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Discussion: 2021 USARA Nationals

in: Adventure Racing; General

Aug 11, 2021 2:24 PM # 
Initial team list is available at:

This field is stacked! It's definitely the most competitive team list I've seen since I started racing Nationals in 2014.

There are still a few days left if any team that's not signed up yet wants to toe the line. Unlike previous years, where you had to qualify, this year we have general registration spots available.
Aug 11, 2021 7:21 PM # 
Woah! Lots of incredibly strong teams. At quick glance I counted 8 teams who have a half-decent shot at winning
Aug 11, 2021 8:55 PM # 
I'm hoping for top 30 :)
Aug 17, 2021 2:14 PM # 
final team list:
Aug 17, 2021 3:44 PM # 
Nice! I'm interested to see how the [more expedition-oriented fast teams] versus [more one-day race-oriented fast teams] thing plays out in a one-day race setting.
Aug 17, 2021 4:39 PM # 
Yes! Also very interested in navigation approaches. There aren’t a ton of big features and lots of multi-discipline trail systems. Will the “big feature” teams be able to adjust to subtler features? Or will mountain fitness allow them to rapidly correct if they do get off route?
Aug 17, 2021 7:00 PM # 
I think familiarity with Midwest nav and with 180 Adventure's race/map/nav style will be huge. There's something really different about it versus East Coast and West Coast nav.
Aug 18, 2021 12:15 AM # 
It’s been my observation over the years that fast teams are fast regardless of the terrain, map style, weather, time zone, latitude, etc.
Aug 18, 2021 2:05 AM # 
ha, very true. Touche.
Aug 18, 2021 11:54 AM # 
I tend to agree with JayXC, BUT...

I think that there are 2 factors at play that might have an effect:

1. Quality of competition - there is much less room for error than there may have been in the past. A fast team could survive a 20 minute bobble recently without much consequence - can they this year?

2. I do think that the style of nav is different enough to trip up 1 or 2 teams from that short list of potential winners. I suspect that certain features will be ...unkind... to some. I have a guess or two on who that might be, but I'm keeping that a secret.
Sep 1, 2021 3:53 PM # 
Racer Update #1 posted
Sep 1, 2021 6:27 PM # 
Also, we are in the 10-day lookahead!
Sep 7, 2021 12:06 PM # 
It’s race week!! Ahhhhh!! Who are your picks to win it all?
Sep 7, 2021 7:24 PM # 
Well, finally someone asked;)

My quick thoughts...or some of them...mostly using Randy's analysis as a basis. No offense to any teams not mentioned: I think there are twenty teams all capable of breaking into the top ten. Focusing more on those capable of breaking into the top five.

1) Randy's picks:

2) Overall, some solid picks and logic from him. I generally agreed with his logic for his two chunks, though not always the order (and again, I think there are 5-10 more teams in contention to break into the second tier)

3) The glaring issue with Randy's picks: he leaves out the team I am personally betting on to win: Wedali. Justin B and Brian M navving, Mari rocking it as always. Very tough team to bet against. I think this was a simple oversight on Randy's part. But with 6-7 championships between them, they are stacked.

4) While I am honored to be on the team Randy picked to win, I seriously injured my ankle...two weeks ago yesterday. I'm giving it a go, but I've had to rehab from not being able to bear weight to where I am today. We'll see:) I hear Brian M has some injury issues too, which I think could be the biggest barrier to Wedali proving me right. Even if I was healthy, I wouldn't bet on the red and black over some of these other amazing top 5 teams!

5) I believe the top five will largely resemble Randy's projection: Quest, Rib, Bend, Bones (not in order). I add in the other Bend team though, and Wedali. So, six teams for five spots. And I DO think there are a few other teams that could mix it up for top 5.

6) Randy's other contenders all can push these lead teams if they slip.

7) Silent Chasers also stands out as a team that has the chops to be in the mix for a strong finish.

8) Anyone who knows the rep of this race knows this is likely to come down to navigation rather than being won by speed. All of these teams mentioned on Randy's video (and likely some others not mentioned) could hit a homerun while all others falter. Perfection will be even harder to come by than normal, so who minimizes mistakes the most? Again, with Brian and Justin both on the same squad looking at maps, that's a very tough nav combo to top.
Sep 8, 2021 2:15 PM # 
My thoughts exactly Broots. I think WEDALI wins by a decent gap, and it's a mad scramble for 2-10 between 15+ teams.
Sep 8, 2021 2:52 PM # 
My thoughts exactly too, Brent. Don't mess up the nav, Glen :)
Sep 8, 2021 2:53 PM # 
Also, my pick to win is Quest - heavily influenced by Mhayz, who says they're the team to beat. Adding Jason Popilsky (formerly of Tecnu/AMK) doesn't hurt at all.
Sep 8, 2021 2:59 PM # 
Oh, and doing some quick back-of-the-napkin calculations, I think there are nine teams who are clear favorites to be top 10, but there are another nine teams who will be competing for that tenth spot. Agreed with Brent, Silent Chasers is my pick for Top 10 for sure. Other top challengers for that 10th spot:
No Complaints, Deviate, Good Nuff, and local teams Elkbones and Mad S.
As mentioned before, we are hoping for top 30 :)
Sep 8, 2021 5:38 PM # 
The one thing I will disagree with: I don’t think this will be like some of the past nationals where there’s a big gap between the top team and the rest of the field. My gut is that you have a whole bunch of teams that are all going to be racing at a very high-level, all with very good navigators. I’m not sure nationals has ever had this kind of depth up top. I think that they’re going to be more evenly spaced than normal. Five, 10, 20 minutes between the top teams. I don’t think we will see massive gaps between teams.
Sep 8, 2021 5:40 PM # 
That said, if one team has an absolutely brilliant day and more or less spikes navigation, I suppose it’s possible. In this race though, I think all of the top navigators will have their bobbles and struggles. So I think that it will be a relatively minor difference in terms of time though it could play havoc with office pools. Still, if one team does the unexpected and nails it, maybe they will finish well ahead of the rest!
Sep 8, 2021 5:47 PM # 
Interesting points of views; this year's field is certainly one of the more competitive I've seen in a while. I believe nav mistakes will be costly and difficult to overcome particularly in the back half of the race. Fast teams will be fast, (agree Jay XC), ...and there will a couple factors to throw in the mix. 1. the amount of 'fast teams' , 2 Upper mid-west nav may be a factor that will affect a few of Randy's top picks.
My money is with Wedali for 1st, however there is Bend racing, and Quest (defending champs) that will not make it easy. Rest of the top twelve, 4 through 12 will be tight, and is really a toss up on who has a good race. Should be a great race!
Sep 8, 2021 5:49 PM # 
....agree Broots!
Sep 9, 2021 12:34 PM # 
Agree on WEDALI FTW. Justin and Mari (along w Shane who isn't racing this time, and being replaced by Brian) beat Rib at Stubborn Mule by 30min. The nav at this year's SM in Washburn wasn't as tricky as Cable.

I think Rib for 2nd. They have been on fire the last few years and Cable is their back yard. I wouldn't be surprised if they've been doing a bunch of training in the area during COVID. It will require a near perfect race from them, which will be stressful and they need to hold it together mentally, which I think they can do.

3-10, I believe is going to be a toss-up...Quest, 1 or 2 Rootstocks, Bones if they can nav better than at Sea to Sea, ARGeorgia/GRIT (check the new roster, seems pretty strong, heal soon Hunter!), TJ79/Silent Chaser. and hopefully my own team, Karta!!!

I'm super interested to see how Bend 1 and 2 goes. I've seen this kind of race throw them off and we hear complaints of "micro-nav" which is another phrase for "navigating in the Midwest". I think if they can mentally get over the fact that features are small and tricky, and bring their amazing teamwork and speed, they will challenge in the 3-10 group for sure.

The all-male team from Michigan Racing Addicts is also super strong.

I also agree that earlier I was over-emphasizing the nav for the race. Yes, the trekking is going to be very hard to navigate. But the bike trails are extremely well signed/mapped in the field, and if the paddle includes some rivers, those can be very straightforward. So even if a team crushes the trekking nav, maybe gets a 20-30min gap, a physically faster team could make up that time or more on the other disciplines.

Silky out! gotta finish packing and start the 90 minute drive to Cable!
Sep 9, 2021 1:00 PM # 
tracking link:

race day weather forecast:
53F at the start, high of 75F, overnight low of 61F.
no rain in forecast but partly cloudy so you never know.
winds 5-10mph from S/SW
Sep 9, 2021 1:13 PM # 
oh more team...Good 'Nuff. No idea how their nav is with this roster since their navigator from their amazing performance at Sea to Sea is racing w MRA. but they have a freakin OLYMPIAN on their team. so they have the power!!
Sep 9, 2021 10:33 PM # 
A member from each of the top 3 teams in the 2011 Nationals are racing together (competing as Wedali)... Nationals is always a great reunion!
Sep 10, 2021 3:18 AM # 
and 2016. If you can't beat em, join em.
Sep 10, 2021 3:18 AM # 
... and 2016. If you can't beat em, join em.
Sep 10, 2021 3:32 AM # 
bmayer22: Joining together worked well for you and Justin in the 2013 US Rogaine champs!
Sep 10, 2021 1:12 PM # 
On-line tracking for the USARA's is live-
Great to finally be able to watch this race live. Race maps and instructions are also available under the info tab. Great addition!
Sep 10, 2021 1:29 PM # 
...but its a rogaine format. The course must be traversed in stages so we will at least have an idea who's leading as they exit each stage.
Sep 10, 2021 3:22 PM # 
As usual, we get a huge delay in speculation because the race has a choose-your-own-adventure the start no less. Until the leading teams take off on their final leg on the first stage, it'll be pretty hard to know (or even guess) who's out front.

It is already apparent that there are little bobbles happening in the navigation...those might be indicators of who is or isn't out front.
Sep 10, 2021 4:54 PM # 
I hope the water is deep enough for B6. It would stink to have to drag your boat that far.
Sep 10, 2021 5:38 PM # 
nevermind. looks fine now
Sep 10, 2021 7:16 PM # 
Maps are posted online now:
Sep 10, 2021 9:08 PM # 
Soap Box again after a 10yr break from Soap-Boxing

One day…maybe just maybe…Adventure Racing Nationals will be an actual RACE and not a f’ing rogaine. When that happens, people can watch online and actually understand who is winning, who is going
the wrong/less ideal way… And the sport can grow. Optional CPs and any-order CPs has to stop. For the new folks, my team benefitted from
this awful format. We may not have come 1st and 2nd without it.
Sep 10, 2021 9:48 PM # 
Rogaine often provides an additional element of strategy within legs.

Wedali has started strong and likely saw Quest (virtual second) when moving under the bridge by C4. Looks tight between Rib and RS2 in third. RS2 may have just seen Wendali coming close to the paddle takeout but Rib has gone to the MTB and will be paddling when they return to transition.
Sep 10, 2021 10:05 PM # 
Bend / Blue (5th?) isn't far behind RS2 on the paddle. Karta, GN, Bones, and RS have completed the same legs (A, B, E) and are racing back to TA to begin their 4th leg. Agreed with above that we will have a better idea of the gaps when they transition to bike / CP1.
Sep 10, 2021 10:08 PM # 
Also in the mix may be Bend (shows them on the water in ~6th now) but their tracker has been inconsistent.
Sep 10, 2021 10:28 PM # 
Things are starting to clear up at the front of the pack.
Sep 10, 2021 10:29 PM # 
Starting to wonder if the course is clearable. Based on the course instructions the total distance is 127 miles. If that’s the case and teams were concerned then it would make sense to skip controls on the short paddle leg.
Sep 10, 2021 10:30 PM # 
JayXC, based on the data we have here at HQ the course is definitely clearable. We're looking at a 20-22ish hour winning time DEPENDING on how the darkness and potential rain later tonight affects teams.
Sep 10, 2021 11:51 PM # 
Can someone tell me if I'm reading the rules correctly. Teams have to get all the controls in one of the loops together, so they can't for instance punch D1 in between A controls, right? A couple of the leading teams have credit for D1 in between A1 and A2.
Sep 11, 2021 12:09 AM # 
You’re correct. I suspect the D1 control was credited due to the fact that the team traveled close to the control location while on the A loop and the geofence gave them credit for it.
Sep 11, 2021 12:15 AM # 
Looking at tracks more closely that seems like a reasonable interpretation. It looks like they traveled past D1 on their D loop.
Sep 11, 2021 12:29 AM # 
The geofence scoring is not accurate for the course because there is so much overlay and route choice. As teams are finishing up Stage 1 we are getting an ePunch download. This will give a good idea of standings at the end of stage 1. Download are here:
Sep 11, 2021 1:25 AM # 
Thanks for that link! I didn't realize you are using epunch and having teams download at the end of stage one.
Sep 11, 2021 1:47 AM # 
I find it interesting that most decided to leave the single track for the last thing. It seems like you could go faster in the daylight on the bike, than the time lost naving on the water at night. Can someone help me understand why they chose to do it this way?
Sep 11, 2021 1:47 AM # 
I’ve had issues with my compass in the UP which I attributed to the iron range up there. I wonder if that’s going to be an issue in WI. They are right on top of the iron range there.
Sep 11, 2021 1:56 AM # 
Dotwatcher: Teams may have chosen to avoid one change of shoes, etc in transition by doing the MTB clover leaf leg followed by the MTB CP1 leg.
Sep 11, 2021 1:58 AM # 
jbrown: That makes sense. Thanks for the input. I guess when you are as good as these people, the dark might not slow them down much on the bike.
Sep 11, 2021 2:03 AM # 
looks like bend2/blue made a nav error on the singletrack.
Sep 11, 2021 2:12 AM # 
There is one section of course that is messing with compasses. Leg E. Teams were warned ahead of time and all did that section in the daylight.

Teams are juggling a few factors on route choice. Paddling conditions (wind, cold, dark), comfort on technical singletrack, and concern with nighttime land nav. The priorities have been all over the place.

It appears that the teams that did the long paddle first made a good call as the breeze/wind picked up by about 10 or 11.

Definitely going to be interesting how the teams handle the darkness on the two remaining land nav sections.
Sep 11, 2021 3:16 AM # 
Per the e-results, it appears TJ79 / Silent Chaser skipped the furthest MTB CP (D3). This pushes them down from virtual 7th to be behind all the full course teams. Perhaps they were calculating the course will not be cleared...

WEDALI has opened a nice lead of about 56 minutes following the cloverleaf. Anything can happen. It appears quest has nearly an hour gap ahead of 3rd (RIB). ARGeorgia has a strong crew... they moved up into 4th. Looks like the fight for 5th is currently between RS2, Bluejay, Bones, RS, and Karta. Keen to see the teams reach the TA for a better understanding of time gaps.
Sep 11, 2021 3:21 AM # 
Comparing RS2's splits, it appears TJ79 saved ~35min when skipping D3.
Sep 11, 2021 3:53 AM # 
Unfortunately, TJ79 seems to have accidentally skipped D3. They were convinced they rode the entire mandatory trail but the tracking shows that they missed a turn for that SE figure 8 section with D3. Major bummer.
Sep 11, 2021 4:23 AM # 
Wow, that's really frustrating and costly! Bluejay appeared to take a similar trail but corrected themselves.

Bend may have stashed their tracker deep in a bag as the are through TA in 8th on the full course.
Sep 11, 2021 6:15 AM # 
Quest had made up only a few minutes on Wedali on the bike. They are going a similar route, but appear to have collected CP14 earlier to take a different line towards CP13/19. Still 50 min back at CP8 (+1 CP). Very small deviation for Wedali on CP9, but they are looking good.

A great ride by RS2 to pull back into 4th position (assuming the tracking is accurate) and pass Bluejay, ARGeorgia, and TJ79 (-1 CP). Bones is biking well and appear to be close to Bluejay.
Sep 11, 2021 6:23 AM # 
Several route options to CP4... Quest appeared to take a longer route on a more well defined road / jeep track while AR Georgia may be on the blue trial and Wedali, RIB, and RS2 are going on the direct red trial on the map.
Sep 11, 2021 9:18 AM # 
Quest and WEDALI left TA3 two minutes apart. That last land nav section will likely decide this one.
Sep 11, 2021 9:27 AM # 
Both teams still moving well. Quest's decision to collect CP14 on the beginning of the loop really paid off.
Sep 11, 2021 9:44 AM # 
RS2 has roughly followed the same route as Quest and still appears to be in fourth after RIB.
Sep 11, 2021 11:39 AM # 
Just starting to pay close attention here. Looks like its clockwise (WEDALI) vs counter-clockwise (Quest), so far, FTW on this final O section. Should be fun watching. I haven't seen a race schematic, are they biking to the finish from TA5?
Sep 11, 2021 11:59 AM # 
They'll pass by eachother close to CP 25. WEDALI maybe moving a little better so far?
Sep 11, 2021 12:16 PM # 
Agreed. Looks like Wedali is moving quicker through the first half of the trek before the bike back to the finish.

Glad to see Bones circle back to CP6 and hoping RS figures out CP11 quickly.
Sep 11, 2021 1:07 PM # 
onyx had a tough nav at the beginning. Did they drop due to injury?
Sep 11, 2021 1:12 PM # 
wow it is close right now.
Sep 11, 2021 1:19 PM # 
did tj79 get dq'd for riding on route m?
Sep 11, 2021 1:38 PM # 
WEDALI and Quest equidistant from final TA but Quest still need to get CP29 while WEDALI just needs to run back to the TA, on-trail.
Sep 11, 2021 1:44 PM # 
WEDALI on final bike after clearing O section. Seems they've done it.
Sep 11, 2021 2:12 PM # 
only about a kilometer separates them on the home stretch. Unbelievable.
Sep 11, 2021 2:18 PM # 
congrats WEDALI!
Sep 11, 2021 5:16 PM # 
@dotwathcher. Onyx had a minor injury and had to withdraw. tj79 had one teammate be transported and so got ranked unofficial.
Sep 11, 2021 7:01 PM # 
I hope Karta is having a dot issue and not a bike issue. I want them to finish!
Sep 11, 2021 7:04 PM # 
So many teams are getting their moneys worth! They paid for 30 hours and they are going to get all 30!
Sep 13, 2021 2:48 PM # 
@RASPUTIN all these years of wanting a non-rogaine champs course and have we seen your application to host?? ;) i actually thought about this while on the course "oh i bet Sean is having a field day online with the complaints!!"

I didn't care for a cloverleaf at a Nationals either. i feel that cloverleafs (cloverleaves?) are very appropriate for an RD with limited volunteer/land resources, and/or beginner teams that need more contact with known points, and neither of those apply to USARA Nationals. but, when you opt to race vs hosting/planning, you take the course that is given!

(my "hoped for" course was a paddle start at Lakewoods, with CPs all over Lake Namekagon then all teams funneling into the Namekagon River to paddle down to the Randysek Rd river access, then a short trek to the North End TH (TA 2/3), then a big MTB section from there back to Lakewoods or Rock Lake TH, then a big trek to finish out the course.)
Sep 13, 2021 3:21 PM # 
Interesting thoughts on the rogaine-ality of it all. Despite having issues in one spot, I really enjoyed the course. I think that linear courses seem more "epic", but there is so much strategy in the embedded rogaine format. One thing to keep in mind, I don't see how the outcome for the top 3 teams changes at all with a different format.

I'd be curious to know how someone would suggest handling the inevitability of short coursing teams if the course is strictly linear.
Sep 13, 2021 4:28 PM # 
I like Silky's course! This area had great linear paddle/packraft, trek and mtb options available. I prefer linear courses over rogaine-style courses as well but I have come to the realization that I may be in the minority here however at least in the US. All of the 'big' AR's around the world (ARWC, Godzone, XPD, Huairasinchi, RAID, etc) are linear. At least there wasn't any point plotting this year!

@glewis- Short course options are added to linear courses all of the time, even for 24 hr events. Wilderness Traverse is a great example. Teams added one to this course by riding the road back from the western o-course actually.

For casual fans or family trying to follow on-line a rogaine-style course is very tough to follow and I have heard numerous times over the years "I couldn't figure out what was going on".
Sep 13, 2021 4:49 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Having been short coursed all the time at Wilderness Traverse, it works fine. Go as fast as you can, as far as you can, until you can't anymore, then probably end up biking back to the finish. Known penalties served on course, so the standings are always accurate. Open tracker, check a dot, yep, that's furthest on the course, it's probably winning.

You can peruse any number of linear 30 hr race courses at their past race archives, eg:

Sep 13, 2021 4:57 PM # 
Had a chance to take a breath, read this string and write my brief report.

For group information, TAs literally became a discipline in this race. 5 stages on the cloverleaf, transition during section E, transitions at the big O and small O.

While I think this was an interesting and very well done race, I lean toward #teamlinear.
Sep 13, 2021 5:09 PM # 
I understand how short courses work, it's just that the way that they are handled doesn't seem conducive to Nationals. Nationals is a race for the top teams who are vying for podium spots, but more than half of the teams have no chance to win or finish the entire course. Struggling to finish sections and then being told to bike back to the finish while missing a large chunk of the course (and possibly entire disciplines) is demoralizing for teams (should those teams be racing this? different discussion...).

I think that a linear course is fun, but I also enjoy embedded rogaines. I understand that following them online is tough (or nearly impossible) but I find it hard to believe that a race being tough to dotwatch is the reason that the sport isn't growing...
Sep 13, 2021 6:36 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Set the winning time as 60-65% of the course window, not 85%. If the qualification process means anything, many of the teams will be through almost all of it in 30 hours, maybe the last section or two get shorted for some. For example, I am terrible, and end up missing the last bit of WT. It's apparently not demoralizing to miss, as WT frequently sells out. (I will go back!)

If you must pad out winning time, one could consider setting up the finish with a fixed order o circle around the finish. People can do as many as they want, in sequence, and bail out as needed. Many venues I've been to would support a couple hours of this near HQ.

None of this is intended to disparage the ambitious and capable RDs or the amazing athletes!
Sep 13, 2021 6:36 PM # 
Agreed with the above: linear point-to-point is preferred, if possible.

Also agree with glewis that race format is not the reason AR is not popular in the US. I think it just doesn't appeal to the vast majority of people. The combination of potentially difficult navigation, difficult mountain biking and non-stop overnight racing is a huge barrier that practically defines AR. You know "that look" you get from most people when you explain what you did "for fun" on your "vacation"

I also agree with Grant Killian that "be careful what you wish for" may apply with regard to growing the sport. Apart from a big expedition-size course, 500 people lining up for a race might eliminate a lot of what we like about it, creating more of a mud-run or triathlon feel than a wilderness navigation challenge.
Sep 13, 2021 10:01 PM # 
I am glad we didn't do Silky's course because the river is "EXTREMELY LOW"

I was thinking making our way up to Lake Owen (maybe via Namakegon Lake) and then back to Cable and Lakewoods similar to Silky's course would have been another nice big "linear" loop.

An argument for the "Rogaine" format is that it is hard to watch online but I would argue this specific course design made it incredibly interesting to watch in person. Teams were constantly coming in and out of TA1 (Lakewood Resort). Spectators could see teams doing everything from there and constantly compare who was doing what and how fast. I had some hotel guests tell me they watched from their balcony and looked up what was happening online while watching. It seemed like the race organization was doing a good job to enable you to see where everyone was and make comparisons when necessary from the TA using their big board.

That being said it should be noted that the top teams mostly thought alike, and I don't think this was a coincidence. WEDALI and Quest did the exact same order (so you could actually compare them the whole race). Rib who was 3rd did almost exactly the same order (swapped leg 4 and 5). And I believe the next group of 4-5 teams all at least started with the big lake paddle together.

Additionally, the course turned very linear after Stage 1 (which was a little less than half the race) so at that point, it was definitive who was in first and teams could race side by side to the finish (which actually happened) and spectators could follow with certainty (although at that point it was getting into the night so not sure how many people may have been watching).

I will say I think the Nationals courses I have done recently (or not so recently) have been missing a linear trek but considering this course independently I had no real complaints.

There are definitely positives and negatives to both course styles. I thought this course was well designed (linear or not). And to Silky's point if you don't like it you could design your own course/race. And to Mr. W's point, I didn't hear anyone complain about the course design at the race and I imagine many will and would come back to a 180 or USARA race after experiencing this race. I also had many people, friends, and family comment on how good the race coverage was and how they enjoyed following online.

@dotwatcher: we left the singletrack to last because we didn't want to be stuck behind a massive backlog of people on the trails. As it turns out we could have done it first and the trails would have been empty. There is no way we could have known that when we made the decision 15 minutes before race start though. I imagine if the conditions had been wet everyone would have been rushing to the ST right away. We were mostly happy with our order. We would have liked to have done the paddle first but we couldn't make that happen without having an extra (or 2) bike to non-bike transition.
Sep 13, 2021 10:23 PM # 
Opinion: (.02) and a couple ideas:

What attracted me - and most of the few dozen people who have made up the top 10 over the last 15 yrs - was the journey: sharing the experience with our teammates, and the post-race stories of how we got from pt A to Z - what we overcame. The impossible mission.

I don't think someone should stand on the starting line of Nationals -or any legit adventure race - and expect to finish, let alone podium, unless they have podium'd before. The idea of optional CPs or rogaine format makes it an event, not a race. This is just my opinion, and RDs seem to disagree.

Maybe this is borne not from a desire for getting everyone a "Finisher" Medal, but solely from permitting issues in the States, and RDs working with small parks in flat areas, leaving them no other option. However, IMO, the orienteering format is what keeps new people away.

Today, people want to RACE and they want to do something ridiculously hard. People are lined up by the thousands to ride 200M of Gravel and by the hundreds to run 200M - in places most would have never visited eg rural Kansas.

People want to get out and take the nearly-impossible journey. If not for permitting and risk mgmt (insurance), maybe an Alaskan Mountain Wilderness Classic format for a "championship" level event could be possible? Point A to Z, however you want...good luck.

To split the difference, maybe a beginner friendly race format may be point to point with multiple non-obvious nav choices (both obvious and only for the trained nav eye) on each leg that reward - or punish - teams with specific strengths or weaknesses - but would still allow any team to make it from A to Z, albeit 12hrs behind the winner in a "24hr" race. This is essentially what we had 20yrs ago in the Cal Eco 12-24+hr series and others.


Justin is an absolute USARA format master, Mari is simply the queen of US AR (3 wins in 3 decades), and Brian has a long history now of being an awesome, strong teammate on multiple teams. 10yrs ago this would have been an "all star" team. Wedali/DART/SOG!

Congrats once again, WEDALI!
Sep 14, 2021 5:00 AM # 
Good thoughts and suggestions. And thanks for the compliments. It should also be stated that Quest had an amazing race too. Specifically Dusty showed that he is in the top class of navigators even when it comes down to true orienteering on difficult terrain.
Sep 14, 2021 11:44 AM # 
I like what Mr. W has suggested. My only hesitation is that a 30hr race should take a decent chunk of that time for the winning team to finish - 18hrs doesn't hit the mark for me.

It sounds like we disagree on the enjoyment of a rogaine vs. linear. But for every team, this was a race. They were racing to get all of the CPs in 30 hours, or racing to get back in time while making strategic decisions. This race was impossibly hard for most teams. The difference between it and a linear course was that the racers themselves got to dictate when and how they would be short-coursed.
Sep 14, 2021 1:35 PM # 
My two cents:

1) As a racer, I don't care all that much. I like diversity. A great, epic point to point race is always amazing. But a creative, well designed rogaine style format event is always a welcome strategic and navigational challenge, and I think they allow you to add new skills, tools, and experiences to your toolbox. In 15ish expedition races, I have never found the navigation, route choice, or strategy as challenging as the best rogaine style events I have competed in (and I'd say this year's nationals falls in that category). Personally, the thing I love most about the sport is the diversity in it. No course will be ideal for everyone, so as long as they are carefully designed, have legit nav (I DO NOT like trail horse races; I don't feel those meet the standards or spirit of our sport), and have some nice features/stages, I'm good.

2) As a RD, I feel strongly that many RDs, and the community as a whole, need to work on being more aware of the mid-back pack teams. Yes, short courses work in theory (and sometimes they are perfect and awesome for those experiencing them; James Thurlow and Open Adventure are the best at this from my experience), but too often (ask anyone who regularly competes but is not able to go for full course), short courses are slogs. Too often, RDs don't consider the experience of those teams enough; they miss the best CPs, they miss the special sections of the race, and they end up on long boring road treks or bikes. This is absolutely not good for the sport in regards to the AVERAGE racer's experience, and it won't keep such racers coming back time and time again like top racers do. Sure, teams who always finish full courses or come close even when they don't naturally won't question that with linear courses, but I find too often that the 70-80% of teams showing up and paying RDs so that events can be sustainable aren't considered.

In short, I'm a big advocate for paying more attention to the experience of the majority of teams competing in the sport. We all know how miserable a death march is when it's in a full course. Imagine if that was your experience every race and often for longer sections but you also had to skip the best parts of the race. Why would you stick with the sport?

Honestly, and I mean no offense to any individual here, even these online discussions tend to unfold only among the top racers, some of whom NEVER experienced racing as a weekend warrior or mid-packer. Too often, we as a community are stuck in the echo chamber of the 20%, those of us who race 5-10 times a year, who either clear courses or are close enough to really fully enjoy the experience. We need to remember that we are not the people keeping this sport alive, and if we just get what we want at the expense of the experience for others, we won't have races to attend.

Again, no offense to anyone, and there is no problem if you want to just race epic 10 day linear courses. At Rootstock, we try to design events with an eye toward those teams not clearing courses. We aren't perfect, and I'm always bummed when teams miss things we want them to see. But we have heard from the masses how much they appreciate the effort, and I know how important it is to them, and us as a company.
Sep 14, 2021 3:24 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
My fixed order passion is targeted perhaps more at the Champs than Rasputin (I thought I remember him advocating for fixed order more generally?), where the local/regional mid packer is not as likely to be present.

For local/regional races, I don't care as much. I prefer, on the occasions that I'm competitive, that the proper strategy is not to skip a CP five minutes into the race, but I'll take whatever I can get. I absolutely understand why more optional stuff and flexibility would be brought into a race that is far more likely to feature newer/greener races than the annual champs.

None of the people in this thread would have an issue with a 500 person event, since about 10 minutes into the race, you'll be all by yourselves anyway for the remainder of the day, unless there is some huge flexibility in discipline order. Source: Have raced in Michigan Adventure Racing's ~400-500 person days, both the long and short versions offered, and have been wrecked by many of the thread participants.
Sep 14, 2021 4:56 PM # 
I hear that, and do agree in many ways.

This said, even at Nationals, the majority of the field isn't clearing the course. I know Paula and Mike were thinking tennish teams might clear. There were another 10 teams who all COULD have cleared the course, but as often happens, things happen and some of those teams come up short.

As someone who has raced every Nationals except one going back to 2007, I personally do not want a race that is won in 18 hours, as glewis pointed out. So, unless Nationals becomes a 36-48 hour event, then the reality is the vast majority of teams won't have a shot to clear it and at least half the field will be WELL short of clearing.

I think it's easy to say that Nats and other big races like expedition races should be looked at differently because they are, on paper, the pinnacle of the sport and not for the beginners. That said, and this is my point, while there will be stronger fields at such races and full courses (rogaine style or linear, doesn't matter) should be clearable for teams actually going to win, podium or maybe top-ten, it is still true that the majority of teams are not equipped or able to even dream of that goal. And many are still beginners even if it's not a beginners race.

When RDs and racers have the flexibility to leave a course open for much longer than the winning time, I think it's a win-win for everyone: RDs, racers, spectators, but this is not practical for many RDs at many races.

And when Nationals has been won in 18 hours? I've heard many top teams complain that it's too short and not necessarily worth the time, money, etc. to make the journey...
Sep 14, 2021 5:27 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
2000: 21:03
2001: 23:00
2002: 17:45
2003: 17:40
2004: 17:05
2005: 20:48
2006: 24:31
2007: 17:02
2008: 25:30
2009: 21:36
2010: 22:41
2011: 20:15
2012: 26:43
2013: 19:20
2014: 29:10
2015: 16:22
2016: 17:24
2017: 26:02
2018: 25:58
2019: 21:15
2020: :(
2021: 24:45
Sep 14, 2021 6:02 PM # 
I'm not sure what we are doing, now, but...;)

# of teams that cleared it:
2021: 5 teams cleared the course
2019: 17
2018: 7
2017: 4
2016: 29
2015: 21
2014: 3
2013: 18
2012: 6
2011: 8
2010: 9
2009: 24
2008: 6
2007: no data
2006: 17
2005: no data
2004: no data
2003: no data
2002: 26
2001: 8
2000: no data

Mean average: 13
Median: 8.5
Sep 14, 2021 7:53 PM # 
How about total teams racing?
Temperature at race start?
Age of winners?
# of McDonald's hamburgers eaten on course

Broots how come you haven't already compiled all of this?
Sep 14, 2021 8:05 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Sep 14, 2021 9:33 PM # 
This is going to get good now.
Sep 14, 2021 11:43 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
I was curious if it got any better if you divided by the number of teams, for a % of teams clearing. It did not; R^2 dropped a little.

For my amusement, I made a chart of expected winning time yields what % of finishers, assuming a 30 hour cut off, or the corresponding course window needed to hit that clear percentage at a 24 hour winning time.

Sep 14, 2021 11:56 PM # 
If broots were to give you the course make-up (rogaine vs linear) since he started racing we could split the data to see which course design had a higher number/percentage of full course finishers.
Sep 15, 2021 1:42 AM # 
Like I said, not sure what we are doing now, but thinking we should start in on venn diagrams and cp placement next! Maybe weather analysis and the time of year juxtaposed to latitude and longitude too.

Seriously though, the broad strokes of this conversation are always interesting, and rest assured the new USARA board will be talking about these very questions. One of the things that makes nationals unique is that local RDs have historically had a lot of control over the event. More so than I suspect people realize. I think this has always been a strength of the race, that it directly involves local RDs. That said, the result is that a lot of races have different flavors. Some have been more worthy of a national championship, perhaps, than others. I, at least, am already asking this very question: should USARA nationals have a more consistent flavor every year, or should we continue leading local race directors essentially design their own vision of nationals?

USARA may sometimes have been blamed or praised too much for what nationals has actually been. There is an interesting question here about how much influence USARA should have over an event. It’s an interesting question as to whether USARA should exert more control over the actual design and nature of the course, but this may not actually work well for the local race organizations that direct the event. Local conditions may not match well with a standard race design rubric, or a local race directors strengths may not match up well.

I have no idea if USARA will ultimately make changes to the design approach, as I think it is important to keep local race directors involved. But we are listening, and we will talk about it, keeping in mind that we are committed to continuing the tradition of hosting a championship that first in for most grounds a national champion from the best teams in the country, but also allows likes experience teams and opportunity to race in an event of this magnitude not only successfully, but hopefully in a way that allows them to truly enjoy the experience and come back more excited next year.

Thanks for all the thoughts! And feel free to chime in on this question I am asking. We will review and take into account your thoughts as we discuss further this fall!
Sep 15, 2021 2:03 AM # 
I think there’s some useful info for the board in this data. What is important to the mid-pack teams you’re concerned about? Is it finishing the full course, just crossing the finish line or is it to get their money’s worth by racing for the full 30 hours? If I had to guess, the “shorter” duration winning times above were linear courses and the longest duration courses were rogaines. If you knew what was important to these teams it might sway a RD’s course design assuming the number of full course finishers was an important metric.
Sep 15, 2021 12:25 PM # 
Sounds like a good job for an online survey. What factors are most important for adventure racers in a national championship?

The getting of one's money's worth has never crossed my mind. The few times I've finished a course well before time cutoff, I have been happy to do so. It's always pleasant to be done.
Sep 15, 2021 1:06 PM # 
OK Mr. W...we do need a linear/rogaine comp. I wonder if we can crown source the data. I think that Roy from Bones is a lurker maybe and he may be able to add info on the nature of the courses.

I think JayXC is on to something about what should be the common characteristics of a national championship? Or maybe that exists and I am not aware of it. There were a lot of differences in 2019 and 2021, and maybe that will always be the case.
Sep 15, 2021 1:50 PM # 
I believe a big draw for mid-pack teams is to race on the same course/event as the top teams. There are different sub-sets...some want to compare splits (I can't believe they did that leg 3 hours faster!!), some want to ogle the gear, some want to watch TAs, some want to compare tracking routes, some teams may even want to follow for a CP or two and see how decisions get made.

Another draw is just the pomp and circumstance at Nats. Large field, attention of the full USARA board, post-race meal, etc. Potentially in previous years, the draw was swag but I think teams looking for that in 2021 may not have had their expectations met.

That being said, I am curious about everyone's thoughts on swag/prizes. I felt that the swag at this year's race was less than previous editions (i.e. a shirt, personalized bibs, a drawstring bag, a GUTR, and a finisher medal vs. all of that plus socks and a few other items in previous years).

For the podium finishers, the prize was race credit $$$ that probably out-values the sponsor product pile from previous years. And, money is easier to travel with than the sponsor product. But, I do love walking away from a race with some cool new gear.

Thoughts? Can we have a chart of this? ;)
Sep 15, 2021 2:16 PM # 
Serious question- Has anyone ever used a GUTR?
Sep 15, 2021 3:10 PM # 
Those that need them - love them. I.E. Jeff/Alpine Shop.
Sep 15, 2021 5:00 PM # 
I sweat more than anyone else that I've ever met, and I've never even considered using a gutr.
Sep 15, 2021 9:18 PM # 
GUTRs will be mandatory gear at next year’s MSAR.
Sep 15, 2021 9:20 PM # 
I had to google - and I'm a giant sweat hog living in the Chattanooga/Atlanta area now.

Format idea: archetype, in a perfect world:for any 24hr race, not necessarily USARA.

What if there were simply very few CPs? Single digit.
This does require a larger area and more challenging terrain, but...
It's beginner friendly and the most basic nav skill can get someone from point A to Z BUT - it will take them 24-30hrs.
The faster teams could take less risky but longer routes with a LOT more climbing -but only way to win is with off-trail navigation expertise, calculated risk and skill along the way?
eg faster bushwhack, pack raft nav choices...*options*.
Rather than optional CPs, optional risks.
Sep 15, 2021 9:28 PM # 
USARA and any/all RDs:

Has anyone done a post-race navigation review Zoom call?

Imagine a quick, 15 to 30 minute talk-through of the choices made when planning the route, with the map on the screen, lead by the race winning team and the RD, joined by anyone interested.

Discussing mistakes made along the way, interactive Q&A at the end with anyone who wants to join? The RD could add their perspective and envisioned fastest route, projections vs. reality, race strategy best practices etc.

This could be recorded and shared with new teams, or linked on race websites, YouTube, USARA. It would be a gold mine of information and insight to the thought process, route selection, team tactics, strategy and dynamics along the way.
Sep 16, 2021 1:32 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Love it!
Sep 16, 2021 1:48 AM # 
My thought: Unless you are in an incredibly undeveloped area (i.e., out west, Patagonia) if your CPs are far apart, taking roads (in the case of bikes) and trails (on foot) way around will likely be faster than more technical direct routes. It will definitely become less navigationally challenging and interesting. I have done races like this and don't mind them occasionally either. In some cases Nationals has been more this style.

Mistakes? We didn't make any mistakes :-/

Some of these questions were asked and recorded in the videos posted on the USARA facebook page. Specifically the finish line videos of WEDALI, Quest (w WEDALI present), and Rib. Paula and Garrison were present for most of these I believe as well. I think there were some videos of Paula/Garrison talking about the course during the race but I didn't watch them.

Some of our decisions (and mistakes) are in my log of the race

Also, we have had a couple of requests for podcast interviews. Is there now a USARA National Championship winner publicity circuit? Wheaties boxes? I'M GOING TO ... wait, never mind.

A public Q&A submission might be worthwhile.
Silky? Abiperk? Garrison?
I know some people ask questions after races but sometimes it can be a bit intimidating and requires the right scenario for a new racer to feel comfortable.
Sep 16, 2021 2:49 PM # 
I think the visual overlay - showing the map and some kind of pointer - would be educational for all teams - not just newbies. eg risks taken and counter-intuitive (to all but top teams) choices. Overlays: how mechanicals, bonks, other things were fixed or could have been prevented, plus team dynamics, even training (preceding years and ~6mos leading up to the race.)
This is missing for newbies.

The Luck Factor:
In 1997-98 I was lucky to race w british orienteering champion/fell running champ, east german kayak olympian/world quadrathlon champion/Guinness Book 24hr kayak distance holder/Eco Internet race winner, etc in my first 24+ hr race. I had zero credentials, or talent for that matter. That was LUCK. I asked 1,000,000 questions and tried to apply their lessons and share from that point forward. I also learned a ton from a single <24hr race with SCAR in 2001.
Later I was lucky to race w Mari, Glenn, Hayes and others who mastered team navigation/communication. That was our main strength. Borg Mind.

How else can people learn the “secrets”?

Don’t under-estimate the value - and volume - of your specific knowledge, BM and everyone else reading! Share the wealth ;)
Sep 16, 2021 8:26 PM # 
Hey, all. Just wanted to chime in to hit on a couple of points.

Broots is right, USARA is definitely listening. We're listening to brand new racers as well as the "grizzled veterans", podium and back of the pack teams. We can't act on everything, but we feel strongly about understanding where the AR community stands on important topics. Some topics will warrant a lot more discussion, and we intend to create opportunities to have that discussion, likely over the winter months when there is less racing for most people. Because, you know, everyone needs more Zoom in their lives after the past 18 months...

Some of the suggestions (Rasputin and mayer22) are almost perfectly aligned with some initiatives we are investigating and hope to pursue. Including:

- Race coverage: We tried to throw the kitchen sink at the coverage this year and all-in-all I'm pleased with the results. I'm even more pleased and excited about what we learned on how to do it well. So much we can and will do here with Nationals first, then hopefully create the means to help RD's apply the proven tools and processes to their races as we refine things.

- Post-race analysis: We'd love to do a LOT here, but it is resource-intensive. We're looking at different ways we can provide some insightful and useful post-race analysis that will be engaging to both the inexperienced and experienced alike. A blend of in-depth analysis of decisions, strategy, and adversity management blended with some compelling video of the course could go a long way with a broad audience. But, that's not quick/easy/cheap to do. That may be why we haven't seen much (any?) of it before now.

- Content targeted at those less knowledgeable in AR: You'll see more and more content from us targeted at those people that don't really know what AR is. Once you get your "dot-watching" certification you are familiar with the terminology and problem-solving skills needed to interpret race coverage, tracking maps, and even race reports. But those skills are NOT easy to come by if you don't have someone guiding you along. A balance of simpler content with some educational/information tools to engage newcomers and AR enthusiasts alike is probably the answer here.

Many of you may have heard me state that one of my personal goals with USARA is to connect with everyone that is an adventure racer but just doesn't know it yet. That likely doesn't mean meteoric growth, and that's probably OK. BUT, we won't hook as many of those people without content that starts on the ground floor of AR knowledge. Setting the stage to create this kind of content was one of the key goals with our media team this year at Nationals. I'm very optimistic about what we'll be able to do in the coming months.

So much more that I'd love to chime in on (I do actually have my own opinions on things like course design), but I'll save it for the group discussions/forums this winter.

If anyone has anything specific they want to be sure is on USARA's radar (or knows of someone else who does) don't hesitate to shoot me an email at!

Time to go proof some shots for mayer22's Wheaties box...

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