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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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.
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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?

CT -- biking

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.

CT -- running to finish

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…

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:

team nyara5 team nyara3 TEam nyara2 TEam Nyara1

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!!

Race Report: The Longest Day

Cara Guilfoyle, Mikal Davis and Brice Wilson recently competed in NYARA’s The Longest Day 24 hour race. Cara chimes in this time with her thoughts on the race.

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From Cara:

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TLD was one of the most well organized races I have done. The course was challenging, lots of elevation, and very well planned. We started with a O section where we had 2 different maps with 4 checkpoints each and could divide up. Brice took the one with the more challenging appearing optional points, and Mikal and I took the 4 mandatory ones. I was pretty much doing the nav and we quickly got lost! We were convincing ourselves that we were at the right cliff and rock wall but the checkpoint just wasn’t there. We eventually went back out to the road for a point of reference and, while we were SO close to the the right trail, we took the wrong unmarked trail! once again no checkpoint, we went back one more time to the road and it started making sense. Once we were on the right trail, we quickly found the right cliff and after finding the checkpoint, found the final 3 without difficulty. We figured Brice would be waiting for us at the TA like, “what took you two so long?” But we all ended up getting there at the same time, he got turned around on the first one as well. We probably lost about 20 min.

From there we headed out to do some very nice mountain biking and eventually to the Hudson River to paddle. The paddle went well, no teams passed us. The rain started on the paddle at about 1pm and kept up till about 8pm. After the paddle we hit some serious elevation on foot (climbed 4 mountains) and were neck and neck with half way there for several checkpoints. We would pass, then they would pass then we would think we lost them, then they would pop up out of nowhere again. Eventually they passed us. We transitioned to bike at TA 4 and biked on a rocky/hilly multi use trail and roads to TA 5. We got there around 8pm to do a foot O. It was interesting because there were about 20 optional CP’s that you could get either at this time (from the north) or later in the race on the final foot section (from the south). We opted to get 5 checkpoints now and get the rest later.

When we finished, Goals and Rev 3 were the only ones out before us and they did the same thing so that was reassuring. From here we headed out onto a rather painful LONG ride (the one I was looking forward to the whole time, I should have known better) peppered with occasional checkpoints. You know its going to be bad when theres a street sign that says “steep incline ahead”. We climbed for what seemed like forever. The 30 miles took us I think 5 or 6 hours, this part is somewhat of a blur. We did hit up some drunk campers for water, they were awesome! We eventually reached the final TA to get ready for the final foot section. We switched gear around and went inside to warm up, look at the map, eat and drink.

We left there around 3:30 AM. We were all ready to get a bunch of those optional checkpoints when we found ourselves sinking (literally) in a swamp, the wrong swamp at that. I just remember Brice climbing a tree to get out of the hole he got stuck in and yelling go the other way! And Mikal’s light going up and down as he kept sinking and falling, they didn’t think it was very funny, but it was quite a scen. We then spent at least 2 hours bushwhacking through dense brush searching for a trail, ANY trail, because we had no idea where we were. We made an educated decision on which direction to head in and just went. By 6am we found a trail, and by 6:30 the sun came up and we found where we were on the trail. We were now back on track. We had 2.5 hrs to get as many of those optional CP’s as possible and get back to the finish. We ended up getting 4 more CP’s before heading in.

Overall it was a challenging race in many ways, weather, elevation, navigation. At the same time it was very satisfying in that through these adversities, we undoubtedly grew stronger as a team. I am looking forward to nationals!

A few thoughts from her teammates:

From Brice:

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Remember the last time I made a two-hour nav mistake? It was during the monster foot section of Infiterra’s 2006 Michigan Coast-to-Coast. I still remember the clue: “third depression.” Why do I remember that with such specificity? Because you don’t forget two-hour nav mistakes. At TLD this year, I made a 2hr 15min mistake that I will simply name “the confused bushwhack.” This mistake alone probably cost us 3-5 optional points. I’ll spare you the details. The main takeaway was that I had awesome teammates. Despite how disappointing this was, Mikal and Cara trusted their navigator. They knew I was trying as hard as I could to get us back on track. This ordeal was pretty unpleasant, and took place at a time of night when people are usually at their lowest… but they were always right behind me. Attitude is everything in this sport, and at times like this, it makes a real difference. Thanks guys.

Rodney and Amy, thanks so much for creating such a challenging and thoughtful event – it was awesome. Do me just one favor for next time: please cut out the 2hr 15min section where we wander aimlessly through swampy woods in the middle of the night.

From Mikal:

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The course was very well organized and the constant rain added another dimension of adventure! We started the race with some straightforward foot and bike sections, lost a little time with small nav errors, but all in all held a good pace and had fast transitions. Once on the water, we quickly found our rhythm and without any CPs to look for, lowered our heads and knocked out the rainy 12 mile upstream paddle. Cara and I both became acquainted with the art of peeing while kayaking and Brice apparently missed out. Maybe next time?

It was a great race, interesting course and very cold weather. All in all a great tune up for nationals and a good confidence builder for me personally since I didn’t bonk, held a good pace and was still feeling good enough to tow at 7 in the morning! Thanks Cara and Brice for the good times and thanks to NYARA (Rodney, Amy, Denise and all the volunteers) for a great race. Cant wait to race it again next year!

Great job Team NYARA — we are looking forward to seeing you all compete at Nationals.

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Team NYARA in Action

A shout out to Team NYARA members Chris Rice and Austin Planz they have both been out there braving this crazy winter…and bring in some pretty impressive results! Austin has been training in freezing, snowy Connecticut to race in the desert. He recently finished a solo stint at the 24 hours in Old Pueblo outside Tucson. He finished 15 laps (around 243 miles!!!) and was 11th in class and 17th overall in the solo division. Awesome job, Austin! Check out the race preview video here: 

Chris has also been training like crazy in the arctic weather — and its paying off! He recently finished the FebApple Frozen Fifty, which is part of the NJ Trail Series, in 4th place overall. This is a grueling 50 mile trail race — which lived up to its name this year. Great job, Chris!

Race Report: Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge

 

For the Mayan Mountain Adventure Racing Challenge (MMAC), which also serves as the North American Adventure Racing Series Championship, NYARA sent a relatively young, up and coming team, with Olof Hedberg, Whitney Hedberg and Mikael Mattsson all new recruits to NYARA for 2014, and Jason Brown who normally races for GOALS ARA and SWIFT, making an appearance to complete the team. Below is a race report from team captain, Olof Hedberg.

Ready to start the race after weeks/months of preparation.

Ready to start the race after weeks/months of preparation.

We had a lot of uncertainties before the race: none of us had ever raced in the jungle before, the team of four had never raced all together, Whitney was sick before the race and just barely recovering, and two out of four had never done an expedition race before, and at the other end Mikael hadn’t done an AR in seven years.

It was almost a relief to be at the start line, because then all we could do was focus on the race and finally stop worrying about other potential problems.

The race started with a 30+k bike leg. The first 16k was relatively easy if it wasn’t for the fact that I overheated my breaks in the first downhill and we had to stop and do mechanical work while the rest of the teams raced away. How did this happen? – Well one of the brake rotors on Whitney’s bike got damaged on the flight over, and finding a replacement in Belize was not possible. The only solution was for me to race without a front brake, which lead to some problems throughout the race. More on that later.

After being dead last and playing catch up during the first 16k we had our first experience with Belizean mud. Just after punching CP1, the route turned off the road and into a double/single track.  A thunder storm the night before had made the trail so wet that while riding was not an option, neither was pushing the bikes. The only way forward was to shoulder the bikes and carry them while trudging through the mud. Needless to say, a lot of thoughts crossed our minds at this time, but we found relief in that at this point the situation was the same for everyone. After about 3k, the mud-fest stopped and the trails became ride-/walkable again and we caught up with ENDracing/Yogaslackers – a super nice team which we saw again many times during the race.

After punching CP2 at the bottom of a beautiful waterfall, and fixing our first flat, we crossed a river and headed towards our first TA.

The team in great spirits after finding CP2 at the bottom of the first of many beautiful waterfalls.

The team in great spirits after finding CP2 at the bottom of the first of many beautiful waterfalls.

We arrived at the TA in third place in the elite class (and 5th overall), but with ENDracing right on our heels. After switching to foot our first task was a Tyrolean traverse over a river. This was a new experience for some of us, but it caused no problems and we always love well designed ropes elements.

Whitney in the Tyrolean Traverse - Photocredit: MMAC fb page

Whitney in the Tyrolean Traverse – Photocredit: MMAC Facebook page

The next trek was a lot longer than we had expected. It started with me making a navigation error which cost us about an hour. After that we realized that many of the trails marked on the map did not exist in real life and instead there were a few new ones. This is basically adventure racing navigation 101 – trails change, but hills don’t. With our maps last updated in 1992, a lot of changes had happened. So when several of our proposed route choices didn’t exist, and jungle bush whacking didn’t seem like a good option, we chose the long boring road around. A couple of hours later, which we had spent jogging dirt roads, we came into the TA. When we saw other bikes there we joked, “at least we are not last”. To our surprise we were still in 3rd place and hadn’t lost too much time on the leaders. Sometimes the long way around is not that bad.

Mikael defies any fear of snakes or aligators heading towards CP5

Mikael defies any fear of snakes or aligators heading towards CP5 on the trek

 

The author smiling since he is not the one who has to punch CP5, and we are on the right track again after the navigation miss.

The author smiling since he is not the one who has to punch CP5, and we are on the right track again after the navigation miss.

Following that motto we decided to do the same thing on the upcoming bike ride. Dusk was nearing, and instead of riding 30+k on smaller roads we decided to play it safe and ride 40+k on “bigger” roads, which we also knew had a great stream for purifying water.
As the sun set, we saw the 2 person Ecuadorean team about 30 min ahead of us while ENDracing was about 30 min behind on the “out and back” to CP9.
The bike ride was pretty uneventful, but a full day of racing started to leave its mark on our bodies so at the next TA transition to foot we made a heater meal. Eating something hot at nightfall is a great feeling (there will be an upcoming blogpost entirely about food and what we learned from this race).

After eating, we started the night foot section. It was a 16k out and back (8k each direction), with a 4-6h foot-o at the far end, making the entire section between 7 and 10 hours. The slog back and forth on the road was not the most fun, but the actual foot-o section was beautiful, with unique trails, small wood bridges and gorgeous waterfalls. It got even more interesting as we had an addition to the team. The film crew following the race wanted some night shots of our team and sent a crew member with a camera along with us on the foot-o. We can’t wait to see how it turned out! Sometime during the night we also passed the 2-person Ecuadorian team and now only had Merrell Denmark (2-person Co-ed), Odyssey and Yogaslackers (both in our class elite 4-person Co-ed) ahead of us.

Jason plotting the route for the night foot-O.

Jason plotting the route for the night foot-O. Photocredit: MMAC Facebook page

As morning rose the second day, we were back to the TA and our bikes. We now had a full day of biking ahead of us, estimating that we would bike for about 20h (it actually took us to ~24h) until we would get to our oasis box. After about 30 min Whitney started having problems with her backpack so we redistributed her weight and I took her food. I have never had such a heavy backpack racing. It was also hills galore and after a couple of hours we stopped to eat a little. I pulled out all the food from the backpack and start counting. It turned out I had food for over 80h in my pack (40h each for 2 people)! I was not happy about it but not much to do about that then, instead just keep biking and eating.

As the day progressed and we caught and passed Merrell Denmark when they made a navigational error. The hilly landscape continued and at one point we dropped more than 300 vertical meters in less than 2k of trail. The downhills were extremely scary for us (me), because I had no front break. This meant that my back brake constantly overheated and I had to stop and pour cold water on it. Over the race I poured over 3L of water on my brake, water that I originally had planned to drink.

The author happy about 300+ vertical meters of hike a bike. At least the breaks doesn't overheat going uphill.

The author happy about 300+ vertical meters of hike a bike. At least the brakes don’t overheat going uphill.

For CP 15 we made a navigational mistake and lost almost 2h. Both Ecuador and Merrell Denmark passed us again. We were still ahead of ENDRacing and we were excited to head towards CP16 and CP17 – there was fresh water and a sleeping opportunity there. At the map it looked like CP17 was located in a small town and we discussed and dreamed about having dinner at a restaurant and getting Cokes at a store. At this point I was pretty thirsty since I had poured most of my water over my breaks instead of drinking it.

We found CP 16 in one of the coolest caves I have ever been to, and we took an extra 5 minutes just to look around. With only 20 minutes left to CP17 suddenly my thirst was not the biggest problem. Whitney, who had been feeling bad for some time, started vomiting up everything in her stomach. On top of that, Mikael was feeling bad and having some problems staying upright on his bike. We rolled into CP 17 and the medical check at the same time as Whitney vomited up the very last of any fluids that were still in her. As an additional blow to our spirits the “town” turned out to be a couple of houses without anything resembling even a mini-mart. While the rest of the team took an hour to sleep, I started the task of thoroughly repacking the backpacks. The CP was also manned with volunteers from the Belizean military (they followed the entire race keeping everyone safe) and it felt great that I could donate 40h of food to them. Not only did my backpack get significantly lighter, but also the food went to good use. Lesson number two: bring extra food, but make sure not everyone does it, because then you end up with a LOT extra. ENDRacing was also sleeping at the TA, and hadn’t yet gone out to CP16. They let us know that they didn’t plan to take CP18 and instead would take a longer rest at the TA, which meant that if we managed to clear the course we would have 3rd place in the bag.

Jason punching CP16 at Rio Frio cave, one of the most awesome caves we have ever visited.

Jason punching CP16 at Rio Frio cave, one of the most awesome caves we have ever visited.

The team felt slightly better after an hour nap and Whitney’s and Mikael’s backpacks where now significantly lighter. We headed towards the last 5- 8h of biking. When we got to the out and back for CP18 we took a short lay down on the road and made an assessment. Whitney was still very weak but Mikael was feeling better. If we took 5h or less to make the 22k, we should theoretically be fine, making the cut-off at 1.00 pm the next day for the jungle trek. Sitting at home reading this, this sounds like a no-brainer, because who can’t bike 22k in 5 hours? Well, after 40+ hours of racing and seeing some of these “roads” you would not be as sure anymore. Sand and mud often meant you had to walk your bike for miles and what looked like a jeep road on the map could in reality be more of a swamp that no four wheel vehicle had passed in years. To add to the fun, my chain and derailleur had started causing problems (thanks Belizean mud), making it impossible for me to use the small chain ring in the front. After some discussion, we decided to go for it. The out and back was brutal for the team. Jason towed Whitney as much as he could for the first 4k. We all had sleep monsters, and Mikael was sure he saw me ride through a herd of antelopes, while Whitney slammed on the breaks to avoid the men standing in the road. None of this was actually real, of course, but provided amusement for the rest of the team mates.

We came back to the road after a little more than 3h, and had another lay down on the road. Mikael had crashed, and cracked one of his ribs. I hadn’t slept one minute since the night before the race, now 46h ago, and Whitney was exhausted. Jason who had managed to catch some sleep was doing the navigation at this point, as I couldn’t keep my eyes straight. Still we felt happiness and relief. We had made it! We were still in the run for clearing the course!

The Team at CP18 following the NYARA motto - it's better to look good than to feel good!

The Team at CP18 following the NYARA motto – it’s better to look good than to feel good!

At this point we thought there were still 5 teams in the running for clearing, but it turned out Merrell Denmark also decided to skip CP18 so it was actually just 4. Now it was time to take it easy. We rolled down to CP19 and our oasis boxes completely exhausted and ready for sleeping. Our only goal now was to make the 34k out and back to CP21 on top of the Mayan ruin, Caracol before 1.00pm – it was 5.00 am in the morning and we knew this was on a bigger road.
We took a 2h+ break to eat warm food and sleep – seldom has sleep felt so good. It was like all our worries, fears, exhaustion and problems washed away with the sleep and the knowledge that as long as we finished the course, we had secured a third place cemented itself in our brains. Our strategy now changed tremendously. We started playing with huge amount of safety, resting and eating as soon as anyone felt like it or wanted too. We ate two hot meals before even heading out to the ruins. We left for the ruins around 7.30 am and to our surprise, the road turned into asphalt after a couple of kilometers. This was fantastic! The miles flew by. At the ruins we met the film crew again and we stopped to talk to them, did a small interview, and took personal pictures. We knew there was no hurry, since the cut off for the trek was at 1.00 pm and we had almost 4h left for what should be 1h 30 min bike back. Of course, at this point, something had to go wrong- just because things were going too well. 6k from the TA, Jason’s sidewall of the tire got slashed, and our repair efforts didn’t work. This is almost ironic because before the race we discussed having extra tires in our oasis box, but we decided to take them out due to weight restrictions. It turned out to be just a small set back, since Jason was able to run fairly fast while Mikael took his backpack and I rode with two bikes on the flats and downhills. While we lost some time, it was nothing huge and we made it back around 11.30am with an hour and half to spare before the cut off.

The Team on top of CP 20 - the tallest "building" in Belize - The Mayan ruin Caracol.

The Team on top of CP 20 – the tallest “building” in Belize – The Mayan ruin Caracol.

It's all smiles and happy faces as it's not often you get interviewed on top of a Mayan ruin.

It’s all smiles and happy faces as it’s not often you get interviewed on top of a Mayan ruin.

 

The worlds most awesome stair master ?

The worlds most awesome stair master ?

Happy to ditch our bikes, we headed out on the jungle trek, fully knowing we would get caught in the dark zone. Upcoming sleep and food made us excited and the first half of the 30k trek went extremely well and at a good pace.
A search for a new trail and a Y in the road (seriously, we should just have kept going straight), cost us about 2-3h, but at that point we didn’t really care, as it was irrelevant to our overall finish. It was much worse for our Ecuadorian friends. They had pulled ahead during the night, while we slowed down and was roughly 3h ahead of us. Unfortunately the jungle is very unforgiving and they had got some major foot problems. When one team member took off his shoe, the foot swelled up enormously and “looked like it was boiling”, so they had to quit the race in the middle of a jungle road. We feel so bad for them, as they were fantastic racers and deserved a better race finish.

Along the jungle trek.

Along the jungle trek.

We came into the dark zone at ~9.30 pm and got great food and drinks – they even had beer! At this point frankly none of us were excited about the dark zone. We all felt pretty good and wanted to continue. Instead we got almost 6h of sleep and time to hang out with a bunch of other teams – something I don’t think has ever happened before in an adventure race for any of us.

Next morning we were up bright and early to head to a cave for CP24. The cave was guided and off the clock which made it like a fun exploring experience instead of a race. We saw Mayan pottery and relics which had been preserved over 2000 years in the cave. Pretty cool place for a CP.

Heading into an old cave to see some 2000+ years old mayan pottery and CP 24.

Heading into an old cave to see some 2000+ years old mayan pottery and CP 24.

Once we got down from the cave, the race started again with a couple of miles run to the canoes and then canoe back to town. After sleeping for hours we all felt strong, and together with ENDracing we picked up the pace to running. The final paddle was beautiful, amazing and fun. Mikael, who is the master paddler in the team, kept the team organized and focused even though we took our fair share of scenic breaks as the river flowed through the jungle landscape.

The absolutely awesome paddle that was so scenic that at times we just had to take photo breaks.

The absolutely awesome paddle that was so scenic that at times we just had to take photo breaks.

A final run through town took us to the finish line and there was nothing but joy as we crossed in third place and as only one of three teams clearing the entire course.
We could not be happier with the result and we are so excited about the upcoming race season.

Last trek to the finish. Less than 2 miles left and then we are done - but in our heads we have already started celebrating.

Last trek to the finish. Less than 2 miles left and then we are done – but in our heads we have already started celebrating.

 

The race was truly an adventure and included the tallest mayan ruins in Belize, countless waterfalls, and the mountains of the Cayo district, but nothing of that can compare to the hospitability of the people of Belize. NYARA would like to extend a huge thank you to American Adventure Sports for putting on a fantastic race, Friends of Conservation and Development in Belize for making the area accessible, to all fantastic volunteers and fellow racers. Looking forward to see you all again!

Done - what a race and what an experience!

Done – what a race and what an experience!

 


Team NYARA Comes in 3rd Place at Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge

The inaugural Mayan Mountain Adventure Racing Challenge was a 4 day Adventure Race held in Belize, that also served as the championship for the North American Adventure Racing Series.

Team NYARA, reached its goal and a spot on the podium after crossing the finish line in third place.

The course was brutal and became even harder after a small tropical storm passed on Wednesday night, forcing the start to be delayed and the course altered. Fourteen teams started the race, and only three managed to clear the course and take all CPs.  NYARA is happy to be one of those three teams, and together with Yogaslackers and Odyssey to make the overall podium.

Highlights of the race included CP placements on top of Mayan ruins, at the bottom of enormous waterfalls and deep in caves. The mud made certain trails almost impassable, and for miles we had to carry our bikes on our shoulders while trudging through the mud.

The race was also followed by a film crew to create a documentary that will hopefully be shown on NBC Sports.  As NYARA was racing towards the top of the field, a lot of attention was directed towards our team (We actually had a film crew member following us through a night foot-O, filming us for six hours straight). It will be fun to see the final footage as I’m sure our sleep-deprived selves will be quite amusing.

A full race report will follow soon, but for now a big thank you to American Adventure Sports for putting on a great race, all the fantastic volunteers, the wonderful people of Belize and mostly all our fellow racers we shared this experience with. We don’t think we could have started the 2014 racing season in a better way.