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Race Updates

Race Update #1
Thanks so much for racing  in the 7th annual Michigan Adventure Race: ArtPrize Edition!  (click View through Browser if the photos are jacking up the text)

We have 350 racers signed up to date. There’s still time to invite others to join you. Registration closes Wednesday at midnight. For the 7th year in a row, this race is among the top six or seven largest adventure races in the U.S., helping make West Michigan the largest concentration of adventure racers in North America. Thank you for loving adventure, the outdoors and a sport that mixes brains and brawn like no other!

Last year we were mourning the loss of long-time ArtPrize Edition racer Kevin Witte. This year, there’s a mass shooting in Las Vegas. It’s a reminder to savor adventures and other special moments with those we care about (and not beat yourself up about those wrong turns you made during the race!).

As usual, this race update is loooong. I do this so that you have a really good sense for how the race will work if you are new and to make the race briefing shorter, allowing you more time to plan your route. This race has more moving parts than most, but it will all be clear at the start and it’s worth the extra time to process the details. So sit back and enjoy the novel!  Teams familiar with our races can skip all format/process details.

Registration system glitch
The sixty teams that signed up in June or July experienced a technical error with their registration. Their non-registering teammate’s email address was not recorded by the system (we are moving to a new system because of this and other issues). If you registered or think you did before August, please forward this update and all updates to your teammate(s). Sorry for the hassle. You may also email me their address if you think you might forget and I’ll add it before the second and likely final update goes out on Thursday with bib numbers and final instructions.

We want to thank our great sponsors for supporting this race. Check out their sites, stores and products. Tell them you appreciate their support of local events.

  • Spectrum Health. Our Presenting Sponsor, for the ArtPrize Edition and all of our West Michigan adventure races. Great community partner of many local events.
  • Community West Credit Union. Great rates. Low fees. Branches in Kentwood, Grandville/Wyoming, Hudsonville, Middleville and Rockford. Twenty-nine employees from CWCU will be racing on Saturday!
  • Gazelle Sports. Gold sponsor from day 1 in 2011. They will get you into a trail or road shoe that is right for your foot and gait. Located in Grand Rapids, Holland, Kalamazoo and Northville.
  • Biggby Coffee – Arena Station. Check them out just west of the Van Andel Arena. Biggby is providing a lot of free coffee cards as prizes. Here are some coupons for you.
  • Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus. Knowledgeable staff. Offering 10% off most adventure racing gear with proof of entry. Located just east of Grand Rapids.
  • Peppino’s Sports Grille. Looking forward to some great-tasting Peppino’s after the race. Great downtown location for food and watching sports.
  • West Michigan Bike & Fitness. My hometown bike shop. Great service and Trek/Bontrager bikes and other gear, located in Grand Rapids/Kentwood, Grandville and Holland.
  • Moosejaw. Located across from the Downtown Market, Moosejaw has great gear and staff. They are providing some sweet prizes too.
  • Founders Brewing Co. Some of the best beers on the planet come from Founders. We love giving away their gift cards, but happy to keep them if no one wants them.
  • Switchback Gear Exchange. Located on Plainfield, just north of downtown. On a budget for your outdoor gear? Switchback has high quality used outdoor and bike gear at a great price. Win one of their gift cards and check them out.
  • Central District Cyclery. Also located on Plainfield near downtown with great service and bikes. Central is helping us with a bike-related challenge. Thanks guys!
  • Zanfel. I don’t think you’ll see much poison ivy out there. But if you get the rash, Zanfel can help you get rid of it. We’ll give away a bunch of tubes in the raffle.
  • Jamie Geysbeek Photography. Jamie takes amazing photos of our race as well as weddings, portraits and other events.

Thanks also to D&D Printing, Green Leaf Landscape Supply, Bryan Obermeyer, Chris Muller and LogoSpot for special contributions or discounts.

Race Format

  • The race is split into two sections, an on-foot/run section and a bike section. You can do them in either order and every checkpoint (CP) and challenge within each section can be done in any order.
  • It’s most efficient to do what you want in one section before switching to the other but you can go back to the section you started with if you end up with time on your hands.
  • The only thing you can’t do is bike to any of the on-foot section checkpoints. You must return your bikes to the corral before beginning the on-foot section. The penalty for attempting to get CPs that are not within the section you are on is 5 CPs subtracted from your score. You MAY get nearby bike CPs by foot, for those of you who are not biking but have time on your hands.

On-Foot Section

  • Plan on 6-7 miles if you get all the checkpoints and complete all four of the challenges there. Teams that choose not to bike at all including those with younger kids can still experience a fun race within these 7 miles and four challenges.
  • If you are expecting a tour of the best of ArtPrize, you’ll have to do that on your own. We are not able to get into several venues since they open at noon. Others we avoid because they get extremely crowded. The on foot section takes much of its shape from marrying our devious challenge ideas with venues that work well for them.
  • Running into ArtPrize patrons could get our race permit revoked next year. Please slow down when things get crowded and no running inside venues please!

Bike Section

  • The bike section will be 14-15 miles with some short dirt, singletrack trails (mostly flat and not too rooty or rocky) and many miles of bike paths and bike lanes. Some biking on roads so remember we do not close roads for the race. Follow the rules of the road, and wait until you’ve stopped to look at your map.
  • Please read the one-page Bicycle Safety 101 list from the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition. Ignore #12. You ARE required to wear a helmet for the bike section.
  • Your life is more at risk during this race than almost any day of the year.  There have been several close calls, primarily due to over-aggressive biking. Please be careful. Stop before reading your map!
  • Please ride on the right side. You can use sidewalks outside of downtown but not downtown.
  • When you are approaching an intersection and wish to go left or straight, please leave the bike lane and move into the car lane. This way cars see you and more easily know what you are doing than if you are hanging over in the bike lane. Return to the bike lane once through the intersection.
  • Four challenges are planned for the bike section.
  • Just a few patches of poison ivy here and there so protect your legs if this is a concern. I did not notice any bee hives but please bring your epi-pen if you are allergic.


  • Compass use for most will be limited to confirming the direction you are going or helping you dial in on a checkpoint that is not too far from a trail or road you are on. It’s never a bad idea to know the basics of shooting a bearing with a compass and you’ll need to know for all of our other races. Review our navigation 101 clinic presentation and other tips to learn more about navigation and orienteering.
  • The intent of this race is not to challenge your orienteering skills, simply because there is not much land around downtown for this. If you really want to be challenged, try our Winter Edition or one of our summer races.


  • Receive one checkpoint for finding the location of the challenge (don’t forget to punch the flag) and one for finishing the challenge (volunteer will punch your passport).
  • Challenges will be described on the race instructions you’ll receive at the pre-race meeting along with your maps. Volunteers will also explain how challenges work. Take time to listen to them since sometimes we tweak challenge rules; your instructions may not be 100% accurate.


  • We expect many teams to “clear” the course (get every checkpoint) but it’s still our goal to make the course tough enough so that most teams are pushing hard to get those last few checkpoints before the four-hour deadline. The goal of the race is to maximize your checkpoints, not get every one.
  • Benefits of starting with the on-foot section: lighter ArtPrize foot traffic, but potential for lines at some challenges close to the start.
  • Benefits of starting with the bike section: lighter vehicle traffic, but more ArtPrize traffic downtown on the on-foot section.
  • We anticipate one busy ArtPrize venue on the bike section and one busy venue on the foot section. We have moved several challenges to outdoor or lower-traffic venues so you don’t have to fight the crowds so much. We hate waiting in line! Challenges that could have waits will have several stations so many teams can solve them at the same time.

Early check-in, Gazelle Sports GR:  Friday, Oct. 7, 4:00-7:00 pm
Same-day check-in, Ah-Nab-Awen Park:  Sat., Oct. 8, 7:15-8:15 am
Race briefing:  8:30-8:55 am
Race planning: 8:55-9:25 am
Race start:  9:30/9:37/9:44 am (waves)
Race cutoff:  1:30/1:37/1:44 pm
Lunch:  1:15-2:30 pm
Raffle and awards ceremony:  2:00-2:45 pm

The closest parking is at the Scribner Lot under US-131 or the Dash West Area 7 Lot just west of US-131. Both are between Bridge and Pearl. Try Scribner first (one way heading north) as it’s right across the street from the bike corral. See where the red route line goes in and out under 131, across the street from the Ford Museum. These lots now require money (automated; cash or credit card). Just a 1-2 minute bike ride from the park, which is between the Gerald R. Ford Museum and the Grand River. Other parking can be found in the core downtown area. The closest parking on the other side of the river is at DeVos Place and the Government Center ramp on Monroe – here’s a map of those lots.

Early check-in is Friday, Oct. 9, 4-7 pm, Gazelle Sports Grand Rapids, 3930 28th ST. Same-day check in is Saturday from 7:15-8:15 at Ah-Nab-Awen Park, 220 Front ST, northern side. Bring with you:

  • Team/bib Number: We will email the list of teams and your team/bib number on Thursday, 10/6, two days before the event.
  • Waiver: One per person. Parent/guardians sign for kids under 18. You CAN bring your teammate’s or friends’ waivers and get their bib, passport and shirt. If you don’t have your teammate’s waiver, you can’t get it. We’ll have copies of waivers if you forget to bring it. Write your team number on your waiver.
  • Required Gear: Make sure you have all the gear on the list.
  • Team Gear Bag: Optional, to be left at corral for bike gear, food, drink, merchandise you purchased at check-in. No valuables please.
  1. Give yourself enough time to park and check in. You will not want to be messing with your gear or the portajohn when the race briefing starts.
  2. Bring your bike to the corral located at the northwest corner of Ah-Nab-Awen Park. Just lay your bike near or on your teammate’s. Everyone will start on foot in front of the check-in tents. You must run to the bike corral to get your bike if you are starting on the bike.
  3. Head to the same-day check-in tents just a few yards southeast of the corral. View the layout here.
  4. Get your passport, “bib” number, and shirt/pint/buff if you didn’t make it Friday. Attach your number on your backpack or wherever most visible if you won’t be carrying a pack (not underneath a jacket). You’ll get your maps at the pre-race meeting.
  5. Put your name and mobile phone number on your passport in case you drop it so someone can call you and leave it at a checkpoint for you to pick up. If your phone is 100% powered, you may leave it on to make and receive calls and take photos (share your best with us after the race). No GPS use.
  6. Portajohns will be near the bike corral. If there are lines, the restroom building is located on the south side of the park.
  7. Lunch gear: Please bring a campchair if you need seating for lunch. Otherwise it’s the grass. Throw rain gear and an umbrella in the car too. It’s $1,000+ to put up a tent so unless rain is very likely, we’ll be taking a chance and going without one. The two shade oaks have been cut down so you’ll be in the sun if it’s out.


  • We have to give you the shirt size listed on your registration so that everyone gets what they ordered. Once check-in is complete at 8:15 am Saturday, anyone can come and swap shirt sizes. We’ll also open up shirt sales ($15) to late registrants and general public at that time.
  • On occasion we run out of a size due to an error. In that event and if you do not fit the next size up or down, we will give you 100% of the cost of the shirt or, if desired and available, a Michigan Adventure Race pint and buff ($18 value).

Planning Your Race

  • You will receive your maps and race instructions during the 8:30 am pre-race meeting Saturday so that you have at least from 9:00-9:30 am to plan your route. Part of the fun is the short amount of time to plan, but almost all teams find that they have adequate time to figure out their route before the start.
  • If you’re diligent about zipping up your map case and rain stays out of the forecast, you may not need to take time to seal your maps with contact paper. Your call. The passport is waterproof.
  • It’s male-male teams time to start at 9:30, females at 9:37 and co-eds at 9:44. So if you were hoping to group up with friends in a different division to race, you may have to wait several minutes. You’ll need to be back by your division’s deadline as well. Do a few checkpoints nearby, set a time to circle back and meet your friends and then they can do those same checkpoints at the end of the race when you have to make your deadline.
  • Please make sure you are in the right wave. If you are in the second or third wave, adjust your deadline by 7 or 14 minutes (but build some buffer time in there too).

Race instructions

  • Race instructions will be on an 8.5” x 11” sheet. They will list the rules and explain the flow and sections of the race, telling you which checkpoints must be obtained by bike vs. foot.
  • The instructions also provide a list of all the checkpoints by number and a brief description of where they are located. For checkpoints accompanied by a challenge, a brief description of the challenge instructions is included. Volunteers will provide additional instruction when you arrive at each challenge location. Don’t forget to punch the checkpoint flag when you first arrive.


  • The passport is a 5.5” x 8.5” inch waterproof sheet with boxes for each checkpoint. You’ll use the uniquely barbed punch hanging from the CP flags (aka control markers) to puncture the appropriate box to prove that you found the checkpoint.
  • It’s critical that you do not lose or destroy your passport. Some teams bring a hole punch, punch a hole in a corner of the passport, reinforce with tape, and tie a decent length loop of string so they can carabiner it to their hydration pack.
  • If you lose your passport and do not recover it by end of race any CPs you had found to that point do not count. You may run back to race HQ to see if we have any more passports.
  • Do NOT waterproof your passport. Our scoring markers do not write well on packing tape or contact paper. Your passport is already waterproof!
  • Punch your passport in the corresponding numbered box for that flag. Punch the correct box in the passport so we can verify you were indeed there. If you accidentally punch the wrong box, then when you get to the CP for that box, punch it in the open box where your previous punch should have gone (just switch the two). Don’t punch twice in the same box and don’t punch off to the side. Punch with the barbs on top and make sure the barbs go all the way through.

Checkpoint flag (control marker)

  • Each CP is marked with an orange and white 3-sided flag with the punch attached to it, usually hanging from a tree branch.
  • When you arrive at the flag, you’ll find a punch with a unique barb pattern hanging from it. The punch on the flag will have the CP number on it. Verify that the number is the CP you were looking for.
  • Checkpoints may be out of view, tucked behind trees or a hill, but generally are not intentionally hidden (except in public areas to minimize risk of theft in which case we will try to tell you this in advance).


  • The maps will be pre-marked with all checkpoints and challenges. Checkpoints will be red circles with numbers corresponding to the race instructions. A letter appearing after the numbers means the checkpoint has a challenge with it.
  • Maps are in Google map format since almost all terrain is urban/street-based. We have “spliced” in topographical maps in a few areas where it will be helpful to see the natural features of the land (USGS format, 1982, the last time the land was surveyed).
  • Maps are all 11″x17″ and are not waterproofed.


  • The finish is in front of the start/check-in tents. There is no finish line corral because racers are coming from multiple directions. Look for the wind banners and the non-sweaty people shouting “passports!”
  • You must return bikes to the corral before you turn in your passport. Teams coming in late have nearly run over people near the finish with their bikes.
  • Even if you don’t want your race scored, you must turn in your passport after the race so that we can make sure all teams are accounted for.

Scoring & Rules

  • See our Rules page online for all of our standard adventure racing rules.
  • Finishing place is determined by the highest number of checkpoints and then by the fastest time, in that order and provided you finish within the 4-hour cut off.
  • You will lose a checkpoint for each minute you are beyond the 4-hour cut-off time, up to ten CPs/minutes at which point you will be unranked. It is human nature to get greedy and go after that last CP, but do you really want to slide to the bottom of the list as an unranked team? Sync your watch to the official World Clock race time (very likely your cell phone is synched already) before the race to ensure you make cut-off time. Leave yourselves several minutes of buffer to be safe and set an alarm when it’s time to head to the finish.
  • We get lots of questions about teams helping other teams. The ideal race would be one where top teams solve challenges on their own and teams struggling with challenges or in the back of the pack join forces if desired. No matter what you decide, please at least do not diminish another team’s experience by giving them the answer to any challenge before they have tried the challenge on their own.
  • GPS that shows you where you are on a map is not allowed. A GPS watch used for downloaded data after the race is acceptable in this race.
  • Teammates must stay within 100 feet of each other.
  • Missing flag? If you are sure a flag is missing, you may call us at the numbers listed on the race instructions. If we confirm it’s missing, we’ll hang a new flag and credit you for the point.

Please review the Required Gear page. We may have a mandatory gear check on course so review the list online. We have slashed a lot of items from the mandatory gear list and moved them to the recommended gear list. Many items may still be important, especially if the weather is cold or raining, but you are adults and can make those decisions. Keep in mind that you are on an adventure on an “open” course. No race officials, no closed streets. A few notes:

  • No one will be allowed to race without a helmet.
  • Road bikes. Allowed everywhere except for one section of singletrack that makes up one of or bike challenges. Not too difficult for most; I’ll explain in the pre-race meeting. You will have to forfeit one checkpoint where the terrain is not at all appropriate for a road bike (there is another somewhat sandy trail that could also use a fatter tire than a road bike but we will allow the road bike there). So if you have the option of another bike and think you might be able to clear the course (it’s a little shorter in distance than previous years), you may want to go with the other bike so you can get that one last checkpoint.
  • Shoes: please do not wear shoes with spikes because of the ArtPrize venue floors. Please do your best to kick any mud off before entering venues.
  • Gear bag: You can leave gear that you will need during the race in a bag at the bike corral or access it from your car. Tape/label your name and team number on it. You must return your bike to the corral when transitioning to on-foot sections. Your car is for gear access only.
  • Hydration system/capacity, 30 oz. This is a per team, not per person, requirement due to the large number of water sources on this urban course.
  • Pants/tights and rain jacket/poncho: Recommended for cooler and/or wet weather, but your call. Layer up, swap out an internal layer or two, and/or find a place to warm up if you get sweaty and cold.
  • Lock: If you are concerned about theft, lock your bikes together in the corral. We will do our best to have a volunteer at the bike corral at all times but they could get pulled away. We have never had a bike stolen but we can’t guarantee its safety (by replacing it if it is stolen). On the bike section checkpoints are always close to the road or trail so theft should not be an issue.
  • First aid: Consider throwing in some basic first aid for cuts and scrapes; your choice. Epi-pen for sure if you need one.


  • We will race rain or shine. In the event of a thunderstorm, we will postpone the start of the race until conditions improve. Hunker down in your car. During the race, please seek shelter during these conditions. If you arrive at a challenge or the transition area during severe weather, you’ll be asked to take cover there if it’s available. Because we have no way of communicating with all of you, the clock will keep moving and you will need to be back within the four hours. We will likely throw the top finisher prizes into the raffle pile to discourage racers from racing during the thunderstorm while others wait it out. No prize is worth risking your life.
  • Race organizers reserve the right to cancel the event in the case of extended severe weather. We will do everything possible to get the event in, but refunds are not available if it is canceled due to significant costs we must pay in advance of the race. Depending on how much racing was done, we may offer a partial credit for a future race.


  • We will offer race maps to spectators after the pre-race meeting (first come basis) so they can check out some of the fun challenges (as long as they don’t assist).
  • Spectators can reach much of the race course by car. Some downtown checkpoints and challenges can best be reached on foot.

Retrieving Flags for Race Credits

  • Got energy left in your tank? Use it to earn $30/hour in race credits by retrieving some orienteering flags/control markers from part of the course after lunch and prizes. Many can be retrieved by car. Knife or box cutters required to cut flags that may be zip-tied. Email me if you’re interested.

If you want to buy any of our Michigan Adventure Racing gear, consider doing it at early check-in (or on race day you can leave it in a bag at the bike corral).

  • Sweatshirt – hooded, pockets, $30 (trim fit for size)
  • Long sleeve tech shirt, crew or v-neck, $22
  • Short sleeve tech shirt, crew or v-neck, $17
  • Buff headwear, $10 ($18-$23 for most others)
  • Bike jersey (click for details, high-end), $85
  • Stainless steel pint, $10 ($15 on most race sites)
  • Sticker, $3. $1 if you’ll be putting it on your vehicle

Lunch, Awards

  • As soon as you turn in your passport, please bring your bike back to your car (don’t forget a lock if your rack doesn’t have one). Fine to grab a quick slice of pizza if it has come but don’t sit down – we need those bikes back to your cards. Ellis Parking needs the lot clear as soon as possible after 1:45 for ArtPrize parking; this is a condition of our rental of that lot which we really need for bikes. We’ll have plenty of pizza for you.
  • Keep in mind that we have to scan and count over 6,000 punch boxes, enter the times and checkpoints into the system and determine the rankings. So enjoy the food and hanging out with other racers if you have time. Usually the results are ready by 2:15 or 2:30 if I recall. Need to bolt? Look up your standings in the race recap I’ll email out Sunday or Monday.
  • We’ll likely go at least three deep with prizes. Sometimes we go deeper with the co-ed division because it’s the largest.
  • First place participants will receive a custom trophy made from barn wood. We are not fans of cheap medals from Taiwan!
  • You must be present to win any of the non-top finisher awards. They will likely be:
    • youngest and oldest individual racers
    • team with the oldest combined age
    • person or team that traveled here the furthest JUST to do the race (email me now if you think you may have won this).
    • most unusual or largest piece of trash recovered and brought back to the finish
  • Devour Kingma’s fresh fruit and 150 pizzas from Peppino’s, arriving between 1:00 and 1:40. Please start with two pieces; once we make sure the last wave is back and eating, feel free to have more. We ordered two gluten-free cheese pizzas for those who need it. Please avoid those boxes if you don’t. Bring your own beverage if you don’t want Gatorade or water.
  • If there’s a really good chance of rain, we’ll likely get a large tent. If it’s hit or miss, we probably won’t due to the high cost so come prepared with rain gear and umbrellas in your vehicle to be safe.

Questions? Really? You still have a question after all that? Just kidding – ask away! Email me at, preferably before Friday.

Look for the team list with team/bib numbers on Thursday.

Can’t wait!

Mark, for Greg


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