July 2011

Prizes for practice

Well, its time to take down the orienteering course that we used for the spring primer race out in turtle river.  If you're doing the 24 hour race, this is the perfect excuse to go camp out and practice your night nav.  There are 10 CP's (remember one of the maps only shows 9 CP's!).  Here is the satellite map, Here is the trail map.  First person to go out and take down the CP's it will be rewarded with a pair of Stuffitts shoe savers (which will probably be put to immediate use) and a pair of Ergon grips.  Go by foot, Go by bike, just go get 'em, tigers!

Note - check with me before you head out and i'll give you a heads up as to whether someone beat you to the punch!

The real deal

The alaska mountain wilderness classic is perhaps the birthplace of adventure racing.  An internet search of the race will turn up so many awesome stories, photos, and videos that its one of my favorite ways to procrastinate/seek inspiration.  The race is still going on today, deep in the wilds of rugged alaska, with no prize money and little fanfare.  No TA's, no checkpoints, just a start and a finish and lots of grueling terrain in between.  One of the few pieces of mandatory equipment is the pack-raft.  Don't worry - if you're thinking of signing up for END-AR24, rest assured it won't be quite this arduous, it probably won't snow, and we PROMISE there will be someone at the finish line.


Eye candy

Live tracking shot from RTNX

Well folks, Raid The North Extreme, an Adventure Racing World Series qualifying event of epic proportions, is now underway.  Taking place in remote areas of British Columbia, it will cover more than 500 km and take teams up to 6 days.  Team GearJunkie/Yogaslackers is gunning for a podium finish in this one but there will be some stiff competition, with many big name teams representing, including Wedali, Dart-Nuun, Technu/Staphasetic, Odyssey, Midwest Mountaineering, and MerGeo.  You can follow the race with live satellite tracking HERE.  It seems like a pretty slick operation, so expect photos and videos to start appearing on the website during the race as well as interviews with teams as they make their way through the course.  There's nothing better than sitting in a comfy chair with a cup of coffee and watching other people suffer. Unless of course you're a member of this strange breed of folks we call adventure racers, and in that case the watching might take close second to actually being out there yourself.


Woop Woop Walhalla! (racer feedback requested!)

The city of Walhalla, host of END-AR24, has just announced their formal support of the race!  Kathy S., director of city economic development, says that the town will be manning one of the checkpoints and providing refreshments to racers as they pass through.  She's asked me what sort of refreshments they should provide and in thinking of how to answer i realized that hey, I'm not the one racing!  So i figured that i ought to hear from the racers as to what they might like to see at the precious few manned checkpoints (what doesn't get consumed as racers pass through the first manned checkpoint will likely appear at later checkpoints) they will encounter as they tackle the "toughtest race in North Dakota"

I need to get back to Kathy by the end of the month, so if you want to a voice in the decision, don't hesitate!  Registered racers or those planning to register should comment on this post with your favorite race food/drink that you think might help get you through your low point, that might just be a game changer for your or your team.  Cheers!

Notes from the field

The pair of us at the start of our journey

I was out on the 24 hour course again this week with fellow adventurer Joel Larson and have a few things to report.  To begin with, it was an awesome day out - it took us five hours to complete what we're calling the 'short-course' trek.  Granted we were doing it in the daylight and racers will be doing it by headlamp........

Me and my sweet get-up
Joel sporting his 'natural' sunscreen/bug dope

I decided to play the role of gumby racer as much as i could.  I carried a 12 dollar walmart raft, a two piece break apart paddle, a 10 dollar barrel style pump, an old school PFD, food, and about 4 liters of water - all stuffed into an old river bag that didn't have a waist strap (a fact i regretted within 10 minutes of setting out because my shoulders didn't like the load).  The pack probably weighed about 25 pounds.  I wore long pants and long sleeved shirt - loose fitting nylon weaves with lots of vents/mesh, and a hat with neck protection (it was over 90 degrees when we began our hike).  Joel wore more traditional race garb - tights and a technical t-shirt, and carried a nice fitted ergon pack, an alpacka scout with hand paddles, and had a bag weight closer to 20 lbs.  Both outfit's seemed fine.  I was less bothered by mosquitos because the loose nature of my clothing helped keep them off.  I also didn't have to worry about sunburn, as joel did.  But it turns out pembina mud is reasonably effective sunscreen and bug repellent.  Joel definitely looked a bit more chic.  We were aiming to see what worked and what didn't so we could pass the info on to you.  Here are the lessons we learned that might be useful:

Awesome terrain

1).  A pack that fits and carries well is a good idea.
2).  Trekking poles might be a good idea for some people.  Some of the terrain may be difficult - river beds, rock hopping, etc.  Neither one of us had them and we managed just fine, but we're both pretty studly.
3).  'Shortcuts' may not always be shorter in terms of time.  We don't want to influence teams to much either way here - route choice is a big part of the fun and strategy of a race.  We tried to take a couple - some paid off, some didn't.

Joel during one of our shortcuts

4) Paddle vs. hand paddles?  The length of a two piece paddle sticking out of my pack was only a real hindrance during serious bushwhack sections (we only had one on our journey).  The paddle is noticeably faster (maybe by 1 mph) in the river, provided you know how to use it.  Handpaddles of course are free and weigh almost nothing.  If you have a five piece paddle, this may be the best option.  In reality, either will work fine.
5) Boats - both of our boats worked fine.  I'm sure that if i had hit a stick or tree or unseen rock i'd have destroyed my cheap raft, but it was pretty easy not too.  If you intend to use a 12 dollar walmart job, i strongly recommend buying it now and getting acquainted with it's feel, handling, and learn how to treat it with kid gloves.  I also DO NOT recommend inflating the floor in the walmart (or other similar) rafts - this takes extra time and is unnecessary.  The walmart rafts feel very fragile, but at least in my experience, handled just fine.

Walmart pack-raft in all its splendor

6) Boats 2 - practice inflating and deflating your raft quickly (and with care if you have a budget model).  you will be doing so several times throughout the race.
7).  There is at least one section where you may encounter poison ivy on the race. I am extremely allergic to the stuff and recognize it instantly and only saw it at one place on this excursion (a 300 ft shortcut), and didn't get any.  Nevertheless, this is another reason to wear long pants for any bushwhacking.  We will have Technu poison ivy wash at the finish line for those who want to shower with it.

keep track of the river bends!

8). Navigation:  The race takes in lots of trail-less wilderness - downriver paddling or hiking up creeks/valleys.  As such a significant portion of the navigation will involve keeping track of your position using river or creek bends.  Floating too far on a river and passing a checkpoint is a great way to let all the teams behind you catch up - and its easy to do if you let down your guard, as the river may movee faster than it seems (we were floating at 3-3.5 mph without paddling).

9) egress:  There will be points on the course with no/limited egress.  For example at one point you will be 2 miles up a 4 mile long river valley.  If something goes wrong there is no 'quick' way out - the sides of the valley are VERY dense bush, and the fastest way out is a 2 mile walk to either end of the valley.  Teams need to go in being self sufficient, and with the mindset that members can only drop/withdraw at manned CPs.

The road is hot, but at least we know where we are!

If you've raced our races before - this race is going to be different.  The wilderness feel will not be 'manufactured' (ie being 500 feet from a road in the woods can still 'feel' like wilderness) - it will be real - as real as it gets in this great state of ours. With the exception of a 2 mile stretch of county road that links sections, Joel and I saw no signs of civilization. We did see lots of deer, beavers, and loads of moose and what Joel thought was either wolf or some sort of cat track (cougar?).  Good stuff.

Finally, if you love reading about other peoples suffering (in anticipation of your own of course), check out Stephen Regenold's great write-up of team GearJunkie/Yogaslacker's recent win at the Stubborn Mule 30 hr. race in central Wisconsin.

Who needs a trail?

No escaping your conscience!

Think of this movie as your conscience
Yeah, this weekend is supposed to be SUPER hot.  If you decide to get out and train for the 24 hour race anyway, make sure to drink lots of water and apply your sunscreen.  If you decide to be more reasonable (lazy?) however - and say - go see a movie at River Cinema in East Grand Forks - you'll find that you can't escape your conscience, even with all that air conditioning, corn syrup, and plush seating surrounding you.  Maybe you'll go train tomorrow..... after all, no telling how hot it's going to be on August 27th!

Oh, and one more thing - the Gear List for END-AR24 is now up on the event page, or you can see it by clicking here.

Past, Present, and future

A field of yellow flowered wild parsnip.
this was often my view during the race.  

Well, i think i'm now 'past' the worst of it as far as my wild parsnip burns go.  Here i thought that poison ivy/oak/sumac were the only nasties i really had to look out for whilst bushwhacking - how wrong i was.  For those who have no idea what i'm talking about - wild parsnip - shown below - is a non-native plant that has taken over in many places in wisconsin and southern Minnesota, including Albert Lea, host city to the recent MNOC adventure-o that i competed in.  I remember recognizing the plant from a description i'd been given that morning as i forged through fields of it up to my waist.  I also remember wondering why the team we were following all seemed to be holding their arms up above their heads.  I wonder no longer.  Long story short, the sap from damaged leaves and stems left streaks across my forearms, knees, and all over my hands.  That sap apparently reacts with UV radiation and causes a chemical burn - destroying the skin cells at the point of contact.  Imagine you took a hot iron and pressed the edge against your skin and you'll get an idea of the aftermath - big blisters popping up all over and severe discoloration that apparently lasts for up to a couple of years.  Don't worry - there is no wild parsnip in the pembina gorge!

Ergon grips

Presently we need to get all of you teams that are planning on doing our race to throw your chips in and actually register!  We can't pull this off without teams, and we're about to make some rather large purchases (swag people, swag!) and can't really justify doing so if we don't know that we're going to at least cover our costs.  If we don't start getting some teams signed up we may even have to cancel the race.  So our first choice is that you register, but at the very least, send us an email to let us know you are planning to attend so we can get a better feel for the numbers to expect.  And make sure to keep spreading the word - the phrase "the more the merrier" is aptly true when searching for that CP in the middle of the night.  Not sure if you want to commit yet?  Want more incentive?  Well how's this - I just received a box of 10 Ergon bike grips in the mail to give away at the event - adding to an existing prize pool that already puts most local races to shame.

Ahhh yeah.  Pugsley frame.

And finally - looking ahead to the Coldavenger Extreme North Dakota Iceman triathlon - we've just heard that Surly, Granddaddy of fat tire bikes among other things, will be supporting the event with a great prize pack including a pugsley frame - not bad for our little hometown expression of winter-time valor.

More sponsors come onboard!

Ergon-bike, maker of the best bike grips in the biz will be sending out some goodies for our upcoming race on August 27th and 28th, as will GearJunkie.com, the midwest's own authority on gear and all things adventure.

More sponsors come onboard!

Ergon-bike, maker of the best bike grips in the biz will be sending out some goodies for our upcoming race on August 27th and 28th, as will GearJunkie.com, the midwest's own authority on gear and all things adventure.

Media and Race report

It's been a busy week.  Last wednesday I did a radio interview on "Hear it Now", a show broadcast on Prairie Public radio.  You can listen to the show by clicking here - my segment is at the beginning of the broadcast, right after the news.  I discuss ENDracing, adventure racing in general, the upcoming "toughest race in North Dakota" among other things.  The same day I had the opportunity to spontaneously decide to travel down to participate in the Minnesota orienteering club's Adventure-O, put on in partnership with Wedali.

Molly and Justin of Team Wedali during the pre race meeting.

It was a great, fast race with a strong emphasis on orienteering.  I partnered with Phil, a guy i met an hour prior to the race.  Turns out it was a great pairing, and we thought we handily took second place overall (10 minutes behind the first place team - GearJunkie/Yogaslackers.  Unfortunately we'd missed a checkpoint during the final orienteering section (we just didn't see it!) - one that would have taken us 3 minutes longer to get.  We finished more than an half an hour ahead of the next team, so it's a bummer, but one that is easily let go of.  Phil was a great teammate and i'll race with him again. Click here for the full report.

Summer is here!

I know, I know.  I'm late.  There you were, wondering if - as the month of June came to a close with no June newsletter from ENDracing - the flame of adventure had finally been extinguished in the upper midwest.  But have faith people - I'm just busy, and we're just getting started.  Lots to report this month, so lets get into it:
Registration for "the hardest race in North Dakota" is now open.  Actually it's been open for a long time.  If you're going to race we'd certainly appreciate it if you'd sign up already!  In fact, to give you a little nudge, we'll throw some extra goodies in the swag bags of the first 15 teams to register in any category (and yes, if you've already signed up you'll get the goodies too).  The course is set and we're spending lots of time up in the valley tweaking the details.  It's going to be epic of course, but you already expect that.
Cash prizes for top teams will be awarded based on number of entries received.  Starting with the 51st paid racer, $50 of the registration fee from each new racer will be given back to top teams.  If we get 75 racers for example, the prize purse will include $1250 in cash, in addition to all the great merchandise we'll be giving away from our sponsors.  We'd love to do more, but then again, we're already priced so far below everyone else that its really hard to beat our value.
Packraft options for END-AR24 will not be limited to any particular type of craft.  Your packrafts must be non-motorized and transportable.  You will be carrying your boats and paddling gear with you (or using them/it) pretty much the entire race, so light is right!  There will be about 20 river miles in several sections, and some difficult terrain - if you've got some 20 lb. monster you better be training with that thing on our back. There are lots of types (check for intex, stearns, sevylor, etc on Amazon for the less expensive options, feel free to email with any questions) of boats - I'm going to run the whole thing in a $15 dollar cheapie in a couple weeks and report back - so get something and practice in it!  This is an EXPEDITION style race (lots of people claim this and what they really mean is that it's point to point - hardly expedition style) - there will be no gear drops, etc.  Although there will be opportunities to fill water and transition areas where left-over sponsor product (bars, power to go, etc) is offered - you won't be able to count on this.  This is the real deal - its going to be a hard race that favors slow, continuous progress over short bursts of speed.  You will NOT have to carry your bikes on non bike sections of the course however.  More details will be provided to racers in race specific emails.  And FYI - we've still got a handful of packrafts (scout model) available for rent for the 24 hour race, as well as three larger decked boats for sale and about half of retail.  Check out the Alpacka section of the store for more details.
Radio:  I've got a radio interview on Prairie Public radio on Wednesday July 6th, at 3 pm.  Tune in if you're interested.  I'll be discussing ENDracing in general, as well as the upcoming race.
Teammates:  If you're looking for a team-mate, either as a single racer or as a team of two looking to expand your circle of commiseration during END-AR24  shoot me an email and i'll see who i can connect you with.  Also, if you'd be open to having someone join your team, please let me know as well.
Volunteering is fun!  If you're not sure you're up to the challenge of the hardest race in the state, there's only one way to find out - sign up anyway.  Barring that, at least get out and volunteer.  We're still looking for a few committed volunteers who are willing to be out in beautiful and remote sections of the course to keep track of racer progress at manned checkpoints, and to serve as course cleaners.  These folks will be following the last team through a section, stripping the course of checkpoints.  It's a great morale boost for that last team and gives the volunteer a way to see (in a small dose) just what doing a 24 hour race by ENDracing entails.  Volunteers get a free post race meal, some sweet swag, a chance to win prizes in our awesome prize drawing, and major props from us.
Training races coming up include the MNOC Adventure-O, put on by reigning national champions WEDALI.  The course features trekking, paddling, and biking, as well as orienteering, all within 90 minutes from the twin cities.  Teams doing MNOC as well as ENDracing will receive a $15 per racer discount off the already low entry fee into END-AR24. Lets get some local teams out there to represent!  If you do end up out there, make sure and put in a good word for us.  Ian (the pres. of MNOC) doesn't seem to know how cool we are yet, and we'd very much appreciate you passing on the word.
Gear is now becoming available on Ground UP Adventures website, and we'll continue to work to provide you with a way to buy the stuff you need for racing (at a discount when we can) in a way that helps support our mission to bring adventure to the upper great plains.  Check out the store for a list of our sponsors, then click on each to see more about why we love them and how to get their stuff.  We currently offer alpacka rafts (limited), Hydroflask water bottles (custom designs!), Inov-8 gear, Numa sunglasses, and pre-orders on custom Swiftwick socks.  In the next two weeks we should have Power to Go energy, Raw Rev bars, and Stuffitts shoe savers available.  Links are provided in the store to all of our other sponsors - visit 'em - check out their gear, or send them an email thanking them for supporting our cause.
Thats it - i'll cover anything that i missed next month.
Cheers  -
ENDracing Team