NYARA is National: Race Reports from Across the Country (part 2)

Today we are excited to share two race reports: one from the east coast and one from the mountains in the west. The first is a report from Austin Planz and Chris Obara who raced in GOALS Cradle of Liberty and the second is from Chris Edmundson who raced the Ultra O-gaine in Colorado.

Ultra O-Gaine – NYARA takes 2nd place.

Checkpoint Adventures resurrected their 24-hour rogaine race “Ultra O-Gaine” after a six year hiatus.This year the race was held in the Buffalo Creek area of Colorado. Team NYARA was represented at this great event by Chris Edmundson.

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Pre-Race, overlooking the terrain.

Much like Checkpoint Adventures, I have also been on a six year hiatus and this was my first time behind a map in a substantive race since 2008. Overall, the race was a blast! However, more than once I was thankful that Olof Hedberg is the primary navigator for Team NYARA. As it turns out, racing solo in a self-supported event is hard!

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1:24,000 map of the Buffalo Creek Recreation Area in Pike National Forest

We received the maps at 7:30 PM on July 3rd. Race began at 8:00 PM and in my disorder, I didn’t leave the start until 8:10. The task at hand was to obtain as many as 41 checkpoints (CP’s), for a total point value of 2201. The map looked pretty straight forward and I would have an opportunity to return to the start/finish area to resupply after about 20km. This allowed me to travel very light for this section. Things went quite smoothly with just a few minor map reading errors that I was able to quickly recover from. During this leg, I was fortunate to meet my personal hero Danelle Ballengee and even help her find one of the CP’s! What an honor!

Sometime before midnight I was back at the start/finish to resupply. From here, my plan was to not return again until the finish. Therefore, I had to carry a lot of supplies. Well… My paranoia required that I carry way more than I needed. I left with a lot of confidence that I could clear the entire course. I was running well and without any major navigational errors, obtaining every checkpoint seemed quite feasible. As it would turn out, before the night was up I would spend about 3 hours searching for 2 CP’s that I would never find. Despite trying several different attack points, these checkpoints were elusive and really shook my confidence. Missing these 2 CP’s, I was leaving behind only 91 points but with a major loss of time. As daylight arrived, I continued to make numerous minor navigational errors and I can’t begin to explain how I repeatedly walked by CP’s without seeing them. It was as if they were cleverly hidden to evade detection.

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Sun up! Maybe I will stop missing checkpoints now…

Somewhere along the way, I ran into Team Lupine and it was nice to see some familiar faces. They told me about a nice horse trail along the creek to the next CP that would save me some heartache. At this point, I was running low on water at which point I discovered that I must have left the iodine behind the last time that I refilled. Ohh well, only another 9 km to some known clean water. Thinking about water, running hard, 15 hours in, I reached my high point. I was running up a switchback trail to a CP on a spur. This was clearly a popular mountain biking destination and I was a bit jealous of the riders that were passing me on their descent. The one rider going up this hill gave me a boost of confidence. Despite starting at the same time, my legs felt strong and I continued to put distance into him. He only caught me when I wandered off trail to go punch the CP. I then got back on trail and proceeded to run him down and would have caught him if it wasn’t for the next CP. Shortly after, I refilled water and set out for what turned into the most time consuming CP of the event. I spent 2 hours searching for this thing! It was worth a lot of points and I was not going to give up. My final attack point yielded success despite running over and over the same ground. This CP was just hidden!

These old burn areas are hot!

These old burn areas are hot!

Now came a big decision point. Do I run an extra 12 km to obtain an extra 243 points? I was beginning to feel weary and any physical dysfunction or navigational errors would mean missing the 24 hour time cutoff. In the end, it was clear that I made the right decision. The combination of limited physical conditioning and poor attention to nutrition led me to a physical and mental meltdown around hour 20. I am not sure what was worse, my cognition or my physical function. I was now barely running even on the flats and downhills. As I approached the finish, in my malaise, I could not wrap my head around how to obtain the next 2 CP’s (77 points). I became completely disoriented and was forced to bail out on a northerly bearing to find a known trail. After 95 km, I stumbled into the finish 40 minutes early having left a total of 445 points on the table. I finished with around 100 points less than the winning team of Mark Lattanzi and his partner from Team Odyssey.

Thanks to Patrick and his wife for a wonderful event! NYARA will certainly be back again next year. Hopefully with Olof at the helm…

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NYARA is National: Race Reports from Across the Country (part 1)

Today we are excited to share two race reports: one from the east coast and one from the mountains in the west. The first is a report from Austin Planz and Chris Obara who raced in GOALS Cradle of Liberty and the second is from Chris Edmundson who raced the Ultra O-gaine in Colorado.

First up: 2015 GOALS Cradle of Liberty

Chris Obara and Austin Planz represented NYARA at GOALS Cradle of Liberty 24hr race.  The competition was fierce in the 2 person male category.  Despite coming in 3rd in that division, we were 2 points ahead of the 2nd place premier team. The first leg started off with an, I can’t believe I’m saying this, awesome paddle on the Susquehanna River.  Currents, islands, and actual navigation. The second leg was a fairly close quarters orienteering section around the Ned Smith Center.
Leg 3 started off with a suffer fest bike push up some power lines.  After that, it was a pleasant bike to the WALKING ONLY section of the course.  I saw a tiger take a shower on the Tobias Lake Wildlife Park orienteering section so it was pretty damn cool.

After what seemed like a random series of lefts and rights on the road we arrived at TA 6 and had to  hustle to get as many CP’s on foot before dark.  As we headed out it started to rain.  It rained really hard for most the night.  Ignoring the deluge, we started knocking off CP’s thru the thick undergrowth that seemed to target my shins.

Still raining, we took a few minutes under the tents at the TA (fire was a nice touch too) to switch over maps to the bike section.  Half way through section 6 we had to make a tough choice.  Up to now we have cleared the course.  Do we clear this section and leave ourselves open to others getting more points on the last orienteering section or go for clearing 6 out of 7 sections?  We choose the later.  We only had time to get 2 CP’s on the last section but we were one of three teams to clear 6 sections.

The effort put out by Abby and Brent was apparent and appreciated by all.  Great course!!

Congrats Austin and Chris. Great job!

Big News!

Team NYARA is excited to announce a brand new partnership with Montbell. For those of you who don’t know Montbell, it is an awesome outdoor gear and clothing company whose motto, “Light and Fast” speaks to the adventure racing community.

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“Teaming up with Montbell America is an exciting opportunity for us, as we have been fans of Montbell’s apparel and gear for many years,” said Olof Hedberg, Captain of Team NYARA.  “We cannot wait to bring more awareness of the Montbell brand to the entire adventure racing community as it fits in with our philosophy of being “light and fast.””

“NYARA is a great partner for Montbell as adventure racing is one of the few sports that is exposed to all types of situations, extreme weather and terrain,” said Yusuke Igarashi, Marketing Manager for Montbell America. “We are excited to partner with NYARA as they are the perfect athletes in which to use Montbell’s high quality, ultra light gear.”

Montbell and adventure racing are really a match made in gear-lover’s heaven, so stay tuned for some great gear reviews!

Race Report: The Jersey Inferno

In addition to producing the race, NYARA fielded several teams at the this year’s Jersey Inferno.

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We have a great race report from Rodney Villella, but first a few photos of Team NYARA racers:

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Breaking in a Newbie – Literally

By: Rodney Villella

Rodney and amy blog

On June 6th, NYARA hosted its 12 hour Jersey Inferno Adventure Race. Amy & I were planning on racing the event with our regular teammate, Pete Spagnoli, but at the last minute, he had to go out of town. We were looking forward to our first Adventure Race (“AR”) of the season and always prefer to race in the “premier” coed category if possible but most of the other NYARA racers already had their teams set. We asked the race directors, John and Aaron if they knew anybody that might be interested in joining us and this is how we got connected with Vanessa.

Now to be honest, we typically don’t like to race with people we don’t know, but since this would be our first race of the year and we have had limited time to train, we figured what the heck. Plus, even thought Vanessa had never done an AR before, she has participated in many mountain bike races and since the race was at Allamuchy State Park, we figured it would be bike intensive.

We were excited to share some of our knowledge and experience with a new racer and hoped we could show her what a great sport Adventure Racing is. The hard part for us was going to be trying to keep up with her.

We had a few phone conversations/email exchanges with her to let her know what to expect on race day and make sure she was prepared. We take for granted all the little things we’ve learned along the way, so we tried to make sure we covered as many details as possible to make her experience as good as it could be.

Again, this was the easy part. The actually racing was going to be our challenge. We met Vanessa in the parking lot in the wee hours of the morning before the race. On race day, there is always limited time to go over details of the race, so we hoped our earlier conversations with her would be sufficient and she would learn as we went.

The gun went off and the event started with a foot section. Here was our first opportunity to see the toughness of our new teammate. About 2 hours into the event, a rock jumped up and grabbed her foot. Vanessa arrested her fall with her forehead. At that moment, I though oh no…I hope it’s not serious. She was a bit dazed but got right up. She had a nice “egg” on her forehead but shook it off as if it was nothing. We were super impressed with her grit and determination…

The next leg was biking and this is where Vanessa wanted to open the throttle. The only problem was she had to wait for Amy & I. Vanessa rode right behind me tight on my rear wheel as I navigated the tricky course. And here is where our second attempt to break her happened. There was a section of trail that had a narrow boardwalk over a swampy area. I slowly and gingerly started out and realized I was about to fall so I quickly slowed down, stopped and unclipped. I started again and tried to remount my bike but it was a slow process. Vanessa following closely behind and assumed (unfortunately, erroneously) that I was just going to quickly continue on.   She literally slowed to a track stand before she eventually teetered over and fell off the boardwalk. All I could hear was the crack and splash of her fall as I slowly continued on. Again, I thought oh no, I hope she is not hurt too bad. I waited at the end of the boardwalk for her to make her way over and she was totally fine. In fact, we laughed a little bit about my lack of technical skill and how we should have told her to never follow too closely behind me on the bike as I tend to pull “Crazy Ivans” with reqular frequency.

The third leg of the race was a quick paddle that was relatively uneventful. This led to the last leg of the race which was an final mountain bike section. By this time, Vanessa had learned not to follow too closely and I made sure to announce my radical maneuvers in advance. But there was still opportunity to test Vanessa’s toughness. We were bushwhacking to a control point off trail when she must have stepped on a hornets’ nest. She was stung three times on the hand and one time on her upper leg. Aside from a few ouches and light expletives, she said she was fine and told us to just continue on. By this time, I was completely convinced that she will make a great adventure racer as she is one tough cookie and just wants to keep moving forward.

The race ended with an individual mountain bike “time trial” and this is where we finaly set her free to do her thing. She took off and ultimately won the women’s “Blazing Saddle” award for the fastest female on this mountain bike TT section. Well Done!

So team NYARA’s newest member got a proper introduction to Adventure Racing with a contusion on her forehead, a nasty fall off a boardwalk, four hornet stings, Queen of the mountain biking TT and a 4th place Coed finish. Not too shabby.

We would like to thank the newest NYARA RD’s John & Aaron Courain for putting on a great course and all the volunteers that helped to make it happen. We would also like to thank Vanessa for being patient with our pace and hope she learned enough and had a good enough time to try this AR thing again sometime soon.

Race Report: Run, Row, Rock and Roll 12 Hour Race (Nebraska)

Team NYARA headed to the Nebraska for a new to us 12 hour race put on by Angry Cow Adventures — and they won!

Race: Run, Row, Rock and Roll 12 hour race
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Team: Chris Edmundson, Olof Hedberg and Whitney Hedberg
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Your Dream Team

This race report is brought to you by Whitney Hedberg who for reasons that will be come clear will be referred to as “mandatory equipment” for the rest of the report.
I was excited to race with Olof and Chris for this race. We had never raced with Chris before but knew he has a lot of AR experience so I was looking forward to seeing him in action. I was actually a kinda last minute add in when another racer backed out. The week before the race I spent 6 days hiking the Colorado Trail with a friend. The last day of our trip made a turn towards epic including lots of snow, lots of elevation gain and loss and lots more milage than planned. It was awesome. And it left me with a strained quad. After a few days rest I decided that my quad felt good enough to race so we hopped in the car to make the almost 10 hour drive to Nebraska (picking up Chris in Boulder along the way). As luck would have it, Chris is a great Physical Therapist who became my real-time quad consultant.
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Pre Race: Hot or cold? Depends on who you ask.

Race check in was the night before the race — which we love because it gives Olof-the Rain-Man-Hedberg plenty of time to use his freakish brain to memorize the course. The race start was a 30 minute bus ride away from the town we stayed in. We had the option of paddling or doing a foot section first and we opted for paddling. Solo racers had to provide their own boats while we had the pleasure of using nice, stable (slow) aluminum canoes complete with canoe paddles. The long course involved crisscrossing a lake lengthwise and portaging over a dam several times. At our first dam portage we learned that we were only allowed to have two paddles — we missed that rule somehow — and so started my role as the heaviest piece of mandatory equipment that Olof and Chris have even had the pleasure of carrying. While I sat in the middle and guiltily “navigated” the section, Olof and Chris paddled like whoa. We managed to leave the water in second place (of the teams who paddled first) only a couple of minutes after a solo racer in his speedy kayak.
The first trek section was fairly short and the Rain Man had it planned out down to the last centimeter so it went well. Actually, it went well for a while. Then good ol’ “mandatory equipment” perked up again and her strained quad started causing problems…we had to walk the last couple of points, but after our strong paddle section and quick transitions we felt like we were still in a good position. As we barreled into the TA for another fast transition I think our intensity may have frightened a few nice volunteers. 🙂 The volunteers were friendly and let us know that we were in the lead. I was super happy to get on the bike because I knew that my quad isn’t as affected by biking as it is running/walking.
The first bike section was very straight forwarded navigation-wise and was completely on gravel roads. I typically think its boring to ride only on roads, but these were fun. Fast rolling, short hills through pretty farmland was probably some of the most fun dirt road riding I’ve done. We kept good speed on the bikes and felt good going into the second TA. Before heading out on the trek we did the Team Challenge, which involved stacking huge buckets into the tallest tower possible. We went for speed more than sound engineering then headed out on trek number two.
The terrain was interesting — lots of rolling fields and pasture that were connected by tree filled reentrants. It was beautiful. As we started this section it was clear that “mandatory equipment” wouldn’t be moving very quickly as my walk looked robotic at best and my running looked a lot like an aging zombie. We decided to mostly walk the section — which would eat into our lead, but hopefully save my quad from getting any worse. The section was fun and included lots of barbed wire, one hip deep river/swamp crossing and several herds of cattle. The Rain Man’s navigation was spot on. The mandatory aging zombie was slow. Oh, yeah, and I couldn’t do downhills at all. So picture me — often referred to as an amazon women because I am far from small — draped over poor Chris piggy-back style, feet nearly dragging on the ground, as he does his best to get us both down the steep hills. Heaviest. Mandatory. Equipment. Ever.
When we got to the final checkpoint, it wasn’t there. We searched for it with a solo racer for around 25 minutes and decided it had been stolen. Then another co-ed team rolled up. Lead over. We told the other team that we couldn’t find it and planned on leaving then headed out. I put my game face on and zombie-ran myself all the way to the TA where we quickly reported the missing CP and jumped on our bikes hoping to regain some of our lead.
The final section of the race was a bike section with a short paddle/run. The bike was super fast and fun. We flew towards the final TA. When we got there we learned that one person would paddle up river while the other two ran — all meeting at a CP, then another would paddle down and two would run back to the TA. Chris took one for the team and paddled up stream while Olof and I jogged. We realized the run was pretty short so decided that even though I was zombie-runner it was best that I ran twice and Olof paddle back.
Chris got off the water and was a little bit wrecked by the tough, strong current and less than fast kayak. We jogged back together and in my shining moment for the entire race I was able to offer him the help of hanging onto my pack while we both zombie-ran back to the TA. We arrived at the same time as Olof who wanted to join in all the apocalyptic fun by getting leg cramps that had him zombie marching to his bike then zombie yelling for the first few hundred meters of the bike.
The final bike was through Fairbury to the finish at the Burkley Wellness Center. As we did the final push through town I was happy knowing we had won the Co-ed Elite category. We pulled into the Burkley Wellness Center and were treated to showers! with fresh towels! and delicious pulled pork sandwiches.
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Huge thanks to Angry Cow Adventures, all the friendly volunteers and especially Craig Bontrager (and his family) for putting together such a fun race. We enjoyed our trip to the middle of America and meeting all the nice people there who also love this crazy sport. Oh. I can’t forget to give a shout out to the Capri — the epitome of a motel. Complete with neon sign.
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Night-O – Many CPs in little time with Rocky Mountain Orienteering Club.

I have never been in favor for “micro-navigation” in adventure races. Most often it feels like you are walking around playing “hide and seek” with the course director and it is just pure luck how fast you find the CP. The reason is because of the low detail level of AR maps. More often than not they are extremely suboptimal with boulders, pits and cliffs completely left out, and some times even large trails are left out. So it just becomes a roll of the die if you find trails, or not. I prefer speed, navigation and strategy to be determining factors over luck when it comes to decide who should win a race.

Night-O - BV- 1

So, I was needless to say, a little bit doubtful signing up for my first Night-O meet, and very questionable of my own micro-navigation skills. On top of that I had been talked into doing the “long advanced” course. While I thought that would be good AR practice for me, it was somewhat intimidating having all these orienteering people on the start line. My friend from OK Linne in Uppsala, Sweden tells me that I orienteer like they did in the 1950’s, which I only can assume means “slow and like a yokster” and not “fast and world class”. So before the start I was trying to remember all tips and tricks he has taught me, which hopefully would make me faster once I got on my way.

My start position was 4th from the end (2 min intervals) – which means I got to see the people ahead of me all disappear into the night in one direction. Once it was my turn I punched into the start and finally got to grab a map. – Man this sucks – It’s so much nicer to be able to pre-plan like we get to do in AR.

Running towards the first CP I’m starting to love this. Every boulder, reentrant and pit is on the map. Instead of guessing – you can actually follow the map the entire time. I increase my speed to the edge of uncomfortableness – and start passing people, who started 2, 4 or 6 minutes ahead. It felt so fun “flying” in the night – and knowing down to a couple of meters where you are. I pressed my running to the limit down hills with very limited vision and for the first time I felt like I needed a real orienteering compass, instead of my “hiker” version.

For those interested – Below is the course + my route choice marked in blue. I marked my mistakes with red circles.

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The two “big” mistakes were on the way to CP5 – where I headed to far down and had to go up a little unnecessary vert, and on the way to the finish after punching CP10 – where the lure of the road dragged me to far west. Both of them cost me ~45 sec each (maybe even up to a minute) – all others were sub 30 sec.

Night-O results

Unexpected things happen in life – especially in the world of AR. Sometimes a total orienteering rookie makes no big mistakes. Those nights a total orienteering rookie can go and win the whole thing.

Light and Fast!

Olof

Race Report: Equinox Traverse 44 Hour Race

The 2015 AAS 44-Hour Equinox Traverse

(aka: How to Lose Awesomely)

(aka: Return of the Devil Plant)

Superfly Team Members: Eric Caravella, John Courain, Aaron Courain, Whitney Hedberg

Race Report By: Eric Caravella

NYARA Start group

Have you ever heard the phrase “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game”? Sure you have. Well that’s going to be the theme of this week’s episode. Because we didn’t win the Equinox Traverse. But we still want you to be impressed with us, because we lost awesomely.

Doug Crytzer is a guy who loves Ohiopyle State Park. And with good reason, as it’s a beautiful piece of America. If you remember, I raced the Lionheart in Ohiopyle last year, check out the race report for that one here: https://teamnyara.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/race-report-lion-heart/. I’m beginning to suspect there is something sinister about Ohiopyle, as screwy things always seem to happen when I race here. Maybe Mikal wasn’t far off when he described the undergrowth as the “Devil Plants”….

Anyway, adventure racing voodoo nonsense aside.. John, Aaron and I were lucky enough to have Whitney fly out from Colorado to race this one with us. She’s the best, isn’t she? When she’s not forcing you to run when you’re already misearable, that is. We all camped out Friday night and were ready to get the maps and clue sheets early Saturday morning. John and Aaron have raced this area quite a bit in their day, so John took lead nav with me as secondary. Aaron was part of John’s brain as usual, and Whitney bossed us all around all weekend. It was fantastic.

NYARA Start

At 7am on Saturday, we received the first set of maps of the race, which would amount to roughly the first 24 hours. Due to the fact that we did not have much info leading up to this race, it was a mad scramble trying to prepare maps and gear and food, etc, between 7am and the 9am race start. As a result of this, and of the fact that we were essentially planning to share nav duty, no one person was 100% clear on the info in the clue sheet or the rules of the road. This proved devastating for us later on… (great foreshadowing, right?)

NYARA Foot sectionNYARA Aaron

The first bike leg was uneventful. We rode to the start of a Foot-O section, which was a lollypop with a 5 mile rail trail stem. That means we ran 5 miles, did our foot loop, and then ran the same 5 miles back to the TA. It was rough. Repeating ground is mentally taxing, but this was only a small taste of the backtracking we’d all be doing. The Foot-O went ok, especially considering how many trails weren’t on the map. Shout out to Whitney who took my pack for a little bit as my body was not cooperating with the beating I was administering it. Go figure. Anyway, she was happy to pay back the times I’ve helped her, and we had a serious kumbaya moment as we contemplated the glory and satisfaction of effective teamwork. Now, back to the suffering. We ended up coming in a bit closer to the cutoff than we thought we would, but we were still on track.

Next section was a big Bike-O, and it was my turn to nav. It was a long way to the first CP, so we settled in for a little spin. Lots of roads on this section, so nav was easy. However, some obvious route choices led us directly onto private property that was unlabeled on the map, unbeknownst to us (but entirely knownst to the homeowners, who had evidently seen other oddly equipped, spandexy groups of bikers earlier in the afternoon). They were very nice, if still a bit perplexed, and offered to show us the way to the next trail.

The bike is where I live, so this section was great for me. But John and Aaron were not having such luck. They both began to feel the consequences of their hard push during the day.. so when a decision point came up, we had to stop and assess. We would either take the long northern route which would promise us at least 3 CPs possibly even 4 or 5… but that would mean a ton of distance and lots of big climbs. We were looking at a 4am cutoff for this section, so the shorter southern route (which promised 2 CPs) was looking like a better option. We didn’t want to leave any CPs out there, but we knew there was absolutely no way we were going to get all the north and south points before the 4am cutoff. So we went the shorter south route with the hopes that we’d arrive to TA very early and get maps with tons of points on day 2 so we could make up some ground.

When we arrived to TA, the news Doug had for us was not good. There would not be much to do in the second day, so the race standings would essentially be decided on day 1. Which meant if we wanted any shot of a top finish, we better go back out and get some more points. The other piece of bad news was that we had misunderstood the rule regarding when these points could be collected. Turns out the south points that we grabbed on our way to TA could have been obtained after leaving this TA for the next section. And sure enough, we’d be riding right back past them.

We had 4 hours until the cutoff, so what could we do? We fueled up and rode back out to get some more points. Everyone had bounced back by this point, so we made pretty efficient work out of the piece we had time to do, and arrived back in TA with time to spare and 3 more points. It wasn’t enough to win because the winning teams were clearing, but it still felt nice to make some good out of a bad situation.

And then more backtracking happened. The ride to the next waypoint labeled on the map involved covering 20 or 30 miles of our previous course in reverse. More mental exhaustion. At the waypoint, things got weird. We had to follow orange flagging on the trails that was to lead us to the next TA. Doug had told us that once the flagging stops, we have to find “the barn.” So I asked him, “what barn? And how will we know how to find it if the flagging stops and we don’t have trail maps?” Then Cryptic Crytzer smiled and walked away. So I figured it must be obvious once we get out there.

It wasn’t. The flagging led us to a trail intersection. Aaron and I wanted to go one way, John wanted to go the other. Whitney just wanted to punch someone in the face. So we picked a direction, and it was wrong. But we happened upon another piece of flagging (unrelated to this race, it turns out) so we continued to try to follow it. This only exacerbated our wrongness. Eventually we figured out that our direction made no sense and we turned around. We made it to the TA with time to spare, and no one got punched in the face.

Then we learned that after our next short foot section, it looked like we were going to have to backtrack again. Back up the trails we came in on. None of us was enthusiastic about this. Which might be the understatement of the century. We got maps for a quick trail loop on foot, and decided to set off and talk about the next section while we jogged.

We finished our trek section without major issue, and decided that this would be a turning point in the race for us. We had about 3 hours to make it to the paddle put-in, and did not want to backtrack over all the ground we came in on. We knew we didn’t have a lead to protect, so it seemed like a good time to take a chance. It could either save us time and energy or cost us the paddle section, but either way was guaranteed to be more fun than more backtracking. So we crossed the road and headed toward the Youghiogheny.

NYARA Decision time

After a frustrating hour trying to find a road down to the river, and more accidental trespassing (luckily more kindhearted Pennsyltuckians forgiving us for our outlandish adventure racing cluelessness), we decided to take another trail that would lead us almost to the river. This meant an insanely steep 200ft bikewhack down into the ravine. Imagine passing bikes down a line of 4 people because the terrain is too steep to walk, all while clinging to the rhododendron branches for dear life… and you’re now picturing 4 adventure racers finally having some serious fun during this race. Getting our bikes down into the ravine was some of the best teamwork I’ve experienced in AR…and calls for another kumbaya moment.

Anyway, while it would have been grand to ford the river and bike the rail trail all the way through Ohiopyle to the paddle put-in.. we were unfortunately on the side known as the “Lower Yough.” You know, where all the extreme white water rafting happens? John was certain we wouldn’t be able to cross the river, so we pushed our bikes along an old trail that paralleled the river until we ended up at Highway 381. You’re thinking, “great news! Hop on the road and pedal!” right? Well no, the highway is off limits. So now we bikewhack next to the highway. We arrived in town having missed the cutoff for the paddle put-in, but were happy we took the chance. It was still way better than backtracking.

Doug told us there were 4 more Foot-O points we could get, so we marked up our maps and went to get dinner. Our race had kind of blown up by that point, so we treated ourselves to a bit of real food. While waiting for our cheese dog and burger, Whitney and I had the pleasure of listening to the young waitress regale us with a disturbingly graphic account of how she had her tonsils removed and now it feels like a volcano is erupting in her head every time she sneezes. Luckily some other customers distracted her, so Whitney and I slunk off to an empty table where we proceeded to fully traumatize nearby diners with our putrid spandexy AR stench. My cheese dog was delicious.

Our last Foot-O section went fine. We ran a bit and walked a bit… but mostly just enjoyed the last few points of the race. We hit the rail trail after another nasty steep bushwhack down a re-entrant (complete with oodles of Devil Plants), and put in a nice team jog to the finish line.

We ended up finishing on an alternate course (due to the fact that we missed the paddle), but we all enjoyed racing together and were glad we came out for this epic beast of an AR that Doug and AAS put on. Kudos to Team AAS for the Coed Elite Division win, and huge kudos to Jim Driscoll who took the overall win as a solo! One word: manimal.

NYARA bridge

Team NYARA: First race of the season, Rev3 Epic

NYARA is back in the saddle again with the first big race of the season. We have some exciting things in store for this year including a new roster, more awesome races and other AR fun. We are happy to introduce a few new NYARA racers here — John and Aaron Courain and Tamela Swan who raced with fan favorite, Eric Caravella in this year’s Rev3 Epic. We will pass the reigns over to John to give us the full report. Enjoy!

REv3 startApril means the start of adventure racing season and the REV3 Epic is always first on the list here in the north east. Forty teams of racers came to Front Royal VA for a 100+ mile race through the George Washington National Forest in the Shenandoah Valley. What started off as a perfect spring weekend quickly turned into a war of attrition for a good many teams. I’ve never seen so many people lying on the ground in the middle of the woods, at night, puking. To generate this kind of misery REV3 has to be doing something right

We are a brand new squad this year. Eric is the youngest in AR years but also the toughest… or just craziest, either way no amount of misery phases him which is both awesome and mildly disconcerting. Aaron and I together have enough talent make up one complete racer. We have over 12 years combined experience which, in black lab years, is an entire life time. Our height and good looks make up for any shortfalls we have as racers. Tamela Swan has joined us this year after a 3 year hiatus and easily became the backbone of our team this weekend keeping us fed, sane, and moving forward.

NYARA startThe race started as it has before at the Down River Canoe Company in Bentonville VA. Our first leg offered up 6 checkpoints located in the tremendous single track of Shenandoah River State Park. Attacking this leg was the first strategic challenge we would see over the weekend. Only two of the points available in the park were mandatory, any two. Whatever two you chose had to be done during this initial foot section. We would be back in this park at the very end of the race and at that point we would also have our mountain bikes with us and we would be able to sweep whatever points were left from the start of the race. Clear more points by foot with fresh legs? Or, just grab the two closest points and bank some daylight for later on in the race. We decided to take a midline approach and grab 3 points. We worked our way out of the park behind a good number of teams who only picked off two points.

Starting a race by setting your team on an abnormal course does a lot for keeping you level headed throughout the race. It allows you to just race your own race and not be anxious and make mistakes when you see other teams that may or may not be in front of you. The fact is we had no idea where we actually stood in the rankings until we crossed the finish line. Is that good or bad? Well that depends. On one hand we don’t play cat and mouse all day, on the other hand we may not have a huge incentive to really race when you’re not sure if the race is on either way we moved forward confident that not too many other teams picked off a third point.

The paddle was next and its spring in the Shenandoah Valley. Spring means rain, rain means swollen rivers, and swollen rivers mean very fast splits on paddle sections. No one was walking away with the win here so we attempted to move efficiently, keep our calorie intake up, and even get a chance to enjoy the scenery. About half way through we spotted a bald eagles on its nest… ‘Merica!

We were entering the mid river ropes course as REV3 was just finishing up along with Odyssey. This gave us a confidence boost as we speedily wove our way through a lattice of chords that wound through the forest. We made our way around and over trees, through barrels, and over what I hope weren’t beds of poison ivy. We finished our maze, packed in a few calories, and got back into our canoes. Several bends in the river later we pulled ashore in historic Front Royal VA. We had to weave our way through town and hit some of the historic and professional buildings. In town was also challenge #2. We met a group of civil war period actors convinced that the south indeed will rise again. Aaron graciously offered to take one for the team and dress up like a confederate soldier. Challenge complete, and we moved on. Our first bumble of the day happened here in town. In an attempt to shave off a couple minutes of travel time I directed my team to cut across school grounds instead of following the blaringly direct path through the grounds of the Randolph-Macon Academy. What would have saved us 3 minutes needed up costing us 10 as we ran into a maze of barbwire fence and swamps that prevented us from leaving the school grounds. After hopping back and forth over a few fences and being suspiciously eyed up by a local we were back on track and quickly finished clearing the section, now onto the bikes.

The real race began here. We would be working our way by foot or by bike southeast between two parallel ridgelines. As we moved closer do the close of day we would work our way up and down these ridges over and over again until we really found ourselves in the hurt locker. The heat of the day and the effort it took to make it up and down to these high points over and over again began to take their toll on everyone. Stomachs began turning, nav decisions got harder to make, and pedaling uphill became less and less an option. Our major TA for the evening would be at Woodstock Tower. We had to push our bikes up to the Three Top Mountain ridgeline and make our way south west along the ridge for about 8 kilometers to CP 28. It was this section where we started to see the carnage ensue. We watched racers drop by the trailside one by one. We passed by Odyssey who was attempting to nurse one team member back to health, and soon after our friend from REV3 Masters had a small crash brought on from dehydration fatigue. Our own team was beginning to feel the effects as well but we pushed on toward Woodstock and finally made it to CP 28 at 11pm. The race directors wanted every team to take a selfie, so there’s this…

NAYARA selfie

We were able to make it through the ridge line push mildly unscathed save for about 5 minutes of Aaron puking. We spent some of that time hanging out with No Boundaries Media who also had a puking teammate at the selfie CP. We had been trading spots with them off and on all throughout the day. They beat us out of CP 28 by about 5 minutes but we had plenty of time to close the gap in the final section.

Races are decided at night time and this night was no exception. Our final loop put us through a valley where we would crisscross paths over and over with the teams who had not lost it all on the ridgeline a couple hours before. Most teams decided to take their bikes down through the valley, drop them, and attack the points high up on the ridges by foot one or two at a time. We scored big at the “picnic table sized rock” CP. GOALS passed us walking away from it telling us that it was a real doozy, and when we got to the attack point REV3 was on their 2nd sweep still looking. Eric did a great job picking a line off of a bend in the trail and we grabbed the point quickly moving on. We had to leave the two far out points as well as 38… and if you were at the race you would know why we skipped 38.

Our mission now was to make it back to the Down River Canoe Company and finish the course in Shenandoah River State park that we started the morning before. Not exactly a straightforward task, we had to make it past Veach Gap which climbs 1000 feet from the valley floor over Massanutten Mountain. With climbing of course comes awesome downhills and the Veach Gap Trail is no exception. We flew down the rocky trail, our brakes screaming under the strain of trying to keep us from flying off the side of the mountain. At one point we almost lost Tamela to a tumble off the side, but we made it down in one piece and crossed back into the park.

We had three points left and still had no idea where we stood. We heard at some point that Checkpoint Zero had to bow out do to sickness along with Odyssey. We were contending with REV3, GOALS, and No Boundaries Media. We had no idea where we stood so we had to treat this last part like a time trial. We hit it hard and cleared the park with some time to spare.Rev3podium

In the end we took second to REV3 who did a great job in this early season race. No Boundaries Media ended up with the same score as us but we beat them on time so they ended up third. NYARA is shaping up to be a tremendous squad this year. Next stop; Ohiopyle for the Equinox Traverse.

Questions with the Race Director: Hike-a-thong

Hey all you adventure racers — check out our latest chat with a race director. Presenting Eric Caravella, race director for this year’s Hike-a-thong. If you’ve never participated then read on — this is your year. If you are a veteran then still read on because Eric is funny.
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1. What is a Hike-a-Thon(g)?
It’s anything you want it to be! As long as your version of “anything” involves spending a Sunday morning on awesome trails with some super rad people who may or may not be wearing thongs on the outside of their clothes.
Basically it’s a trail run. But it could also be a trail walk. Or it could be a cutthroat race against your friends. Or a team relay where you work together with your friends to conquer the whole course.
This year, participants will be given trail maps with 3 loops highlighted, all starting and ending at the same location. Each loop will have a couple of checkpoint flags along the way, also marked on the map. After that, the goal is simple. Go punch some checkpoints and enjoy yourself!
The Hike-a-Thon(g) has always been a fun way to shake off the cobwebs early in the season. There are no official rankings, no timing chips, no awards ceremonies. Every year we get runners who like to go fast and push themselves. And every year we get hikers who just want to see the sights. Everyone gets to participate at his or her own level and enjoy as much of the course as they like, and at the pace they like. Do one loop, two loops, or all three. Do them in any order. And in any direction. Team up with your friends and make it a relay. Like the loop you just did? Do it again!
It’s a different format for anyone tired of the same old 5K. The Hike-a-Thon(g) showcases some really interesting North Jersey terrain and sights, and you get a free thong. What’s not to love?
2. How hard is it?
The trails in Ramapo Mountain State Forest are challenging to be sure, but I designed the event so that it is approachable for anyone (even those that have been hibernating for much of the winter). The full distance is 13 miles, but not everyone wants to run a trail half-marathon in February so I divided it up into three shorter loops (3.7mi, 4.6mi, and 4.7mi). The shortest loop has an overall elevation gain of 780 feet, so it’s no stroll around the shopping mall… but I’m confident anyone capable of an hour or two of hiking can enjoy part or most of the course. Come check it out, I suspect you’ll find the sights worthwhile and you might even find yourself going farther than you thought yourself able!
For those of you looking to go fast and challenge yourself, the full 13 miles will be plenty. Just try to look up once in a while and take in the awesome scenery!
3. What kind of navigation will be required?
The Hike-a-Thon(g) will take place on trails only, no compass work is required. There won’t be any course markings out on the trails. You will get a topographical trail map (NYNJ Trail Conference Map) with the loops highlighted and the checkpoint locations indicated. It will be up to you to find your way around the intended loop and punch the checkpoints I have put out for you. If you’re concerned, I will be happy to go over the maps with you and explain how to read them. The trails are very well used and very well blazed. All the checkpoints will be hung trailside, so off-trail travel is not part of this event. If you find yourself off-trail, stop that! Stick to the plan! You’ll never be much more than a mile or two from the start/finish, so bring a cell phone for emergencies and you’ll be fine.
4. What should I bring?
Again, bring a phone that you can carry with you for emergencies. Bring a ziplock bag for your map if conditions are wet. Dress appropriate for the weather, of course. The Hike-a-Thon(g) happens rain or shine (or snow!) I will scout the trail conditions a day or two ahead of time and report back if I think special footwear might be required. I will have some snacks at base camp, but bring food and fluids enough for the time you plan to spend on course. The good thing is you will return to your car after every lap, so you only need to carry enough food and water for each individual lap. And lastly, even though you will be on trail the whole time, a compass is never a bad thing to have (just in case).
5. What will I see?
I have designed the loops so that each one of them has its payoffs. Scenic vistas, lake views, a sleepy campground, awesome stone ruins, and one checkpoint location you won’t soon forget!
6. The only reason I sign up for this stuff is to get SWAG… whatdya got?
You make it to the starting line, you get a NYARA thong. Isn’t that enough? If not, I’ll have snacks and drinks for everyone too. And maybe even some shirts if I can find them.
Also, for those of you who have resolved to be more altruistic in 2015, you get to feel good about yourself for helping our fluffy friends in need. NYARA will be donating 15% of the registration proceeds to the Arthur Foundation. Learn more here: http://www.teampeakperformance.se/arthur/
7. If I run faster than everyone else, what will I win?
Hmmm… a sense of personal accomplishment? But in my opinion, (and my mother’s) if we go out and have fun then we’re all winners!
8. Will I look silly if I choose not to wear my NYARA thong outside my clothes in public?
I cannot guarantee that you won’t be subject to ridicule. Come on….. everyone else is doing it!
9. But won’t I look ridiculous if I do wear my NYARA thong outside my clothes.
Of course you will.
10. Should I sign up?
Yes.
11. Should I coerce my friends into signing up?
Definitely.
12. What if we don’t have fun?
Then you’re doing it wrong.

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Race Report: “Bustin’ my a** for NYARA at the USARA National Championships”

Amy from Team NYARA Master’s has their race report from USARA Nationals. They took 3rd in the Masters division — AWESOME! We are super excited to share their story — its pretty epic. Here’s Amy:

This year’s USARA’s National Championships started with a brisk hike/run uphill followed by 3 requisite laps on a whitewater course with a child’s boogie board and no fins. Little did we know at the time, this would be the only running we would do the entire race.

Bruce Swanson volunteered to do at least two of the three laps, with Rodney doing one. Bruce set out on the first lap and it took him a little longer than expected. But we finally saw him coming out of the water and after a quick transition, Rodney set off. As we were waiting for Rodney, Bruce told me about getting caught in the last eddy and briefly mentioned whacking his tailbone as he had initially heeded the race director’s advice about going down the course “feet first” – in retrospect, not a good move.   Rodney completed his lap quickly, Bruce completed the final lap and we started heading back downhill to transition to our bikes. It was on the way down the hill that Bruce mentioned that he was in a good amount of pain and really couldn’t run.

If you know Bruce, you would know that he is as tough as nails – actually, tougher, and unbelievably fit. He is the one who is usually carrying my pack (and his own) while towing me and still urging me to run faster (in a nice way). Before the race, we heard all of his stories about his win at the Team Death Race just the weekend before. Just listening to the stories made me cringe, while you could tell that he reveled in the pain and suffering. For Bruce to say that he couldn’t run, I knew something was really wrong and I was worried.

So, what did we do – we continued on. We biked, paddled and walked the rest of the race (over 29 hours) while Bruce took ibuprofen every 6. Rodney’s nav was spot on (except for one minor detour up the wrong mountain, which was the only nav error of our entire race and really only cost us about 30 minutes due to Rodney and Bruce quickly solving the problem.)

As the morning came, I was not feeling so strong on the bike. Bruce offered to tow me and continued to do so for hours up every big hill. I still do not know how he did this! (Turns out, I had the start of a cold, which I’ve now had all week – I just couldn’t figure out why my nose kept running like a faucet…) He also literally dragged me up the ski hill to get one last foot point at the end – truly inbelievable!

In the end, we got 38 checkpoints in 29 hours and 33 minutes – good enough for 3rd in the Master’s Division. I have never been so proud of a 3rd place finish or of my team.

After waiting a few days to get a doctor appointment, it turns out, Bruce fractured his tailbone. I am not surprised, but completely in awe (and proud). If a broken tailbone is not enough, here is a pic of his wetsuit. Ouch!

Bruce wetsuit

Good teammates are everything.

-Amy B

Thanks Amy and great job Team NYARA Masters! You all killed it! Bruce is an animal 🙂