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 Gasp├ęsie, 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