Thursday, March 7, 2013

NAARS Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge and Belize Project




Greetings –
We hope this newsletter finds you well. We have arrived safely back in the U.S. and have spent the last week reflecting on our experiences and how lucky we are to have the opportunity that now stands before us. Belize and its people have provided us with incredible inspiration, and, since our return, we have been hard at work transforming our experience into action. There is much to do!

The Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge (MMAC ) has taken on a life of its own. What started as a typical adventure race production has developed into a testament of one of the last truly unspoiled corners of the world. On our first trip to Belize in February 2012, we were introduced to the beauty of the Maya Mountains and its people. When we returned in November of 2012, Friends of Conservation and Development (FCD) director, Rafael Manzanero, unlocked for us the secrets of the Chiquibul and the Mountain Pine Ridge and, with them, the possibilities they contained for an epic adventure race. We knew we’d come to the right place.

During this last visit to Belize, we set several goals for ourselves including routing the course, testing individual segments, deepening existing relationships to understand how we might mutually benefit from a world-class event, and securing new Belizean partners to provide logistical, operational, and media support for our endeavor while starting to generate local interest. Due to the warm receptions of Belizeans, as we’ve grown accustomed to, we were more successful than we could have hoped.

We started the week meeting with Ian Lizarraga, Chairman of the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) and Nancy Marin from the Belize Film Commission (BFC)/NMProductions to forge a partnership for financial support of the MMAC. After gaining a better understanding of BTB’s own goals and initiatives to boost adventure tourism in Belize, we are now hard at work drafting a detailed grant proposal to obtain matching funds from BTB to produce a feature documentary of the race. Aside from providing compelling, adrenaline pumping coverage of the event as teams race non-stop across 220+ miles of jungle wilderness, the film will showcase the natural beauty of Belize and the opportunity for adventure that exists within its borders. We truly believe that supporting each other will help us all achieve our goals.

The talented film crew from Aphelion Entertainment and Curbside Productions, who accompanied us on this latest trip to Belize, captured hours of amazing footage that included sweeping vistas, majestic scenery, and candid interviews. NMProductions additionally helped facilitate filming on location in Belize – a tremendous asset that allowed us to maximize our time. Curbside’s Dan McBride and Aphelion’s Justin Holt are now working on creating a trailer that represents our vision for the documentary, which we will be submitting along with the grant proposal later in March when we return to Belize to continue work on the MMAC.
Every seasoned race director knows that it takes an army to successfully produce an adventure race. When hundreds of sleepdeprived racers are spread out over hundreds of miles of remote wilderness, communications and safety are critical as well as having the trained staff and volunteers who provide them. While in Belize, we were lucky enough to connect with Loyda Martinez and Sargent Thomas Rivars representing the Belize Disaster and Rescue Response Team (BDARRT). As an NGO focusing on skills training for emergency response in both urban and wilderness settings, BDARRT will provide both ropes management and medical response for the racers should any emergency present itself. Loyda and Thomas additionally introduced us to Major Charlton Roches, the Operation and Training Officer of the Belize Defense Force (BDF). Major Roches and his resources will provide communication capabilities over the race course as well as additional medical response capabilities.

Although we dedicated a lot of time to securing these partnerships, we also were able to cover a great deal of the course by vehicle, on foot, and by boat. Aside from setting off on a few of our own expeditions to vet the proposed routes, Raul Rodriguez and Misael Romero at Hidden Valley Inn (HVI) graciously opened the doors of their 7,300 acre jungle paradise to us and lent us guide Rick for an amazing day that showed us even more beautiful locations for this epic race. Situated along the banks of the Macal River, Blackrock Lodge shared with us their stunning views of Blackrock Canyon and tranquil environment which attracts some of the world’s most beautiful birds (and some pretty adventurous travelers). Do we sound excited yet?!

The possibilities were expanded even further when Brian Woodye at the Institute of Archaeology/NICH granted us access to Belize’s magnificent Mayan ruins which will allow us to connect the race with the cultural heritage of Belize and its people. And of course, this was made possible by Major David Harvey at the British Army Training Support Unit Belize (BATSUB) who first unlocked the Maya Mountains for us by providing us with quality maps that previously seemed nonexistent.

We have accomplished a great deal, but there is still more to do. We will be returning to Belize in just a few weeks to work further on routing the course, finalizing checkpoint locations, securing sponsorship, and formalizing a detailed operational plan. We continue to work with the AR World Series to have the race sanctioned as an AR World Championship qualifier for 2014. We are also working on producing a race packet so that we can provide prospective racers with as much information about travel and accommodations as possible to aid in their race planning. We are happy to announce that Cahal Pech Village Resort overlooking beautiful San Ignacio will serve as the host hotel for the race.

As a result of our hard work to date as well as the support of our partners as detailed above, the Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge promises to be an epic event. We have been overwhelmed by the beauty and hospitality of Belize and its people, and are so grateful to have the support of these skilled individuals and their organizations. While we have been successful in our quest to deepen the relationships with our partners, we are even prouder to say that many have also become close friends. At American Adventure Sports, we measure our success, not in dollars, but in the relationships that we build as we grow our business and our family. It is impossible to value the relationships we've made in Belize - they have not only enriched our lives but they also now provide the foundation for turning our vision into reality. Moreover, we hope that we are all moving towards a unified vision and a common goal of enhancing environmental awareness through adventure and making this world a better place.

Stay tuned!! There’s so much more to come on the Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge!

- Doug, Julia, and the AAS Staff!

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