10 Questions with Jersey Inferno Race Director: Olof Hedberg

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We sat down with NYARA Team Captain and Jersey Inferno race director Olof Hedberg to talk about the upcoming Jersey Inferno Adventure Race.

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Q: What the h*ll is the Jersey Inferno and what makes this race so special?
A: The Jersey Inferno is a 10h adventure race that combines trail running, mountain biking, kayaking, team work and rappelling (optional). We set a course that consists of mandatory and optional points. This means that we have a race that can be enjoyed by beginners as well as experts. If you never done an adventure race before – going for the mandatory points and just a couple of optionals will probably keep you racing for the full 10h. If you are an expert on this you will be able to take all the points and the race will be, in my opinion, one of the toughest races in New Jersey.
Q: Do you have any specific gear suggestions for this race?
A: A mountain bike is essential. It can be rented from Mt. Creek. right at check in (the day before the race). Just remember to reserve ahead of time. If you want to clear the entire course and take all the optional points, a compass is good to have too. For the basic mandatory points it is pretty straight forward and you can do without the compass, but the optionals are definitely a little trickier and a compass is a good thing.
Second – we have a thing called an “Oasis Box” (or a “drop bag” – for you ultra runners out there). Use this amazing feature. As you can see in our second race update: https://teamnyara.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/inferno-update-2.pdf you will have access to the box before the last leg of the race. Fill this bag/box with things you want (extra socks, food and water, sunscreen, an extra pair of shoes, ibuprofen, gummy bears – basically anything that will help you get through the last leg).
Last – a map case and a pen/sharpie are great things to have. This is a race where you tend to get wet (if you are aiming to clear the course), so a way to protect your maps from water is great. A pen to write/draw-in information on the map is also a good thing – you will see why during the race.
Q: What about food and water?
A: Plan on bringing food and water for 6-8h in the start. Then stack ~4h of food and water/sports drink in the oasis box (always have extra). Also – put water bottles on your bike. If you have 2 water bottles on your bike you will have 1.5L of extra water on your bike that you won’t have to carry from the start.
Q: Can I sign up on race morning?
A: NO! We use electronic chips that have to be programmed to each racer. Sign up closes sometime the week before the race and we don’t allow racers to sign up after that. You don’t register for the Olympics on race morning – so you don’t register for the Jersey Inferno on race morning either (ok that was a slight exaggeration but you get the point).
Q: When I’m finished with the race will there be something edible in the end?
A: The race finishes at a beer garden. There will be food, drinks and beer all available for purchase. The award ceremony will be held at this beer garden – so bring some $$$ and hang out after the race.
Q: You have a couple of “races within the race” – tell us about them.
A: Yes – thanks for reminding me. This is another thing that makes this race so special. We have a King and Queen of the mountain stage that starts off the race. The race basically starts up a “small hill” — it is New Jersey after all 🙂 For this part of the race you don’t need to stay with your team. The first man and woman to the top win the king and queen of the mountain award. So basically you have a short (ish) mountain trail race within the Jersey Inferno. At the top you need to rejoin with the rest of your team and you’ll stay together from there on.
The second one is “Blazing Saddles.” This is a stretch of mountain biking where we clock the entire team. The fastest team down this part of the biking course wins the blazing saddles award.
So by signing up for the Jersey Inferno not only do you get a full adventure race, but also a mini trail running race and a mini mountain bike race.
Q: Do you have any tips or tricks we should know about?
A: To use the words of Race Director extraordinaire, Rodney Villella – “Sometimes slower is faster.” Study the map and plan your route. You will have access to the maps 2h before the race start. That gives you a long time to plan your strategy and route. Also – don’t expect to get all information up front. As racers from last year know, additional information might be handed to you during the race.
Q: How would you recommend to train for this race?
A: Well – frankly it’s a little late to start training now. You only have two weeks left but if you could throw in a hill session on foot this week – I think you will find it beneficial.
Q: Let’s say you are a team captain for a team that has never done this before. How would you approach this race?
A: The first thing I would do is having everyone memorizing the following “This is doable – I can do more than I think.” Use that phrase during the race. A few other thoughts:
1) Identify your team’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of running, mountain biking and kayaking. Remember – you are never faster than your slowest person – so he/she will be determine what you are good and bad at.
2) Can we do the rappel or is anyone afraid of heights? The rappel is often easy points so I would really try to go for it. If a team member is afraid of heights – see if you can do something to work with him/her to make it possible. You will have an awesome race even if you don’t do the rappel, but doing it will probably make it even more awesome.
3) Only go for the mandatory points in the disciplines your team is weaker in.
4) Approximate how much extra time and energy it is to take an optional point in your strong discipline. If one wouldn’t cost you that much extra and is close to the route you have chosen to go anyway – go for it. There are many teams that just try to take the mandatory points, if you can just take a couple of optionals you can beat many teams right there.
5) Help each other! I can not emphasize this enough. I see so many team where one person is super strong and has trained a lot, while the other teammates are dying out there. It’s the responsibility for the fitter one to help the slower one. Carry their back pack, help them push their bikes or take out food and feed them. You are a team and together you can do so much more. Also consider over all race strategy. For example – is it beneficial for you to try to go for the “King of the Mountain” or should you stay back helping a slower teammate – knowing that you can’t continue on course until the whole team is up the mountain. Talk about these things before hand so you don’t have to discuss this on race day.
If you can do these things, you will have a fantastic race even if you never done this before.
Q: Do you have any last minute suggestions to racers to make this extra awesome?
A: Don’t start too fast. You will be out there for 10h. I have seen many racers comparing this to obstacle races and they start very fast. They usually look good for 3-6h but unfortunately they often don’t have enough energy for the last half of the race and they drop far down in the field, or in some cases don’t finish at all.
Its good to remember that sometimes there are no easy routes. If you are finding yourself deep in a swap or bush-wacking up a mountain – it’s all part of the game and just try to enjoy that everyone has to do it. That is why it is called “Adventure Racing” – It’s a true adventure.
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