September 2011

6 Reasons to do END-TOMBED (in case you need any more)

  1. you can paint your face, dress up, and act like a zombie.  Don't have all the face painting gear?  we'll have someone on-site who will be able to make you look even 'deader' than you feel between laps! (donations encouraged)
  2. 12 hours of mountain biking!!!!!
  3. S'mores (yeah, we're going to try and have some of the fixins around for folks to enjoy after dark)
  4. YOUR playlist... thats right - you'll get to hear your favorite song (keep it clean folks, or at least use the radio edit!) as you come through the race HQ.  
  5. Pumpkin carving!  we'll have a bunch of pumpkins available (donations encouraged) to keep you busy while team-mates are charging the course.  Bring your own carving tools - we'll have prizes for best pumpkin at the awards ceremony!
  6. Awesome halloween pictures!  ENDracing is blessed to have connections with superbly talented photographers who will be out there snapping pictures all day.  We never charge extra money to download these.
Don't forget - early registration ends October 7th!

Tunes for END-TOMBED

Alright all you race fans out there - if you're participating or planning on participating in next month's 'to die for' event END-TOMBED, then we want to hear what you want to be hearing as you pedal your way through 12 hours of fun.

If you've already registered for the event, just send us an email with the subject line 'END-TOMBED tune'.  Include your name and/or team name and an mp3 attachment of the song and we'll make sure it gets on the playlist, and even try to make sure it gets some air time as you come in towards race HQ on one of your laps.

If you've yet to register, then make sure you send us this info once you do.

Cheers everyone!


A sport for the old?

Tom Fisher (18)

Lots of people argue that endurance racing in general and more specifically adventure racing are sports for older people.  Experienced people.  Patient people who know a little thing or two about suffering just by proxy of having lived on this planet a while.  People who have been around long enough to get over the foolish notions of youth, accept their limitations, and develop their strengths.  In fact, if you go to any adventure race, this argument will often be supported by the results.... teams comprised of 40 somethings routinely trounce super fit college kids.  But i'm not sure i agree with the reasoning - after all the number of teams of 'mature' individuals is so much higher...experience may help get you to the finish line, but a healthy chunk of change is often required to get you to the start - something most 18-25 year olds simply don't have.

Jaclyn Sand (18)

Logan Smestead (23)

I believe that adventure racing has great potential in offering a transformative experience for 'younger than average' racers, that they can be competitive if nurtured a bit, and that exposure to the sport can translate into a life-long love of adventure based health and wellness.  This is one of the reasons ENDracing is working so hard to introduce more youth from our region to it, and hopes to form a youth team, team END-FAST, in 2012.  Already we've been exploring the idea in 2011 and in fact there was an END-FAST team at our recent 24 hour race up in the Pembina Gorge at the end of August.  The team was comprised of Logan Smestead (age 23), a cross country skier, climber, and runner; Tom Fisher (age 18), a runner and triathlete who is a senior at Central HS in Grand Forks, and Jaclyn Sand (age 18), also a runner.   While both Logan and Tom had tried adventure racing earlier this year at END-SPAR, it was to be Jaclyn's first adventure race (and race over 2 hours, period).  In fact, Jaclyn had never even mountain biked...

END-FAST was fourth place in their category, and fifth place overall out of 18 teams and had the youngest combined age of any of the teams by more than 10 years.  Logan was kind enough to write up a race report from their experience that is both hilarious and quite descriptive of what they went through. Enjoy the read.  END-FAST RACE REPORT

ENDracing/Ground UP adventures hopes to be able to financially support END-FAST in 2012 and help send them to races outside of our organization.  We endeavor to build a team so that each year we can bring new, keen young people into the group, allow the experienced youth to mentor them as through a race season or two, and then repeat the process, gradually building a positive youth culture around adventuring and adventure racing in our community and region.  Click HERE For information about the team and how to donate to its cause.


2011 END-AR 24 race report/recap

2011 END-AR 24 race report
Here’s how the “toughest race in North Dakota went down –
Prologue – “Knock Knock.”  Teams starting: 18
Ten minutes to 2 pm on August 27th, teams were given two ‘maps’ – a satellite image of Frostfire Ski resort and a straight line schematic showing distance and direction from a start location for seven prologue points.  The points could be visited in any order and each one consisted of a laminated photo of a famous (or infamous) ‘celebrity’.  Teams had to record ‘who’s there’ and then return to the start location, check in, pick up their mandatory gear, and head downhill on a gravel road for about a mile to CP1, on the banks of the Pembina river.  The fastest teams finished this section in about 25 minutes while the slowest teams must have gotten lost as it took them well over an hour to solve the riddle.  One team had multiple members stung by wasps, an unfortunate situation as one of them was highly allergic.  They withdrew from the race and drove 30 minutes to nearby Cavalier and the emergency room – reporting back later that they were all ok.
Section 1 – “Initiation.”  Teams starting: 17

Teams reached CP1, blew up their pack-rafts, and headed down the Pembina River.  They were required to travel on the river for the next four miles, passing CP2 on a mid-river island, to arrive at the confluence with the Little South Pembina River.  At this point teams exited the river to find a severely overgrown snow-mobile trail that took them to CP3 (in a mud pit) and continued all the way to CP 5 (trail junction).  Between CP4, which was visible from the trail between 3 and 5, was the first of the courses three photo-checkpoints – a dilapidated warming shelter.  The photo-checkpoints were not marked on the map and teams had only a photo clue and general instructions (i.e. between 3 and 5) to locate these CPs.  After CP 5, a barbed wire fence crossed the old trail which teams were not permitted to cross (private property).  They were faced with a choice of bushwhacking back to the river  and pack-rafting 1-2 miles to another good trail system and CP 6, or trying to bushwhack the same distance, possibly hitting trails that might or might not exist. 
Three of the top four teams chose to return to the river.  Most of the other teams opted to bushwhack, feeling the river would be slower.  Most of these latter teams got miserably lost and ended up being forced to cross ‘the mother of all bogs’ – a foul smelling chest deep monstrosity of sucking mud.  Once teams located CP 6, a reasonably good trail led to CP 7 where it petered out, leaving teams to once again decide whether to take back to the river or look for overland passage to the base of a broad and rather indistinct ridge that climbed steeply up to CP8/TA1 at the Masonic overlook, just outside of Walhalla, ND.

It took most teams two or more hours longer than race organizers anticipated to arrive at CP8/TA1, with even top teams coming in an hour later than expected.  One team with withdrew upon reaching CP8 due to a pinched nerve.

Section 2 – “Snow mobiles vs. Cross bikes.” Teams Starting: 16

Teams picked up their bikes and road on rolling double-track along the bluff top to CP9 and then picked up section line roads for 4 miles to CP10, located in an old pit quarry.  From there it was four more miles of section line to CP11, an out and back half mile jaunt along deteriorating trail that finally forced teams to dismount and descend into a sheer walled ravine for several hundred feet.  The ravine, particularly in the moon-less darkness, had a surreal quality and seemed very out of place in the middle of the otherwise flattish landscape. 

Teams then remounted and rode another mile plus before reaching a screaming gravel descent where they lost about 400 feet of elevation to arrive at CP12.  What comes down must go up, and the teams were immediately greeted with a 400 foot ascent up newly graveled (big raquetball sized stuff) that proved unrideable for all but two racers.  Six more miles of section line road brought teams to CP13 - 50 feet up a bluff at an old quarry site.  The bluff was steep enough to require the use of hands to climb, and was the last of the four “team punches” – special CPs that every member of the team had to physically visit in order to punch the tyvek wristband they’d been issued at registration. 
From here things got interesting as the riding got more technical and all of the racers reached CP 13 after dark.  Riders headed down into the main Pembina river gorge on steep, banked, and sometimes severely rutted snow-mobile trails, passing another photo CP (a pair of ATV trails ‘pointing’ up a small hill) enroute to CP15.  The difficult riding slowed things down for most teams with a few teams even resigning themselves to walking huge portions of the ‘technical’ stuff.  CP15 also proved a challenge to find, as many teams got disoriented in the network of trails.  CP16, where the now overgrown trails crossed the Little North Pembina river, marked the end of the section.  One team withdrew at CP 12 and another at CP 16.

Section 3 – “the Gauntlet of Darkness.”  Teams Starting:  14

Racers now had to leave the comfort of the fire at CP 16 to head upstream along the Little North Pembina drainage.  The creek bed was filled with boulders and still flowing with a small stream – definitely technical hiking.  There were no trails but lots of evidence of wildlife:  Moose and coyote foot-prints, bear scat, and even a few cougar tracks.  Bats flew overhead and beavers blocked the way, staring down racers as they approached the first of a half dozen beaver dams that would be encountered along the six or so miles of creek walking.  A mile up the creek teams encountered CP17 (in the same location as CP12) and were treated to another fire and Coke and Mountain Dew generously donated by the city of Walhalla.  The lead teams passed CP 17 just before 1 am and were moving fast.  Back of the pack teams did not arrive until after sunrise the next morning.
From CP17 to CP 20, teams continued picking their way up the winding stream bed, alternatively boulder hopping and wading waist deep through beaver-made ponds to make progress.  It seemed to take forever and many teams reported taking short ‘naps’ in the middle of the night or having hallucinations caused by sleep deprivation during this section.  CP20 was located where the creek once again crossed a dirt road.  Only four teams reached CP20 before 6 am, the cutoff for continuing onto the long course.  The rest of the teams had to climb out of the drainage on the dirt road and run about a mile and a half to the rim of the main gorge where they descended steeply for about a mile to reach CP 21 on the Pembina river.  One team withdrew at CP 17 due to an ankle injury.

Section 3a – “The Long Course.”  Teams Starting:  4

The long course started with another half mile of creek walking to a small spur creek that shot off the main creek just before an old bridge spanned the river bottom.  Checkpoint LC1 (long course 1) was located a short distance up this creek.  Most of the Long course teams completely overshot the mark here, feeling they hadn’t gone far enough when they hit the bridge (in their sleep deprived state they must not have consulted the scale on the map).  From LC1, teams climbed out of the spur creek and picked up an overgrown road for a few hundred meters until it dead-ended in an huge old pit quarry.  Here teams were treated to 75 foot high dunes of crumbling shale in a strangely rain-forest like setting.  Eventually the “road” picked up on the far side of the quarry and ascended up to the last E-W section line road south of the Canadian border. 
Teams ran this for about two miles until it terminated in a corn-field on the rim of the main Pembina gorge. They were directed to the southern point of the field where they had to take and hold a bearing of approximately 240 degrees for about 1000 feet of steep and thick downhill bushwhacking to hit a hidden pond and the next checkpoint.  From here it was another 1000 foot bushwhack to a good snowmobile trail that they took about a mile up the gorge to an old Texas crossing of the river to the manned LC3.  To get to LC4, racers had ford the river and then pick up the correct of two trails heading away from LC3 towards Canada.  As the trail petered out another ford was required to reach the checkpoint.  Teams could then either inflate pack-rafts and paddle back (through one of the best ‘rapids” of the course) to LC 3 or return on foot and deploy the boats there. 
A 3-4 mile paddle took racers to a small creek/draw that joined the main river that required a very attuned navigator to locate.  Teams had to head up the creek which was very narrow, steep sided, and choked with deadfall for about a quarter mile before taking a bearing and bushwhacking out of the creek basin through extremely difficult terrain for another quarter mile.  The bushwhacking climbed slopes of ‘vertical swamps and ponds’ that had to be experienced to really be understood.  Finally a trail was reached as was LC5.  An easy downhill run on trails took teams to a clearing and LC6, located within a few minutes of CP21 where they rejoined the regular course.

Section 4 – “Rollin’ on the River.”  Teams Starting: 13

After checking in with the volunteer manning CP21, teams inflated pack-rafts and began floating down the river.  Many of the teams had brought cheap ‘Walmart –style’ boats and were left to deal with one or more of their craft having been rendered un-useable due to run-ins with some of the rapids on the initial river section. 
Several more sets of easy (but fun) rapids were encountered on this stretch of river en-route to CP 22.   CP23 was the final photo checkpoint and the most challenging one – the checkpoint was 200 feet up a creek entering the river that was identified only by the picture.  Several of the teams missed this CP, floating past it and deciding to take the time penalty rather than try to ford back up the river to look for it.
The final checkpoint, CP24, was back where they’d dropped their bikes – where the Little North Pembina joined the Pembina River. 

Section 5 – “Sting.” Teams Starting: 13

The final bike leg was very short – only about 3.5 miles.  The fun part was that the last mile was a big steep climb, all the way to the finish line.

Note:  My hard drive crashed while i was writing this and with it went tons of un-backed up digital stuff, including the maps for the run section, short course, and long course, which is why they aren't included. Bummer.  Don't worry, there will be more cool maps to look at next year!

Trail crew needed.......

This is a general shout-out to anyone interested in doing trail work at Turtle River State Park this weekend.  This will be the first of two to three days (not in a row) of work that needs to be done to finish the loop for END-TOMBED (coming up October 29th).

If you are attending please email and say who you are and what you're bringing so we can get an accurate count.

- Sunday, September 18th
- 1:30-4:30 PM at Turtle River State Park

Directions to site:
- Enter TRSP, stop at ranger station to get $5 vehicle pass if you don't have one (free entry pending, we're asking)
- Take first right after ranger station.
- Continue north until you pass second bridge; park in lot to the right.

What to bring (if you have it):
- Long pants/long-sleeved shirt (stinging nettles and bugs are possible)
- Closed-toe shoes
- Shovels
- Rakes (leaf and rock)
- Weed-whackers or machetes for soft stuff
- Handsaws for woody debris.  There may be one tree still in place, so a chainsaw or cordless power saw might be useful.
- Other implements of construction if you think they will be useful. 
- Your mountain bike!

We will be more clearing brush than benching trail, so please don't bring a bulldozer or anything like that.  This is (for the moment) a temporary trail to be used for the END-TOMBED, however we plan to construct it to be as sustainable as possible in hopes that it can become a permanent part of the park.

We're looking into getting some pizza delivered for volunteers at some point as well.

One or two other trail days will include constructing a temporary bridge (for the race) across the Turtle River (at the end of the new trail) and clearing out brush on the other side of the river.

There she is, in all her glory - the END-TOMBED trail (KMZ).  Be afraid, be very afraid......


Bummer.  The ENDracing email was hacked and many of you may have gotten a message about buying electronics in China.  Hopefully you did not click on the link, which is probably a virus. Luckily, folks were pretty quick in letting me know about the hack and the passwords have been changed, security settings updated, and vacation responder message deleted.  Please don't hesitate to let me know if any of you continue to recieve suspect messages.



Why I race

Team Aborted Unicorns before the race

A good race intensifies everything - all your senses and feelings.  It compresses things.  The emotional roller coaster of life is squeezed into a day - highs and lows coming hours apart instead of weeks or months.  Supreme challenges are confronted by the dozen, something that might take years of 'normal living'.  The aging process that we're all in the grips of seems accelerated and sometimes decades can seem to have been added to the physical body overnight.  To many this may not sound appealing at all - but there the intensity and the suffering has its rewards.

As everything is intensified, it is also distilled.  All the details that normally overwhelm our senses seem to dissolve, leaving only ones that are truly important.  Eat. Drink. Figure out what you need and ask for help honestly.  Give it when asked.  Don't worry about things you can't control.  Focus on one thing at a time (or else you won't succeed).  Work together - you are always stronger that way.  My clearest thoughts have always come during adventures or long adventure races (long enough so the race part is a technicality) - i'm reminded of what is important.  People - friends, family.  Challenge - the best teacher.  Food tastes better.  Laughter is more genuine, healing, and crucial.

A good tough (and long enough) adventure race is truly an epiphany factory - at the most basic level its what i think keeps alot of folks coming back - the weekend warriors who will never win a race and who always suffer the most.  These folks are who the sport is for - its greatest beneficiaries.  Their lives are changed in a more meaningful way than a simple growth of the ego.  But don't just believe me..... I've included below a message of reflection sent by one of the racers from last weekend (END-AR 24) to his team that is raw and unedited, but (at least to me) speaks some of this truth.  I know it all sounds very etherial and self help like, and maybe this post is a little to late - you may already be swimming again in the sea of minutia that makes up our lives - the profound moments of your race all but swept aside and forgotten, but just wait till the next race....

Hey team, I wanted to write to you and let you know that I had an absolute blast last weekend. I cannot think of anyone I would have had more fun with or anyone I would have rather raced with. I look back and I almost can’t even fathom just how much fun I had; I was having so much fun that during the race I didn’t even realize it. During the race Tammy and I were talking the affect surfing (for Tammy) and skiing (for me) has on your outlook or how it will fix a rotten day and that is how I feel right now, like maybe things are actually alright. I think a little bit of that feeling comes from just the race itself, but I know the majority of that feeling comes from the experience I shared with both of you. I had so much fun that I have a very hard time not getting completely distracted from work just remembering the experience. I remember on the river bed when Tammy decided to sit down for the second time and I sat down with her and we slept for 10 minutes; I just had the most surreal feeling sitting there in a ball, at 330 in the morning, on a river bed, almost in the middle of nowhere, completely and utterly exhausted. I remember bumping into Nic’s team and Ted’s team on the bike trail and just feeling like I was running into some friends I hadn’t seen in years; and oh how happy I was to see them. I remember numerous times laughing uncontrollably with Tammy about jokes that don’t even seem that funny now. That type of laughter is like a drug to me. It is so relieving, and you can’t just create it out of nothing. I remember being along that green wire fence and thinking I knew exactly where I was and where I was going, and then getting to that field and realizing with utter disappointment I had gotten us completely lost. I remember on the river when we were looking for the photo CP and you guys kept on saying “oh I think this is it, or what about this, this could be it,” and I just kept on saying “nope,” and then Chase said “MAX, START MAKING THE TERRAIN LOOK LIKE THE PICTURE.” Haha, I still laugh hard at that one. However, one of my favorite memories (although there are many) was when Tammy told the story about how she and Andy met; we were on the bike and it was around midnight maybe, and I just got completely lost in the story. It was perfect timing. Plus, it was a really good story. Made me wish I had a story like that. Many of these memories are so vivid I don’t think I’ll ever forget them. I think I could almost go on forever describing my favorite memories.

I want you guys to know I wouldn’t have changed anything about the race. I’m sure we all feel like we could have done better, I know I could have done better and maybe if I had it would have been different and I don’t know what that would have been like. So I wouldn’t have changed anything. I had so much fun; this was probably my favorite race so far. It was exactly the experience I needed. Thank you! Chase, obviously you know I’d race again with you, but I don’t think I told Tammy this after the race and I regret it, but I would race again with you, Tammy, any day. 

--From Max Whittaker, Team Aborted Unicorns 

And now to make sure this is suitably way too long-winded, here's my own reflection written after a 30 hour desert trek as part of the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge in December of 2010.

During that trek I remember thinking about lots of things – and HATING the present moment. Suffering – more than I could remember ever experiencing. No shade. So much heat. Pain from the knees down, and a future that seemed so daunting – 25 km more of walking across endless dunes – slow and painful going. At the same time though I knew it was temporary. And I had a strange sort of awareness of this ephemeral nature of my present state that helped get me through it. It didn’t make the suffering somehow less – but it did make it endurable – at the moments when the thought of 6 hours more walking seemed to encapsulate everything – an eternity – I’d know, intellectually that there was going to be a moment in my life where the desert was only a memory. And I had these points of reference – knowledge of recent experiences where I must have been suffering (even previous stages of ADAC) or past situations where I must have felt similar all encompassing anguish – where the memories themselves contained no real sense of the suffering I must have endured. Like in Primal Quest (2006) – I’m sure there were times when I felt an overwhelming sense of impossibility when viewing the task ahead, and yet made it through. Lots of internal dialogue/self attention went on in the last 2 CP’s – I was essentially “in my head” the whole time – perhaps to avoid being in my body.
I do think I could have gone faster physically – but the mind wasn’t behind the body enough to do so – the mental effort required to sustain forward progress was good enough – speed seemed to require additional effort at such a diminished return (i.e. every 1% faster required 10% more effort or something). It was like a complicated mathematical equation or relationship – I sought the minimum along some curve described by a combination of variables related to suffering – mental effort, physical pain, and duration. Move slowly and the physical pain goes down slightly, mental effort down significantly, but duration up. Moving quickly takes heaps more mental effort, causes a bit more physical pain, but requires less duration. This is why I sought the tow – minimization of suffering. It was really, in retrospect, a beautiful, fascinating, illuminating, humbling, and torturous experience. My calves became swollen for the last quarter or so of the trek and still remain so today (3 days later). In fact – from my knees to my toes I’m full of fluid – my skin taught and itchy (not sure why) and I can feel my pulse radiate in my shins and toes. Bizarre. Wonder how long it will last [Note – it took about 2 weeks to have normal legs again.]

The curse of the race director, and my commitment to transparency

The blessing of being a race director for something like END-AR24 is that it allows you to meet and get to know so many truly remarkable guys and gals.  i shared meaningful moments with each of the teams whether they finished or not, and acted as coach, guide, cheerleader  or chief consoler.  Each team had their own experience - a triumph of teamwork; a supreme battle of will that pushed them beyond the personal limits they were looking to challenge; or tough decisions brought on by injury or illness to a team-mate.  The human drama on display was simply gorgeous.

The deep personal connection that i develop for the teams over the course of a single day is just awesome, and the biggest reason i plan to continue to put on these events, despite all work and challenges that go into them. But that connection also gives rise to one of the hardest things about being race director - the curse as i call it - final rankings.  The 30 minutes between the final finishers and the awards, particularly in my sleep deprived state, was not enough to adequately reflect on how best to determine the rankings.  It's been four days though and i've caught up on the Z's and have had some time to think, so i'm ready to post results - but first a bit on transparency....
How can I rank a field full of teams like this?!
As some of you may know i've been burned once in the past with regards to results - and its not so much the race managements decision that hurt, but the way they dealt with things.  That incident made me promise to myself that were i ever in a similar situation, i'd work hard to have more transparency - this post is an effort to follow through with that, so here goes.
In the rules it stated that all CP's on the short course were mandatory, except the photo CP's, which if missed garnered a 1 hour penalty.  As it turned out we had a number of teams that completed the short course miss 1 or more CP that wasn't a photo CP.  Technically these teams, according to the rules, would be unranked.  In every one of these cases, the missed CP's did not confer any advantage to the teams in terms of distance travelled or difficulties overcome.  They did, of course, potentially save the teams time because they probably would have had to search a bit or possibly even back-track to get the CPs.  Because of the tremendous effort put in by teams and the positive energy of the day, i spontaneously decided to levy a 2 hour penalty for each non-photo CP missed, rather than count these teams as unranked.  I did this because i felt these teams had raced hard finished the course in spirit.  On the results page, these rankings are labeled as 'spirit' to reflect this idea.  
That being said, rules are rules, and some teams were (and fairly so) wondering why a team who missed a CP, even when finishing hours before, was ranked ahead of them.  I can clearly see this point of view as well, and so created the 'technical' rankings.  These technical rankings reflect the rules as written.  All the teams finishing the short course are still ranked, but teams missing non-photo CPs are ranked behind any team that visited all the CP's, regardless of when they finished or whether they completed the long course.  
Tu-Uyen embodying the spirit of AR
Long story short, the technical rankings represent the rankings that i'd have to use if we'd have had a field large enough (we almost got there!!  next year!!) to offer a prize purse.  The spirit rankings reflect more accurately the speed with which the course was challenged - the two hour penalty per missed CP is, in most cases, longer than teams missing these CPs would have spent actually looking for or going back for them.  Bottom line is it was an awesome race and the grit and determination of all the teams blew away my expectations.  i try not to dwell on rankings and hope that for most of you the experience itself, and what you gained from it, is what lasts in your memory -- not the (somewhat) arbitrary ranking levied by some race director.
Kudos again to all the teams.  Hope to see you next year - believe it or not, the course planning is well underway!