We are Michigan Adventure Racing LLC, a group of avid adventure racers and mountain bikers: Brian Fox, Greg Van Tol, Matt Veltkamp and Mark VanTongeren.
Our goal is to get people addicted to adventure racing, and to add more mountain biking, running, orienteering and canoeing (and smiles) to their diet. Very few people know what the great sport of adventure racing even is so this race provides an entry into the sport that is low cost and fun. And for bikers, over the next few years this race will introduce people to some great new trails right within the city limits and throughout West Michigan.
We also want to make downtown Grand Rapids, the metropolitan area and all of West Michigan an even better place to live.
The Michigan Adventure Racing Team
We compete in just about any adventure race we can find in Michigan, but with the recent downturn in expedition races here (which we hope many of you will help turnaround in coming years!), we will be traveling to the top races in the Midwest from time to time. We’ll be describing some of the races we compete in for those of you who are thinking about taking the next step up to short “wilderness” races that require canoeing and orienteering (compass and map) and then to longer “expedition” races that require high levels of endurance, comfort with racing at night and overall nuttiness. Kidding. They aren’t too bad. The best way to learn is through the experiences of others and then by your own experiences. Happy experiential learning!
28-Hour LBL Challenge
Location: Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, Tennessee
Team: Brian Fox and Mark VanTongeren
Outcome: 3rd place, two-person division.
The Thunder Rolls 24-Hour National Championship Qualifier
Location: Oregon, IL
Team: Brian Fox and Mark VanTongeren
Outcome: 2nd place, two-person division; 7th place overall
Outcome that really matters: Best race yet; fun to race against the top teams in the Midwest. First time racing together (we usually race with our wives or I race with Greg for longer races) and we worked great as a team.
Race Summary: Start
ed at midnight so the first 20 checkpoints (CPs) were in the dark. Nothing better than racing under a starry sky, cool weather and headlamps scanning for flags, which fortunately are reflective! Still dark when we reached a 70 ft. rappel off a cliff. Sounds intimidating, but it was surprisingly easy for a novice like me. Canoed the Rock River to a second orienteering section. We cut off a lot of time by running/trudging through the river under the cliffs to get to a CP a mile down rather than take a 3 mile run around. Great orienteering leg with no missteps of any significance. Back in the canoe and then on bike to the third orienteering area, a massive protected prairieland called Nachoosa. Long haul of 30+ miles on the bike through some pretty, rolling terrain. No single-track biking unfortunately. We are so blessed in West Michigan to have such great mountain biking. Finished in 16 hours, 41 minutes. Relieved the course wasn’t 24 hours long!
Navigation. Misread the map and terrain in the dark on one CP. Lost track of where we came from. Always good to at least make a mental note of where you came out of a woods so you can go back if necessary. Had one other instance of misreading the map that cost us time. Always challenging to make yourself stop and carefully read the map when you are in such a hurry.
Health, nutrition, hydration. Made good decisions about stopping to fix bad blisters and take electrolyte tablets to address cramping. Missed water at one TA. Always good to fill up when you have a chance. Fortunately we went by there later. Besides the cramping, we both did a good job of reminding each other to sip liquid every 15 minutes and eat every 30 minutes or so.
Equipment. Wore long pants in areas where prickers were bad. But prickers often went right through so it’s time to research pants that can keep them out.
Apex Outdoor Gear Summer Groove 15-Hour
Location: Ionia State Recreation Area
Teams: Matt Veltkamp and Brian Fox; Greg VanTol and Mark VanTongeren
Outcome: 1st and 2nd place overall, respectively
Outcome that really matters: Great race for such a tough course. Matt and Brian raced together for the first time with great success. Another solid race for Greg and me. We’ve raced this one together for four years now.
Race Summary: Started at midnight so the first 12 CPs were in the dark. Both of our teams separated ourselves from the pack after the night-orienteering. Biked through Saranac and up to Whites Bridge on the Flat River north of Lowell. Great night paddle. River was swollen and fast, although still places where rocks jumped up to ram the boat. Stopped for a simple rope traverse of a stream and a fun, non-harnessed rappel and ascent of a steep bank along the river. Easy for beginners. Canoed through Lowell downtown and into the Grand River. Took out west of Lowell. Brian and Matt still maintain 15 minute lead on Greg and Mark. Short orienteering course southwest of Lowell. Long bike ride back to Ionia State Rec Area. Huge orienteering section. Both teams picked off several points but had to get back to the finish before the 15 hour cut-off. Ended with a refreshing, short swim out to the last CP.
Equipment: I should have worn compression socks or long pants in the woods. The poison ivy rashes drove me nuts for days. Brian lost some pretty expensive equipment. Keeping track of all the clothes and gear that come on and off as conditions change is not easy. Keeping gear in the same place in your pack helps. Check the ground whenever you stop to make sure you grabbed it all, especially the passport and maps, which I left a mile back and added two miles to our race! Oh well, two extra miles of great single-track biking isn’t a bad thing.