Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Everglades Challenge 2009: gear reflections

Gear: Only a few new additions to the collection this year, as reviewed for 2007 and 2008. First up, a new Greenland Paddle. Not that this was intentional. But when I saw StripBuilder’s beautiful hand-crafted one-of-three GPs the day before the race started, I just had to have it, there and then. And it did help—the slimmer loom and longer thinner paddles made for fewer pressure points and a very comfortable paddling experience.

And a new piece of safety equipment: Greatland Laser’s rescue laser flare Magnum. There are marketed as nighttime signaling devices visible up to 20 miles (32 km) away in optimal conditions, and effective in daytime up to three miles (4.8km). It’s not intended to replace but supplement the four small Orion Skyblazer rescue flares I carry in one of my PFD pockets, yet pragmatically appreciating that those Orions may just not work. I had it stored in a PFD pocket and attached via light parachute cord.

Once more my already-replaced Princeton Tec Apex LED Headlamp gave out on me—this time on day 2. I used my backup UK 3AAA Vizion headlamp, which was fine for detailed work around the boat or campsite—particularly the red bulb for nighttime chartwork—but not designed as a “spotligh
t” for spotting possible campsites from the boat. Thank goodness for this year’s full moon.

Food: My “energy-bar–of-the-year” choice this EC was Larabar – I’d had a few in my kitty last year and at the time thought them the tastiest of the lot. I’ve now come to the conclusion—three ECs later—that it doesn’t really matter what bar you have as your key energy choice, you tire of them by day 2, if not even by late afternoon day 1. But of the wide choice of Larabars that I did have, the banana flavour was my favourite (51gms, 220cals/924kj). And as I have found every year, Nature Valley’s Oats ‘N Honey crunchy granola bars (42gms, 180cals/756kj) never lose their appeal and, lo and behold, are far, far cheaper than any of the more heavily marketed energy bars (particularly when bought in bulk from Costco).

Lunch stop!

What I did find appealing this year was stopping for lunch and, thanks to the generosity of KneadingWater, dining on foil-packaged tuna wrapped in a tortilla with half a chopped up mini Babybel cheese. Not anticipating another racing mode EC as with 2008’s, for EC2010 I may well practice the civilized lessons learned from KW.

This year I also decided to take only two freeze-dried Mountain House meals (beef stroganoff and noodles (my favourite), 16oz/0.45kg, pro-pak vacuum pouch), as I didn’t use any at all last year. They were used as part of the communal dinners KneadingWater prepared, put together with contributions from SandyBottom and myself (I can see the cat’s out-of-the-bag that KW was this year’s chef-in-residence), though I wouldn’t have been able to eat a complete single-person serving. I also took a couple of foil-packaged salmon in oil, which we threw in with some of the freeze-
dried dinners. Once again, my stove was never used.

This year, for some reason, I truly appreciated the Clif gel shots I had with me (left over from last year and probably past their sell-by date), particularly paddling late into the evenings when I couldn’t stomach solids (energy bars) very well. At one very tired point I slurped one of my emergency Clif caffeine gel shots. I don’t drink coffee—haven’t for nigh on 12 years—so this gave me a fair headache, but energy-wise truly lit a fire in my cockpit when I needed that last wee push a few hard miles from bedding down for the night.

Leave No Trace: As with last year, I again packed Phillips’ WagBags—four this year—and I used three on the first three mornings where we camped “wild” and “stealth-like.” Subsequent mornings at groundsites/chickees along the Wilderness Waterway had their own PortaLoos, and there’s a public loo at Flamingo, which covers a regular person like me! I can’t encourage folks enough to use these when camping wild—or any similar system such as newspaper and a ziplock bag—it just doesn’t suffice nowadays to dig a cathole and perhaps take out just your loo paper.

Conclusions: All-in-all, it was a fairly “healthy” race for me—I didn’t wear (constantly wet) gloves at all this year, which I believe helped cancel any potential blister problemnone at all, in fact. Any pressure points were dealt with immediately with waterproof tape, which is how I dropped my beloved PFD knife overboard. As with last year but funnily not the year before, I did achieve an impressive case of “nappy rash,” or diaper rash as the Americans would phrase it. I’m going to have to give some thought to how to try and alleviate this problem. Certainly not as bad as last year’s, where it got infected, but uncomfortable for the first few days. (More to blog on this issue...)

I still don't really "sleep" with any consistency during the race
it can be a bit frustrating at times hearing those around you soundly asleepbut that doesn't seem to slow me down any during the race itself (just after). One trick I did learn that helped, particularly those camping around me, was to turn my deluctible Exped 7 down sleeping mat over the other way, which meant it's now so much quieter when I turn over.

And, of course, as FliesWithKiwiBird has repeatedly noticed, I’m pretty useless for the week after the race—it takes a good three to four days to get my landlegs back, and nearly a week or so to return to complete tigger levels.

But I’m signed up for next year…

1 comment:

Noel said...

XLXS (aka Carter Johnson) said this about diaper rash at fit to paddle

An entire tube of Desitin or Aquafir cream to all areas below your waist and above your thigh. (Generically sold as baby rash cream)

# Start with some neoprean shorts from They are the only ones I found that deliberately have no seams in all the magic areas unlike most surf short. This is critical, trust me! As for the neoprene, you are wet regardless so it is the way to go.
# Cut out a large quick access hole in a strategic location of our shorts depending on your gender. With the amount of baby rash cream you will have on, you do not want to be pulling them up and down.

For the sake of the spectators. Wear a very loose pair of slippery basketball shorts over your bottom layer.