely. I find that in an adventure race, my brain is usually so busy managing nutrition, strategy, navigation and time that this isn’t much of a factor. The paddle sections can get a bit boring though so I usually sing or talk to myself to get through those. You just have to make sure you stop if you see anyone on shore or else they’ll think you’re an escaped mental patient with a spandex fetish.

Another big benefit of racing solo the flexibility that comes with not having to find teammates. Sometimes with a busy schedule you may not be able to make a decision on whether or not to do a race until the last minute. Maybe you’re coming back from an injury and want to take it easy without worrying about slowing anyone down or disappointing someone if you have to stop.

While you’d think there wouldn’t be a team element to racing solo, I’ve found that many times, I would wind up creating makeshift alliances with other racers or teams for sections of a race. If you’re going at the same speed and have similar strategies, you can wind up linking up with other teams during the race. This is especially helpful during nighttime parts of the race where navigation is more difficult. A risk of working with another team is that you can get lulled into slowing your pace if the team is slower that you were originally racing. You have to quickly recognize this and resist the urge to stay with them. On the other hand, connecting with someone who is going faster than you were can make you kick it up a gear if your motivation was waning. Just be careful you don’t motivate another solo racer that is going to be at your heels on the way to the finish line!

From an equipment standpoint, a solo racer has to be completely self-sufficient. You can’t bum a cliff bar or a tire patch off a teammate when you’re a solo racer. This means having enough food and drink, inner tubes, tools, etc. This also means more redundancy. A spare compass is a must and for night races, spare lights and batteries are also a must. If you’re out there bushwhacking alone at night and you lose your light, you’re not going anywhere until sunrise. Some organizations even require solo competitors to carry a GPS tracking device for extra safety. All this extra equipment leads to a slightly heavier pack compared to racing with a team.

Finally, one of the biggest challenges in racing solo is motivation. With adventure racing, different route choices and race strategies sometimes separate teams to the point of not seeing another team or racer for hours at a time. When you’re alone, you really have to keep reminding yourself that you’re in a race and to keep moving as fast as you can the entire time. It’s easy to space out and start going at a relaxed pace if you’re not paying attention. My usual motivation is to picture myself sitting at my desk on Monday morning looking at the race results and seeing myself beaten by two minutes or one checkpoint and thinking why didn’t I just go a tiny bit faster?

As you can see, there are many pros and cons to weigh when deciding whether racing solo is for you. In general there are extra challenges but the sense of accomplishment can make it all worth it.

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Thanks to Chris for this great write up. What do all you out there think about solo racing? Would you do it?

Untamed New England

Team NYARA had a great showing at Untamed New England this year — two teams finished 11th and 16th overall. A little known fact is that Team #31 — Carpe Vitam — snuck in an extra two Team NYARA members. Austin Planz and NYARA President Denise Mast both raced their first expedition race with Carpe Vitam on this year’s brutal course. We are really proud of them and thought it would be interesting to hear their thoughts as first-time expedition racers. Check out this Q&A with them below. Meet Austin and Denise. They are known to throw back a cold one while carrying tons of gear through the Maine wilderness.

 

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Q: Considering neither of you had ever raced over 30h before – how did you prepare for this race?
Denise: Actually, I did more running than I probably needed. Our team had two 24-hour training sessions that were valuable in understanding the team dynamics as well as our strengths and weaknesses. We’re still looking for my strengths.

Austin: Physically, I did not have time to train for the race. (Don’t tell my teammates). The biggest prep was gathering gear and food and separating them into gear bins.

Q: What was the biggest difference between racing 24h races and expedition races?

Denise: Obviously the time! Establishing a steady, even pace that works for all team members was big for us considering we got so far behind at the very beginning of the race. We were the last team to reach the rappel section but from there on out, we were more focused and maintained an even pace that helped us pick off a lot of teams.

Austin: The hardest thing was getting use to the distances; needing to settle into a particular discipline for the long hall.  Paddling all night, trekking dawn till dusk, don’t find that in a 30 hour race.

Q: Was anything easier than you expected?

Denise: I think I expected to be more fatigued during the race than I was. But caffeine worked its wonders as well as my teammates’ constant joke cracking. Laughter is the best stimulant out there.

Autstin: I’ve been more tired and beat up after a 6hr race.  Our slow and steady pace and cheery disposition made the race easy on us.

Q: Was anything harder than you expected?

Denise: Going through withdrawal after getting home! I miss the guys, I miss the anticipation about racing and am ready to do it all over again if my teammates would have me.
Austin: It was way harder getting back to reality than I could have ever imagined.

Q: If you could re-do this race – what would you focus on in terms of preparation?

Denise: I would do a lot more back strengthening and carry a heavy pack around often. The shooting pains down my neck to my lower back because of the weight of the pack were not fun.

Austin: I would have set up a better bike tow system.

Q: You guys started silly slow (if I’m not mistaken you were in last place a couple of hours into the race), but then steadily moved up in the field to 23rd. What was the key to your success there and how did you manage to hold it together when so many other teams around you dropped off?

Denise: Our navigation team did a great job after the first few hours of some big screw ups. After that, we seemed to pass teams with better navigation choices that left other teams dumbfounded.

Austin: After our less than spectacular start, we made a team decision to look at the map, not get lost, and enjoy ourselves.  It got amusing seeing teams perplexed as they continuously passing us, usually looking like we were goofing off, and having no idea how they keep getting behind us.  Also, we kept pace steady, everyone else just got slower.

Q: Any piece of gear that you found critical for a race this long?

Denise: My North Face RDT rain jacket was amazing. It repelled water but also acted as a warm outer shell for cold nights.

Austin: Most critical gear is Aquaphor!! and maybe dry bags for when you capsize in pack rafts!

Q: Any piece of gear that you didn’t have but wished you had out on the course?

Denise: I needed a better dry bag for my pack. The one I brought wasn’t large enough so all of my stuff got wet during the paddling sections.

Austin: I wish I had a Sherpa or a masseuse.

Q: Any other last tips or tricks for racers who are looking to take the step from 24h racing to expedition racing?

Denise: Teammate selection is key. I loved my teammates even though I’m sure there were times when they thought I hated them. I experienced some really low points during the race and damn, if all three didn’t pull me back up. In particular, I have to credit my teammate Kirk for getting me to stop panicking when the packraft Austin and I were in capsized on the rapids of the Dead River. Kirk saw that I was panicking and breathing in water with every breath. He looked me in the eyes and basically yelled at me to focus, stop panicking and to swim to shore. I needed that. He shrugged it off like it was nothing but I cannot thank him enough for it. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.
Austin: If you are looking to make the leap into expeditions, make sure you like your teammates!!  They made my race a ton of fun.  Plan ahead as well, buying gear over a long period of time is easier to hide from the spouse.
A few other fun photos from Denise’s and Austin’s race:
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Thanks Austin and Denise! Great job on Untamed New England!!

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.

Pack Rafting

Olof and Whitney Hedberg will be racing Untamed New England this summer for Team NYARA along with Chris Rice and Bruce Swanson. Team NYARA’s strategy for the infamous pack rafting section is to use two rafts that are each designed to hold two people. One raft is the Alpacka Explorer and the other is the brand new Alpacka Gnu. Whitney and Olof have been busy testing and modifying their Alpacka Gnu. Since neither have ever used a pack raft before they have been focusing on getting up to speed.

Step one: Figure out how to blow the thing up. Then do it faster.

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From Whitney: “our first attempt to inflate the raft took a looooong 9.5 minutes. We have gotten a lot more efficient and can now inflate the raft, sort gear and pack the raft in a little over 6 minutes. We feel pretty good about that time”

Step two: Paddle. Then paddle some more.

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The pair tried a number of different paddling combinations and have settled on having Whitney using hand paddles (homemade) up front while Olof uses kayak paddles in the back.
From Olof: “This is a good set up as long as we have relatively short distance to cover or are moving downstream. If we have longer, flat water sections we will probably both use kayak paddles.”

Step three: Practice. Practice. Practice!

On the boat: “Although this boat is on the larger size–compared to a single person basic raft–we are super happy with our choice. The great people at Alpacka helped us choose this new model that they designed with adventure racing in mind. It is super responsive and feels fast (especially for a pack raft). The Vectron fabric is really tough and let’s us get the boat really full of air, which helps make it more efficient in the water.”

On modifications: “I love modifying gear to make it work even better, but we haven’t had to do much on this boat. We added some para cord loops in the front and back to make it easier to carry and a couple of extra para cord loops inside the boat for attaching dry bags. The boat comes with lots of sewn in webbing loops and other connectors so we really didn’t do more than tie on some para cord.”

What’s next: “We are testing the raft on flat water tomorrow and will continue training in it on the river. We also want to practice our transition a few more times it get it as efficient as possible” “We are also looking forward to taking this boat on other adventures after the race!”

A big thanks the Alpacka Raft for sponsoring Untamed New England and the sport of Adventure racing.

Pack Rafting Strategies: Hand Paddle How-to

NYARA will have three teams racing at this year’s Untamed New England 4-day race in Maine. One signature of Untamed is the pack raft section. Most adventure races have trek sections, paddle sections and bike sections. Untamed likes to link up the trekking and paddling into a unique section that involves long distance trekking with strategic waterways/crossings. Alpacka Raft (a race sponsor and general supporter of AR) makes some great boats which have become the gold standard for races that include pack rafting.

The overall goal of the pack rafting section (aside from not popping your boat) is to keep weight down and speed up. Teams have a number of strategies from using four individual boats, to squeezing two people into a one person boat. Some teams use kayak paddles that collapse into four pieces others rely on hand paddles. Here’s a quick how-to that gives you step by step instructions for DIY hand paddles. The big upsides include: huge cost savings (these babies can be made for the price of a 5 gallon bucket), weight savings (they weigh almost nothing) and space savings (they take up almost no room in the pack).

For all you visual learners out there, here is the step by step in photos. For everyone else, we will detail the steps below.

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This whole process will take under 15 minutes.
1. Get a five gallon bucket
2. Using a hack saw, cut off the thick ring at the top if the bucket
3. Flip onto its side with the newly cut side facing you
4. Lay your hand on the bucket with fingers slightly spread out (like how you would paddle)
5. Trace an arc around your hand
6. Using some heavy duty scissors and/or exacto knife, cut out the shape you traced
7. Place hand on the cutout and mark (about knuckle height) outside your first and third fingers
8. Use a big ol’ nail to punch holes into your two marks
9. Get something stretchy — elastic, an old bike tube, etc.
10. Stick the elastic through the hole on the left, tie a knot on the back side (concave side)
11. Pull the stretchy stuff through the second hole so that it is laying flush on the surface ( you want it to have enough tension to hold onto your fingers) then trim and tie off

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There you have the finished product — with some action shots. We will keep you posted on how well they work in our tests.