2019 Bitter Pill – Registration Open!

Registration is open for the Bitter Pill! August 10th near Waterbury VT: hike, bike, paddle, maybe a swim if you’re unlucky. Early registration pricing is the best deal – sign up by next Saturday (May 10th) to lock in the best rate. It’s likely we’ll have to cap entries based on the number of boats we can rent, so sign up early to avoid getting left out.

This year’s Bitter Pill is a qualifier for the USARA Nationals in Boone, North Carolina on September 26-28; the top 3-person coed team will win a $400 sponsorship to that event. We don’t know yet whether we’ll be able to offer a “Test Your Nettle” short event alongside the Bitter Pill, but we’re staring at maps and trying to make it happen. When those details get finalized, we’ll let you know.

Lastly, the gmara website has had a bit of a facelift – if you have any issues with the signup process or the site in general, please drop us an email. Our site (like our races) is built entirely by volunteers in their spare time.

Bitter Pill 2017 Results

The GMARA crew explored new terrain this summer!

New trails to run, waterfalls to find, ponds to swim and hills to climb… so many hills…

With Sugarbush hosting, we had the opportunity to use both Lincoln Peak and Mt. Ellen.

As a special bonus the crew at Mad River Glen was happy to have us run around Stark Mountain as well.

That’s right: three spectacular Vermont ski areas where racers could gain (and lose) elevation!

The 14th Bitter Pill started as many do, teams running uphill in the dark.

From the base of Mt. Ellen, racers had to reach 5 checkpoints on streams and trails. The woods were nearly impenetrable at times, but after 1600′ of climbing all the teams reached CP5 in a clearing on the ridge.

On the north side of the ridge:
Stark Mountain and the steep slopes of Mad River Glen!

From the clearing on the ridge it was decision time. Teams needed to reach at least 5 of the 8 CPs on Stark Mountain, with extras counting as bonus points.

For most, that meant a choice beween climbing another 600′ to CP6 on the top of Stark Mountain, or descending 1000′ to CP7. At least one team split the difference, and chose a route straight through the woods to CP8.

Nav decisions in this section were critical.

With so many waterfalls, streams, cliffs and rocks to visit, it was tough to be sure what the best route would be.

For a fascinating look at the choices, check out this Strava flyby.

After they experienced enough falling water, racers hit TA1 and transitioned to bikes, with a brief stop for Garuka Bars and locally sourced bacon from Home Plate in Waitsfield.

The first team to get all 8 points was out of the woods and on their bikes by 8:04am, a full 35 minutes ahead of the next team. Nearly 50% of teams were trekking for 5 hours or more.

From TA1 it was a quick 3-mile downhill on VT Route 17…

…and then a 700′ non-stop climb up Marble Hill road to CP14.

Some racers noticed the pig farm at the top of the hill, others were too focused on the delightful climb.

After Marble Hill, it was on to the third ski area of the day: Lincoln Peak!

The larger of the two Sugarbush sites, Lincoln is known for having awesome downhill bike trails. Take your bike up the lift, ride down some fabulous switchbacks, repeat.

GMARA racers weren’t allowed to use the lift, they had to bike 1700′ total up access roads and trails. Adventure!

Five checkpoints at Lincoln and then a truly rewarding downhill before returning to Mt. Ellen.

At the second transition area, racers dropped bikes and prepared to start the final trek.

Two mandatory points and three bonuses for those who still had time (and legs).

First though, they were told about a secret bonus point: swim out as a team & ring the cowbell in the nearby pond for a 30-minute bonus!

The pond at Mt. Ellen is fed by mountain streams and used for snowmaking in the winter. It’s appropriately chilly.

Nobody seemed to mind too much, once they remembered how to breathe!

The first team to clear the course finished at an amazing 1:37 in the afternoon. The rest of the teams joined them over the afternoon, with all teams accounted for by the 5:00 cutoff.

Full race results are posted for anyone who wants to compare details.

After that it was time for a fabulous post-race dinner from the Sugarbush catering crew, time to swap stories and get a massage from Abbie!

Top prizes went to the coed teams, with “Chaffing the Dream” taking first in the 3-person coed division (and completing their sweep of our events for the year). They took home a set of season passes courtesy of Sugarbush, a $400 sponsorship to USARA Nationals from GMARA, and some great gear from Mammut and OGE.

It’s rewarding to be awesome navigators who don’t mind 8600′ of elevation gain and 30+ miles in a day!

Untamed New England took second place overall and first in the 3-person male division, finishing only 25 minutes behind the leaders and also clearing every point on the course.

We also had our first-ever tie for first in the 2-person coed division, with both “A Paradox” and “The Rugged Rats” clearing all primary checkpoints with exactly 15 minutes to spare. All the details on the results page.

Thanks to all the sponsors, partners, volunteers, and racers for making this another great day in the woods. We wouldn’t do it without your support!

Photos are up in the usual spot, with some highlights in the Best-Of collection.

If you’ve got photos, videos, blog posts, GPS tracks or stories from the trail, please send a note to shawn@gmara.org with details and we’ll get them up here.

Thanks for racing!

– The GMARA Crew

Adventure 101: Stinging Nettles

If you hang around GMARA events you’re guaranteed to hear volunteers joking about nettles. Not sure what a nettle is? Time to “brush up” on your knowledge! (ha ha)

See those tiny white spines on that leaf?

Wikipedia says that nettles have “many hollow stinging hairs on the leaves and stems which act like hypodermic needles, injecting histamine and other chemicals that produce a stinging sensation.”

Delightful, right?

You’ll find patches in areas where the ground stays wet but the sun can peek through.

They almost always grow right in the middle of the route you’re trying to follow, too.

It’s worth knowing what to look for in case you’d like to avoid them, but nettles aren’t as worrisome as poison ivy or giant hogweed.

They’re more of a temporary irritation, much like a good adventure race.

Frigid Infliction 2017 Results

Skiing! Snowshoeing! Drifts so deep you need a shovel to find the checkpoints! But then we saw this:

Burlington, VT hit 72F today. This smashes the daily and all-time monthly records.

— NWS Burlington (@NWSBurlington) February 25, 2017

Ok, so our classic winter event won’t be typical this year, maybe it’ll be a warm-weather trail run.

The weather report for the next 5 days looks like this: 45, 32, 2, 30, 46.

Guess which day I'm gonna be racing in the woods for 10 hours.

— Brian Staveley (@BrianStaveley) March 2, 2017

Or, we could have a brutal single-day cold snap. The Frigid Infliction: Truth In Advertising!

With a forecasted high of 2 degrees and winds gusting to 40mph, it wouldn’t be a warm-weather anything… in fact, it would be the coldest Frigid since it started 12 years ago!

After much of the snow melted, Bolton warned us that the nordic trails were mostly solid ice or wet rocks – not particularly ideal for skiing.

When the temps dropped, those wet rocks turned to icy rocks. Much better!

It was not much better. We notified teams that skiing was unlikely and they could choose a microspike trail run instead.

Teams weren’t deterred by the lousy weather.

Lots of new racers accepted the challenge and some regulars showed up for their 11th, 12th, 13th, or even 15th GMARA event.

On Saturday morning, the pre-race briefing started at 6:15 (two hours later than most years). Racers were told that they’d need to spend more time strategizing this year, because there was no order to the points on the course.

Most GMARA races have segments in a set order – ski, tyrolean, snowshoe, dinner, and sometimes even checkpoints – CP1-2-3-4. This year, we set points without an obvious “best route”, with flags both on- and off-trail and a few triple-value bonus points that would require extra effort.

Our plan was to require a minimum of 5 checkpoints on each discipline with teams choosing how to start (skis or snowshoes), where to go, which points to get, and how soon to switch from one set of gear to the other.

Without skis, that switch was less noticeable, but we did still enforce a gear transition between snowshoeing and postholing.

GMARA always tries to be polite and friendly, so we gave the racers some extra indoor time for map study. Then, we kicked them out into the cold for race start.

Temperatures were hovering around -8, but at least it wasn’t too windy. Yet.

At 7am, teams set off: downhill along the fast-flowing Joiner Brook, straight uphill towards bonus points and cooler temperatures (wouldn’t want to overheat) and almost every direction inbetween.

We heard after the race that the different nav choices were one of the best parts of the event. Too often, teams at the Frigid end up following each other, making a snowshoe-trail conga line. We do what we can to break that up, but to some extent it’s unavoidable when there are required checkpoints in a certain order. On this course, almost every point had trails coming and going in multiple directions.

Oh good, there’s the snow and wind that we were all missing.

Racers that were hoping for a cold but clear morning quickly realized that better visibility was not in the cards.

For those whose strategy had the more difficult points early in the day, the timing of the storm would prove to be a major wrench in the works.

Here’s a shot of Bonus Point D, taken in happier times. This is “Stowe View” a lovely lookout at about 3100 feet. The checkpoint flag is straight ahead, though it’s not visible – it’s a few meters downhill behind some of that brush.

Now imagine that same view, but add icy snow gusting uphill from Stowe at 40mph, and you’ll see why even with great navigation skills some teams just couldn’t find BPD. We’d post a photo but (as one team said) it looked a lot like this.

It was so cold…

…that water bottles needed wool socks!

…that beards collected decorations!

…that multiple compasses froze!

So cold…

…that orienteering punches snapped in half!

…that eyelashes froze together!

Eventually, the wind let up a bit, the snow stopped blowing sideways, and racers started passing through the TA again to pick up or drop off snowshoes.

We suggested that teams pause inside the Nordic Center to look at maps in a heated space – and to make that more appealing, volunteers served up Garuka Bars and VT Smoke & Cure Bacon.

Never has the Bolton Nordic Center smelled more enticing.

While the Frigid racers fought to keep their toes and fingers from falling off, the first ever “Test Your Nettle” was starting back in the Nordic Center.

A new non-competitive event from GMARA, the Nettle was designed to let teams practice their navigation and adventure-racing skills without requiring an 8-12 hour commitment and a huge pile of expensive gear.

From new teams who had never used a compass in the wild to experienced racers introducing friends to the sport, they all received the same maps that Frigid Infliction racers were using, and similar instructions.

After a gear check and a short pre-race briefing, adventurers age 6 to 59 set out to tackle as much (or as little) of the course as they wanted.

Before too long, teams from both events began arriving at the finish — in surprisingly high spirits given the ridiculous weather, lack of skiing, numb extremities, and ridiculous weather.

Seems like adventure racers might just love a good adventure!

Once the course was cleared, everyone made their way to The Ponds for a great post-race dinner – including free Conehead IPA from Zero Gravity Brewing.

“Raise your hand if you can’t feel your toes!”

Actually, this was “Raise your hand if you still need a ticket for the prize raffle from our awesome sponsors!”

We had another amazing prize pool with high-end gear from Mammut USA, Ski Vermont, Burton, Skida, and OGE.

Top prizes went to the coed teams, with “Chaffing the Dream” taking first in the 3-person coed division, and “Indomitable Snowmen” taking the 2-person coed prize.

The best result of the day goes to the Mercators in the 2-person open division, clearing the entire course with two hours to spare, while the Raid International Gaspesie team won the 3-person open division. Full race results are posted for anyone who wants to compare details.

Along with new gear, racers always love the chance to race again. Thanks to our friends up north, we were able to give away a free race entry to the Raid International Gaspesie 3-day stage race in September (check out this teaser) and Strong Machine adventure racing also donated a 50% off entry to the Maine Summer AR in June.

We’re definitely expecting another GMARA team to race in Maine this summer and hopefully we’ll be able to send a U.S. team to the Raid as well – you should join us!

Another big thanks to the volunteers! We couldn’t do this without our support crew. If you’d like to volunteer, let us know, the position comes with a nice t-shirt twice a year.

Photos are up in the usual spot, please share!

If you’ve got photos, videos, blog posts, GPS tracks or stories from the trail, please send a note to shawn@gmara.org with details and we’ll get them up here. Here’s what we’ve got so far:

A short story to close things out: While most teams were ready to sit in a hot tub or find a warm place to sleep after Saturday’s challenges, the Mercators hiked up to Bolton Lodge (not too far from the dinner location, unheated, with a door that wouldn’t close) and spent the night there in -10 degree weather. They woke up the next morning and gathered checkpoints from the course for us – 6,7,11,12,14,17, and BPA, all before lunchtime. Thanks, neighbors!

Watch your email for an invite – the Bitter Pill is coming on August 12th to Sugarbush.

Thanks for racing!

– The GMARA Crew

Adventure 101: What is a checkpoint?

Here’s one for the “things new racers may not know” category.

This is a checkpoint flag.

Sometimes you’ll hear them called “orienteering control points”.

We call them CPs, or BPs.

BPs = bonus points. Harder to find, same shape & color.

They’re bright orange and white triangle/square flags, sometimes with a blue stripe down the center to make them more visible for anyone who’s color blind.

We try to hang them so you can see them from a distance. Occasionally there’s a cliff face or tree in the way, but we don’t want you to have to look under every leaf pile to find the points.

This is the tag that hangs under the flag so you know whether you’ve found the spot you were looking for.

This is a punch, that hangs from the tag, under the flag… in a hole in the bottom of the sea.

Each punch has a unique pattern of pins.

And this is a passport. It’s made of tyvek, should be water-proof & tear-proof. When you reach a CP, you punch the appropriate box on the passport, and by comparing the patterns we know that you’ve found the point!

Just remember: you’re never lost when you’re at a checkpoint!

(Assuming, of course, that you still have a map.)

Adventure 101: Most paper isn’t waterproof

Here’s a quick illustrated tip, brought to you by a few unlucky Bitter Pill teams.

GMARA gets most of our race maps from MyTopo.

They’re printed on custom paper that’s fairly waterproof and tear-resistant – it’s pretty amazing stuff.

We encourage teams to keep the MyTopo maps in a specialized map bag because it’s still possible to destroy them, or more likely, to lose them in the woods.

For the most part they hold up well to adventure, including being folded repeatedly, spread out in the dirt, or left in the bottom of a boat.

In contrast, GMARA race instructions are usually laser-printed on normal 8.5×11 sheets of copy paper.

That paper isn’t waterproof.

Not even a little bit.

That wouldn’t be a problem if you never had to unseal your map bag, but in an adventure race, you sometimes need to make notes, draw on your map, or refold to see a new area.

All it takes is one drop of water to make some part of your instructions unreadable… or as seen here, completely destroyed – leaving you unsure where to go or what to do next.

That’s one reason we often see teams with more than one sealed bag – one racer has the instructions, one racer has the map.

Not only is it more likely to preserve the instructions, it’s also a good reminder to have more than one mind working on the navigation.

Lastly, if you put the map and instructions back-to-back in a single bag, you’re constantly flipping it over and trying to remember what you just read. Side by side is usually easier, especially as your brain gets tired.

Keep in mind, you don’t need to go out and buy high-end gear… a 1- or 2-gallon freezer bag will usually do the trick, although it won’t have easy attachment points for hanging around your neck.

One final tip: GMARA races based out of Vermont ski areas often make use of a resort trail map in addition to the topo map. For example, these from Bolton Valley. They’re usually printed on stronger stuff than our instructions, but they’re still not waterproof. Will you want a third dry bag, or is that overkill? How many freezer bags can one team manage before they feel like they’re actually racing through a kitchen? We’ll leave that debate to you.

New for 2017: Test Your Nettle

Have you always wanted to dip your toes into winter adventure without submerging your entire boot in a frozen stream? You're not alone!

New for 2017, GMARA presents Test Your Nettle, a chance to get your feet wet without fully diving in to an adventure race. It'll be shorter, cheaper, and require less gear than the Frigid Infliction – but it'll be on the same day with some course overlap. Teams from both events will gather at the post-race dinner so everyone can swap stories afterwards. Check out gmara.org/nettle/ for lots more information.

Originally, rates for the Frigid were scheduled to increase on Monday. Since we're throwing a new option in the mix, we're going to extend the early registration deadline for both races through next Wednesday the 11th. Talk to your friends, read the site, ask questions, and get signed up for the Frigid or the Test!  Both events happen on March 4th, so you've got about eight weeks to warm up your compass needle, but sign up in the next 6 days to save a bundle!

We're thrilled to announce that lots of our regular sponsors will be helping out again with prizes and perks for 2017.  Mammut, OGE, Garuka Bars, Ski VT, and Zero Gravity Brewing are on board again – and yes, that means free beer at the post-race party!

While you're training for the GMARA winter events, take a break to check out the Smuggs Ice Bash run by our friends at Petra Cliffs from January 20th-22nd and stop by the GMARA table at the BANFF Mountain Film Festival in Burlington Jan 26th-28th.

If you’ve got questions about testing your nettle or frigiding your infliction, leave a comment here and we’ll get back to you quickly. Two months until we all gather at the Bolton Valley nordic center – see you there!

OGE Bitter Pill 2016 – Results

GMARA has a theme for 2016: Doing more with less! This winter, the Frigid Infliction didn’t have enough snow to include a ski leg. For the Bitter Pill, we planned a nice long paddle, but forgot to gather enough water to make it fast & smooth.

Oh, and on race morning, only half the busses we ordered showed up.

GMARA Racers are a positive and resilient crowd though, and they jumped at the bonus navigational & logistical challenge. Half the racers drove to the starting line, trusting the GMARA volunteer valet service to collect their cars over the course of the day.

Chris led the pre-race briefing under the 5:00 parking lot lights at Crossett Brook Middle School and then it was time to move!

Racers grabbed canoes and kayaks and started the day with a portage from the school to the Winooski river.

Luckily, with fresh muscles all of the boats felt like ultra-light carbon fiber racing models.

Two CPs during the first ~7k of paddling, and then racers approached the Bolton Dam.

CP3 was on the upriver side of the dam and marked the start of one of the more grueling parts of the day.

The portage was only 1k, but the hill was steep, and as the sun came up the lightweight racing boats revealed themselves to be more typical awkward 85-pound rentals.

Next time we’ll arrange a canoe-rappel straight over the dam.

After the portage teams were back in boats. Total paddle distance this year was ~21k.

Some teams added water to their boats for ballast, others found time for a refreshing swim.

Some practiced for riverdance by hopping in and out of their boat repeatedly.

CP4 was on an “island” if you consider three inches of water to be a “river”.

All these photos are available in the GMARA Photo Collection if you’re looking to get your favorite printed on a mug.

Download/share/print as much as you like, just give GMARA a shout-out!

Teams had a decision to make when attacking CP6 on the long trail footbridge.

The first eight teams all chose different routes. Some fought through brush and took the stairs, others climbed the steep treacherous rock face. Many tried to make it up the gently sloping rock on the western side, only to discover that it was more of a waterslide.

The fastest method we saw? Drop a teammate on the road upriver where it was an easy climb, let him run to the flag, and pick him up on the far side.

At TA1, racers lugged their boats out of the water one last time, grabbed their bikes, and said goodbye to the relatively flat Winooski River.

It was time to gain some elevation, somewhere around 2300 feet of biking uphill. Hope everyone enjoyed their low gear!

A special shout-out to the long-time racers who let us hang CP7 in their driveway.

We debated dropping the checkpoint in the pond behind their house, but after some discussion about leeches and wet bike shorts, we decided that wouldn’t be polite.

I guess we’re getting soft?

After the huge push (figuratively or literally) to bike over the ridge and collect CP8-11, teams had a chance to bomb downhill to TA2 where they arrived to the melodious sounds of young minions ringing cowbells and delivering fresh water.

Racers dropped their bikes and paddling gear, then paused for bacon from VT Smoke & Cure and bites of Garuka Bars, two of our favorite sponsors.

The trek this year was one of our most challenging ones navigationally. There wasn’t a clear “best order” to gather the points, and they all required solid orienteering skills. The final checkpoint tally was surprisingly well-balanced, with each CP getting punched by at least 20% of teams, but very few teams reaching all the points.

You can view the detailed results yourself if you want to compare stats.

Teams returned from the trek in good spirits despite the tough nav.

We’d love to see the routes you followed! Here are a couple samples:
Rugged Road
North Is Everywhere

After the trek, racers passed through TA3 again, many stopping for more bacon and Garuka Bars.

Once they had gathered biking and paddling gear, it was one last uphill climb to the finish. There were two CPs on trails, though many teams chose to grab the first and then take the road to the finish.

It’s great to see you all smiling after you paddled at least 20k, biked at least 20k, and hiked… well… 10k or more, depending on how many times you circled each point, and whether you consider the river a hike. Based on GPS tracks, a few teams had a 60k day!

Dinner was awesome, thanks to Bevo for the food and Zero Gravity for the beer!

Division leaders this summer were Rugged Road, Chafing The Dream, Out of Control, Raid International Gaspésie, and Twisted Sisters, and the cookies went to “Bitter? We hardly know ‘er!”

Thanks to The Outdoor Gear Exchange, Mammut, Ski Vermont, VT Peanut Butter and all our other sponsors for a spectacular prize pool!

A huge thanks to the volunteers who made this all come together: the valet service, bacon chef, bike transporters, boat arrangers, photographers, cookie bakers, pre-race scouts, paddle testers, checkpoint hangers, course cleaners, sponsorship coordinators, results calculators, board members… and their families who put up with this pleasant little outdoor diversion.

Thanks to the racers as well for showing your appreciation before, during, and after the race. Our little nonprofit exists because we love to get a crowd of amazing people lost in the woods, and we wouldn’t keep doing it if you didn’t love it.

Have photos or a writeup of your own? Please send them along and we’ll get them added to the collection!

We’ll be back again next year – get in touch if you want to help make Frigid 2017 happen!

-The GMARA Crew

Bitter Pill 2016 live updates

If things go as planned, this post will automatically publish when the race starts, and you’ll see:

Here’s our twitter feed. For much of the day, we’re out of cell range, but we’ll try to get things updated here and on instagram. Tweet @gmara_org if you have something good to share. More race-day details below…

Basic details on the course:

Teams drop their bikes at Bolton Valley lodge and we bus them to the race start, at Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury.

They’ll grab canoes/kayaks at 5am and have a short ~1k portage to the Winooski River.

They’ll paddle ~7k, grab a couple checkpoints and reach the Bolton Dam (Map) for a second portage.

After that portage, it’s another ~13k paddle to TA1 at the Beeken Rivershore Preserve parking area. (Map)

We expect teams to take from 3-5 hours to get to TA1 because the water level is so low. Some might be faster, some slower.

From TA1, they bike up a couple big hills, grabbing checkpoints all the way, and eventually land at TA2, the “Sugar Shack” about two miles up the Bolton Valley access road. We expect teams to arrive here anytime after 9:30. (Map)

At TA2, they drop bikes and head off on foot to find a bunch of CPs near Bone Mountain. Lots of fun terrain in the woods there!

They return to the Sugar Shack after hiking, and pick up their bikes again for the final climb up to the Bolton Valley resort, and finish on the back deck.

If you want to catch some of the action, your best bet is to start early and watch for teams on the river – the Long Trail footbridge might be nice viewing, or really any spot where you can see downriver. Once they hit bikes there’s not a great spot to find them, but if you head up to the Sugar Shack and hike into the woods from there, teams should pass you eventually.

There will be volunteers with more information at both transition areas – TA1 and TA2 – so you can also head directly there and ask what they know!

OGE Frigid Infliction 2016 Results

This year’s Frigid was co-directed by El Niño. The warmest February on record meant that for the first time in its eleven years, skis weren’t on the mandatory gear list!

With snow depths ranging from “frozen mud” at lower elevations to a staggering four inches in the Bolton Valley backcountry, it was clear that this race would be an infliction of a different sort.

The t-shirt says it all:

The Outdoor Gear Exchange
Frigid Infliction 2016
Commemorative Snow Globe
Snow Not Included

Racers were in good spirits though, with our largest winter crowd ever (100 racers!) ready to go at 4:30 Saturday morning. After maps were handed out, teams took advantage of a brief warm, well-lit period to study their maps and decide on strategy.

With a group that big, some creativity was needed to split the teams up and avoid a snowshoe conga-line, so the first leg of the race was “choose-your-own-adventure”. Five checkpoints, each with its own value – teams could pick any set where the values added up to 10, and then return to the Nordic Center. One high checkpoint was worth 10 points all by itself, while the other choices meant locating two or three flags to get the proper value. Check out the map & choose your own route.

The race started at 5:01 and teams snowshoed off in many different directions.

Routes were fairly well-balanced, but just over half the teams decided they’d like an extra challenge, running uphill first thing in the morning to search for the single 10-point CP.

It wasn’t a bad strategy – some found it and were back to TA1 in 90 minutes, but more than one team changed plans after circling the hilltop for an hour or more, coming downhill to choose alternate points.

One team toughed it out for nearly five hours before finding it!

No matter which route they chose, racers returned to the Nordic Center and TA1 where they transitioned to their imaginary skis, AKA snowshoes.

In one case, the snowshoes had already transitioned into pieces of disconnected plastic.

The next leg was intended to be skied, so all 7 CPs were on or near the Bolton Valley trails.

They say adventure racing is a mental exercise, but pretending to ski might be taking that a bit too far. Next year, more snow.

At TA2, racers paused for the first real transition, from snowshoes to postholing.

There couldn’t have been more difference between last year’s waist-deep posthole and this year’s crusty ice run, but we didn’t hear any complaints.

Just look at the depth of those postholes. What a slog.

Thanks to Bolton Valley for having awesome terrain even when the weather doesn’t cooperate!

Teams quickly made it to everyone’s favorite TA, where volunteers served up Garuka Bars and VT Smoke & Cure Bacon!

After snacks, there was a bit more effort required at TA3 – no big deal though, just haul yourself and all your gear across a huge ravine on a rope – and that’s after 3-8 hours of exercise beforehand. Something you do every day, probably.

It’s hard to capture the scale of the traverse.

For anyone who paused to look down, this year’s frozen waterfalls were pretty impressive.

A huge thanks to Tim and the crew from Petra Cliffs for rigging the lines nice & high this year. One of our faster tyroleans, to be sure.

Pro tip for our repeat racers: bring an extra carabiner and a few feet of cord, and you can make things (slightly) easier on your arms.

After the tyrolean, it was back on snowshoes for the last five CPs… although there was a mandatory transition back to imaginary skis in the middle of that.

We heard from a few racers that the view from CP20 was worth the 1500′ climb.

To be fair, we heard other things about that particular climb, too.

For a few teams, there was an opportunity at the end of the race to run other loops from Leg #1 for bonus time. Seven teams took advantage of the option, and two teams (NH Trail Vets and Tee Ma Naim) actually repeated the section three times, completing all available options.

Most were ready for a different kind of bonus: not being forced to snowshoe uphill again, and eventually free beer from Zero Gravity Brewing.

Congratulations to our top 3-person coed team, “Many Bothans” led by long-time racer and volunteer Bert Johnson.

The race results are posted if you want all the details.

Thanks for having a good time out there! As always, we’re doing this because it’s the best way to get an awesome group of people together.

Keep bringing your friends, and we’ll keep throwing painful 8-12 hour parties. Photos are up in the usual spot, please share!

A huge thanks to all the volunteers!

If you’re looking for an excuse to hang out in the woods watching semi-lost people change their footwear, you know where to find us.

Another huge thanks to our sponsors, especially the crew at the Outdoor Gear Exchange, they make it easy for us to keep these races exciting. Hit GearX.com or the store on Church Street for all your gear, including our favorite brands like Mammut and many others.

If you’ve got photos, videos, blog posts, GPS tracks or stories from the trail, please send a note to shawn@gmara.org with details and we’ll get them up here. Here’s what we’ve got so far:

If you need more adventure this summer, new friends Cliff and Kate from team Strong Machine are putting on their first east-coast summer race up in Maine on July 23rd.

If things work out, you’ll be able to join Chris, Shawn, and maybe other GMARA volunteers who haven’t raced in years… it should be a great time.

If you’re looking for something a little later in the summer (and a bit more challenging) our friends to the north at Endurance Aventure might still have spots open at the Raid International Gaspésie!

Lastly, watch your email for an invite – the OGE Bitter Pill is coming on August 6th!

Next year, more snow!

– The GMARA Crew

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