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Seven Springs adventure race kicks off at midnight

| Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, 11:20 p.m.

Most races afford participants a number of reasonable expectations including, but not limited to, a start time that follows a good night's sleep, a clearly marked path and smiling volunteers offering cups of water.

This weekend's East Coast Adventure Racing Series Championship at Seven Springs will have none of those things.

The gun will go off at midnight Saturday, sending competitors out into the wilds of the Laurel Highlands in the dead of night. Racers, who can register individually or in teams of up to four people, will be on their own to navigate using a map and compass. They'll cover approximately 85 miles on mountain bike and foot, and it's mandatory to carry a first-aid kit that includes 10 iodine water purification tablets in addition to various size bandages and Advil.

“The biggest challenge will be the map and compass navigation,” said race director Doug Crytzer of Greensburg-based American Adventure Sports. “And the hills. With the ups and downs in the Laurel Highlands, you're either climbing or you're bombing (downhill). There's not a lot of flat ground. And there will be about 10,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, which is substantial.”

The championship event closes out a punishing 13-race series that began March 17 in South Carolina. The series brings together race producers from across the east coast and participants earn points in the standings with the chance to win up to $25,000 in cash and prizes. Crytzer expects to draw more than 50 competitors from 10 states.

Brian Mayer is the captain of Team S.O.G., with members based out of Northern Virginia and Western Pennsylvania. They are ranked third in the four-person elite category.

“I expect it to be a little colder, a lot of climbing and a lot of hard work,” the 27-year-old industrial engineer said. “A lot of the races tend to be more grueling with a lot of bushwhacking that tends to slow you down, but with an estimate of 85 miles, at that distance you'll probably be moving faster. Racing hard, racing fast and maybe some clearer terrain.”

Mayer estimates it will take his team 18 hours to finish.

In addition to the sheer endurance needed to compete in a race such as this, competitors also need a good strategy and a lot of motivation. The latter is so important, Mayer said, that it's a task they will actually assign to a specific team member as the race goes on.

“One of the biggest things is keeping your desire and your sense of urgency high,” he said. “You have to keep pushing yourself. It's as important as the navigator, who's watching the map and telling us where to go.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7980 or kprice@tribweb.com.

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