2015 NAARS Championship — Race Report

We are excited to share this race report for the 2015 NAARS Championship. Eric Caravella was Team NYARA’s captain and led the team to a 4th place finish. We want to thank Montbell, Rudy Project and NYARA for all their support!

Here is Eric with the details…

NAARS paddle smileDoug Crytzer has done it again! Last year’s championship race in North Dakota (courtesy of Andy Magness and ENDRacing) was as awesome as they come.. and this year, Doug chose Gung Ho to put on the last NAARS race of the season at Raystown Resort in PA, right in our back yard. I had heard good things about Gung Ho and about Raystown, but they surpassed all expectations in one of the most fun and creative races I’ve ever done.

Up until the last minute, NYARA was registered as a 3-person co-ed team with John Courain, AR newbie Vanessa Peck, and your humble writer with the map and compass. We knew that at some point during the race we were going to need to paddle two canoes with our bikes in our boats, and we were concerned a 3-person setup was not going to be ideal for this endeavor. So when Molly Housman asked if she could join our team a couple of days before the race, we jumped at the chance. Fritz (on Rev3/MK) had given her the idea to reach out to us, and then proceeded to completely psych her out by telling her how fast we are. Literally, to the point that the morning of the race she was so nervous she considered dropping out. Those Rev3 guys are diabolical. Anyway, John convinced her it was all in her head, and she agreed to stick it out. And good thing she did, because she was awesome!

At registration, race paperwork seemed simple enough… two big maps and a race booklet. Turned out, it was anything but simple. They would give us 32 hours for the race, during which time there would be no fewer than 13 TRANSITIONS. It took an hour just to wrap my head around the complexity of the race, because for how big it was… there were very few actual rules of travel. Turned out, Gung Ho wanted everyone to figure out their own method of attacking the course, and as a result they did not tell us how (or in what order) we had to obtain most of the checkpoints. This resulted in a frenzy of carrying canoes (sometimes filled with bikes) to parking boats at weird places to run up and get bike points, to leaving bikes behind and canoeing to other areas to run back to bikes… and more. It got weird. But the fact that the creativity of the course design was matched by the creativity of the racers was precisely the reason this event was so amazing. And turned out also to be the reason that once we got deep into the race course, we stopped seeing other people. Everyone’s strategy took them to different parts of the course at different times, so each team had no option but to race their own race. I remember coming into one TA and asking Doug Hershey (Gung Ho course design hero) why I saw people running around on foot just outside the TA. He told me he had no idea, that people were attacking the course in ways he himself never imagined. I got a good chuckle out of that one.NAARS running

I’ll give you the “lite version” of what happened, because it would take forever to describe the whole race to you. But I will tell you about some of the highlights. Like the first 20 minutes of the race, when we saw a porcupine sleeping in a tree during the prologue, and then another one lumbering across the street as we jogged along. We even saw a third porcupine during the night bike section, indelicately bashing his way through the underbrush. (I saw my first porcupine ever in Wyoming during Cowboy Tough 2 months earlier and was ecstatic. I saw 3 during this race… and Olof wasn’t even there to yell at me for stopping to appreciate them!) Who knew PA had so many porcupines? Giant black snakes, too. We saw several of those, including one that was in the middle of hunting a mouse. It was a real Circle of Life moment. We also saw various birds, deer… and I was even pretty sure I saw a koala bear in the middle of the night. But it could also have been a tree stump. Anyway, lots of wildlife.. not a lot of people.NAARS water crossing

The second foot section had a nice river swim, and the third foot section was an awesome surprise. They gave us new maps at the TA, but didn’t tell us what was in store. It wasn’t until we arrived at the CP that we learned we’d have to navigate through a series of caves before we could punch the control! We did this a couple of times, and John served as cave navigator extraordinaire. From there, a bike ride along a scary highway brought us to the real meat of the race course, and the first time our bikes would go in our boats.

NAARS water crossing 2We packed up our boats (in one of our better TAs of the race) and paddled off. Another genius move Gung Ho made for this race was the “Mobile Gear Bag.” Due to the number of transitions, and the logistical nightmare it would be for race staff to transport gear, they allowed us to keep bags in our boats with whatever we wanted. Food, fluids, magazines, bocce balls… whatever. Most people brought food and drinks. But this allowed us to travel pretty light outside the boats since we’d be returning to our canoes frequently. I must say, though… those canoes were heavy with all the gear, people and bikes in them. Paddling is usually pretty slow, but this was painful. But we plodded along and crossed paths with GOALS and Rev3 before our strategies finally took us off in different directions.NAARS Paddle all 4

This brought us to the main bike leg of the race, intersprinkled with a couple gnarly foot sections. We barely saw anybody during this part of the race, it was amazing. I made a call to reverse the direction we did part of this leg so I could get to some tricky foot nav in the daylight, which turned out to be a good call. We were all starting to feel the effects of the day’s heat, but managed to enjoy a few miles of the awesome Raystown singletrack before the sun went down. That gave us a new shot of adrenaline. Molly was whooping and yelling along the dips and turns as we cruised along the singletrack. Vanessa had been struggled with fatigue, particularly along the road biking sections, but was back at home on the dirt and crushing it. And John was cruising along too, until he bonked. We were running low on fluids anyway so we stopped in a campsite to fill up and allow John to sit down for a while. He got some soda and some spam in his system and eventually felt well enough to continue making forward progress. Molly took the passport and we all banged out the rest of the biking leg without major issue. I promised John we would come back another time when he was feeling 100% so he could enjoy the trails, because they really are fantastic.

Bikes went back in the canoes and we paddled off on my first ever night paddle orienteering section. A definite highlight of the race for me as well, because I was nervous about night paddling having never done it before… but it went super smooth. I even nailed the tiny 50 foot wide “Pee Wee Island” in the middle of the lake. (Although in the interest of full disclosure, I did have to tell Molly to stop talking to me so I could focus. She sure likes to chat!) At the end of the paddle, everyone was pretty cold. We pulled into the TA and saw there was a fire, and I warned everyone to stay away from it because I wanted to be out of the TA as soon as possible. They did stay away, but instead went for the “Walking Tacos” that the race organizers had prepared. (Ziplock bags of doritos with meat and cheese, etc). A very nice gesture by race staff. But admittedly I was quite grumpy at this point and in no mood to be wasting time on things as trivial as warmth and nutrition. In my estimation we were behind and we needed to move fast if we had any hope of clearing the course.

Next foot section was unremarkable, except for the fact that it took way longer than expected and had a nasty ¾ km bushwhack that I was not expecting. It was labeled a clearing on the map. It was NOT a clearing. Even thought the sun finally came up toward the end of this leg, spirits were pretty low when we finally got back to our bikes. We had just stumbled down 1100 feet of steep vert that we were now going to have to go back up with our bikes. (I realize I have digressed from the “high points” of the race, but there’s more of that to come). We pushed/rode our bikes up the monster hill and I was pleased to learn upon closer inspection of the map that the rest of the 25km ride would be steady gradual downhill as we once again lost the elevation we had just gained. HIGHLIGHT! We flew through the rest of this bike leg and went out on one last foot section before the paddle home.NAARS check point

I don’t eat well when I’m in charge of the maps (a bad little habit of mine), so my brain and body were pretty tired by this point. John was fully revived so he took the map for the last 40 min foot section and did a great job navigating us through a beautiful series of steep rocky trails with creeks and waterfalls. Fortunately I was not too exhausted to appreciate the unique beauty of this little treasure, and once again realized that everything the race directors added to the race had undeniable redeeming value, and was not just a way to extend time and distance.NAARS Paddle 2

We made it back to our boats for the 10km paddle home with a little under 4 hours to do it. HIGHLIGHT! At that point our position was pretty much locked so I was thrilled we didn’t have to hurt ourselves to make the paddle back in time. Instead we enjoyed the beautiful day and tried not to capsize as the motorboats and jetskis zipped around us in an apparent attempt to impress or intimidate us. Lazy bums with their internal combustion engines! Anyway, it was a nice final paddle, and I even allowed Molly to start talking again.NAARS Paddle 2015

Verdict: SPECTACULAR! Gung Ho crushed it with the course design, and NAARS hosted yet another amazing championship race which I will be sure to continue participating in for years to come. We cleared the course (all 69 CPs!) in 29:34, one of only 4 teams to clear. AAS, GOALS and Rev3/MK managed to clear it faster, so we took a solid 4th place. In retrospect, we had some slow downs related to fatigue and nutrition, as well as TA times that were probably slower than they should have been. But overall a great experience with a super set of teammates. John was an excellent backup navigator as usual, and saved my butt a couple of times. The girls rocked it… Molly was physically strong and super positive the whole race, she went from worrying about being able to keep up to a point at which I thought she was going to need to start towing. And Vanessa who is new to AR this year… this was a tough race on a big race course, and only her second AR ever! She did the Jersey Inferno 10-hour in June, so this was a lot to ask of someone on their second race. But she did an awesome job, and we’re just hoping we didn’t scare her off from racing more in the future.

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2015 Primal Quest Tahoe: A list of firsts

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

olof pq 2

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

There have been two race reports out from other Journey team members. Both provide a much better and more detailed summary than I could ever give.
Katie’s can be found here:
Fletchers can be found here:
So instead of writing up something that has already been done better, I just want to reflect and list of some “firsts” for me in what I would like to call……
Things that happened in PQ that I have never done before:
olof pq 1

Start a race with fever. 

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

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

This is long. About as long as it sounds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walk around campgrounds asking for food

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

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

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

Borrow a bike during a race

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

Rappel with a borrowed bike

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

Racing with Journey

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

Finishing Primal Quest

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

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

Race Report: GOALS ARA Krista Griesacker

This race report comes from Aaron Courain — one half of the Courain Brothers duo. He, his brother John and Tamela Swan killed it at this year’s Krista Griesacker 12 hour race. Here’s their story. 

Intro

John, Tamela and I met up in Hamburg, PA on Friday night to race the GOALS Krista Griesacker 12 hour adventure race.  Last year John and I raced this as a 2 person Male team and took the overall win.  Coming back this year we had a reputation to uphold.  

Friday night we got a big map and John transposed all of the CPs from one of the provided master maps.  We then sat down to go over the rules of travel along with the map and instantly became confused.  The whole first section of the race was a bike leg, but at least half of the leg showed no trails at all.  The rules of travel said that we would be following a series of unmapped trails with tape that would guide us for the turns.  Ok, fair enough.  The rest of the course looked pretty straight forward.  Bike, Paddle, Trek, in that order.  With not much map work to figure out of the next day, we all got a good rest and packed our bags for 12 hours of adventure.

Prologue

After bussing to the start line, we received vague instructions as to how the prologue would go.   Run around the park and follow the trail that stays near the river, then pick up “a thing” at the train trestle, continue running around the park and trade in your “thing” for your passport.  Then get on the bikes.   Ok.  As the prologue started I ended up at the front of the pack, running along the river.  Then the trail moved away from the river and I must have missed the trail that put you back on the river…and then everyone else followed me.  After correcting and getting back on course we were back in the jumbled peloton of prologue runners.   Finally finishing the prologue loop, we set off on our bikes mid pack.  

Bike

The bike would take us through town and onto a rail trail that paralleled a highway.  Having a rough start, we worked our way past all of the teams who could follow instructions better than us to catch up with GOALS, who were leading the pack.  They would be our competition for the day.  We caught them near the end of the rail trail and then passed before bike whacking up to CP 1.  At this point we were in the unmapped trail section, so we were navigating based on the rules of travel, which described what we should do and when we should turn.   

We continued on to climb a ridge with a lead pack consisting of NYARA, GOALS and the REV3 duo.  Once at the top of the ridgeline, NYARA and GOALS seemed to be able to keep a quicker pace and broke off from the rest of the group.  We basically traveled as a team of 6 for the duration of the ridgeline, and then descent to CP4 and 5.   Getting to CP6, still with unmapped trails, was described as an uphill bike whack in the rules of travel to get up to the next ridgeline.  The bikewhack was much shorter than I was expecting and we were soon back on trail.  At this point we pulled away from GOALS for good on the bike leg.

The remainder of the bike went smoothly enough, except for an issue with Tamela’s cleat losing a screw.  We had to take a quick minute to fully remove the cleat, so Tamela would be riding with one foot not clipped in.  At the end of the ridgeline was a screaming, teeth chattering loose downhill where my brakes totally overheated and stopped working forcing me to steer off into the woods so I could stop and walk down the rest of the hill.   Thankfully we all got down in one piece.  At the bottom of the descent we found ourselves back at the rail trail we began with.  We formed a paceline back down the rail trail and then on roads for a few miles and really pushed to the TA to start the canoe leg.

Paddle

At the paddle we transitioned quickly and jumped in the boat to keep the momentum.  This leg was a pretty long paddle for only a 12 hour race.  9 miles, of which the first third was on a very slow moving lake/river.   We would also have 2 portages around dams.  We took the time to refuel as much as we could on this leg.  We moved smoothly but probably not as quickly as we thought.  Aside from Tamela smacking me in the back of the head with her paddle a dozen times, the leg was enjoyably uneventful.  Having the two portages also broke up the monotony of paddling and allowed the blood to get back into our legs.

At the end of the paddle we weren’t sure what to expect as there was no clear take out point marked on the map and the TA was 100 or so yards inland; although there was an optional CP which was worth 10 points that we had to get from the boats.  As we neared the area where we were expecting to see something, we took a minute to re-read the race instructions and the map, to try and figure out what we were supposed to do.   After wasting 2 or 3 minutes we continued around the next bend to see CP 10 which was 100 feet up and the take out. I’m not sure why that was so unclear in the race instructions, but oh well.  We portaged up to the TA and began transitioning to the final trek of the day.  As we were wrapping up the transition, GOALS came in to the TA.   I thought our lead was a bit bigger, but apparently not.  It was crunch time.  

Trek

We ran back to the river and crossed to start our last trekking leg.  Steep climbs were a theme today.  And we bushwhacked up a few hundred feet to get the first trekking CP only to go back down for the next and then back up.  John was navigating super smoothly.  We kept a solid pace and never had to search for a CP.  Always approaching and spotting it from a hundred feet away.

The trek saw us descend back to the river we were paddling for another crossing.  Here we refilled our water for the last time in anticipation for the longest section of the trek.   After crossing the river and checking in at the manned CP14, we asked if GOALS had somehow passed us on the previous section.  Nope, still in the lead. No time to waste, keep moving.

One last climb.  Saving the best for last.  800 feet straight up the side of a hill with a CP in the middle.  John’s navigation was dead on and somehow, the heat was peaking in the afternoon.   Thankfully we fueled with a bunch of calories on the paddle, so I could stick to easier things to eat like gu’s and apple sauce in order to keep me moving at a quick pace.

The climb ended, and we set out on a plateau towards the rest of the CPs.  A mixture of running on dirt roads and bushwhacking to points kept us on our toes with an eye and ear out for GOALS behind us.  We approached CP20, the final CP before the finish line with a bit of caution.  The clue was border corner, and there would be no punch or flag; only a rock with a number written on it.  We headed into the woods to first find the border line marks on the trees.  Once finding them, we followed to the corner.  It felt easy enough for us, but it seemed like some of the newer teams and racers might have trouble.  From here we had a 2k downhill bushwhack to the finish line.   We were warned at the pre race meeting to leave 1-1.5 hours for this section.  We were well ahead of a time cutoff, but I was expecting a tough 2k.  

As we descended, we found ourselves leaving the nice open forest, and fighting denser and denser woods until we were battling walls of thorns 6 feet high.  This was the most painful bushwhack I have ever experienced.  The only upside was the amount of blackberries we found and could eat along the way.  But for every blackberry I picked, I had a dozen thorns to pick out of my skin.  It was impossible to keep a bearing here.  The thorns were too dense to go through, so we found ourselves going around and traversing more and more.  We followed game trails where we could, but then they would dead end into another nest of thorns that we had no option but to battle through.  There was much rejoicing and jubilee when we found the road at the bottom of the bushwhack.  But the big question was, did GOALS pass us on this last section?

As we ran towards the finish line, we heard that we were the first team in!  John’s great navigation brought us through and we were able to really stay on top of our nutrition and run a smooth and fast race.  The last bushwhack took us 57 minutes.  Unfortunately for many other teams, they would be stuck in that for closer to 2 hours, coming in well after the finish time, as well as in the dark.  But everyone finished with a smile on their face, most likely because they were finally out of that ridiculously painful bushwhack.

Big thanks to GOALS for the fun and challenging course, and the great competition!

Race Report: Cowboy Tough: No sleep for the weary.

CT Finish
Cowboy Tough ARWS gave us a truly epic race course, long distances, a great race and a few unfortunate events. It was a truly wild and well organized event and read on to see why NYARA will keep coming back to this one, year after year. First up is Team Captain, Olof Hedberg covering the first half of the race followed by Eric Caravella bringing in the humorous wrap up. Here’s Olof:

Our team for CBT had been set for a long time and preparations had gone on for months. We thought we had everything under control when, the night before we were planning to leave we realized all the gear didn’t fit in our car. After a short panic followed by a brainstorming session we made some phone calls. Thanks to the generosity of the Board of Summit Nordic Ski Club we were able to borrow the Club’s 15-passenger van, which comfortably accommodated us and our ridiculous volume of gear. We are so grateful to have such a great community around us.

Preparations – Shame on British Airways
The mandatory points were pre plotted, but we spent a lot of time plotting the five dozen or so optional points. The maps were big and there was a lot of information to digest, but this was a small issue compared to Mikael’s with his bike being stuck somewhere between London and Denver. British Airways apparently only likes to charge you for taking your bike, but does not actually feel obligated to put it on the flight. He was promised it would show up on the next flight and in time for the race start, but we started to realize they had just lied to his face. In reality the bike arrived on Saturday – 5 days later than planned and 3 days after race start. Nice one British Airlines, well played.
Thankfully race director, Mark Harris offered to lend us not only his bike, but also bike shoes. After 2 hours of cleaning, adjusting, tire swapping and fixing Mikael was all set to go.
After going to bed early and getting to sleep in late relatively to AR standards, we loaded up busses (best busses ever in an AR!!! – I want to come back just so I get to ride these busses to the start again) and get ready for the start in Buffalo.
CT -- prolog
Prologue – In the lead in an ARWS:
I have always said that unless we get skiing incorporated into an AR I will never lead an ARWS. If we ever do get to ski (glacier, back country, cross country, whatever) I would be shocked if we didn’t take the lead (Maybe Björn and Josefin in Haglöfs aside). There was no snow and no skiing in Buffalo, Wyoming. Instead we had an urban-O where we had to swim to the bottom of a pool, do a shot of Whiskey, get a gun casing and some other stuff. The start of the race went of with a gun shot by Wyoming Governor, Matt Mead. We jogged around the streets, completed the tasks and dream of my surprise when we showed up first to the TA. The next team was right on our heels but apparently I was wrong – it is possible for us to lead without the use of skis – if only for a few seconds (but I’m still wishing for that long brutal ski leg in a race).

Bike ride #1 – Chasing Tail
Next up was an uneventful bike ride to the paddling — well it would have been uneventful if it wasn’t for Eric having to chase some tail (we will come back to that one). I quickly compensated for our fast prolog and made a turn too early, which set us back to a ~top 10 place. On a CP during the ride we had to enter the fairgrounds. In the fairgrounds there was a herd of young cows with ribbons on their tails. Each team had to collect one ribbon. Eric “wildlife appreciation” Caravella was the given the option and before we could even blink he got a ribbon and ran back to us filled with the joy of a four year old who just got candy. The wildlife whisperer strikes again. We rolled into the TA ~10 – 15 min after the leaders and got in the water.

Paddling – The CP that wasn’t
With Mikael “the paddle master” Mattsson, our kayak skills have definitely improved, and we do a one of our better paddle sections. That doesn’t mean we are good enough to keep up with the best, and SAFAT paddles by us like they have a motor on their boat. We continue to grind our teeth and power through (except Mikael who looks like he is on a Sunday afternoon paddle with his family). When we hit the last CP we see the other teams park their boats. But here comes the issue, soon afterwards the teams comes back and continues to look along the shoreline. We pulled up and didn’t see a CP. Continuing along the shoreline we checked every cove together with a bunch of other teams. They called it after 30 min and headed back to the TA, while our 30 min wasn’t up yet so we continued to search but when Mikael says “We need to check this cove too” we are over one kilometer from the plotted CP. Realizing our 30min are up we headed back to the TA to finish what would be the first and last kayak section of the race.

Bike #2 – Can you see the flag?
Another gravel road leads us to the foothills. Not anything special, but also not boring in any way. Half way through we have to stop and communicate with each other trough flags like they did during the war (a communication method known as semaphore). It was actually pretty cool and impressive how they could do that over long distances. One problem here – since there had been OPs on the paddle many of the top teams still got stuck behind a lot of lower ranked teams in this bottle neck and there was no way to progress until the teams in front of you had completed the task. With Whitney “Hawkeye” Hedberg on our team we completed the challenge on our first try but we were still stuck there for over 30 min of which 18 was just waiting for other teams to complete it. The fun part of the episode is the Whitney actually has really bad eyesight (at least compared to me) but she is probably the most observant person I have ever met and that made all the difference. She and Eric worked together to help the team in front of them – to speed up the process — and they in turn helped us. Overall we were two of the fastest teams! Yeah for cross-teamwork. We finished up the bike ride with a climb to the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains.

Day 1 Hike – Up into the mountains we go
We quickly dropped our bikes and started hiking together with Yogaslackers, Nordic Racing, Canada AR and Dart Nuun just in front of us. This section involved lots of elevation gain from 6,000ft to over 10,000 ft = awesome! Yogaslackers were having a rough time. Canada AR kept fantastic speed and hiked past us like we were standing still. After the first bushwack we also passed Dart Nuun who was dealing with a sick teammate. This was when Mikael starting to have trouble. His speed suffers and even after we take his pack he throws up. We are slowly moving forward into the night, but many of the teams around us are dealing with sick teammates so everyones speed is suffering. We got two optional CPs which took some time but were set in truly beautiful places.
The two last CPs were the biggest “tricks”. On the map leading into gem lake it looks like there is a good sized trail leading straight to the lake. We try three different trails with no luck. In the end we decide to just backtrack to a known location and set a compass bearing. It’s a long slog bushwacking hours and hours trying to stay on bearing and keeping track of our location. It’s slow moving but safe and as the sun goes up we feel sure we will make it to the TA before the cutoff. We are lucky as very few others do and the field gets reduced to just 7 teams making the cutoff.
CT -- biking2
Bike #3,4,5 – 200k and 24h of biking
Day 2 was going to be long and didn’t get better by me taking the wrong way out of the TA. Somehow I got really turned around after sitting down to eat, and I switch my maps up side down, so we headed out back the way we came in. An hour later we corrected the mistake and we are biking through the misty Wyoming morning towards a cool rappel. Our speed was still slow as Mikael was still suffering after throwing up all night, but we are slowly getting there.CT- foggy rapell
The rappel was totally covered in clouds when we got there, but right as we were about to head down there was a break in the clouds and we could see the ground far below us. We didn’t have high expectations for this rapell, but it turned out to be really cool.
Then it was back to the bikes….ct- biking
….. 205 kilometers of biking for the day. Eric clocked it. We arrived at the TA and were happy to get out of the saddle for a bit and run up and down in the canyon searching for Ops by foot. We grabbed a bunch, got back to TA, changed and were back on our bikes just before the cutoff for another long ride…

Bike #6 – Epicness awaits in Crazy Woman land, and burgers from us…?
The next day started with an epic bike leg with a ton of route choices and vert. It started off fantastically with nav straight on point and the miles flying by us (if by flying we mean slowly passing as we are hiking bikes over ridges etc.). We stop to try to sleep at one point, but as soon as we lay down clouds roll in and rain started pouring down – no rest for the weary. CT - crazy eyes
We were 90 % of the way to the CP when, overconfident, we made a turn too early. This wouldn’t be too bad except that it was pretty steep downhill. The trail was also marked with orange ribbons, which contributed to our overconfidence. 2- 3k later we are totally cliffed out by Crazy Woman Canyon. Options are discussed, going back and around would mean we would lose about an hour. Down climbing with our bikes could be impossible. We look around and decided to go for option 2 – bike climbing. A pretty intense half hour goes on while we scramble with our bikes to get down and up to the other side of the canyon. “I thought that wouldn’t be possible” Mikael says somewhat putting the finger on the doubt we all had been feeling. But making it to the other side gave us extra energy. Ten minutes later we roll into the CP and NYARA President, Denise Mast is standing there flipping burgers. NYARA had joined forces with Rev3 and put together a secret burger oasis in the middle of the course. How frikkin awesome is that!!! I’m still slightly shocked, but more convinced than ever – we race for the coolest club!
Burgers swallowed nearly whole and on to the next CP. The landscape changes once again and we bike into a section that looks like the Moab desert. This course is truly amazing and we stop for a minute to take in the view of “The Red Wall”. Mark and Rev3 have done just an amazing job, and Day 3 might have been the best of them all, starting in the mountains, finishing in desert/ranch hills.

And now let’s hand it over to Eric…

Hey all, Eric here… taking over the report for Olof who had to jet off to Sweden for XC ski camp with his team (talk about “no rest for the weary”!) Anyway, our original plan was to have slept by this point in the race, but as Olof mentioned, we got rained on. Once the sun came out and was beating down on us (with no real shade or shelter to be had anywhere) we figured we’d just make the most of the daylight and try to grab some CPs. Mikael had been able to snag a few minutes of sleep here and there alongside the road the night before. I played 20 questions with Whitney to help keep her awake (and not for nothing, but when she tried to stump me with “Alf”…I guessed it in 6 questions. Booyah for small victories.) But we were all hurting for sleep. I became convinced that every turn and every trail we took I’d been on before. Spookiest hallucinogenic deja vu of all time. I knew it made no sense as I had never been to Wyoming, let alone to the private ranch we were on. Still, I couldn’t resist the urge to try to predict our next turn and guide us to the next CP using my recollection of experiences that had never occurred. Good strategy, right? Anyone surprised it didn’t work?

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Anyone else surprised that as soon as the sun went down I became useless as backup navigator and fell asleep on the side of the trail? But we were so close to the TA and our sleeping bags that we just pushed on. We got to TA and our magnificent, glorious, floating-on-a-cloud sleeping bags. Our heads hit the pillow and it was lights out for 60 minutes of the most sublime sleep imaginable.

End of Day O-Course – half a dozen (non)high points and a porcupine

Sleep is a game changer. Even just 60 minutes of it after 63 hours of racing. Once we shook off the cobwebs it was out on foot for the end of day O. My brain was back in the game and Olof and I were able to nav the night points without major issue. Until we decided to go for the “high point” CP. We scrambled up this nutty ridge and scampered about, climbing everything that looked like a high point but evidently never was. Unfortunately we ran out of time before we found it, so we had to head back to TA to get out by the Start of Day 4.

I was lagging behind a bit on our way off the ridge and almost stumbled over a humungous porcupine, lumbering around in the dark. I had never seen one before, and I got really excited (since I’m wildlife guy). I ran ahead and caught the rest of my team and told them about the porcupine, and Olof (in his typical non-wildlife-guy way) said “we’re going to skip the porcupine” and ran off toward the TA. No further discussion, the Captain has spoken. Off to the TA we went.

Bike #246, at least it seemed – Grinding back to Casper

Race rules dictated that we must leave the TA on the Day 4 bike ride between 4am and 5am, and had to be back to Casper by noon. The ride was 75 miles, give or take… and we were just about to get out of TA at 5am. Mikael and I are the pacers on all bike legs, but since he hadn’t been feeling well I was worried about getting back to Casper on time (and about how much work it would be for me to pull the team 75 miles over what could possibly prove to be insanely wide open and windy terrain). Everyone kept telling me the ride couldn’t be that bad if race organizers figured everyone would be able to make it within 8 hours, but I was still concerned and yelled at anyone that got out of the paceline. The first 20 miles were very hilly and scenic, and the sunrise was spectacular. But I was busy calculating our progress and average speed so I barely noticed.

Eventually the road flattened out and the grind really began. Longest gravel road ever. But thankfully, Mikael was in great shape and helped tremendously. We even grouped up with a couple other teams and formed a big peloton, great for our pace and a morale boost!

Packrafting to the Finish – why are Olof and Whitney swimming?

We made it into Casper (in plenty of time, I can admit when my teammates were right) and grabbed our packrafts. We jogged 2 or 3 miles along the trail next to the river to the put-in. And I have to say that even though we could almost smell the finish line, this was my lowest point in the race. My legs were locking up and I could barely keep up a jog… it was misery. We arrived at the put-in after what seemed like an eternity, and inflated our rafts. In an interesting strategy decision, Olof opted not to tighten his air valve all the way. Let’s see how that works out!

Mikael and I crammed our two 6+ foot personages into our comically tiny raft and pushed off toward the first rapid. Mikael had never packrafted before but did an expert job of negotiating the drop successfully, so we slowed down to watch Olof and Whitney take their turn. In the 60 seconds between pushing off and arriving at the first rapid, their raft had apparently lost enough air to fold up in half on itself during the drop and eject them both into the freezing cold water. Funny to watch, probably less so to experience.

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After they collected their belongings and added air to their raft (fully sealing the valve this time!) they were back on the water and paddling like a boss. We all cleared the rest of the rapids without incident, and pulled out our boats for the run to the finish line. We were all smiles and shared a big group hug, before Olof went off somewhere to pass out and I began crushing BBQ like it was my job. Great post-race food, Rev3. Kudos!
It may very well have taken you all as much time to read this race report as it took us to experience it, and for that…. we apologize. But Rev3 truly packed a lot of adventure and memorable experiences into the Cowboy Tough race this year that we certainly were not at a lack of things to write about. Wyoming is an incredible place, with so much diversity in terrain and wildlife (we also saw coyotes and a momma moose with her baby!) that I can’t wait to go back to explore some more.

Thanks to my team who were awesome as always, to Denise Mast and NYARA (for the burgers AND the support), to Montbell for supplying outstanding gear for the race, to Rev3 and Cameco who crushed it with an amazing event overall, and to Governor Mead, Casper and Wyoming in general for supporting our sport. Huge thanks to the great photographers who captured the race — Randy Eriksen, Michael Sero and Johan Lundahl.

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…

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.

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.

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!!

Solo Racing with Chris Obara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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