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.

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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!!

Race Report: Lion Heart

Congrats to Team NYARA for another strong perfomrance! This time at AAS Lionheart. Team Captain, Eric Caravella has the following report.
 
Over the weekend, Team NYARA took a trip out to Western Pennsylvania to race the 24hr AAS Lionheart. The team was Cara Guilfoyle, Mikal Davis, with your humble writer Eric Caravella deciphering maps (sometimes well, sometimes poorly… but more on that later). We rented a cabin near the race start, and Cara’s husband Gregg came to show his support. He made us dinner the night before the race, for which he earned a dozen gold stars. Here’s a pic of Gregg killing it on the camp stove:
 
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Having Gregg as support crew turned out to be very fortunate for us, because otherwise we may have found ourselves dining at this weird local establishment:
 
joe dogg
 
There was some discussion about why there is mustard all over Joe’s face in the sign (and whether or not it’s even mustard). Just another reminder that we were deep in Pennsyltucky for the weekend.
 
At check in, AAS provided us with roughly the first 8 hours of checkpoints with more info to be provided mid-race. We packed our bags, discussed our strategy, stuffed our faces, and tried to get some sleep.
 
Then came race morning:
 
start
 
There was no prologue, so everyone dashed off and arrived at CP1 together. We tried a couple of bushwhack shortcuts to get to 2 and 3, but they turned out not to pay off quite as well as we’d hoped. During these bushwhacks, Mikal discovered the “Devil Plants” indigenous to Western PA. Since he was the only one in shorts, Cara and I had no idea why he was complaining so much. Apparently whatever they were, the leaves irritated his legs as he trekked through them. Based on his description, Cara did some research and discovered the species:
 
devil plant
 
The “Devil Plants” became a recurring theme throughout the race, much to Mikal’s chagrin. 
 
We arrived at the paddle put-in roughly 30 minutes behind the leaders but in a dead heat with Odyssey. The paddle was slower than expected, and we got hung up on rocks several times. But our all-star support crew (aka, Gregg) miraculously appeared on the riverbank and was able to snap a photo of us:
 
paddle
 
We lost another 30 minutes to the leaders during the paddle and the subsequent jog to the rappel, but were entertained along the way by the “Amish Armada” of whitewater rafts floating everywhere down the Youghiogheny. Apparently there was an enormous group of Amish out for a day on the river, and they were just having a grand old time splashing one another and getting stuck on rocks just like us. It was nice to have some company on the river for those long paddling hours.
 
The rappel was preceded by a slackline traverse across the river:
cara slackline2
mikal slackline
 
cara slackline
 
Then we rapped off the ledge to the left of Cucumber Falls:
 
cucumber falls
 
Then an amazingly confusing trail run/bushwhack took us back to the start, which was also CP9/TA3, but most importantly…where we found out what the rest of the course had in store for us. We came in at the exact same time as Odyssey. The second part of the race was a long bike leg with 8 CPs and a couple nasty looking bushwhacks. Mikal and Cara were very efficient through the TA as always, we developed a great strategy for the bike leg and set off. It was going very well for the first 6 CPs… we were working extremely well as a team and everyone was feeling pretty good. We took a chance on a trail not on the map and it paid off big time, and we found two of the tricky bushwhack CPs with little problem. We were in good spirits and on track to clear the course in 20 hours for a potential podium finish…..
 
Then…. adventure racing happened. We had to hike a huge hill to get the second to last CP. It would have been possible to ride our bikes off the other side of the hill to cut a little distance after grabbing the CP, but I made the call to leave our bikes at the bottom and come back for them to save energy on the climb. It was supposed to be a quick up and down, but when we got to the top it became apparent that the trail network was far more confusing than the maps suggested. We ran into Odyssey once again, but they had their bikes with them. It turned out to be the right call, because they were able to scout the area much quicker than we could on foot. I rushed my decision and took the trail in the wrong direction. We hiked it for what seemed like ages, hoping that each turn in the trail would reveal the CP or at least some feature that made sense. We ultimately decided to backtrack to where we started, when I knew exactly where we were. We managed to find the correct trail in a matter of minutes and went and grabbed the CP. GOALS passed us at this point, also on their bikes, and we knew we slipped a bit in the rankings. But we forged on, and went back to our bikes. We managed to grab the final CP with little problem and turned toward the finish.
 
And then the pain came. The final climb to the finish covered 1200 vertical feet in just 6 kilometers. Cara was battling severe chafing, and Mikal was battling the bonks, complete with nausea and dehydration. But they were champs and pushed through. Our pace was slow in the end, but we helped each other make the finish line with all CPs in just under 22 hours. Our rank was 5th in the Coed Elite division and 5th overall.
 
While our results weren’t quite what we hoped for, we had fun and would do it all over again. American Adventure Sports put on a great race, and Ohiopyle State Park was beautiful. The race was a lesson in maintaining focus and managing pace, but it was also a lesson in teamwork and the value of appreciating your companions. We all learned something from the Lionheart, not the least of which was how much we enjoyed racing together.
 
Boy, that was cheesy. Luckily we have Cara to close out the report with her thoughts:
 
“Overall this was a great race with a great team. I haven’t done a 24AR in about 4 years, so I knew this might be a challenge and at a high pace (Eric demonstrated the fastest bushwhacking pace I have ever seen and Mikal is a rocket on the runs!) Eric and Mikal were nothing but helpful and supportive. We came together as a team and I would think that we accomplished more together than we would have as individuals. We ran into some problems at the end of the race, but we will learn very much from our issues/mistakes. We supported each other well and will apply what we learned in the future. I am really proud of the work we did out there 🙂 Thanks guys for getting me through, you were both inspirational, loved racing with you and can’t wait for the next one!”

Race Report: Krista Griesacker

Team NYARA is proud of Eric and Ann Marie for a super strong performance at this year’s Krista Griesacker race. The race is put on by GOALS ARA and is typically a 12 hour Race. This year Team NYARA raced in the two person co-ed category and won it! Ann Marie gave us the following report. Enjoy!

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Strategy and speed, or some combination of the two, is what will help your team win. It was an honor to race the GOALS Krista 12 hour race with Eric Caravella as Team NYARA this past Saturday. Although I had always been the navigator for my team for my past 10 years of racing, I was more than happy that Eric would be the navigator for this race so I could focus on trying to keep up with him – this was the dynamic that would work well for our team.

Monsoon rains came down just before the pre-race check-in on Friday night, setting up tents and getting gear ready was a soggy affair with the constant dripping of water through the trees, and the forecast was for scattered storms on race day, too. Of course we all know the race will go on regardless. The usual Hawk Mountain Civil Air Patrol base camp facilities were wonderful, and comfortably familiar. At check-in we get the map and start marking points, copying down from the maps hung on the walls. Eric immediately was focused and very detailed, really paying attention to the elevation of the points, putting together a list of question for the Race Directors to fine tune our race.

At the race meeting, Race Directors Brian Reiss and Derek Lawrence were clearly thrilled with the racecourse they had planned, and they set a fun and upbeat mood for the next day. Morning arrives, and Team NYARA totally missed the 6 am meeting, clueless, never heard the loudspeakers calling for us – fortunately we didn’t miss anything other than taking attendance. Then we hopped on the buses for an hour ride to the town of Tamaqua for the race start.

After a short prologue to spread out the teams, the race starts on bike, in a hidden gem of technical singletrack park that hosts some local Mt Bike races. There are no checkpoints in here, instead the course is marked with blue arrows and flagging, sending us up down and all around, full of alley-oops, and up and overs, some a little too dicey with wet roots and drops. Altogether very fun if you like Mt biking. Ultimately, the only checkpoint we were going for was M1 sitting atop the ridge. Once on the ridge, it looks like a 6k double track to the west, plus a road ride with serious elevation. Or, as we checked out when studying the map on Friday night, the other option was instead to bomb down to town and take the level road across the valley to TA1. The problem was that after following the marked course on the way up, I was turned around and unsure of the descent. Eric had a good feeling for it, and when Team REV3 went blowing by us on the downhill with the same plan, that locked in our decision to head back to town.

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After cruising through the valley, we were the second team to arrive at TA1. TA1 sat in a saddle between 2 highpoints to the east and west. The next part of the race consisted of 2 optional foot sections, ‘A’ and ‘B’, each with 7 checkpoints, set up on those highpoints. When studying the map, Eric decided to start with ‘B’ as the terrain was more obvious. Eric takes off like the wind, I did my best in here, but my legs were burning on the endless uphill. Picture a mountain goat teamed with an old Galapagos tortoise. Once we reached the plateau, the navigation needs to kick in – we are looking for a minor saddle 1k west, and the saddle is so minor, and the ridge so broad, we were afraid of missing it. Fortunately, Eric nailed it right on, and we kept going. Eric’s pace counting was fabulous through the course of the race, of the 3 long stretches that he counted, the most he was off was by 5 steps. Yeah, just 5.

We collected 6 of the 7 CP’s in section B before we heard voices in the woods behind us, we tried to scurry up the next hill to stay hidden, but tortoises don’t scurry, and soon after we were caught by 3 teams, including GOALS. For the first time in my life, my hamstrings cramped and that pain just stopped me in my tracks. (My thanks to Val who shared some electrolyte tabs so I could keep moving). I was discouraged at this point because I knew Eric could be flying out ahead, but he was a fabulous teammate, he never gave up on me, and he picked some decent lines that I could follow. We grabbed the last CP and started the descent back down to the TA. We had to strategize here – do we try for anything on the ‘A’ side? Most other top teams were going for all or part of the ‘A’ loop, the phrase “staying competitive” was tossed around quite a bit. But it was a major hill climb to get up there, and my legs were already tired. And we were only halfway through the race – we still had the paddle on the river (if it had any water this year was still unknown), and a very long one direction trek to get back to the finish. We decided to skip ‘A’, go directly to the paddle, and concentrate on the Optional points on the long trek back, hoping that the clock would work against any team who took too long up there on loop ‘A’. Foreshadowing of things to come…

We arrived first at the paddle and were pleased to find enough water to float our boat, so off we went. With only 2 bodies in the boat, we did make it over most shallow spots, and finished the paddle in about 1 hour, way ahead of the 2 hours we planned for. Now I’m feeling guilty that perhaps I should have pushed the hill for the ‘A’ loop, but it’s too late now. Eric reset his altimeter, and we headed off for 3k on the road, then back into the woods we go. The 3 optional points in this section were tricky, set on vague state gameland boundaries and vegetation boundaries. F3 was set at post 20 on the vegetation boundary, and the elevation just wasn’t working. After looking around for a bit, we decided to skip it, go get F1, then come back at F3 from another angle. F1 was no picnic either, and as a navigator I would have walked away from this one, but Eric was determined and cool, and did I mention determined? And sure enough, battling though endless rhodo bushes, there it was.

We set out again for F3, and came back to the exact same spot we were before. Now we need to start widening our circle, something isn’t making sense. Ultimately we find the CP 65 feet higher than expected which causes Eric to question the elevation, the altimeter, and the map. But the good side of all the wandering around was we knew that the dotted line on the map indicating a trail was a lie, and on the trip to F1 and back we had also already found the re-entrant up to M8, so Eric was confident as we started the last hill climb. M9 was a beautiful vista off the AT, one of those uber awesome spots where you can see for miles and makes the race pause for a moment. Well, I paused and enjoyed the moment, Eric was checking the map and planning our descent. Off we went, scrambling down an endless major boulder field, Eric estimated 800 meters angling off southwest to hit the trail (it was actually 803 meters to step onto the trail, awesome!). We scrambled down this trail – more like a stream runoff – and popped out by the soybean field just short of home base. When we checked in at M11 around 5:30, they told us we were the first team out of the woods, which was another indication that for some teams that went for the ‘A’ loop, time was not going to be kind. When the Race Director seems relieved to finally see a team emerge from the woods, you know the cutoff time will become a determining factor in the results.

For Team NYARA to finish, we had one last bushwhack up and over. What we didn’t know was REV3 was right behind us, and instead of the bushwhack they decided to run the flat road around. As Eric and I skirted the active shooting range, heading downhill for the finish, we heard cheering up ahead as REV3 arrived first overall, AND clearing the course. Team NYARA came across the line as the 2nd team to finish, but short of points from the ‘A’ loop. Now it was wait and see who else could get in before the cutoff, and how many points they would carry.

Outside of the race clock, the Obstacle course was open for 1 additional bonus point, and it is just too much fun to miss! My teammate really stepped in to help get my sorry exhausted depleted body up the rope climb, and over the 6 foot wall, I had every good intention but I was so maxxed out I fell off the rope swing into the mud puddle, and I didn’t care one bit!

We found some food and chilled out, and waited. And waited. The clock ticked on. Where is everyone? In the end, only 10 teams that started the race made it in by cutoff. Our closest competition in C2 came in with 1 extra point, but too late, so they lost the point and tied our number. Team NYARA won with a faster time, 1st place in Co-ed 2 division, and 4th overall. Other teams missed points and/or the race cut-off because of the length and toughness of that last trek section, and spending too much time on the ‘A’ and ‘B’ loops early in the day. Strategically, we balanced out what my legs could handle with Eric’s sharp navigating, and it ended up to be a really good call. It was an honor to race with him, just to watch a good navigator navigate was cool, and he knew I was doing my best to keep up, and that I was determined to keep moving. And another of my favorite things is the time spent after the race reviewing the course with other teams, swapping stories and laughing. We agreed up front to have fun with the race, and we certainly did!

High fives to Aaron Courain and John Courain for taking 1st overall with an awesome showing, and to GOALS for winning the 3 person supreme divine category also clearing the course.

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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

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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.

2nd Race Update for the Jersey Inferno

One Month to go

Hope all you adventure racers are training hard — the summer season is about to get really busy. NYARA has a few great events coming up including the Jersey Inferno — a 10 hour race in Northern New Jersey known for being a challenge. The Race Directors just released the second race update and it is filled with great info, including an overview of the race sections to help you prepare. Check it out! And register for the race!! Also, if you or anyone you know is interested in volunteering please email Denise@nyara.org

Inferno Update 2

Race report: The Savage

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Over the weekend, NYARA raced in the two-person male division of the GOALS Savage 6-hour Adventure Race in Nockamixon State Park, PA. NYARA team members Eric Caravella (your humble writer) and Mikael Mattson, a pair that had never before met (let alone raced together), comprised the team.

With the huge lake smack dab in the middle of the park, there was almost certainly going to be a ton of paddling. But Bruce Kuo did a great job of creating an interesting and unexpected 6-hour race, with some great single-track biking, lots of trekking, and surprisingly very little paddling. It was also quite logistically complex for a 6-hour race.

After a short relay run prologue, racers could choose to begin with whichever discipline they wished. We knew the biking trails are very tight with little passing opportunity, so we decided to sprint the prologue in our bike shoes and get right on the trails to avoid traffic. This strategy paid off big time, as we were able to cruise through the biking section in almost no time at all. Traffic was beginning to build up on the trails as we were leaving, but we were already off to TA1, a fishing pier several miles down the road from the start line.

Most of the rest of the race was on foot. There were two long and narrow trek sections, one on the northwest side of the lake, and another on the southeast side of the lake. These trek sections were connected at either end by short paddles, straight across the lake. At TA1, racers could either paddle directly across the lake to begin with the southeast section, or complete the long northwest section and paddle across the lake at another crossing farther down. Since that far paddle was worth 4 points more than the immediate paddle, Mikael and I started off on foot.

I was navigating and Mikael was in charge of the passport and clue sheet. The first portion of the trek was off an orienteering map, and we started very strong at a great pace just nailing the CPs. But I made a bone-head mistake early on and blew past CP13, completely forgetting about it. Thankfully, Mikael was totally on the ball and reminded me about it, so we were able to loop back for it without wasting too much time. We finished this trek without any more big issues (except the ankle-deep, energy-sucking mud) and paddled our way across the lake for the southeast foot section.

During a race formatted to allow racers to choose their order of disciplines, it’s difficult to gauge your ranking during the race. But we started to realize we were in pretty good shape when we began passing teams on the second trek that hadn’t done the bike section yet. More mud, a hairy bushwhack or two, and a whole lot more trail running got us to the final paddle point to return across the lake to the bike drop.

Since racers could choose where to paddle across, race staff used motorboats to shuttle canoes back and forth across the lake to make sure there were boats available in all places at all times. The logistical difficulties of this became apparent when Mikael and I arrived at the TA and found no boats. We waited 9 minutes for a canoe, hopped in and hammered across the lake back to our bikes. (GOALS recorded any time teams spent waiting for boats and deducted it from their finishing times).

The final bike ride home was only a couple miles down the road back to where we started, so we pedaled it in our sneakers. After clearing the course, we arrived at the finish line with a time of 5 hours (adjusted to 4:51 to account for the time we waited for our boat). Race organizers were so shocked we finished that fast that they almost didn’t even notice us crossing the finish line! We knew right away that we had won, so we shared a Swedish/American high five and flopped down in the grass. In the grand scheme of adventure racing, 6 hours is nothing… but when you’re going full tilt for 5 hours and only one 9 minute break, it feels good to sit down.

Only one other team managed to clear the course within the time limit (one of the two GOALS Elite teams), and they did so in about 5 hours and 50 minutes. The post-race atmosphere and ceremony was great, and everyone was very congratulatory. This race was very meaningful to me, because the 2013 GOALS Savage 6-hour was my very first adventure race. Now, in 2014, the same race became my first cleared course and overall win as team captain and navigator. And it felt good that the win was so decisive. Mikael was an awesome teammate, fast and confident, and we were able to both help each other and push each other.

A big thanks to GOALS for putting on such a great event, I hope to participate in it for years to come.