Yet again, the MVP Health Care Bitter Pill was an amazing race through some great Vermont terrain. Blueberry Hill Inn extended their hospitality for a second year, and 19 teams of racers made their way to the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area on Friday night. Whether camping or staying in the cozy B&B rooms, racers grabbed what sleep they could and gathered at 4:30 the next morning for the pre-race briefing.
A 5:00 a.m. start meant a brief period of navigation in the dark. The race instructions said “trek” but the early course was a bit wet: Three different beaver ponds, three different mucky checkpoints, in any order.
Once teams found those checkpoints, they returned to the inn to grab their bikes. The trip to TA2 was part riding, part hike-a-bike, and one checkpoint near a fourth beaver pond. Course designers were tempted to make teams swim yet again, but figured everyone’s socks were wet enough already.
At TA2, racers dropped their bikes, learned the location of the Tyrolean Traverse and started a big loop to get CP5-12 in order. CP5 was a quick uphill run, with possible views of lake Dunmore through the trees.
CP6 and 7 were on buoys in silver lake, requiring about a half a mile of swimming to get both. Everyone had been worried about their feet drying out, and we wanted to set their minds at rest. After the swim, CP8, 9, and 10 took a bit of trail running, bushwhacking, and stream-crossing. After CP10, racers ran down the north branch trail to the Tyrolean.
CP11: The Tyrolean Traverse over the Falls of Lana… for anyone who paused and looked at the view, this was amazing. There has never been a (legal) tyrolean in the Green Mountain National Forest, so a huge thanks to Holly and Chris at the U.S. Forest Service and Steve at Petra Cliffs for working out all the details and getting us a permit!
Let’s just take another look at that… one view from below, one from above:
After the tyrolean, racers found a delightful uphill hike to a CP on the water tower, then a run along the silver lake pipeline back to TA3. Grabbed their bikes again, they hit Chandler Ridge for some fantastic technical single-track. A bit more elevation gain, two on-trail checkpoints, and a steep descent to TA4 rounded out the biking leg.
If you’re a mountain biker, it’s worth a trip to the Moosalamoo just to ride the Chandler Ridge trail… I think a bunch of racers are going to come back just to see that stretch again. Then again, for some racers it was a 5-mile hike-a-bike with a broken chain, so maybe not everyone will be back.
At the Leicester Hollow Bridge (TA4, also dubbed the “bike repair clinic”) teams dropped their bikes for one last trek, including CP15 and three bonus points for ambitious teams.
A huge thanks to everyone who shared a tube, a chain segment, or general bike repair skills. A lot of racers would have had a lousy day from this point if it weren’t for general racer kindness.
Everyone seemed to agree that CP15 was definitely near an awesome rock… and all paths leading to it were covered in stinging nettles.
I would apologize, but I walked through that patch five times myself. Truly a spectacular example of a horrid plant.
After CP15, the bonus trek points were more of a navigational challenge. It turns out 15-year-old maps can be a bit unreliable, trails can mysteriously disappear, streams dry up…
after talking to the top racers, a navigational challenge was the perfect end to the day.
Oh, wait, that fun navigation wasn’t the end of the course – teams still had to bike uphill for five miles and grab CP16 on the way. 1100 feet of climbing after a day of racing? No problem.
It did help that Blueberry Hill had hot showers and a cool pond available, and that Bevo had their bar set up as early as possible.
Dave Lamb, Molly Housman, and David Romilly from team Untamed New England absolutely crushed the course, finishing at 12:39 – just 7:39 on the course. Next year, we’ll have to devise a special “Untamed” segment. Maybe bike-swimming or canoe-rappelling, something that might slow them down a bit. Checkpoint Zero/Tech4o was hot on their heels, finishing in 8:04, and the Mercators (back for their 9th GMARA race!) took third place in 10:40. All three top teams got all the bonus points, putting their official times at 4:39, 5:04, and 7:40. Maybe the course ran a little fast.
In the men’s division, the NH Trail Vets finished first with a time on course of 8:54 and all three bonuses. They’ve posted a good writeup
as always. Newcomers Sink, Trip, Crash took second in 9:50, again with all the bonus points, and they have some course notes
too.In the women’s division, HTFU took the win in 10:55.
A huge thanks goes to the volunteers who made this happen. Pictured are Chris, Scot, Colin, myself, DJ, Bert, Brenda, David, Lindsay, and John. Graham, Karin, Ryan, Sarah, Scott, Kristin, Laurie and Kate all helped as well, and even Tim went out on Sunday and retrieved a few bonus points (with the help of a GPS). A special thanks to my wife, Meg, for giving me endless hours to organize, design, communicate, and hike very slowly.
None of us get paid for this, we do it because we love to see racers having a good time. If you’ve ever wanted to peek behind the curtain, please speak up – there’s a good chance that you can help plan a GMARA race, a day of climbing, a night hike, a bike tuning clinic… this is a volunteer-run non-profit, and we all benefit if you volunteer too. We even toss out the occasional race discount for repeat volunteers!
Lastly, thanks to all of our sponsors. MVP Health Care makes it possible to put on great races like this year after year. Things like the ropes and the great meal can’t happen without their contribution.
EMS is always there with discounts, prizes, and rental gear. Blueberry Hill Inn and the Moosalamoo Association gave us a great base of operations and rooms at a steep discount. Catamount provided winter passes to our local champions, and Bevo gave us a great meal at a price nobody else could match.
Our newest sponsors, Julbo and Ski Vermont, both made this prize pool one to remember. Julbo provided some of their very best eyewear to the top teams. If you haven’t tried on a pair yet, take a trip to your local EMS and spend a few minutes. Some of the options are really amazing. They’ve also given us a discount code to mail out to members, so look for that in your email soon.
Ski Vermont solved the problem of “what do you get for the team that has everything?” by showering us with lift tickets and golf passes. I know a few racers that are looking forward to relaxing at VT resorts this fall and winter, and you can bet that our next winter race will be taking place at a Ski VT member resort.
If you have the opportunity to thank these sponsors for their support, “like” them on facebook, shop at their stores or promote their gear, please do. They support GMARA because they’re awesome, but they also like the publicity.
This may seem like shameless promotion, but a social media presence really matters to small businesses (and by extension, to GMARA). If you appreciate their support, if your day was made better by their involvement, this is one way you can choose to show it and ensure that future races are equally awesome.
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Thanks again for racing, and see you next year!
- Shawn & the GMARA crew