Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Talkeetna Canyon

Rumor has it that the overgrown airstrip just above the Talkeetna Canyon might be "brushed-out" and usable by the end of the summer. In the past, willows and brush had overgrown this strip so that only very skilled Super Cub pilots could land there and most of the time even they wouldn't risk trying to squeeze their planes into the tight accommodations.

Rafters and kayakers wanting to do the Canyon have traditionally flown in to Buck's Airstrip, Yellowjacket Creek or Murder Lake. It takes a few hours to float from Buck's to the actual Talkeetna Canyon rapids and Yellowjacket Creek airstrip is a little closer than that. Murder Lake is a drop-off point for float planes. From Murder lake, you can float down Prairie Creek to reach the Talkeetna River just a few miles above the start of the Talkeetna Canyon rapids.

The Talkeetna Canyon is one of the best whitewater runs in the country. It's about 14 miles of continuous Class III and IV rapids. A note of interest is that Wilderness Classic veteran Barney Griffith may have made the first descent of the Talkeetna in 1978 with Bill Spencer. The Canyon is not suitable for packrafting.

For more information on running the Talkeenta, check out Andrew Embick's book on Alaskan Whitewater. Fast and Cold You can also check out Karen Jettmar's river rafting book. The Alaska River Guide. Or you can also check out this cool link to Jim Strutz's description of the Talkeetna. Jim has extensive experience on Alaskan rivers.

Contact Talkeetna Air Taxi for more information about when they might start flying in to this small landing strip for Talkeetna Canyon adventure runs.

The Wilderness Classic route from 2003 - 2005 ran from Eureka to Talkeetna and most racers spent a fair amount of time floating the Talkeetna River and circumventing the Talkeetna Canyon rapids. Note: when I passed through this airstrip a few years ago during the Classic, there were numerous fresh grizzly tracks in the sand near the river. This probably isn't a good place to camp if you want to avoid bears. In fact, the whole Talkeetna Canyon area seems to heavily populated and traversed by bears.

Here's a couple Classic racers at the confluence of Prairie Creek and the Talkeetna River "battening down the hatches".

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Well, I'll be out of town for a couple weeks where there is no internet so I won't be posting anything new for a little while. Thanks for reading my blog so far. I'll be posting some interesting things when I get back.

Here's a couple of motivational tidbits.

There is no security on this earth. Only opportunity.
Douglas Macarthur

Ankles and feet.

Ankles and feet deserve their own entry because they take so much abuse. If you're running the race for the first time, at some point in the race, you will wish your feet could be amputated. No amount of training will prepare your lower appendages for the abuse they will suffer.

Take heart though because for some reason, after the first race, there seems to be some sort of body "memory" and your your ankles and feet won't swell up quite so badly. Even in subsequent races though, you'll have to find ways to cope with foot and ankle pain.

There are several theories about why "Classic Ankle" a.ka. Cankle occurs.

One theory is that physical damage occurs to the bones and connective tissue around the ankles and feet. X-rays on my ankles after my first race found multiple micro-fractures and confirmed this theory to be at least partially true.

Another theory is that the swelling is just run-of-the-mill edema from your body being overloaded by toxins and lactic acid that your kidneys and heart can't process after constant, heavy exercise for days on end.

Whatever the reason, your body just isn't used to the abuse and is protesting. Exacerbating the problem is that the best route almost always crosses numerous small creeks. Your ankles and feet are immersed in freezing cold water and then twisted and torqued in different directions as you travel over large rocks and uneven ground. As most Alaskans know, cold flesh is much more susceptible to damage than warm flesh and your akles are no exception.

You probably won't be distinguish your ankles from your legs after 180 miles of abuse.

Smart racers often take ankle gaitors and wear thick socks to protect the ankles from getting too cold. You'll never prevent them from getting wet, but the protection will help them from getting too cold when you wade through knee-deep glacial water several times an hour.

Be sure to take foot swelling into account when considering which shoes to buy for the race. In other words, err on the large side.
There are lots of ways to cope with the ankle issue and none of them are very effective. Early in the race, you can try to avoid getting your ankles cold, later on in the race, you'll try to find cold water to soak your feet in to keep the swelling down.

Standard coping technique is to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID's). Ibuprofin (a.k.a. Vitamin I) works for the most part and you'll know it's time to take another dose after 3 1/2 hours because when you're really in pain that's when it'll wear off. NSAID's also include Cox 2 Inhibitors which are things like Vioxx and Celebrex. You should be aware, however, that there are serious risks with taking NSAID's on the Classic and other long distance races. By balancing the pain relief with long term permanent body damage many racers opt for the quick relief but this may not be a good choice. You risk serious kidney, GI and heart damage by running for hours or days in a dehyrated state while taking NSAID's.

NSAID's are heavily marketed by pharmaceutical companies and you know that what is good for their profit line, can't be good for your health. There are a couple other options. You can either go with a corticosteroid or check out some more natural alternatives. I thought about mentioning a couple of herbal anti-inflammatories but you should probably do your own research. I'm not a medical doctor and herbal medicine is not one size fits all. Herbals are often very effective and can be a good option.

Anyway, back to the feet. Smart racers will find side-trails on the soft forest floor instead of following a rocky creek-bed. Take care of your feet early in the race by running smoothly and lowering yourself off small drops. Don't come crashing down on each foot.

In your pre-race training, strengthen your ankles and lower legs by hiking in shoes instead of boots and going for runs over uneven ground. It's takes time but it will pay off.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

2003 Race Results

2003 Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic

Eureka to Talkeetna

From Race Director Roman Dial

The 22nd running of the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic race began the morning of June 8 at Eureka Roadhouse on the Glenn Highway with the finish 160-230 miles away, depending on route choice, in Talkeetna. There were 43 starting racers. This was the first time the Eureka to Talkeetna route has been offered as a venue.

The starting line-up was a mix of first timers and Classic veterans, including three-time Classic winner Gordy Vernon, 16 time finisher Dick Griffith, and 2001 Armed Forces Eco-Challenge winner Skip Kula. Vernon attempted to sandbag his competition by opening a cooler full of ice-cold Alaska Brewery beers in the countdown minutes of the race. Thirty-four racers, some with bikes and all with backpacks bristling in break-down kayak paddles, lined up in front of the lodge when Whitney McFayden yelled "Go!"

In the hustle to go Butch Allen and Jim McDonough confided their 200 mile route to the race organizer. "Is it still within the rules if we crawl through the culvert pipe under the Glenn Highway? We're not actually using the highway."

"Go for it boys," was the response.

After crawling under the highway, the duo rafted the Class III whitewater on the East and main forks of the Matanuska River all the way to Chickaloon. Next they followed trails they'd scouted up the Chickaloon and over to the Talkeetna River, which they floated for 35 miles to Prairie Creek. From there they hiked for 22 hours to the Susitna River at Gold Creek and put back in, floating the 45 miles to Talkeetna in six hours. They came in third.

The other two "teams" to finish, the first place trio of Hans Neidig of Palmer, Chris of Anchorage, and Paul of McCarthy, and the second place pair Jeff Bannish and Dylan Kentch, also took radically different routes. Finishing only hours apart, the 170 mile Bannish-Kentsch route and the 150 mile Neidig-Robertson-Hanis route overlapped for 22 miles on the Talkeetna River.

Meanwhile, Bill Collins headed directly for the Susitna via the Big Oshetna, while Gordy Vernon veered away from his planned route over Mazuma Creek to also take the Big O route. Bill opted out using his SAT phone to charter a pickup. Gordy broke his plywood snowshoes, trashed his raft, flipped his boat and finished only a few hours ahead of the sweep team of John Lapkass, Dick and Barney Griffith. Barney, as a teenager in the 70's, had made first descents of both the Talkeetna and Devil's canyons. Gordy's route took him 230 miles in a grand tour of the race course.

The fastest route portaged the Talkeetna canyon on river's right. The trio of Matt Reardon, Bob Kehrer and Brian Byrne portaged on the river's left, after several attempts. Curiously, as the three lead teams piled up at "Damnation Creek" new teams formed. Chris Robertson and Bobbie Schnell arrived first. Two hours later, Hans Neidig, Ben Summit and Dave Looney found themselves at the impasse and were soon joined by Paul Hanis and Jason Geck. For twelve hours this large group was stymied by the fast, deep water and steep canyon cliffs. Finally, the three teams broke up and switched out, in an adventure race version of wife swapping. Schnell and Geck headed back for Prairie Creek to take the Susitna route. Neidig, Robertson and Hanis crossed the Talkeetna to portage the canyon on the right side. The latter group finished more than 24 hours ahead of Schnell and Geck.

When the ill-fated mountain bike tour through the Mat-Su valleys (see Medred article in Anchorage Daily News) is added into the route mix, the 2003 AMWC covered an area over 5,000 square miles. In all 17 people finished, five were air-lifted out, and the rest dropped. Some dropped due to injuries. Some dropped due to bad boats. Of those picked up by helicopter, two paid their own way using a private pilot in Talkeetna, and three were flown out by the Alaska State Troopers. The Troopers were reimbursed $4,660 for the full cost of the helicopter expenses, from the Alaskan Alpine Club Mountain Rescue Fund. In this budget-cutting era, anything we can do to carry our own weight will allow the race to continue without public scorn. Next year, SAT-phones, but definitely not ELTs, EPIRBs or the like, may well be the first piece of mandatory equipment ever expected from racers.

As promised, because race funds were used to search by helicopter and by super cub for three racers, there is no rebate. One racer got out on their own, albeit late. The race organizer found another, and the third was picked up by the Alaska State Troopers.

The racer who was found spread gear on a high, bare knoll and built a signal fire. The one who walked out called the organizer immediately. The one who was found by the Trooper helicopter feared building a signal fire and could not signal.

Advice: bring a sat phone, bright colors, and smoke. Flairs are a one-off deal and are frequently missed by searchers. Every pilot in Alaska will look into a smoky fire. Bright orange, yellow, and red are seen more easily than any other colors, according to pilots.

All in all everyone said the course was great, a real challenge. Next year, the race will be in July, a sat phone may be mandatory, and the Talkeetna canyon may be packraftable.

T-shirts, hard-copy, and newsprint copies are on their way. Thanks for your patience.

And the winner of the raft random drawing is ..... Gordy Vernon!

OFFICAL RESULTS: 34 starters

l) Hans Neidig (Palmer), Chris Robertson (Anchorage), Paul Hanis (McCarthy): 3 days, 15 hours, 5 minutes( 87:05)

2) Jeff Bannish, Dylan Kentch (both Anchorage): 3 days, 18 hours, 11 minutes
(90:11 )

3) Butch Allen, Jim McDonough (both Anchorage): 4 days, 5 hours, 11 minutes
( 101:11 )

4) Skip Kula, Chris Widener (both Anchorage): 4 days, 5 hours, 40 minutes(101:40)

5) Bobby Schnell, Jason Geck (both Anchorage): 4 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes

6) Bob Groseclose, Rourke Williams (both Fairbanks): 5 days, 9 hours, 20 minutes (129:20)

7) Brian Byrne (Anchorage): 5 days, 11 hours, 5 minutes

8) Gordy Vernon (Cordova): 6 days (144:00)

9) Dick and Barney Griffith, John Lapkass (all Anchorage): 6 days, 5 hours, 7 minutes (149:07)

DNF: Chris Flowers (Anchorage), Doug Woody (Healy), John Gartiez (Anchorage), Jacques Boutet (Anchorage), Jim Jager (Anchorage), Laura McDonough (Anchorage), Craig Medred (Anchorage), Dave Looney (Anchorage), Ben Summit (Anchorage), Bill Collins (Palmer), Rob Kehrer (Anchorage), Matt Reardon (Eagle River), James Archoleta (Chugiak), Mike Sirofchuck (Kodiak), Donna Klecka (Eagle River)

Another race.

I just came across this race. It looks like there's a little more structure than the Classic but it could be interesting. Especially if you have ambitions for out of state races.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

2002 Race Report

News Release from Race Director Michael Martin

2002 Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic

The race began in a moderate rain with a little snow evident at elevation around Nabesna. Last year it had been raining for weeks, and the race began in a moderate rain but at least there wasn't snow.

By mid-afternoon this year, after rafting the near-freezing Nabesna River, and ascending Cooper Creek through 30 or so ice-cold stream crossings, the racers encountered heavy snow falling at about 3000 feet. As elevation increased, the snow became a real blizzard with white-out conditions and strong winds. 14 racers made it through the pass that night. I was the last, with my partner John Lapkass. We encountered the worst conditions, with 18-20 inches of snow and 4 foot drifts, gale winds, snow that would accumulate on our packs at the rate of several inches every 20 minutes or so, and a total white-out. Although there were hints of the tracks of racers in front of us, we were post-holing through the deep snow mostly by Braille. Fortunately, we'd both been in the pass before, so we SOME idea of the lay of the land.

Although the racers in the AMWC are all very qualified wilderness travelers, no one could have anticipated a true blizzard at the end of July. In the 21 years of the race, no one could remember anything quite like this happening before. We all go extremely light. I, for example, was wearing running tights, very light boots, two light polypro tops and light rain gear. I had light polypro gloves, which were soaked or frozen 100% of the time. I had a tiny tent and light bag, but the idea of bivying in 2 feet of still-accumulating snow with my level of hypothermia seemed like certain death. John and I kept grimly acknowledging that this was "really desperate", and that our only chance was to keep moving, hoping to get below the snow line and to some spruce to make a fire.

By about midnight, we had managed to wade out of the snow, and down onto Notch Creek. It was another 3 miles or so to any spruce. By about 1:30 we had a fire going, and felt that we might live after all. More than two weeks later, I still have no feeling in the fingers of my left hand, or in all of either foot.

Twelve racers in front of us had suffered similar fates, some succumbing to hypothermia and injuries, everyone feeling they had escaped something ominous. Those behind had wisely or of necessity chosen to bivy below Cooper Pass, and cross the next day. Greg Tibbets and Mel Strauch used their boats and tarps to line a snow cave, and reported being pretty comfortable during the night.

So began the 2002 Wilderness Classic.

Ultimately, 13 people would fly out of Chisana, the first checkpoint, and an accessible bailout point. I had started the race with a broken bone in my left foot, and never really figured I'd make it to McCarthy. The foot got worse with all the cold, and I flew out at Chisana.

There were 27 racers signed up and present at the start the night before the race. One did not show up in the morning at the start line. Another scratched at the start due to pre-existing injuries. One more pulled out at Jack Creek, the first "float": which occurs about 5 miles into the route. 25 started and 11 finished.

The hyped competition between Roman Dial and Rocky and Steve Reifenstuhl was set aside during the threatening blizzard, and these supremely competent wilderness adventurers worked together to assure that they and the few traveling with them at that point remained safe. Rocky would leave the race at Chisana from an injured knee, Steve Reifenstuhl from severe hypothermia, Mel Strauch of Anchorage from a badly sprained ankles, the race legend, 76 year old Dick Griffith from an injured foot.

Roman Dial finished first, running naked (other than a tiny loincloth) from the waist down, up the main street of McCarthy to the finish line on the porch of the Wrangell Mountain Air. Chafing.

There were several "firsts" accomplished during the race, not necessarily things to be repeated, but nevertheless "firsts":

Jeffery Bannish of Anchorage made the first known descent of the "wrong side", the southeast side of the Chitistone Canyon. This is opposite the Goat Trail side and is, if anything, steeper. The Goat Trail itself is merely a suggestion of a trail. Jeffery made his own. Some of his fingernails are still present. He left many on the scree cliffs at the canyon. This route did afford him an excellent view of the Goat Trail and the rarely viewed Chitistone Falls. He urges others not to consider this route.

Roman Dial made the first packraft descent of the complete Chitistone River. Roman, like Jeffery, does not necessarily urge others to perform this act.

23 racers sported new packrafts from Alpacka Rafts. These are made by Sheri Tingey and were highly praised by every racer.

John Lapkass walked down the Chitistone River as far as Glacier Creek, where most racers felt that it might be possible to begin floating the Chitistone, only to find that his screw-on paddle blades had fallen from his pack somewhere in the wilderness. He found some scrap tin from an abandoned cabin and beat together a paddle blade from it. It turned out that the weight of the blade was too much, and caused him to swivel wildly from side to side while using it. Ultimately, when he got to the Nizina, the last huge glacial river which runs almost to McCarthy, a combination of strong winds, high waves and an unbalanced paddle caused him to flip over in a bad rapid. He had to choose between his boat and his pack, so swam after the pack. The boat likely made the ocean by now. He was later flown out from Dan Creek.

The good folks at Wrangell Mountain Air, Natalie and Kelly Bay, were once again very generous with their help, assisting in tracking racers on the course, taking reports of bailouts and needed rescues, and having the finish on their porch.

The post-race party was held at Tailor-made Pizza in McCarthy. The last two racers to finish, Butch Allen and Jason Geck, came walking up the dusty road right past the party. I handed them beers, and we all cheered.

The race began at 9:08 Sunday morning July 28th.


Roman Dial 2 days, 4 hours, 24 minutes (new course record)

Kevin Armstrong 3 days, 10 hours, 42 minutes
Doug Woody " "

Jeffery Bannish 3 days, 13 hours, 33 minutes

Kristian Seiling 4 days, 6 hours, 7 minutes
Hans Neidig " "
Ben Summit " "

Kyle Joly 4 days, 15 hours, 8 minutes
Martin Robards " "

Butch Allen 5 days, 7 hours, 37 minutes
Jason Geck " "

Monday, June 8, 2009

2000 Race Report

2000 Race Report

Report from Michael Martin, Race Director. Here are the highlights.

This year's Classic, the 19th, was run from Nabesna to Mccarthy, starting at the Nabesna B&B at the K-Air airstrip on August 6th at 9 a.m. The route covered about 150 miles of rugged Alaskan wilderness. The Wildemess Classic is an annual cross-country foot race held in various mountainous regions of Alaska for extremely experienced veterans of Alaskan wildemess travel. Although the rivers were high and the weather the first two days was bad (cold and raining/snowing in the passes) there were 22 finishers. The weather improved after the first 2 days.

The rivers were high the first 4 days, and depending on time of day, some crossings could be made by wading or swimming but otherwise packrafts were needed for crossings.

The route that most racers took involved floating down the Nabesna river to Cooper Creek, then hiking up to Cooper Pass down Notch Creek and crossing over the Chisana river to Chisana where the first unmanned checkpoint was located. A number of racers chose to drop out of the race at that point and were flown out.

The route continued up Geohenda Creek to Solo Mountain (a second unmanned checkpoint at Solo Mountain cabin), then up to Skolai Pass and Upper Skolai Lake. Racers climbed from there up to Chitistone Pass where they gained the well-known "Goat Trail" which passes above Chitistone falls.

The route then descends steeply to the Chitistone river. Racers descend the Chitistone river to the Nizina, float the Nizina to the defunct bridge at the May-Mccarthy road, and walk the road into McCarthy.

The finish line was on the porch of Wrangell Mountain Air, where Natalie and Kelly Bay, owners of Wrangell Mountain air, were helping to keep close tabs on the status of the racers.


Steve and Rocky Reifenstuhl, of Sitka and Fairbanks respectively, finished first with a new course record of 2 days, 11 hours and 43 minutes.

Gordy Vernon, prior multiple Classic winner finished second with his partner Nora Tobin of Anchorage in 3 days, 22 hours, 24 minutes and, according to Gordy, 5 seconds.

Michael Martin (this years coordinator) of Seattle (who broke his foot in his first Classic 40 miles into the Brooks Range in 1993) and Jeff Mailloux of Boise, ID teamed up with Greg Tibbetts and Mel Strauch (both of Anchorage) about 30 miles out ftom McCarthy to finish in 3days, 4 hours and 36 minutes.

4th in 4 days, 16 hours, 24 minutes
Kevin Armstrong (Healy, AK)
Doug Woody (Eau Claire, Wl)
Derek Temple (Kent, WA)

5th in 4: l8:39
Rory Stark (Anchorage)
Ben Summit (Anchorage)

John Lapkass (Anchorage)
Mike Sirofchuck (Kodiak)
Paul Barnes (Gustavus)

Wendy Sanem (Anchorage)
John Mitchell (Eagle River)

Robin Beebee (Anchorage)

Jerry Dixon (Seward)
Dick Griffith (Anchorage)

David Peters (Eagle River)

Other highlights:
Rocky and Steve Reifenstuhl set a new course record by (in addition to being superb athletes)accepting a high level of risk and swimming crossings where others would boat, and boating sections where others would walk.

Wendy Sanem had her boat eaten by a large black bear at Glacier creek, but hours of patching put her back on the river.

Virtually everyone tried floating sections of the Chitistone, but were flogged badly enough by it that they ended up walking most ofthe way to the Nizina, carrying their rafts to begin floating again.

Example: Michael Martin's kayak paddle snapped in half in the middle of a particularly bad rapid on the Chitistone, sending him spinning out of contol through a wide turn of standing waves until he could beach his boat and lash a piece of spruce into the middle of the two halves to make a whole paddle again. But, the cut ends of the spruce branches constantly threatened to puncture his raft during the rest of the float.

Jeff Mailloux snapped one end off his kayak paddle crossing the raging Chitistone in the late aftemoon. After walking down the river to Glacier Creek, which was considered the first possible place to put pack boats in to float, he repaired it that night by lashing sticks in a crosshatch attempt to the bare pole end, wrapping a piece of foam sleeping pad over them and wrapping the whole thing with duct and adhesive tape. Although his partner (Martin) informed Mailloux that his "Fred Flintstone" paddle wouldn't last two minutes on the river the next moming the actual events were worse.

Within a minute of putting in on the Chitistone the next moming, Mailloux snapped off the remaining good end of his paddle leaving him spinning through the rapids flailing at the foaming standing waves with only the Fred Flintstone paddle. Martin, Tibbetts, Strauch and Mailloux (like most others) got off the Chitistone and walked to the Nizina shortly after. To his partner's amazment, Mailloux finished the float using only his caveman paddle.

The Nizina was no picnic. The water was very high, surging up against the cut banks and running very swiftly into the standing trees. Lots of strainers and stick-ups.

Dick Griffith's boat sprung a leak on the Nizina. Dick said he had to keep sticking his head under water to blow it back up while floating. His partner, Jerry Dixon, at times would manuver his boat next to Dick's, and lock arms with him to keep Dick steady while Dick attempted to put air in his boat, but rapid came quickly after rapid, and things were pretty panicky.

John Lapkass (I think) ran into an obstreperous goat on an especially steep portion of the Goat Trail that wouldn't yield the way and threatened to knock Lapkass off into the Gorge.

Greg Tibbetts and Mel Strauch went down into the Chitistone Gorge when the Goat trail went up, and ended up rock climbing a thousand feet before regaining the trail which they then had to climb up also.

Mark Fineman lost both his boat and paddle on the Chitistone and had to be flown out.

People did a lot of the usual sorts of things like going up the wrong drainage miles and miles, especially out of Chisana toward Solo Mountain, and getting off the Nabesna and up to Cooper Pass.

As usual with the Classic, most racers finished hobbling, disoriented, delirious and relieved to be alive. But also as usual, Dick Griffith the informal "father of the AMWC" finished appearing unscathed and wondering only where he could find some breakfast.

The people of McCarthy as well as the Ellis family in Nabesna were wonderful hosts, eager to share in the excitement of the race, and to help out where possible. Natalie and Kelly Bay, in particular, assisted the racers by allowing the AMWC to use their office as the finish line and by having their pilots keep an eye out for racers along the route. As Natalie said at the banquet:" We appreciate having a little excitement in McCarthy. Come back next year!"

The post-race banquet was held at Tailor Made Pizza in McCarthy on Saturday afternoon. It was sunny and cheerful, and everyone shared their "I'll never do that again" stories over beer, pizza, salad and homemade "bear grease" chocolate cake.

Many racers who had been heard during the race fervently vowing that if they survived this thing, they would never race again, were overheard at the banquet discussing how they could do things better next time.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Winter Wilderness Classic

Here's a hot link to the website of the winter version of the Wilderness Classic.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Winter Wilderness Classic

Here's a link to a story about the winter version of the Wilderness Classic. It's similar to the summer version except it's called the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Ski Classic. Some people have competed in both the summer and winter versions of the race but the races are organized separately and are not affiliated.

Alaska Mountain Wilderness Ski Classic Article

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hot Springs 100

For people interested in other burly races, this is also just in off the news-wire . . .

New Packraft

This just in . . .

The description says it's just over 3 lbs so maybe this will be a good boat for the Classic. This cuts more than a pound off previous boats. The only caveat is that the description says it's made for flat water. That's probably code for "you better know what you're doing if you float whitewater".

At any rate, it's got to be better than older Sevylor's racers used to use. Those weren't made for whitewater either but they usually got the job done. The Scout looks like a nice toy if you haven't already exceeded your Wilderness Classic budget for the year.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


The Classic is a race for the hardy. It's a test of willpower among the toughest of the tough. Subterfuge is a time-honored tradition in the Classic. It catches many novices unaware who don't think that there could be another level of competition other than merely finishing this grueling race. When the best compete against the best though, there is bound to be psychological trickery involved.

Consider the following true story: many years ago, an accomplished and well known Alaskan runner was competing in the Honolulu Marathon. He had trained relentlessly for it and was hoping to finish high in the overall standings. Even though the race started early in the day, at about mile 20, the temperature was searing. As he was struggling to not hit "the wall", a pair of runners slowly came from behind and pulled even with him.

He glanced over and saw that his competition was wearing full Ninja regalia and was dressed from head to toe in black. Despite the suffocating heat, even their faces were covered except for eye slits. As he marveled at their stamina, he also saw they were running in traditional wooden shoes. Their feet were bloody and they left tracks of blood on the pavement as they ran. As he studied them, he realized they showed no signs of being in pain at all. In the face of such willpower, our hero's concentration cracked, he fell off the pace and never regained his stride. He finished the race quite a bit slower than his goal time.

You can use similar psychological tactics against your competitors in the Classic and other adventure races. All of the following strategies have been successfully used in the Classic.
Start the race off running. Whether or not other racers think you're crazy, you'll be ahead of them when everyone is reduced to walking in a few hours.

If you happen to make a fire, put it out completely and leave it cold. If other racers see it still smoking and feel how warm it is, they'll know you are close and will speed up to catch you.
Leave tracks going the wrong direction. I fell for this trick my first race and my group dropped from a strong second place to a distant fourth after losing several hours in a box canyon that led nowhere. There are many other psychologically devastating tricks to play on other racers. Just keep it "above board" and use your imagination.

In a similar vein, imagine if you could add weight to other racer's packs to slow them down. This is exactly what the eventual race winner did in 2004 when he pulled a cooler full of cold beer into the starting arena only minutes before the race began.

After spending months paring down the weight of their packs, many people eagerly put one or two in their pack for later in the day.

Despite all this talk of deception and chicanery, helping other racers is common. There's an instant commradarie in coming across other racers in the middle of nowhere and sharing their experiences and close calls.