Who better to design courses than the people that work to design and maintain the trails themselves? NMMBA is lending a helping hand to bring hundreds of racers onto the North American Vasa on May 6's Mud, Sweat, and Beers.
There's a lot that goes into a course design, and it's certainly much more that tossing up some arrows, some ribbon, and shouting "Go!" NMMBA has worked hard to design a challenging, fun, and exciting course that is accessible to the 800 racers taking on a 10 or 20 mile course. MSB is a very important fundraiser for Mt. Holiday, a non-profit that provides year-round entertainment, skiing, and outdoor recreation for Traverse City's East Side. Having a well-rounded course is extremely important to the health and success of the event, and many hours have been put into designing just the right loop.
First, we need to account for the number of racers. A persistent problem with events with hundreds of racers is congestion, with a wide range of abilities and fitness levels funneled into tight singletrack. The start of the race, which includes the famous mile of pavement linking the race to the woods, is very useful in breaking up the big start waves, but there's an inevitable logjam with so many folks in the woods. The 2017 route limits these choke points to later on the course, and keeps those sections short to reduce the amount of backup that could happen.
Safety is also a huge concern, and this also contributes to how and when the race hits singletrack. Narrow, tight courses make any emergency response slower, more difficult, and less safe for any stricken racer. It's another big contributor to what singletrack sections are added or taken out of a route. For 2017, we've based the sections used on accessibility as a big factor.
Of course, another big consideration is the health of the trails. We work with local races and rides to alternate and redirect traffic away from 'tired' or heavily used sections of trail. We've made changes to MSB and other events to allow for trail work to renovate and alter some existing trails to be more sustainable and more fun. This helps improve the longevity of the many great options we have in the woods, and the cooperation of big races like MSB is invaluable to the health of some of the very popular trails that feature in the area.
The 2017 Mud, Sweat, and Beers course is the product of many factors, and the reduced singletrack in this edition will open up a fast and aggressive race for all categories. We're excited to work with the MSB crew going forward to keep the route fresh, with different sections added and taken out every season.