From the new title sponsor to the host location, “community” was the theme of this summer’s GMARA race. Lots of Vermont-style cooperation and local support made this race happen, including major assistance from the Outdoor Gear Exchange and a great site for the race provided by Cochran’s ski area.
The Mobbs Farm committee let us get in some awesome biking, and helpful homeowners even shared their front yard for the transition from bikes to canoes. It’s not a stretch to say we couldn’t have done it without their support and yours – our own community of people who rise to the challenge year after year!
Mixing things up a bit from previous years, racers didn’t get a map at the start. Instead, they were pointed to a 4-foot high glowing orienteering flag at the top of Cochran’s ski slope and told that maps would be waiting there. No time to plan, just race!
Of course, from half a kilometer away, that flag looks pretty tiny. At 5:00 in the morning the crowd began to sprint uphill… then jog… then hike… then walk, but with a lot of determination.
The train of headlamps was a great sight from the base of the hill.
Two quick points on foot (including the elusive CP2) and racers were into their boats for a paddle down the Winooski river.
It was pointed out that CP2 was not a “leaning tree” but in fact a “broken tree” and we apologize to everyone who ran in circles due to that oversight.
No apologies for all the misleading bike trails, old logging roads, and deer tracks that weren’t on your maps… that was intentional.
The paddle was peaceful and serene, and gave teams the time they needed to forget CP2.
We heard that the Richmond bald eagle even made an appearance!
There was a bit of crowding near CP5, on the shore of Mill Brook. Seems like the brook has moved over the years, but nobody updated the map!
Teams that found the flag were careful not to give anything away as they portaged up the brook towards TA2.
The instructions said to follow the brook to the road, but some teams found themselves bushwhacking through the jungle.
The second transition area was one of the more memorable ones in GMARA history. Racers had to switch from canoes to bikes, but in-between: BACON.
Vermont Smoke & Cure donated bacon ends, and Will from the Outdoor Gear Exchange spent all morning over a hot frying pan.
After that little pause, teams started the biking leg with a smile.
A short stretch on pavement, crossing mill brook again on a dirt road, and then (for most teams) bike-whacking down a ravine and crossing it a third time.
Some teams decided to ride around on dirt roads, adding about two miles to their day – but avoiding the treacherous currents in the babbling brook.
Mobbs Farm was a treat for some mountain bikers, while others thought of this segment as a gorgeous hike with their bike.
The bike leg had 14 checkpoints to pick up in any order – some orders were better than others.
CP12, the checkpoint under the bridge. It was great fun watching teams bike at high speed over this bridge, wondering where the next checkpoint was.
Trust me, there’s a trail here too.
After biking the valley and then the hill, racers headed for CP19 and then a well-deserved 1000-foot descent back into the Winooski river valley.
TA3 was back at Cochran’s ski area where racers had a quick gear check – it was about 85 degrees, but we wanted to see that they all had a warm hat in case they got chilly.
It’s important to be prepared, you see.
TA3 also had lemonade and beef sticks from Vermont Smoke & Cure, all served up by a crew of little helpers: Ember, Monique, Charlotte, Adele, Eleanor, Sam and Jack.
Ok maybe the helpers were more of an ongoing circus show, doing cartwheels down the hillside, but there was lemonade nearby.
After a bit of refreshment, it was time to head back up the hill for the final trekking points. CP20-25, and three bonus points for anyone who wished they owned a stairmaster.
At 1:22 p.m. the first team came down the ski slope to the finish – Rev3/Mountain Khakis, showing why they’re holding the top spot on the USARA leaderboards. Hitting every point on the course – including the bonuses – in just over eight hours.
About 90 minutes after the top team, others started streaming in, including GMARA regulars like NH Trail Vets, Mercators, Goose Adventure Racing, and these guys: Out of Control
Phenomenal appetizers and dinner from Bevo kicked off the relaxing portion of the day.
Cochran’s lodge was a great spot for a post-race party – picnic tables added to the comraderie and being surrounded by olympic memorabilia certainly added to the party atmosphere.
This year’s prize pool was spectacular, thanks in large part to help from The Outdoor Gear Exchange. Prizes from Salomon, Leki, Smartwool, Osprey, Julbo, Suunto, and Sea to Summit should set teams up for their next adventure.
Ski VT shared some lift tickets and other snowy prizes, in case you needed another excuse to get back this winter.
The Cochran cousins donated a pint of Slopeside Syrup to each of the division winners, which will be a great reminder of all the tubing they had to navigate around.
If you’re interested in using syrup to fuel your adventures, check out UnTapped – as they say, the simplicity of endurance sports deserves a simple ingredient — 100% pure, unadulterated, organic Vermont maple syrup.
A special thanks to the volunteers: Colin, Chris, Shawn, John, Scot, David, Charlotte, Bill, Diane, Shana, Bert, Drew, Michelle, Abbie, Will, Meg, Laurie, Kate, Liz, Amber, Patrick, Bryan, Marc, Graham, and anyone else who took a few minutes in the past six months to help make this happen. You might see Chris, Colin or Shawn directing on race day, but you don’t always see the people testing the course, hanging the flags, moving the bikes, or designing the shirts.
A special shout-out to Mammut for dressing our core staff in some fabulous new jackets!
Lastly, one more huge thanks to Will and the rest of the crew at the Outdoor Gear Exchange
You ate the bacon and earned the prizes, but that alone doesn’t tell you how much they want GMARA to succeed. We’re looking forward to a partnership that’ll last for years – together we’ll keep putting on the events that you love and getting you lost in the green mountains!
The NH Trail Vets sent along a great writeup of their day, and it’s fun to look at their track on Strava to see what I meant about CP2 causing trouble… and then despair at the beautiful straight lines as they hit the bonus points… even race directors with a GPS sometimes don’t move in lines like that.
If you’ve got your own writeup (or a GPS track) let me know and I’ll add it or share it with the team.
If you missed them, the photos are all up at photos.gmara.org.
If you have any of your own, please get in touch and we’ll get them added.
Enjoy the summer while it lasts – we’ll see you February 28th for the 10th running of the Frigid Infliction!
— Shawn & the GMARA crew