Test Your Nettle

Pleasantly Bitter Edition


1. a herbaceous plant that has jagged leaves covered with stinging hairs.
2. irritate or annoy (someone).


1. a person’s ability to face a demanding situation in a spirited and resilient way.

You, and at least one adventurous friend!
A summer navigation adventure!
Catamount in Williston, VT!
August 4th, 2018 — noon to 5 p.m.
You need a reason to be outdoors with friends!
With map & compass, on foot and (optionally) mountain bikes!

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 opportunities 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.

The Challenge

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

You’ll have to decide how much training and physical preparation is required for 2-5 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)
  • Pencil/pen
  • Watch
  • First aid supplies. We suggest:
    • 1” bandages
    • 3″x4” gauze pads
    • 2″x5yd gauze roll
    • 1/2” adhesive tape roll
    • Tweezers
    • Anti-bacterial creme/towelettes
    • Ibuprofen

Per racer, carried or worn during the entire event:

  • Backpack
  • Container for at least two litres of fluid
  • Compass (declinating compass recommended)
  • Space Blanket/Bag
  • Whistle
  • Long sleeve shirt & pants

Lastly, you’ll need gear for specific types of adventure – since there’s (optional) 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:

  • Food
  • 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, 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 for the team.
  • There's a separate per-racer fee that can be paid on registration, or paid by each teammate later.
Plan to pay the registration fee now to reserve your team's spot at current rates. If you don't pay the individual fees up front, when we contact teammates for shirt sizes and waiver information we'll ask them to pay those fees, as follows:
    To be clear, that means a team of 3 signing up late will pay $25 + $0x3 = $25 total.
    Only the $25 is due to lock in your registration, though.

    Please take a minute to review notes on costs and refunds including important details about what happens if you withdraw closer to race day.

    Additional costs:

    We’ll have some snacks available at the finish but please consider bringing our own feast so you can eat while you cheer for the other teams that have yet to finish.

    Camping will be avilable at Catamount at $10/night. Let us know if you’re interested.

    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!


    10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
    Orienteering clinic
    10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.
    BYO Lunch
    10:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
    Pre-race Instructions
    11:45 a.m.
    12:00 p.m.
    Latest Time to Finish:
    5:00 p.m.
    Post-Race Gathering:
    5:01 p.m.


    It looks like you’re on a mobile device, and unfortunately, our registration form is a bit of a mess on mobile. Volunteer web developers and so forth.

    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’ve shut down online registration, but you’re still welcome to come on Saturday! Just bring cash & be ready with a team name. If you have a moment, send a quick note to staff@gmara.org and let us know you’re coming!

    We’ve made some code updates recently, if you have any issues please contact us for assistance.

    We try to do most of our waivers online, but you may still have to sign a few paper documents at on-site 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.


    Our host venue will be the Catamount Outdoor Family Center in Williston, VT. There are lots of hotels nearby, campgrounds, GMARA members who might want overnight guests, etc. You can also let us know if you want to camp at Catamount at $10/night.
    Our host venue will be the Bolton Valley Resort. Registration will be on-site at the Nordic Center. Here are directions to the resort.


    Some teams may be larger, but only the first three racer names are shown.

    #Team NameCaptainTeammateTeammate
    1 Controversial Hamster PlanetShannon Archibald Anna Whitten Jane Whitten Melissa Whitten
    2 Mud Sweat Beers and WivesJim Bailey Laurie Bailey Jay Finn Kristen Finn
    3 Not Quite LostPeter McGurkin Stephan Roberts Brooke Zimmer
    4 Saturdays Are For The GirlsEmily Moreshead Ayla Nelson Elyse Newman
    5 Super GsTim Grogean Maya Grogean Sydney Grogean
    6 Team TulloMatthew Tullo Mary Tullo Paige Tullo
    7 Which WayMironda Meyer Christopher Chang Shannon Silvestri
    8 Team 93Brittani Barone Steve DiGregorio
    9 Team Good DecisionsBenny Chen Caitlin Folchman-Wagner
    10 Team Honey BadgerJeremiah Goyette Beth Scott
    11 The WindsocksBen Schmidt Sam Margolis
    12 Threshold TrainingTyler Barnes Terry Collins
    13 To Be DecidedSam Yager Jack Yager
    14 Trail DogsScott Ellison Josh Whipple
    15 We did it for the cookies, cookies made with love!David Coutu Colin Rose
    16 Yahoo Yagirls!Laurie Yager Jenna Yager


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