‘Traders’ race through Vermont wilderness

GRANVILLE — During the weekend of Oct. 7-9, some 75 athletes from around the nation headed to an 850-acre farm in Granville, where they endured challenges that included navigating with map and compass, lighting and transporting bonfires, going without sleep and carrying felled trees.
These tasks and more were part of the “Traders” race, organized by the Pittsfield-based Endurance Society. It is the latest in a series of long-distance races to be held in the Vermont wilderness throughout the year.
Endurance Society founder and race director Andy Weinberg said he wanted the event to add an element of historical role-playing into the usual race.
“The point was for you and your team to navigate through the woods to reach checkpoints and complete challenges,” he said. “The teams did this while pretending to be part of a Dutch fur-trading company.” 
The race was a figurative travel back in time. Participants arrived on Friday, Oct. 7, in teams of as many as five and were told in the opening orientation that they were “competing” for a position in a exclusive trading company.
Participants were then taught orienteering and navigating skills and pace counting, and were allowed to build shelters using materials they had brought. Throughout the weekend, teams were given 50 pounds of various coyote, raccoon, bear and fox pelts that they were required to carry throughout the race. 
“It was almost like being in an old trading post,” Weinberg said. “We sprayed some of the pelts in coyote and deer urine to make it more realistic.”
Unlike long-distances races in which courses are marked with surveyors’ tape, the course in the Traders race ranged over remote sections of the Green Mountains. While transporting their heavy loads, teams carried felled trees, located missing pelts, and built and transported a fire back to the starting location.
WORKING AS TEAMS, the “traders” in the Granville race worked together on tasks, including building shelters.
Weinberg, a former Middlebury resident, said the team race emphasized collaboration.
“The whole idea is that you’re only as fast and as efficient as your slowest person,” he said. “Teams had to be smart. If one person was struggling and not moving very quickly, the other members had to take their pack.”
Of the seven teams that started, four were able to finish.
The Endurance Society next moves into winter with a snowshoe race at Blueberry Hill in Goshen and an uphill skiing race at Pico.
More imaginative and ominous sounding races are in the works for 2017, including a long-distance running race titled “Bad Dream” and another that Weinberg has titled “Sine Nominae” — Latin for “Without a name.” The exact details of the race including the location, distance and number of participants are being kept under wraps. Media coverage and spectators are not permitted at that last event. 

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