Big news: OGE and GMARA

July 21st, 2014 by chris

GMARA is excited to announce that the Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, VT, is now the title sponsor of the Bitter Pill Adventure Race. Anyone who has been in their store and chatted with their staff knows this is an excellent fit for GMARA and OGE.

The Outdoor Gear Exchange has been a Burlington institution for almost 20 years, growing from a small consignment shop to the fabulous outdoor equipment store now located on Church street. Knowledgeable staff, an amazing gear selection (new and used), and lots of community involvement. They’ve been helping GMARA stay awesome for the past few years with prizes, promotion, and swag, and when the opportunity came to take their support to the next level they stepped up. We encourage all of you to download the required gear list for the Bitter Pill, figure out what you’re missing, and stop by the store to upgrade your old gear, pick up any missing small stuff (water purification!)- and be sure thank them for their involvement.

You can also like them on facebook or join their newsletter on the bottom of any page on their site.

As part of this sponsorship, you can expect prizes at the Bitter Pill from Salomon, Leki, Julbo, Osprey, Suunto, Sea to Summit and more…

2014 Bitter Pill Update

July 7th, 2014 by chris

This year’s Bitter Pill is less than a month away! It’s exciting to see the course come together and the field of teams continue to grow.

There are a few important updates you should be aware of.

  • The disciplines list has been updated and finalized. Some of you will be happy to note that swimming is no longer listed. Not that you won’t get wet at some point (we’re sure you will) but this will not be an official portion of this year’s course. While we could have forced something in, we weren’t happy with the quality of the result.
  • The number of boats available is limited; we’ll have 20 canoes and 14 tandem kayaks. That means we’re capping team sizes to match: 20 three-person teams and 14 two-person. There are a few slots left for each, but if you’re thinking about racing we encourage you to sign up soon to reserve your spot. Once we’re full in a category we won’t be able to accommodate you.
  • If you’re looking for lodging you can find camping at the Little River Campground or a room at a few different places in Williston. Both options are fairly close to registration.

Please let us know if you have any questions. We’re looking forward to a great event!

2014 Wintry Wander Results

March 24th, 2014 by chris

2014 marked the creation of a new event for GMARA: the Bolton Valley Wintry Wander! More than seventy-five people showed up for a a three hour snowshoe exploration adventure. Generous support from MVP Health Care and Bolton Valley Resort made this possible.

The event began with teams showing up between 8:45 and 9:30 a.m. to register, get a trail pass, and receive their team passport. It was wonderful to see all the children so excited to go hunt for checkpoints!

At 9:30 the teams received instructions on how the Wintry Wander would work, and then had a chance to review their maps. This was their first opportunity to see where they’d actually be going. They had about fifteen minutes to plan their route before needing to head out to the start.

The map featured eleven points found on the side of a trail and seven points that required snowshoeing off-trail. There was no required order; teams could try to get as many or as few as they wanted to. Every team found at least a few and a couple teams managed to get them all. You can check out the detailed map here.

Just before the Wintry Wander began there was a flutter of activity as many teams fought valiantly with dozens of snowshoes. The snowshoes clearly had a mind of their own, attempting to thwart teams before they even began. The teams proved triumphant, and the snowshoes were eventually all tamed.

Teams made different navigation choices from the very beginning. A majority headed north but several teams headed south toward Picnic Loop and the points in that direction.

Teams then spent several hours on- and off-trail searching for checkpoint flags and punching their passport. It was a wondrously warm day which meant many teams could take almost the full three hours to explore the course.

When teams returned to the finish they handed in their passport and told wonderful stories of always-happy children, never-failing snowshoes, and always easy-to-find checkpoints. Well, perhaps not every team told stories exactly like that…but every team had a good time!

After finishing, teams headed inside to warm up and imbibe some hot cocoa, fruit, and cookies. Then there was a brief wrap-up where awards were given to winning teams:

  • Most Cheerful Hearts: South Hero Sea Dogs
  • Best Team Name: Rooster Rob & His 4 Chicks
  • Snowiest Team: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Most On-Trail Points: Toot Tooters
  • Most Off-Trail Points: Wolves

Every team should feel a sense of accomplishment based on their snowy adventure (particularly the adults that carried or pulled children through the whole event!) For those interested in the details, full results can be found at the bottom of this post. We encourage you to also check out all the event photos. We all hope to see you again at next year’s Wintry Wander!

Thanks to everyone involved in making our first year a success, particularly our great support crew:

  • Eric, who began setting points in the dark
  • Diane, for handling logistics from start to finish
  • Liz, KPW, & Courtney, for wrestling with monster lobster pots of boiling water to make enough cocoa
  • Chelsea, for helping out at last minute to take extra photos
  • Meg, Eleanor, & Adele, for guarding the snacks until the wanderers returned
  • Laurie, for continuing to provide homemade cookies to the winners of Best Team Name at GMARA events. Yum!
A huge thanks to our sponsors – let them know you appreciate their support!

MVP Health Care for the financial support that makes it possible for these races to happen.
Bolton Valley Resort
Petra Cliffs
Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center
Also, you can always “like” GMARA – because who else keeps losing you in the Green Mountains?
Team Name On-Trail Points Off-Trail Points Time
Wolves 11 7 3:00
Vermontyorkers 11 7 3:02
Team Mooserunaway 11 6 2:25
Otis & Co. 11 6 2:38
FishyFive 11 6 2:53
The Maniacal Markows 11 4 2:43
South Hero Sea Dogs 11 4 2:54
Snowy Owls 11 3 2:48
Toot Tooters 11 1 2:23
Rooster Rob & His 4 Chicks 7 2 2:07
Catalyst 7 2 2:28
Duck Duck Goose 7 2 2:37
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 7 1 2:08
Potato Heads 7 0 1:29
cochran chaos 7 0 1:56
Telemark Travelers 7 0 2:10
Snow Bunnies 6 4 2:31
Team Griffin 6 0 1:46
Niko Ella Katherine 6 0 2:19
Looking for a bottle 4 0 2:39

2014 Frigid Infliction Results

March 14th, 2014 by GMARA Staff

Racers at the 2014 edition of the MVP Health Care Frigid Infliction started their day with a pleasant surprise: A short downhill ski on a trail that Bolton calls “Broadway”.

Wide, groomed, no climbing… so easy that we could even use portions of it for a kids’ race later in the day.

Of course, at 5:00 in the morning it was dark, and the trails were icy, and there were 96 racers all jostling for position. Maybe it wasn’t as easy as it sounded at first.

This would look just like the nordic races at the Olympics if it weren’t for Crumpets the Magical Elf.

Checkpoints 1 and 2 were “Off Broadway” which meant anyone enjoying the downhill too much had to turn around and do a bit of climbing.

After those points, racers were given the option to limbo underneath the gate at the end of Bolton’s trail network before reaching the first transition area. Some tried!

At TA1, racers left their skis behind and headed off on the Posthole leg.

Postholing is always everyone’s favorite.

Teams hit TA2 between 6:15 and 9:45, strapped on snowshoes, and headed east.

The snowshoe leg had checkpoints 6-12 scattered across the side of Bone Mountain, and no specific order required. Some teams headed immediately south following the catamount ski trail; others opted to go for a point on a small stream while the navigation was a bit easier. One team went in reverse order to maximize their time in fresh snow.

No matter which route they chose, the course was going uphill. It took teams anywhere from 3-5 hours to complete this leg.

Luckily, it had some of the best views in years – mostly clear skies meant seeing Camel’s Hump from four of the seven checkpoints.

CP10 was particularly pleasant, once you were up there.

For many teams, CP10 was a good navigation clinic refresher: when the topo lines are close together, it’s steep.

Two steps up, one step back… next time, bring ropes?

For those with flawless navigation, it was still almost 2300 feet of elevation gain…we’re guessing some teams probably climbed more than that.

After the snowshoe teams made it to the third transition area, where Vermont Smoke & Cure sponsored one of the tastiest gear checks in GMARA history – pull out your required knife and slice up a beef stick!

Thanks to our friends at the Outdoor Gear Exchange for putting us in touch, only good things can come from a relationship between adventure racers and a local company that smokes their own bacon.

Now, not everyone was in the mood for a beef stick at that point in the race – and of course, we have a number of vegetarian racers – so the volunteers helped them out by eating anything that might otherwise have been leftover.

Another tough job for the GMARA volunteer crew.

The Tyrolean! A challenge like no other, especially after 4-8 hours of racing.

Steve and the staff from Petra Cliffs did an amazing job this year – even with the largest number of racers at any Frigid, everyone moved through like clockwork.

Every year we’re amazed by the displays of inner strength and perseverance at the tyrolean.

Racers get 75% of the way across, their arms just stop working, for a half-second they look totally defeated.

But no: they grind out the last ten feet, make it to the other side and start smiling.

Most common quote at TA4:

“That was harder than I expected!”

From the tyrolean, it was a short snowshoe to TA5 where racers grabbed skis for checkpoints 13-17 on the Bolton Valley nordic trails.

This section had some unusual navigational challenges, more climbing, and plenty of sliding downhill in the slick backcountry.

Three more bonus points were available to teams that just couldn’t get enough of the hills.

Perennial favorites Untamed New England sent two teams this year, and they won as expected, reaching all CPs and BPs in just under 9 hours.

However, when we offered an extra bonus segment (cleaning up after the Wintry Wander) they turned us down – they were actually tired!

Race directors consider that a success.

Other teams also loved the course:

“I’m exhausted!”
“Why did you do that to us?”
“When’s the Bitter Pill?”

For finishing times, check the full results table or the simple results.

“This feels so good right now.” — Viva La Corner, off their feet for a moment.

Congratulations to Rick and Steffanie, the second couple to get engaged on a GMARA course! A very different sort of transition area, indeed. The first couple, Ashley and Jeremy (now happily married!) were also on hand. GMARA definitely considers it an honor to be involved in such important events.

Thanks again to MVP for making all of this possible, to Bolton for a great race location, to the Ponds for a great post-race party.

We can’t wait to see you all again at this summer’s Bitter Pill or next year’s Frigid!

A huge thanks to our own support crew:

  • Meg, Laurie, and Blythe for letting their husbands spend all their free time in the woods
  • Karin for organizing another fabulous dinner
  • Abbie for the post-race massage work
  • Scot, for breaking trail to CP9 so Shawn could set it the next day
  • Colin, John, Patrick, Bert, Drew, Tim, Diane, Shana, Courtney, Liz, Eric, and all the other volunteers without whom this couldn’t happen
  • Everyone who hung a poster, shared a post, wore our shirts to other events, convinced friends, relatives, lab partners, students and employees to take part

As always, our photos are up at SmugMug. See a photo you love? Click the thumbs up symbol at the bottom – the most popular go to the Best-Of Gallery.

New this year – from the race results page if you click on your TA times, it’ll jump into the photo collection around that time – easily find more pics of your team!

Here’s a few post-race details shared by teams:

If you have stories to share, blog posts about the race, or photos of your own please get in touch and we’ll add them to the galleries or share them here!

A huge thanks to our sponsors – let them know you appreciate their support!

MVP Health Care for the financial support that makes it possible for these races to happen.
The Outdoor Gear Exchange for continuing to support us in many ways including those awesome packs from Salomon, piles of other prizes, and putting us in touch with VT Smoke & Cure! Congrats to their team for taking third place in the premier division, too!
EMS of South Burlington for their support through all 11 years that we’ve been doing this, ongoing discounts for GMARA members, and the great prizes they give us!
Ski VT for prize bags, backpacks, socks, and helping keep VT mountains open for adventure!
Vermont Smoke and Cure for some appetizing snacks!
Salomon, for awesome packs in the prize pool!
The Right Stuff
Lastly, you can always “like” GMARA – because who else keeps losing you in the Green Mountains?

Thanks for racing and see you next year!

— Jen, Chris, Shawn, Graham, and the GMARA crew

Wintry Wander Update

March 2nd, 2014 by chris

Everything is coming together swimmingly (perhaps snowingly?) for the 2014 Wintry Wander. We spent the past weekend fine tuning the points and making sure you would have a great time exploring, whether you’re strolling to just a few points or running to get as many as you possibly can. Either way, it will be a great day outside and we look forward to hearing all the stories afterward.

We already have more than forty people signed up and expect even more to join before race day. There are some fun team names in there – seeing what creative ideas people come up with is always enjoyable.

One point of clarification, this is a snowshoe event, and snowshoes are required (unless you’re a young-un in a pack or getting pulled on a sled.) This will prevent any damage that could occur to groomed trails from people ‘post-holing.’ Bolton has a small rental stock, but we recommend that you bring your own to avoid any last-minute surprises.

Please reach out to us with any questions you have about the event. See you soon!

Thanks from GMARA / Frigid registration cap

January 31st, 2014 by GMARA Staff

(This went out to the mailing list, but if you’re not on there… sign up!)

First, an important note: We have to cap registration for the Frigid! We’re at 33 teams already, another three in the works, so we’re setting the cap at 40. Too many teams on the course would make it less an adventure and more a snowshoe conga line, which is why we’re limiting registration. We might adjust that cap in the future, but if you’ve been planning to sign up late, this isn’t the year to do it – register now to avoid missing out.

Second, a welcome to everyone who showed interest in GMARA at the BANFF film festival this past weekend!

On to the real purpose of this note: Thanks for keeping GMARA awesome!

This year we tried something new – a poster contest designed to spread the word about the Frigid. Whether it was the posters or just word of mouth, it worked – we had more early registrations than any Frigid in GMARA history, and we have you to thank for that!

Many of you know that GMARA is a true non-profit, nobody gets paid to run these races, we only show up because we know you’ll be there. Whether you’re a great crowd to begin with or racing at GMARA events makes you great, we’ll never know – we’re just glad you keep coming back year after year – racing, volunteering, getting lost in the green mountains, and bringing friends along to experience the fun. Thanks for making this organization something we all enjoy.

We did draw a winner for the contest – one of our local volunteers, Brittany Garland. She’s probably climbing a wall of ice somewhere, but we’ll get her that OGE gift certificate shortly. Even though the contest is over, we still encourage you to decorate with posters – we’ve got one for the Wintry Wander too:

While we’re thanking people for keeping the organization going, we’ll send a special shout-out to Brian Staveley from team UltraBambi. He’s been racing the Frigid since it began, and every year he shows up with a group of new racers, sharing the joy of a little light suffering. Tor books just published his first novel, an epic fantasy – not exactly adventure racing news, except that his characters are heavily influenced by his time on the course. If you’re curious, check out this post and look for The Emperor’s Blades on amazon and in local bookstores.

One last thing – if you’re planning ahead for this summer, I hear there’s a bunch of old friends spending time in the woods on August 2nd.

See you out there,

Shawn & the GMARA crew

Announcing the Wintry Wander!

December 20th, 2013 by GMARA Staff

GMARA is pleased to announce the Bolton Valley Wintry Wander, a kids’ event presented by MVP Health Care!

We’re able to offer this navigation challenge at only $5 per participant thanks to generous support from Bolton Valley and long-time sponsors MVP Health Care.

We’re excited that this is finally coming together. Many of the GMARA directors have small family members, and while they often get to scout course, set points, or serve lemonade, there’s never been an opportunity for them to join a team and hunt for flags in the woods.

We know a lot of racers have kids too, here’s your excuse to bring them along and let them share in the excitement of the not-quite-backcountry. Teams can be any size, but you’ll need an adult as the team captain to lead the group and make sure that nobody spends too long in the snow.

Many more details on the race page, but if you have questions, please drop us a line at and we’ll clear things up!

One final note – while we expect this to co-exist nicely with the Frigid from a spectator’s point of view, we do need to point out that post-Frigid dinner at the Ponds isn’t included for Wintry Wanderers. If you’d like to join the racers for dinner, though, just let us know and we’ll work out the cost details.

Frigid Infliction Poster Contest

December 3rd, 2013 by GMARA Staff

Enter a $100 raffle for the cost of a color printout! Help spread the word about the 2014 MVP Health Care Frigid Infliction and give yourself a chance to win a $100 OGE/ gift card. Here’s the deal:

  1. Download and print this 8×11 poster, in color: frigid 2014 8×11.pdf
  2. Hang it somewhere potential racers might see it:
    • The gym where you’re training for your next ultra
    • Your favorite outdoor gear emporium
    • That coffee shop where the orienteering club meets every week
    • Your office… if you work with a lot of outdoorsy people
    • The warming hut near your local nordic ski trails
    • College student centers
    • Anywhere you actually believe potential racers might see it
  3. Take a picture of the poster in its new home (maybe with your smiling face) and share with us using one or more of these:
  4. When you share it, let us know where it’s hanging, and use the hashtags #advrace #FI14 #VT so we can keep track.

  5. Get your posters up (and shared) by the time early registration ends – Jan 5th 2014. Each decent location counts as a raffle entry.

  6. Mid-January, we’ll draw a winner and send them a $100 gift card to Burlington’s Outdoor Gear Exchange /

Of course, we need some fine print:

  • You don’t have to race to win the raffle (but you will, right?)
  • Only the first poster shared from a certain location will count – get out there early!
  • It’s great if you want to share the same photo on multiple internet sites – in fact, we encourage it – but it’s still just one entry.
  • GMARA will be the final decider of what constitutes a valid location. If it’s borderline and you know it, feel free to convince us how great it is via email.
  • Like all GMARA events, please enter this raffle with a cheerful heart.
  • GMARA board members, race directors and the like aren’t eligible. You know who you are.

Let us know if you have questions!

Bitter Pill – Updates from Course Testing

August 8th, 2013 by chris

We had two teams get out in the woods over the weekend to test this year’s MVP Health Care Bitter Pill race course. Special thanks to Scott, Pascale, Ross, and Abby for hunting for the checkpoints without the benefit of orienteering flags to let them know they were in the right place.

Some interesting feedback from the testers that we thought we’d pass along:

Might be good to let folks know that the riding is technical (few roads and ATV) and to ensure they have healthy brakes.” (You’ll ride just about every type of terrain before you’re done.)

Are you sure you want them going down that way? Fifty foot cliffs may present a challenge.” (Yes, they will. Perhaps there’s a better route off to the side?)

That trek was awesome.” (Yes, it is. Enjoy the view!)

Here’s some additional information to give you a better sense of how the day may go:

  • Less than one kilometer of the trekking is on any sort of trail.
  • This is a fairly nettle-free course. Those that know, are thankful. You’re welcome! (Fairly, of course, is relative.)
  • The biking will involve several trails that aren’t on the map. Or have moved. Or have they? Curious…
  • Some of the riding is pretty technical; it’s safe to assume that there will be a bike portage section or two for every team.
  • The paddle is on the shorter side. It’s likely not worth bringing your own paddle this year, if you typically consider it.

Please make sure you review the mandatory gear lists as well as the schedule (we’re announcing the starting discipline at 4:15!) You’ll be carrying all your gear with you all day, except for bike, boat, and paddles.

If you have spectators coming, send their contact info to – we’ll try to get them location details in the morning. Guests can join us for dinner for $20.

The course has come together beautifully and maps have been ordered. We’re looking forward to seeing all of you next weekend!

Chris, Shawn, and the GMARA Crew

Bitter Pill – Last Chance!

July 30th, 2013 by GMARA Staff

This is the last week to sign up for the MVP Health Care Bitter Pill – our boat supplier needs two weeks notice, which means even if you bring us baked goods, we probably can’t add a team at the last minute – unless you’re up for packrafting…

A quick news roundup for anyone who’s not on the mailing list yet:

  • If you can’t race on the 17th but you’re free this week for course testing, please let us know. We could use a few more data points, and you could use an excuse to get in the woods, right? As a bonus, if you’re in town on the 3rd/4th you can check out the USA Cycling Pro Mountain Bike XCT finals. This should be an amazing event, olympic caliber racers and national competition in our backyard. We’re thrilled that it’s coming to Catamount and I know a lot of GMARA regulars will be enjoying the festival.
  • Big news on the sponsor front: our friends at the Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington have hooked us up with Salomon – our prize pool now includes vouchers for high-end adventure-ready shoes. Salomon was one of the first to design shoes specifically for adventure racers, and more than one GMARA race director can vouch for their quality.
  • In other sponsorship news, the Tick Twister is now GMARA’s official tick removal device! If you’ve ever tried to remove a tick, you know how much fun it can be – these make it easier, help avoid infection and disease transmission, and every Bitter Pill racer will get a set.

Everything’s coming together for a fabulous 10th anniversary Bitter Pill – see you out there!