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 with details and we’ll get them up here.

Thanks for racing!

– The GMARA Crew