Team GearJunkie/WEDALI Wins! First Place in USARA Championships

It was a cold weekend to race in the Catskill Mountains of New York. But despite below-freezing temps and a huge wilderness course that required 27 hours to complete, Team GearJunkie/WEDALI managed to again eek out a major win!

The event was the United States Adventure Racing Association’s 2012 National Championship. (Official name: Tecnu-Darn Tough 2012 USARA Championship.) It is the second of two National Championship events held each autumn in the United States.

Team GearJunkie/WEDALI is USARA National Champs! Justin Bakken, Molly Moilanen, Scott Erlandson; photo © 2012 USARA Vladimir Bukalo

Team GearJunkie/WEDALI won the other Nationals event, the Checkpoint Tracker Championship Race, last month in West Virginia on September 29th. (See our report here: “Team GearJunkie/WEDALI Wins National Championships.”)

The win in New York, where our team grabbed first place overall out of more than 55 of the nation’s best squads, officially makes Team GearJunkie/WEDALI the top team in the United States. We are the crowned National Champions of the sport!

Mass start in canoes; photo: Tecnu Adventure Racing

We have raced more than a dozen events this year. Some of our team members have been involved in the sport of adventure racing for nearly a decade. The dual National Championship win — which has never before been done — is truly unprecedented, and it is the result of years of training and racing around the country and the world.

Team GearJunkie/WEDALI is comprised of 10 athletes based primarily in Minnesota. Captain Justin Bakken leads the squad. He raced in both the USARA and the Checkpoint Tracker championship events this year, and he’s also captained teams to victories in these races in years past, though never winning both in one year.

Scenery on the course: Site of the rappel near end of race. Photo: Tecnu Adventure Racing

Our full team roster is here. For the USARA race, the team was comprised of Justin Bakken, Scott Erlandson and Molly Moilanen. For the Checkpoint Tracker championship race it was Bakken, Editor/Founder of, Stephen Regenold, and athletes Kelly Brinkman and Thomas Puzak.

Git ‘er done! Into the cold and rain, Team GearJunkie/WEDALI goes. . . heading off on a long bike leg. Photo © 2012 USARA Vladimir Bukalo

We talked to Bakken an hour after he crossed the finish line yesterday afternoon. Here below is the conversation condensed by our editor:

Just got off the phone with Justin and the team. They are beat but elated. “Can’t believe it,” said Justin. They said weather was a big factor. Fleece and waterproof shells, temps down to 28 degrees, puddles with ice forming overnight. Rain during the day. “We had to stop often and layer up,” Justin noted. “We had a lot of short stops to take clothing on and off,” which he said was frustrating in a race scenario (to take even a couple minutes each hour to deal with temp regulation). But in the end it really paid off. The team finished strong, more than 30min. ahead of second-place Tecnu. Team SOG was in first place for a lot of the race, and they were a huge contender as well. (SOG took 3rd overall in the end.) The course, in the Catskill Mountains, was tough with tons of hard navigation, including intense navigation on singletrack mountain biking trails. “We had to know exactly what small twist and turn of the trail we were on” to get the checkpoint flags, Justin said. There was a paddling leg at the start of the race where the teams were divided up last minute to pursue checkpoints solo on land or in the boat. “SOG destroyed us on that section,” Justin noted. But over the race Justin, Molly, and Erl raced “steady and strong” as is their usual strategy, eventually pulling ahead before a long final trekking section. In that long woods section they saw hardly any other teams, and they knew they were likely out in the lead. Some volunteers shouted that they “were in First!” near the end, and their motivation jumped. (It’s hard to know what place you’re in at times on long adventure races.) They got to the Finish Line and hugged, ecstatic to pull off another championship win!

Bakken prepares for a rappel on the course; photo: Tecnu Adventure Racing

We are so psyched and happy with the Team this year! Truly unbelievable to come away with these results. Thanks to our fans, supporters, and our sponsors Wenger, Fenix Lighting, and Platypus. We are looking forward to some much-deserved time off over the coming couple months before jumping back into the thick of it again in 2013!

As for the USARA event, Bakken said that Team Tecnu (2nd place) and Team SOG were major competitors in the event. GearJunkie/WEDALI pulled into the lead late in the race and managed to hold off the competition until the end, winning by about 30 minutes on a 27 hour+ course. “That’s only one minute difference per hour” if you break it down, Bakken noted.

Mindy Fernando of Team Tecnu fills up with an “energy drink”; photo: Tecnu Adventure Racing

Congrats to all the teams who completed the USARA course this year. It was a doozey. Below are the top 10 race standings. We’ll see you all again next year!

Leaderboard: Tecnu-Darn Tough 2012 USARA Championship (overall results)

#1 – GearJunkie/WEDALI (Justin Bakken, Scott Erlandson, Molly Moilanen)
#2 – Tecnu (Kyle Peter, Garret Bean, Mindy Fernando)
#3 – TeamSOG (Brian Mayer, Scott Pleban, Kristin Eddy)
#4 – Untamed New England (Dave Lamb, Chad Denning, Meghan Smith)
#5 – Checkpoint Zero (Michelle Hobson, Jeff Woods, Joe Brautigam)
#6 – Untamed New England2 (Jason Urckfitz, Molly Houseman, Tracyn Thayer)
#7 – Bushwhacker (Rachel Furman, Mike Garrison, Bonnie Hartman)
#8 – MOAT (Kathy Hudson, Nathan Winkelmann)
#9 – Rev3/Mountain Khakis (Britt Mason, Greg Voelkel, Ernie Lawas)
#10 – Alpine Shop (Jeff Sona, Carrie Sona, David Frei)

—Full race results for USARA Championships here: Follow GearJunkie/WEDALI throughout the season on our dedicated Team micro-site.

Close-up: Map of the course; photo: Tecnu Adventure Racing

Competitive canoe regatta kicked off the USARA race; photo: Tecnu Adventure Racing

Checkpoint flag obscured by waterfall; photo: Tecnu Adventure Racing

Justin Bakken scanning a map before trekking into the night; photo © 2012 USARA Vladimir Bukalo

Bikes staged, waiting for racers to arrive; photo: Tecnu Adventure Racing

Cascades in the Catskills; photo: Tecnu Adventure Racing

Checkpoint! Orienteering flags dotted the course. Photo: Tecnu Adventure Racing

On the water during paddle leg; photo: Tecnu Adventure Racing

Racer Kyle Peter of Team Tecnu preparing for mountain bike leg (map mounted on handlebars). Photo: Tecnu Adventure Racing

Map overview of USARA Championship course

Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.