Hello everyone! I just wanted to go over a few details about the pack-rafting section so that everyone has a good idea of what to expect and there are no surprises of the sort that can ruin the race experience. Here's how it is going to work:
- Teams will be allowed one 'bin' (20 gallons or less) which they need to drop off at pre-registration on friday, sept 3 (preferred) or at race HQ by 7 A.M. on race day. Into the bin you can place the following: Packrafts, inflation aids (pumps), paddling implements (ie hand paddles, etc), clothes, and food, and running shoes (optional). Bin must be clearly labelled with team name and number (as given out at registration, not the number that you see now on the team list!!!). Please note, no electricity is available for pumping up the packrafts. If you want to be fast, have this figured out before hand! We may have some pumps available for general use, but these are first come first served....
- Teams will need one bag (mesh, garbage, etc) with all of their PFD's in it, also clearly labelled. These will be brought to the start line the morning of the race.
- The race starts with a rogaine section. The rogaine checkpoints are optional and teams are only required to get at least ONE rogaine point from this section to remain ranked. After this section, teams will pick up their PFD's and bike with them for several miles to the transition area for the packrafting section.
- The packrafting section is also a rogaine section. Teams will locate their bins and pump up whatever floating craft they have provided. The primary purpose of the boats are to provide passage back and forth across the Red River, as rogaine points are located on either side. Of course they can also be used to float along the river. Again, teams are only required to get one point from this section to remain ranked. After getting all the points they want, teams will travel back to the TA, carrying whatever pack-rafting gear they used. Teams pursuing all the points will be traveling a distance of just over two miles on foot. Paddling back up-river in a packraft while possible, will probably be much slower than walking!
- Back at the transition area, teams will have two options. The next section of the course is a short bike leg with one optional CP and one mandatory CP. The optional CP is on the other side of the river. teams choosing to pursue the CP can either bike to it at considerable distance (the nearest bridge to the TA is about 4 miles distance), or figure out how to ferry bike's across the river using pack-rafts. Teams that don't go after the CP or choose the long bike option can leave their packrafts at the TA. Teams that use the packrafts to ferry across the river can deflate and leave their packrafts at a specified location on the far side of the river. Teams will never have to bike with their packrafts.
- Pack your bins carefully before the race, because when you are heading away from the pack-rafting TA the only thing that can be left in your bin (or the specified drop location on the other side of the river) is your packrafts, paddling implements, and inflation aids (pumps). You cannot leave food, clothing, or shoes in the bin when you leave on your bikes for the next section. Teams that leave their bins full of this type of gear will receive a 30 minute time penalty.
- Teams WILL need to carry their PFDs as they head away from the pack-rafting section, and will be carrying them for the remainder of the course. PFDs are bulky but light, so figure out how to carry them effectively and make your peace with it. In my ideal adventure race, teams would carry all gear (except bikes) from start to finish - so if you're grumbling about carrying PFDs - realize you're getting off easy (; The PFD's will be used several times throughout the rest of the course.
If it sounds confusing, don't worry - a description of what you should be carrying as you leave each TA will be provided in your coursebook, so just remember to refer to it often during the race and you'll be fine.
SWIMMING: several teams have asked about swimming during this section. As long as teams have some sort of a 'craft' - be it a pool inner tube, a small one person raft, a tow-tube for fun at the lake - they are fine. a team of three for example might opt for a small one person raft - throw their bags and one guy in the boat, and have the other guys hang on and kick/swim across the river. Alternatively a two person team might get a slightly bigger boat and both cram in and use home-made hand paddles (a five gallon bucket works great - so does plywood i hear) to scoot across the river and stay (reasonably) dry. Whatever decisions you make about how to go, keep in mind that the more points you plan to get, the greater the distance you'll be floating/swimming down the river or finding passage/bushwhacking along the shore, and walking back carrying your boat(s). Please use good judgement and consider the weather as well in making your final decision - being soaked on a cold-ish and windy day is a lot more dangerous than a 75 degree sunny one.
HANDPADDLES: in setting elements of the course i have just been paddling across the river with my bare hands in my packraft. This isn't that efficient but does get the job done. Handpaddles are much more efficient and can cheaply and easily be made or bought. my recommendation is to make your own, as the inexpensive ones you can buy are meant for swimming and less effective at moving a boat, particularly with more than one person in it. That said, they do work, and Jason (my brother) recently paddled 30 miles in his packraft down the green river with tiny hand paddles, and was only slightly slower than the rest of us. Simply google 'handpaddles' to get an idea of your options, and then if you're handy, craft some of your own. If you choose to use a paddling aid such as a hand paddle, it must fit inside your bin.
BIKE FERRY: If you intend to be competitive and try and clear the course (which will of course be possible!) then you may opt to try and ferry bikes across the river using your pack-rafts. Depending on your arrangement, multiple trips and or padding on the raft may be necessary (ie a 5 dollar pool toy may be deflated by a gear teeth pretty easily). Packs, duct-tape, shoes, etc all might work well for paddling, but it is likely in your best interest to try things out before race day so that 4-5 hours into a race that you're possibly winning you don't need to invent some crazy scheme to get your bikes across the river without popping your 2 lb. boat and sending your bike to the bottom of the Red.
Ok, thats enough to think about for today. Cheers everyone. feel free to comment, discuss ideas with fellow racers, or ask questions!