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Monday, September 2, 2019

Race Preview #1: Muskoka River X Classic (130km canoe)

What Is It?

Muskoka River X, Ferry Lake 2017
The Muskoka River X is a 130km canoe race, going down one branch of the Muskoka River and up the other!

It starts and finishes near Huntsville ... crosses lakes, features 20 portages around dams and waterfalls... it's adventure and a half.

My Muskoka River X's

We first did the 80km "Sprint" in 2016 then again in 2017...  figured this was the year to step up to the 130km "Classic".

2016 was a bit of a disaster.  It rained, the wind made Lake of Bays a complete beast.  We messed up most of the portages, getting out at the wrong place or on the wrong side, dropping the boat, I even gashed open my knee falling on rock.  And we flipped after hitting a rock in some rapids/swifts!

It couldn't have gone much worse.

2017 we went out before the race and scouted the sections we'd messed up - and it made a huge difference.  Every portage was on point.  Weather was fine, we didn't flip in the rapids (stay right!).

... but our portaging still needed work.  We shouldered the boat, which we'd seen other teams do, but it didn't really work that well.  We had to stop a few times on the longer portages.

2019 Preparation!


So first off, we finally figured out portaging.  We went to Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park yesterday and portaged like crazy people - many kilometers between lakes.
Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park - Portaging Practice

We're going lean and mean on equipment/water, and taking it out of the boat every portage.

Water for example - in previous years we each had a couple 2L jugs.  8L of water weighs 8kg, which is 17 pounds!  That's a lot of extra weight to carry.

We also noticed carrying the boat with the handles is much easier when everything is out of it, as is shouldering the boat! 

So we'll be using a combination of yoke (one person carrying), shouldering (two people) or the handles - depending on the situation.

The Dark

130km will take us well into the night.  We think we'll finish around 3am!

We did a paddle at night on Duffin's Creek in Ajax to test out our lighting - and I'm glad we did.

I'm at the stern - and my light would reflect off my buddy's life jacket back in my face, leaving me completely blind!  It sucked.  We'll put black tape over his reflective strips, and I'm going to use a less powerful light, just enough to see my maps and compass, and let the lighting on the boat show the way.

We also had the front light too low, so it would light up the trees but not the water.


We also pre-paddled Lake of Bays to make sure we had the right compass bearings - lucky we did, as the compass in our boat was off by 20 degrees from reality.  Some of that is down to declination, but some of it is just the compass.  In daylight that would be annoying, but in the dark it would be a complete nightmare.


I'm still trying to figure this one out.  We think it'll take us about 20 hours, basically the entire day.  Normally I'd eat 2500kCal just doing nothing, so it'd be weird to consume less while exerting myself.  I'm going to take a can of Gatorade powder for sure, that's about 2100kCal.  I'll scarf down some food before we start (protein/fat heavy so it digests over the entire race).  Still need to figure out something not too heavy/bulky for some solid food, maybe a bar or something.


We need to treat water as we go.

I used a hydration pack over the weekend, as well as two other bottles (one strapped into the hydration backpack, the other clicked on).  It worked fine.  I just don't know if I want to mess around with refilling the hydration pack, it's a bit of a pain in the ass... I'm thinking a 3x750mL bottle system might be better, where I am drinking one, treating the other two.


I think we're good to go!  Hopefully the weather cooperates.

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