Team Alpine Shop 5th Place: USARA National Championship

“Overall, Team Alpine Shop covered approximately 9 miles of paddling, 26 miles on foot, and 80 miles on mountain bikes, all through the hilly Maryland terrain.”

After 29 hours of racing, Team Alpine Shop finished 5th overall at the USARA Adventure Racing National Championships in McHenry, Maryland this past weekend. Team members David Frei, Emily Korsch, and Jeff Sona have been training for this event all year, and were thrilled to improve upon their 8th place finish from 2013.
Photo Credit: Vladimir Bukalo
Photo Credit: Vladimir Bukalo
The race started out with a run…straight up the 600′ ski hill of WISP Resort. After reaching the top of the hill, teams were challenged with a swim relay through ASCI’s man-made whitewater park, featuring Class III-IV rapids. Then, teams ran back down the same ski hill to get on their bikes for the rest of the race – a combination of mountain biking, paddling, and trekking to find over 40 checkpoints scattered throughout the hills of Western Maryland. And as with all adventure races, the course is not marked – teams must use a map and compass to navigate their way through the race.
Photo Credit: Vladimir Bukalo
Photo Credit: Vladimir Bukalo
Team Alpine Shop made an early strategy choice to skip two of the paddling checkpoints as allowed by race rules, and found themselves near the lead for much of the day. After battling back and forth with Team Checkpoint Zero from North Carolina and Team Odyssey from Virginia, Team Alpine Shop pulled ahead in the overnight orienteering section of the race. Team Alpine Shop maintained their lead over these teams for the remainder of the race, but were beaten at the finish line by 4 teams who had not skipped the paddling checkpoints early on. Team Tecnu from California repeated as National Champions, and Team Bushwhacker from Illinois came in a close second place. Team Untamed/ from New York and Team DART-nuun from California rounded out the top 4 positions.
Overall, Team Alpine Shop covered approximately 9 miles of paddling, 26 miles on foot, and 80 miles on mountain bikes, all through the hilly Maryland terrain. In addition to the grueling course, the team dealt with fierce headwinds, heavy rains, and temperatures dipping into the low 40s around sunrise – a tough combination when you’re trying to bike at top speed!

Photo Credit: Vladimir Bukalo
Photo Credit: Vladimir Bukalo
Next year’s USARA Adventure Racing National Championships will be held in Eastern Kentucky, and Team Alpine Shop hopes to continue their climb into the top ranks of American adventure racing teams.

Mackeen’s vs. MR340: Never Give Up!

Hi Everyone!

Wow, it’s been about six weeks since we finished the race, and have had time to contemplate the enormity of what we did.

You heard about the race mostly from my point of view, the support crew director. I thought it would be fun and interesting to hear about the experience from the teams, and my helpers. We had a “hotwash”, to explore what we did right, what we could do better, and what we learned.

Like David Letterman, the MacKeens also have a Top Ten…

Top Ten Things Learned from the MR340

10. Install a GPS in the RV…what’s wrong, Jarod and Kaity, you didn’t enjoy all of our “adventures” while getting lost?
9. When applying sunscreen, don’t forget your lips (and your thighs). Ouch! Need I say more?
8. Always follow the directions….or, don’t put “Nuun” tablets in your mouth without water!

While attempting to overcome boredom, especially with the food selection on the kayak, Nikki thought she’d shake things up by putting her Nuun tablet, that she normally puts into her water bottle directly on her tongue. She says, “It started out okay, but I immediately regretted it. I guess I hadn’t thought it through, because it only occurred to me after it was in my mouth that it made bottled water fizzy…and that was in my mouth. It really started hurting, but I was determined to carry through with my idea. I made it about halfway, realized how dumb it actually was, and ended up spitting it out into a water bottle. I’m not doing that ever again!”

A shout-out to Nuun & Company, Inc. Thanks for the tablets; they really helped us get through the race!

7. When all else fails, learn to juggle! Being on support crew consists of short, extremely intense periods of activity, followed by looooong periods of waiting (at least for those not driving the RV!). Jarod combatted the boredom by teaching himself to juggle! And he’s pretty good at it, too! Whatever you’re faced with, be creative!
6. Be consistent. This helped Heather to make it through. When you’re paddling, just keep up a steady pace. If you don’t, “first you annoy the other person, and (then) you get tired really quickly!” This goes for anything in life.
5. Paddling (and life) is a lot harder if you don’t use the right technique. Heather says, “At the end of the first day, before we started night paddling, my arms were very much in pain. It hurt to paddle, and when I did I wasn’t helping very much. By the middle of the third day, Dad commented on how I wasn’t really doing torso rotation (an important technique…find out how to do it when you take a kayaking class from the Alpine Shop, I had been trying to, but I wasn’t doing a very good job. Amazingly, when I changed the way I was paddling, my arms stopped hurting. I was able to do longer times of constant paddling after that.”
4. Deer swim, and swallows dive-bomb. The teams got to experience some amazing parts of nature! They watched deer swim across the river, and swallows dive-bomb them to “feast(ed) on the bugs we disturbed from the water,” Rich and others commented. “Turkey vultures, swirling whirlpools, piled debris from the last flood stage water (was) just some of the splendor we saw. When we were not talking to each other, just the natural peace and quiet with the backdrop of forested riverbanks and the cliff faces near Hermann, MO…priceless!” Rich shared.

Heather was impressed by the meteorite shower that they paddled through, “that lasted all three nights we were out there. I counted twenty and more.” Our recommendation? “Get outside yourself”, and experience nature!

3. Teamwork is essential to success in any venture. Nikki mentioned that “being a team-player is super important, because there is no way I could have done that alone.” Chris appreciated strengthening his friendship with Nikki by the time they spent together…even though they had disagreements! Rich said, “My favorite thing was to see my children start and finish this race with a greater understanding of themselves, the level of this accomplishment and a greater understanding of each other. This includes our support team who had to overcome obstacles of their own. The look of accomplishment and success on everyone’s face was priceless! Since the race there have been occasions of doubt for a school assignment or extracurricular task, but without my even saying so the kids sail out of the doldrums with the simple comment… ‘Why am I worried about such and such…I did the MR340.

2. ’You gotta have a sense of humor. Rich quips, “A funny thing happened to me on the way down the MO river…I won’t quit my day job…we occasionally saw a floating water bottle, who we affectionately named ‘Bob.’ The floating walnuts we called ‘Wally” and the wood debris ‘Woody.’ Yes, you get giddy and start to sing or hallucinate! We would comment, ‘How did Bob get in front of us again, must have been an African (or European) swallow.’”

1. And…the Number 1 thing we learned from the MR340?….Drumroll…….NEVER GIVE UP!

Rich said, “This was my first kayak race and we were counseled not to do this by some and encouraged by others. I have always been a ‘Glass half FULL’ kind of person and have raised my kids to also have that outlook. The organizers of the event pulled no punches about how hard it would be, but were very clear that this was as much of a mental challenge as physical, maybe even more mental. Life changing events, such as this, are choices. You can decide to participate or not. We overcame the physical fatigue and put our minds to the task of just getting past the next bend in the river. It was very similar to the age old question of ‘How do you eat an elephant?…one bite at a time’, but rephrased as ‘How do you complete the MR340?…one paddle stroke at a time.’ I highly encourage anyone contemplating doing the MR340 not to let naysayers or negative people affect your decision. You will never be able to know if you could or could not have done anything until you try. In fact, the only way to fail is to not try. Even trying is not failure if you attempt it again, so rephrased, the only way to fail is to give up.

After the Battle of Britain on October 29, 1941 British Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited Harrow School. His famous quote is so applicable to the MR340…

‘But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period – I am addressing myself to the School – surely from this period of ten months, this is the lesson: Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.’

“The more common shortened version of this speech is: ‘Never, never, never give up.’”


This philosophy was exhibited recently by our oldest, Joshua. He raced at the USA Cycling Collegiate Track National Championships in Indianapolis, September 25 – 28 for the Air Force Academy cycling team. He was doing quite well, until he was involved in a crash. Despite major road rash, he got back in there and raced! Go to @randrwoodcrafts on Twitter to see photos of him racing.

I have enjoyed sharing our experiences with you. We hope that you will be inspired to “Get Outside Yourself!”

Mary MacKeen