Congratulations to Bart de Zwart who just completed the 11 City Tour in Holland, only to get on a plane and head to Canada for the Muskoka River Race, which he again paddled 220km for the win!
Here is a recap in Bart’s own words:
Muskoka River X 2016 Coureur des bois 220km, race 4 of the ultra long distance races
Board Starboard All Star 14’ x 25″
Already the 3rd time I participated in the Muskoka River X. One of my favorite races because it is a combination of an adventure and Sup a race.
This year you could participate in 3 different distances, the Sprint (80 km), the classic (130km) and the Coureur des Bois (220 km), over 90 paddlers signed up in total with the smallest group doing the 220 km. This is probably the only race in the world where the sprint is 80km long.
Gear check, at the check in.
Preparing on the first cold morning for the start in the fog.
I signed up for 220km which is a two day race with a stop on day one, after 90km. At the stop you have to sleep and eat with the gear and food you paddled with. There is a whole list of compulsory gear you have to bring, ranging from safety to extra food, sleeping and navigating gear. I managed to pack everything in one dry back pack which I can throw on my back during one of the 30 portages you encounter on the way. Portages where you walk or run with the board and pack around waterfalls , beaver dams, and other obstacles ranging from a couple of 100 meters to 2 kilometers. And all this you have to navigate with just a map, some way points and a compass. Which is not to hard to figure out but throw in some fog and darkness and it does get complicated but that is the adventure part of it. By far you are mostly on the board, paddling; Lakes, rivers down stream and rivers up stream. a challenging course with sometimes challenging weather.
This year started at 7:00 in the morning in Whitney in total fog.
Just before the start in the fog
Right after the start, I realized the only way to find the course was to take a bearing on the map and just follow my compass until I would find land on the other side of the lake and go from landmark to landmark. Very basic but when you are surrounded by nothing but white also challenging.
After 2 hrs, the fog is finally clearing up
Although I lost the the connection with the 2 man canoes which generally have a higher ground speed, I managed to find my way for the next 2 hrs with some other paddlers right behind me, who were hoping I knew what I was doing. Some lost there bearings and lost a couple of hours already in the beginning of the race. One stand up paddler pulled out after being lost and searching for the next waypoint for hours. After the fog disappeared it became a beautiful day and I paddled with a consistent pace through the course. The organizers threw in a few decision points where you had to decide to paddle or portage the board. Either because it was a shor cut or because it was shallow. which made for some interesting differences in time. The course went through a nature reserve which is truly beautiful. I made good time compared to last year and came in after 12 and 1/2 hrs just before dark at the camp spot. Around a camp fire we all prepared our own food and set up camp. I travel very light so I set up my bivy bag and sleep in my down clothing in a thick emergency bag, very light efficient and warm.
It stayed dry during the night but there was coming a big change in the weather.
At the start of day two, we were transferred to the start of the sprint and classic. The moment the race started the rain came down and wind started to come up. We weer 4 stand up paddlers together in the front but not for long.
After the first two lakes we got to lake of bays. A part I dreaded because I saw in the forecast the south head wind which we were going to encounter. South wind is rare here but today a fact we had to deal with. Specially the stand up paddlers and the solo canoes had a hard time against the wind. The rain was relentless and for 5 hrs I battled the wind until I got to the entrance of the river at Baysville. The current wasn’t what I hoped for but better than the open lake, I took the next hours to paddle at my own pace and recover a bit because it was going to be a long night.
The portages at this part are actually fun and although hard work even a way to relax the paddling muscles.
The most important in races like this is eat, drink, eat, all the time. I drink my endurance fuel consistently, combined with just water and I eat every hour a banana, a bar, nuts or dry fruit. Try to mix it up, it is hard enough to eat so much. You burn, up to 10.000 calories which is very hard to eat anyway.
I was doing ok in the race and ahead of all but one stand up paddler but he didn’t race the day before and only did the 130km and was fresh and hard to catch, I tried but felt the 12 hrs and short sleep from the day before. At some point it was like a tropical downpour. Along the route which is more populated on this part of the course, people were still outside mostly BBQing and cheering us on. Canadians are funny that way, they don’t mind the weather and do whatever they had planned to do. At a couple of portages, I slipped on the wet rocks or steep climbs up slippery wet trails.
After check point 2, we started to paddle up river and finally after 10 hrs of rain it cleared up. Now until check point 3 it was up river. Luckily there was not so much water and therefor not so much current. At some of the shallow rapid, I had to push the board because to was too shallow. I didn’t managed to pass all the portages before dark. It is a little harder to find your way in the dark. Our boards have a light and we all have to bring a head lamp and even a spare one. But it does slow you down at the portages and shallow waters.
The last hours was a grind, I fell in once after hitting a tree underwater another time I hit my head on the board when I pushed off in shallow water and hit a rock and had a little head wound and but most of all I was tired. Theses races are partly endurance but also very much mental, pushing through when everything hurts. But I was close and smelled the finish. I remembered that I joked during the Yukon river Quest when we still had 12 hrs to go , telling Norm and Janson, “guys , you smelled that” but put there nose in the air and “ no what” I said I smell the finish”. We were all very tired and still had to paddle 12 hrs. but it was funny moment. I went on auto pilot , eat drink paddle, eat drink paddle…and met a couple Paul and Susan in a canoe I paddled with until the finish.
I came in at 3 AM after 20 hrs and (32.42 in Total day 1 and 2 together). First place in the Coureur des Bois. At the finish they had nice drinks and chips. The chips is the one thing everybody was craving for, salty and fat, nice. I gobbled down 3 bags.
At 5 am I was in my bed only to wake up at 9 to go to the award ceremony. some paddler slept more, some only an hour and some not at all.
So far this year almost 2000 km of racing on the ultra long distance races, didn’t went by unnoticed. I met a lot of people who got inspired to go out and do races like this or just a small expedition or camping trip. For me that is the greatest compliment of all to inspire others. That does inspire me again to go explore more and now together with Starboard to spread the word to reduce waste and plastic use.
220km 1st place Bart de zwart 32hr 42 min
130km 1st Place Time Oliver 17hr 22 min
80km 1st Place Simon Whitfield 12hr 05 min