Test Your Nettle
Pleasantly Bitter Edition
At GMARA, we try to design our races so new teams can participate, have fun, and make it to dinner. To be honest though, “The Bitter Pill” and “The Frigid Infliction” aren’t exactly a walk in the park. It can be hard to attempt 8+ hours in the woods and harder to convince friends to join you!
That’s why we launched “Test Your Nettle” in 2017 – a shorter, non-competitive event that’ll work your navigation skills & get your feet wet.
This summer, we’ll be hosting a beginner friendly event out of the Catamount Outdoor Center in Williston, Vermont, on Saturday, August 4th. Teams can navigate on bike and foot for five hours, or start later and just do the trekking portion. This is a great event for new racers, friends and family, younger kids, and anyone who wants to experiment and see what this sport is all about. We’re also challenging regular racers to bring someone new to the sport.
We’ll be doing some interesting things to keep the cost really affordable and make it possible for everyone to come. That being said – we’ll still get you off-trail, you will still have plenty of opportunity to get lost, and you’ll have the chance to do some of the most approachable mountain biking we’ve provided in a few years!
Also – we may add on a bonus NIGHT section for those looking for more of a challenge or to experiment with navigating via headlamp. If this is interesting to you, let us know. We may not add it to registration but do it as a special side-event for those interested.
Everything on this page is subject to change until we open registration, we’re still working out details – but read on below for a general idea of what we’re planning.
For every “Test Your Nettle” we want your experience to be similar to a typical GMARA adventure, with one major difference:
- This isn’t a race against other teams; It’s your team vs. the backcountry.
We will publish results after the fact, but the goal of this event is to let you build skills, try out gear, see how your team gets along, and learn whether you like the taste of adventure. (If you really need that competition, consider another GMARA race.)
Some things stay the same as other GMARA events:
- Navigation with map & compass
- Great terrain
- Team-based adventure — groups of at least 2 people, staying together for the whole event
- Fabulous post-race gathering!
- Awesome raffle prizes
Other things will be adjusted:
- Shorter race length (3-5 hours)
- Significantly lower price (~$25)
- More flexible team size (2-6 people)
- Later start time (no waking up for a 4:30 a.m. start!)
- Reduced gear list (hopefully no rental gear needed)
- No awards or prizes for top teams, just pleasant exhaustion
- An uncertain post-race food situation
You’ll have to decide how much training and physical preparation is required for 3-5 hours of adventure, but if you’re comfortable with a hike of the same duration you should feel ready to join in the fun.
You’ll still need to be prepared, even if you’re not deep in the backcountry for a full day. This is gear that you’d want on any outdoor adventure, so even if you have to shop for a space blanket it’s still a wise $2 investment.
You’ll need at least these items:
Per team, carried through the entire race:
- Waterproof map bag (a 2-gallon ziplock works ok if you don’t go swimming)
- First aid supplies. We suggest:
- 1” bandages
- 3″x4” gauze pads
- 2″x5yd gauze roll
- 1/2” adhesive tape roll
- Anti-bacterial creme/towelettes
Per racer, carried or worn during the entire race:
- Container for at least two litres of fluid
- Light source (headlamp recommended)
- Compass (declinating compass recommended)
- Space Blanket/Bag
- Long sleeve shirt & pants
Lastly, you’ll need gear for specific types of adventure – since there’s mountain biking this summer, you’ll need your own bike and of course a bike helmet. Catamount is small enough that you could walk out of the woods if you get a flat tire, but we recommend someone on the team carry a basic bike toolkit – spare tire, pump, etc.
Occasionally racers ask if they’re allowed to bring things not on our gear list – absolutely! Nothing that gives an unfair advantage, but the items above are just a starting point. Here’s a short list of other gear to consider:
- Hat (for sun & bugs)
- Lighter / waterproof matches
- Mirror (compass mirror is acceptable – for signaling)
- Chemical hand warmers and/or gloves (cold hands make everything difficult)
- Sunscreen & bugspray
- Antihistamine (benadryl) tablets or topical gel
- Cell phone & a waterproof case (but see the electronics policy)
- Knife with folding, locking blade
Cost will be $25 per participant, half of which is refundable until two weeks before the race.
That covers a day of fun at Catamount including maps, passports, site access fees and insurance. Optional costs like camping, dinner, shirts, or an overnight event will be handled separately when we know more.
As always, your money goes toward things like trail passes, insurance, maps, and the post-race celebration. We’re 100% nonprofit with no paid employees.
If you’re a member of an outdoor club or similar group, let us know – we can probably arrange a small promotional discount for group members.
Important: Our cost structure is a bit unusual, please review:
- There's an up-front non-refundable $25 registration fee.
- There's a separate per-racer fee that we'll collect later.
Only the $25 is due on signup though, the rest will be collected later.
Please take a minute to review notes on costs and refunds including important details about what happens if you withdraw closer to race day.
We don’t know what we’re doing for post-race food yet but have some fun ideas.
We don’t plan to order shirts for this event to keep costs low – we’ll have a few available post-race from our stock, but no guarantees on sizing. There’s a checkbox on the signup form, with enough interest another print run will be possible.
Both of those items would mean additional optional costs on top of the registration fee.
Test Your Nettle check-in should be quick – we’ll have a few things to sign.
However, if you want to brush up on your navigation skills, get there early and bring a picnic lunch! We’ll have a quick orienteering clinic at 10:15, after which you’ll have an hour to ask questions and learn technique from GMARA regulars while you eat.
Everyone should be checked in by 11:45, at which point we’ll hand out official maps and cover the instructions before the start.
For teams that decide to skip the mountain biking, we’ll do another mass start at 2 p.m. – but you’re welcome to start with the rest of the group at noon and spend five hours on foot if you choose.
Everyone should finish by 5 p.m. — teams who are on time will be entered into the post-race raffle!
If it’s unusable, please come back when you’ve got a larger screen available! If you want a reminder, please contact us and we’ll be in touch shortly.
Register your team here: Registration Form
We try to do most of our waivers online, but you may still have to sign a few paper documents at on-site registration.
- You can review the online waivers before registering if you have any concerns.
- A downloadable copy of the USARA Waiver is here.
- The basics of the GMARA photo release are included on the Race Rules Page.
- You’ll have to fill out this Emergency Contact and Medical Form at registration.
- Bolton Valley has us fill out paper copies of their waiver at registration.
Any racers under age 18 on race day will need a parent or guardian to sign waivers for them – in that case, we’ll reach out with specifics.