It was a banner weekend of racing at the tenth running of the Shenandoah Epic. The third USARA regional championship of the 2022 season drew more than three hundred racers to the beautiful and brutal Virginia Appalachians for a characteristically physical Adventure Enablers course. Over 24 hours, teams traveled upwards of 100 miles on foot, bike, and paddle, with nearly 14,000 feet of elevation gain.
Brian Gatens of Team dARk Zone Podcast echoed Lamb. “Teams did what they could to get through – drinking more, taking in more salt, and slowing their pace. You could see it on every face in TA3. Teams had earned that TA.”
From TA3, teams entered the crux of the race, a technical foot section requiring the first real off-trail travel of the event. The Adventure Enablers’ description of the leg was foreboding: “The terrain is… exceptionally harsh. Trails are steep and rocky and off-trail areas are starting to get thick with underbrush, brambles, and rhododendron as the spring weather starts to move in.”
Team No Complaints/Odyssey AR made a bold decision in the waning hours of daylight to drop CP 4-8, the northeasternmost point on Leg 4. “Our team suffered some physical adversity early in the race that led us to alter our strategy,” said team member Sara Dallman. “It may have appeared questionable at the time, but it turned out to be very helpful in the end. Our great teamwork really helped move us forward in a positive way.”
By midnight, only five teams remained on the full course: the all-male Sparks Spangler Banner, and mixed teams Rootstock Racing, Untamed New England, Team VERT, and Strong Machine.
On the course, racers may have lost track of their position in the field, but dotwatchers at home were treated to robust media coverage from Adventure Enablers. In addition to live tracking from Enabled Tracking, the organization brought in Glen Gibson and Mike Chaney for round-the-clock color commentary.
Q&A with Race director Mark harris
USARA: What are you looking forward to at this year’s Shenandoah Epic race?
Mark Harris: Showing off my backyard and the area that I love to the racers. The Shenandoah River and Massanutten mountain range are beautiful spots but with challenging terrain. It is just such a great spot to hold an adventure race. In addition to being able to share the area, putting together a race and finally seeing everyone at the start line with anticipation in their eyes brings a great feeling of accomplishment. We have such a wide spread of experienced racers to first timers, and knowing they are all going to get something out of a course and event that we designed is very satisfying.
USARA: How will this year’s race stack up as a USARA Regional Championship?
Mark Harris: I think we have the largest 24-hour race field out of any of the Regional Championship races this year with 300 participants making up 115 teams, so there will certainly be a competitive field of racers. We also have a great mix of first-time racers too, so there will be a good blend of excitement on all levels. The other Regional Championship races are all such high-quality events run by well-respected race directors, and I think the Epic will complement the entire series really well.
USARA: How many years have you been directing the Epic?
Mark Harris: This will be the 10th edition of the Shenandoah Epic. We used to put on a whole event weekend with other race distances, but in the past 2 years, I have found being able to focus on the one large 24-hour event makes it a more quality experience. The level of effort we put into the course from the accuracy of the checkpoint locations to the map quality--all the way down to the bibs and packet pickup experience--makes it an event that people keep wanting to come back to race again or try for the first time.
USARA: What is your approach to course design and how do you keep the race "fresh"?
Mark Harris: The Shenandoah Epic does use a lot of the same terrain and that can be challenging to make it feel like a new adventure for repeat participants. We make sure we mix up the order of disciplines, hit trails in different directions, and do sections earlier or later in the race to keep it fresh. Riding a trail at night in one direction can feel totally different from riding it in the other direction in daylight. One advantage of using the same canvas to host an event year over year is we can nail estimated times, have logistics dialed in, and ensure we have great safety protocols in place that can be used year over year.
USARA: What has tracking brought to the sport? How will fans be able to track this year's Epic?
Mark Harris: Our goal with tracking, not just for the Epic but for other adventure races and endurance sports, is to help raise awareness and provide a platform that is easier to tell the “story” of the event and take some of the mystery out of adventure racing. Making the race more accessible to families and friends to follow teams is key to helping grow the sport and increase awareness of what adventure racing is all about. This is on top of the safety and logistics benefits it brings to race directors. For the Epic this year we are incorporating some additional live media, commentary, and event information, all delivered through the tracking platform, making it the one-stop-shop for anyone wanting to follow the action. Live tracking will start at 09:00 EST on April 23, and everyone can follow along at https://live.enabledtracking.com/epic2022/.
Expedition Africa, the second race in this year’s Adventure Racing World Series, was contested last week in the landlocked and mountainous African Kingdom of Lesotho.
The winning team, Estonian ACE Adventure La Sportiva, completed the 416-kilometer course, involving trekking, mountain biking, kayaking, and a five-kilometer donkey-assisted orienteering relay in 80 hours and 15 minutes, having slept less than 1.5 hours. The race ended at the Afriski Mountain Resort, one of Africa’s few ski resorts.
“It was an amazing and enjoyable course. We had risky tactics, going two nights without sleep, then another night, but they worked,” Timmo Tammemae, the Estonian team’s navigator, said.
Thirty-seven teams with participants from more than 15 countries participated in the event, 24 of which completed the full course. Several teams were forced to withdraw after encountering heavy rain and sleet on the first trekking leg, and subsequently, thick and slippery mud on the 214-kilometer mountain bike stage, which included more than 6,200 meters of climbing.
The French 400Team Naturex finished in second place, 4.5 hours behind the Estonians, and Team Nordisk from Denmark finished third.
“It is rare to go so long without seeing anything manmade, just sometimes shepherds wrapped in their blankets watching goats on the hillside. When a dark night with an impressive starry sky was replaced by an amazing sunrise over the mountains we took a photo,” Team Nordisk captain Henrik Jorgensen said. “It is the first time I have ever stopped to take a photo in a race.”
Team ThisABILITY of the United States was the top-finishing American team, completing the full course in 141:55, while fellow U.S. team K2 was forced to withdraw to a team member’s illness.
The 2022 Adventure Racing World Series is comprised of 10 of the world’s premier expedition-length adventure races, taking place across five continents. The 2022 Adventure Racing World Championship will take place in Paraguay in September. For more information, see www.arworldseries.com.
The defending USARA National Champions in the mixed division have a new team name but maintained their winning ways at the Berryman Adventure race April 9.
Members Mari Chandler, Justin “Biz” Bakken, and Brian Mayer of Team Toyota Tundra won the 18-hour race on Saturday, April 9, their first race in the 2022 USARA National Point Series and their first race together since their win as WEDALI at the 2021 USARA National Championship.
“It was a tough race with good competition, but the course was beautiful,” said Brian Mayer. “There was ice forming on the boat as we paddled.”
The race started with a four mile trek to the canoes. By the time the teams got there, the paddles were frozen to the grass. With the river moving swiftly, the team opted for canoe paddles.
“We used the canoe paddles to maximize maneuverability because we didn’t need the power in the water,” said Mayer.
No teams were able to clear the course that featured over 60 checkpoints. Team Toyota Tundra traveled 92 miles in the effort and finished in 17 hours 46 minutes, just under the 18 hour cutoff.
“It was closer to a 24-hour course,” said Mayer. “We definitely had to work. The race directors did a great job with a ton of checkpoints.”
Their next race is the Chasin’ the Bone AR in Greenbush, WI, on the USARA NPS Calendar and they plan on racing the Maine Summer Adventure Race regional championship.
Partnership with U.S. Adventure Racing Association to be sponsored by Toyota Tundra
April 5, 2022 – To elevate the growing sport of adventure racing, GearJunkie and the U.S. Adventure Racing Association (USARA) have announced a partnership. For the 2022 season, GearJunkie will serve as Official Media Partner and cover races via reporters on the ground and teams formed to participate in 10+ competitive events across the country.
The partnership is a part of a campaign with the all-new 2022 Toyota Tundra, which serves as title sponsor of the 2022 USARA season. Content on a newly-launched GearJunkie channel covering adventure racing will be brought to you by Toyota Tundra.
“Adventure racing is an apex outdoor sport that requires teamwork, strategy, and wilderness skills,” said Stephen Regenold, founder of GearJunkie. “We are thrilled to be working with USARA this year on a project that will highlight the people, places, and dramatic settings that make this sport one of a kind.”
USARA has been the national organizing body of U.S. adventure racing since 1998. It provides safety standards, offers insurance for race directors, and aggregates rankings as teams compete and accumulate points at events throughout the season.
More than 100 adventure races are scheduled for 2022. Thousands of racers will compete on courses that require mountain biking, paddling, trail running, and navigation to checkpoints via map and compass techniques.
Races run from about 4 hours in length to 24 hours or more, depending on difficulty. The season culminates at the USARA National Championship race on September 16-17 in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.
“We could not be more excited for this partnership,” USARA Executive Director Michael Garrison said. “The GearJunkie project and the all-new 2022 Toyota Tundra sponsorship will allow us to reach a massive audience while providing additional budget to support our efforts to grow the sport.”
Garrison noted the sponsorship will enable the non-profit to advance initiatives like the Women in AR campaign; individual mentoring for race directors; and the support of a new Regional Championship circuit of events.
GearJunkie will launch its adventure racing content channel in May. Watch for event coverage, team profiles, adventure 101 articles, and more at gearjunkie.com.
About GearJunkie: Founded in 2006, GearJunkie is the top source for outdoors news, trends, and gear reviews. The site has offices in Denver and Minneapolis. GearJunkie is a publication owned and operated by Lola Digital Media, which is based in Los Angeles and runs a portfolio of digital publications and media brands.
About USARA: As the governing body of adventure racing in the United States, USARA’s mission is to ensure the enduring success of the sport by strengthening and supporting the existing community of racers, directors, and enthusiasts; creating pathways for new adventurers to enter the sport; and engaging with the greater outdoor community in the US to highlight what an amazing sport it is. More information at www.USARA.com.
Official USARA Media Partner
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