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August 2013

AUGUST 2013 NEWSLETTER

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There is only about 5 weeks left to the start of the Muskoka River X and we (Mike & Rob) would like to THANK everyone for supporting this event.  First, we would like to thank all those who will actually be showing up at the starting line to paddle non-stop over 128km of wide open lake and river, 19 portages totaling over 6000m, completely self-supported:  You are all truly adventurous folk who love a challenge and we are humbled by your enthusiasm for Expedition Racing.  We look forward to meeting everyone and sharing in our love of paddling and the amazing paddling route, which is the Muskoka River system.  We are confident that you will find the Muskoka watershed an amazing place: With the race format and routes being linked up in manner that they are, we are confident that the MRX will deliver in everything that is “Expedition”!

Here is a summary of some high points that we have experienced along the road to developing the MRX:

  • March 2011:  Planning for the MRX begins
  • September 2012: Algonquin Outfitters becomes Title Sponsor
  • October 2012: Badger Paddles becomes a sponsor.
  • November 2012: Pre-Registration Opens
  • January 2013: Salus becomes a sponsor
  • January 2013: MRX is show-cased at Huntsville Banff Mountain Film Festival
  • January 2013: Clif Bar becomes a sponsor
  • March 2013: All 50 Pre-Registration spots are filled / We start building a waiting list.
  • March/April 2013: Muskoka River X is chosen by Get Out There Magazine as one of the Top 25 Ultimate Summer Adventures in Canada to participate in for 2013
  • April 18, 2013: MRX reaches 8,755 viewers on a single Facebook post.
  • May 2013: Front page profile in What’s Up Muskoka magazine
  • May 2013: Muskoka Outfitters becomes a sponsor.
  • June 2013: Inaugural running of the 40km Big East River X: A huge success!
  • June 2013: Awarded Muskoka Futures Grant
  • July 2013: Hi-Tec becomes a sponsor

RACE DOCUMENTS HAVE BEEN UPDATED

The Competitor Document (“The Rules…”) have been revised and uploaded to the web site.  You are strongly encouraged to read this document thoroughly so you are aware of how the event actually works.  This is not your traditional paddling race: This is a unique event that blends elements from both marathon paddling and adventure racing, so, it is best that you familiarize yourself with the race format so you know what to expect.

The Mandatory Equipment list has been revised to provide clarity around a few items that have consistently generated questions.  We have also added Cell Phones as a mandatory item.  Please see the Competitor Document for details.

Check point cut-off times have been finalized!  Check out the Competitor Document and the Itinerary to see what the benchmark is.  Paddle hard!

The Infractions and Penalties section has been more fully developed so you are aware of what constitutes an infraction, as well as the corresponding penalty.

Lastly, an itinerary of the race weekend will detail all times and locations of where you need to be and what you need to do; again, a must-read document. (Monitor for revisions as we get closer to race day.)

COURSE UPDATES

The course has been paddled and it looks great!  The water levels have fallen significantly since the flooding of April 2013 and the rivers are now safe and navigable.  We still expect river levels to reduce a bit further, consistent with seasonal flow.  The portages are all in great shape but please be mindful that many are “rough”.  Also, be prepared to get wet on many of the take-outs and put-ins: Sometimes there’s just no easy way around it….

The first 10km of the South Muskoka River after Baysvilles will deliver in spades: Expect downriver swifts, shallow gravel bars, rock, and rough portages: A true expedition!  The North Muskoka River between the Duck Chutes and Balsam Chutes will be even more interesting: Going against current, you will face a series of very shallow gravelly swifts that will challenge and frustrate even the best of you, all under the glow of headlamps!

For safety reasons, we have added a mandatory waypoint on Lake of Bays thus ensuring teams follow the safest route possible: This will add approximately 2km to the overall length of the course.  So, the event is actually measuring in at around 130km following river center.  A bit less it you cut corners…

All the details will be listed within the Course Instructions, which you will receive at On-Site Registration on September 13, 2013.

ON-SITE REGISTRATION

As indicated in the itinerary, On-Site Registration opens at 9am, Friday, September 13, 2013.  Please print off and complete the waiver, medical forms, and team form prior to arrival.  This will help you move through registration much more quickly.  The earlier you arrive the more time you will have to prep your maps and gear, get organized, relax on a river-side deck, eat a burger, have a beverage and consider why you are actually doing this event!

Also, make sure you bring a $50 (CAN) fully-refundable deposit for the SPOT GPS transmitter: Bring the deposit in cash and you will move through registration more quickly.

Lastly, you must bring your mandatory equipment to On-Site Registration: A gear check will be completed as part of the registration process.

POST-RACE MEAL and AWARDS at the COTTAGE WATERFRONT GRILL 

We are very excited to host your Post-Race meal and Awards Ceremony at The Cottage Waterfront Grill.  This location is situated across the river from River Mill Park and is centrally located in downtown Huntsville.  Let’s hope for good weather as they have the best deck in town, overlooking the river, and it would be great if we could all eat outside!

We are most excited about the food:  After paddling 128km (or should we say 130km) you deserve a great feast!  Bruce, the owner of The Cottage will be serving up a BBQ of beef kabobs, chicken and fish; along with baked potatoes with all the fixin’s and corn on the cob; bean, potato, and garden/Caesar salads and breads.  As a participant, this feast is included in your race registration.

If you would like to bring along family/friends, we are selling thirty-five (35) Meal Tickets on a first-come/first-serve basis for a price of $35/pp including tax and gratuity.  If the weather is expected to be good we will sell an additional fifty (50) tickets but we won’t know this until the day before the race.  If we are able to sell these fifty (50) meal tickets, they will be available for purchase at On-Site Registration.

If you want to purchase one of the thirty-five (35) Meal Tickets that are available now please email Mike at mike@muskokariverx.com, indicate your name/team name and how many tickets you need.  They will be included in your race kits and you can pay for them at On-Site Registration.  Again, these thirty-five (35) Meal Tickets will be reserved on a first-come / first-serve basis.

ACCOMMODATION

If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to book your weekend accommodation!  September in Muskoka is world renowned for it’s amazing colours (…the trees…)!  It’s all very beautiful however with these amazing colours come bus-loads of tourists that fill up hotels and motels.  Don’t leave this to the last minutes or you’ll be sleeping on the sidewalk.

Looking for a place to stay?  We love drive-ups as you can race-prep out of the back of your car: No hauling gear up and down elevators.  With that in mind, we highly recommend the King William Inn.  The King William is a very clean, modern and comfortable drive-up that is only 600m away from River Mill Park, and even closer to The Cottage Waterfront Grill.  This is your best park-and-race accommodation in town.  If you are looking for a quiet, rural setting or something with an efficiency unit, choose the Tulip Inn.  If you are looking for a boutique inn setting, look no further than the Portage Inn.

 NAVIGATION and MAPS

Please be advised that the google course maps shown on the web site are intended only as a general idea of the course route and are in no way intended to be used for navigation purposes.  They do not explicitly detail the exact route, including the portages that teams will be required to take.  We have received several inquiries about the accuracy of the maps: No need to be concerned!  We are very familiar with the course and you will all receive very precise course details in the format of UTM coordinates; and you will have the opportunity to plot these UTM coordinates on the race topographic maps.  These UTM coordinates have been crossed referenced both by GPS, in-person and on-site and finally, adjusted to make sure they appropriately represent the course routes according to the topographic map land features.

If you do intend to pre-run the course, please be mindful of and respect the private property along the course and only use the established portage routes, which are quite obvious.  PLEASE, stay away from and outside of the hydro dam prohibited zones: Travel inside these zones will ultimately jeopardize the future of this event.  These zones are strictly prohibited.  The MRX has worked hard to develop positive relationships with the landowners.  Please do not jeopardize these relationships.

If you haven’t already read our Blog on Navigation, we suggest you do so.  It will help you understand the concepts associated with plotting UTM coordinates on topographic maps: With 18 course maps, this is a basic and simple skill that you will need to do use.  You should also be mindful that we have increased the scale of the maps from 1:50000 to 1:24000 thereby improving navigation along the river routes; although there are a couple lake maps that remain 1:50000.  When reading our Navigation blog, you will need to adjust the scale, so, instead of each square on a 1:50000 being 2cm by 2cm, each square on the 1:24000 is 4cm by 4cm: One (1) square equals one (1) kilometre, or 10000 metres.  This will result in an 8-digit UTM for the 1:24000 and a 6-digit UTM for the 1:50000.  All other principles remain the same.  To help you plot the UTM coordinates, we strongly suggest that you invest in a compass that has both 1:50000 and 1:24000 scales already printed the x- and y-axis.  Check out our Blog on navigation (point #5) to see a photo of a compass with these UTM scales.

LIGHTING UP YOUR LIFE ON THE MRX

Paddling at night under the twinkling of stars and haze of the moon is quite a romantic experience.  However, that’s NOT what you’re here for.

By the time the sun goes down you will have been paddling for 12.5 hours…and most of you will just be starting the challenging upriver paddle, against the current of the North Muskoka River; littered with rough portages, swifty and shallow gravel bars, and windy rivers that will confuse the best of you when the shadows start creeping in.  If you haven’t considered the issue of “lighting”, we recommend that you put this on your to-do list ASAP!

When it comes to traveling at night, we like it to be bright.  Things just don’t seem so scary when you have light.  You can see things that go bump in the night (or should we say, you can avoid things that your boat might bump into in the night).  The moon is only going to be half, and if we have clouds…forget about it.  Muskoka in September is not that Land of the Midnight Sun.  It gets really dark.  So, if you haven’t got the message, light is your friend.  Start planning your lighting system.

Some things to keep in mind: A penlight won’t cut it.  You need significant lumen power in the range of 200+ to be effective for navigation.  There are tones of options out there ranging from conservatively priced headlamps to ridiculous units that can burn the retina out of a bull moose at 1000 yards.  Do your research.  Consider how you intend to use the lighting system: On your head?  On the front of your boat?  Also, make sure you find the best balance between power (lumen) and burn time.  Unless you’re the fastest boat on the water, consider the fact that there is about 11hrs between sunset and sunrise.  How will you power your navigation lights?  Rechargeable batteries are great, but will they last through the night?  What will you do if they drain early?  And yes, you do need at least one navigation light per team and one emergency back up light per person.  If you are a tandem for example, we suggest that each of you have a lighting system sufficient for navigation and carry a small emergency headlamp.  An ideal set up for a C2 is 200+ lumen headlamps per person that can take replaceable batteries plus an additional navigation lighting system attached to the bow of the boat to light up the waters in front of your bow (or see the rock you are about to hit!).  Mountain bike lighting systems work well on canoes since they are designed to mount on handlebars; and handlebars are very similar to the carrying handles at the bow of a canoe.  There are many options for the emergency light.  Plan and choose wisely.

Lastly, practice with your lighting system before the race.  Make sure it works.  Test the set up.  Test the battery life.  Don’t be the team that goes into the race cold, never testing their lighting system.  Our Search and Rescue team won’t meet you with smiles if they have to do an e-vac because of dead batteries…

If you do have question or are seeking advice, please feel free to drop us an email.  We are here to help and assist in making the MRX a positive experience for you.  Lastly, if you don’t have access to lighting systems or don’t know what to use, touch base with Algonquin Outfitters.  We work closely with them and can have a lighting system waiting for you at registration that will be more than adequate for the race.

STAYING WARM on the MRX

All we really want to say on this issue is that the average night-time temperature for Muskoka in September is 6.5 degrees Celsius.  Not quite freezing but still cold, especially when you’re wet.  By the time the sun goes down, you will be tired and you will be wet.  And let’s hope the wind isn’t blowing.

Prepare wisely and bring a warm set of cloths.  You will probably be hot and sweaty over Stage 1 and 2 but by the time you hit Stage 3 and the sun goes down, things might change drastically: A nice dry, warm change of cloths will be just what the Search and Rescue team orders.  Thus, the mandatory equipment list is not just to make life difficult.  It’s for your own safety.  Hypothermia is a real risk on this race.  Prepare wisely.

SPECTATORS

The Muskoka River X isn’t just a paddling race, it’s a Spectator Sport!  As you’re on the water, your family, friends, and kids can spend an fantastic day following your progress throughout this amazing region.  There are so many things to see and do.  They can sight-see, spend time on a hiking trail, paddle, or bike.  The MRX route is overflowing with artisans, and Muskoka is knows for it’s shopping: Cloths and jewelry, pottery and art, furniture makers and boat makers….the list goes on.  And your spectators won’t go hungry.  From bakers and jam makers to burgers or sushi, Muskoka has it all.  We even have our own breweries that would love for you to come in for a sip.

Your race kit will be filled with information, incentives, maps and advice for your spectators.  As you’re prepping your race maps, they can be planning their own race route.  So, bring your own personal spectator crew and let them enjoy their own Muskoka, MRX-style.

VOLUNTEERS

We still need a few extra people to help out at various points along the race course.  If you know of anyone who is excited about the Muskoka River X, isn’t paddling, but is wanting to get up close and involved in the experience, please have them contact us (mike@muskokariverx.com).  Volunteers will be rained with praise, thanks and appreciation!  And they will also receive an MRX race shirt, voucher for the Post Race BBQ and Awards, and 10% personal discount off of next year’s event.

PADDLE with the RACE DIRECTORS

If you’re in Huntsville on Wednesday, August 14th or 21st, come on out and join us (Mike and Rob) for a paddle.  We will be heading out around 7pm from River Mill Park for an hour or so and then will be spending some time at Algonquin Outfitters answering questions about the event, required equipment, etc.  Hopefully we will see you there.

That’s it for now.  If something else comes up that we need to share, we’ll be sure to make another post.  Otherwise, “Like” our Facebook so you receive all the latest Posts.  Keep an eye on the web site as we will posting the Waiver/Medical/Team Form for you to fill out and bring to On-Site Registration closer to race day.  Other than that, train hard, prep well, and we will see you all on September 13th.  Cheers, Mike and Rob.