Adventure Race National Champions come to the Catskills

By Geoff Samuels
If you like sporting events and races like the “Ironman,” then you’re sure to like what’s about to happen this Friday and Saturday around the Pepacton Reservoir and in surrounding areas. Starting on the morning of Friday, Oct.12, the United States Adventure Race Association (USARA) will hold its national championship competition for 2012 right here in the Catskills.

The Adventure Race National Championship bills itself as “the premier amateur-racing event in the United States”, and has been holding races for 12 years. There will be 56 teams from 29 states competing in this tough, all day and night, multi-disciplinary event which will, as the USARA website puts it, “push the boundaries of human endurance.” The teams are co-ed consisting of three contestants each, with one of the three being team captain.

The participants will first gather this Thursday at the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa in Kerhonkson. According to Troy Farrar, president of USARA, the precise course of the race is highly confidential, and is only released to the contestants at 5:30 in the morning, just before being bussed to the secret starting point. Each of the teams has already competed in regional events throughout the country in order to qualify for this, the final championship of the year.

At eight o’clock Friday morning, the race begins. The teams will be required to hike, mountain bike, canoe, rappel and orienteer (use maps and a compass); often having to switch back and forth many times between the various disciplines. For up to 30 grueling hours they will trek through a hundred miles of Catskill Mountain terrain, stopping at various checkpoints until they reach the finish line back in Kerhonkson.

This is an all-out, no-holds-barred event. There will be no time to rest, as the contestants will be competing right around the clock. Each team must carry all their food and equipment (except canoes) for the duration of the competition and, just like the “Survivor” reality TV shows, they’ll have a camera crew following right along.

Since not even the contestants themselves know where they’re going until the morning of the race, it’s pretty unlikely that there will be many spectators in a position to watch. But the USARA has you covered; you’ll be able to catch much of the action on their website (http://www.usaranationals.com).

And if you happen to be out and about on a Catskill trail this weekend, and you come upon a hoard of people scrambling through the woods with tons of hiking gear on their backs, don’t worry. You’re not about to be voted off the island.