Test Your Nettle

You, and at least one friend
Outdoor adventure!


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.

Mettle (with an M) is the courage to carry on. If someone wants to “test your mettle” they want to see if you have the heart to follow through when the going gets tough. Many GMARA racers have walked through fields of stinging nettle (with an N) – some accidentally, some on purpose because it’s the fastest route. Fields of nettle can test your mettle.

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. Most GMARA events are 8-12 hours of competitive endurance racing, including trekking, biking, paddling, swimming, rock climbing, skiing and snowshoeing. It can be hard to know whether you’re up for a challenge like that!

That’s why we launched the Nettle in 2017 – a shorter, non-competitive event that’ll give you a chance to test yourself, your navigation skills, and your team dynamics before you decide to get lost in the woods for 12 hours. 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. If you’re a regular, this is the perfect opportunity to bring someone new and help them get their feet wet.

We usually hold the Nettle alongside our bigger races, letting us use much of the same course design, as well as reduce insurance costs and simplify other logistics. We’re not sure whether there will be a Nettle attached to this coming race, but we’ll announce it on the mailing list if we work things out.

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
  • 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 – when there’s mountain biking, you’ll need your own bike and of course a bike helmet. In the winter, you’ll want skis or snowshoes, as well as all the critical outerwear to keep you safe in the snow. 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


Here's the latest news about this race:


3CThe Donner PartyMatthew Tullo, Steve Maher, Mary Tullo
3CLost KozKennedy Nau, Olivier Kozlowski, Keith Moser
3MMan FriendsBaxter Miatke, Jordan Duffy, Cam Houghton
3MOut of Control...with cookiesMike Gannon, Josh Brown, Greg Hester
2CBavisJay Avis, Amanda Burns
2CHoney BadgersBeth Scott, Jeremiah Goyette
2FTeam KashKit Vreeland, Ashley Eaton
2FDainty FlowersShelley Koenig, Charlie Koenig
2MNH Trail Vets Development SquadReed Holland, Mason Holland
2MSominexBert Rothenbach, TBD
2MMud, Sweat & BeersJim Bailey, Jay Finn
2MGoose A.R.Tim Ratowski, Ian Webber
2MWoodbury Athletic ClubTim Grogean, Jimmy Crocker
2MScrambled Legs and AchingDavid Koenig Koenig, Noah Koenig


Registration is closed for the previous race and not open for the next one. If you'd like to be notified when things are planned, sign up for email from the contact page.

For reference, these were the rates for the previous race:
  • Dec 02 - Dec 17: $39 per racer.
  • Dec 18 - Jan 14: $42 per racer.
  • Jan 15 - Feb 10: $45 per racer.
  • Feb 11 - Feb 28: $45 per racer. No shirt orders possible