Starboard’s Bart de Zwart Tackles the Muskoka River X Race

Congratulations to hard core, Bart de Zwart who just loves expeditions! After a grueling 11 City Tour, where Bart came out on top for the 4th time, he then went to Canada to take on the longest 1 day expedition in the Muskoka River X race only to Win AGAIN!

Bart will compete in the BOP in a few weeks!

Here is a write up from Bart:
Muskoka River X (World’s longest single day expedition race)

Not even a week later after the 11-City Tour I had another very longrace lined up. A very special race. The Muskoka river X in Canada.

Special because it is, with 130km, one of the longest single day expedition races in the world. It is non stop and without support. Goesthrough lakes, up and down rivers and has 20 portages around waterfalls, rapids and locks.

And, it is cold. During the day it was 44F (7C) and during the night 32 F(1 C). Special also because we were not allowed to use GPS’ and had to find our own way to the finish with maps and compass. I decided to use a relatively wide Starboard 14’ x28 All Star just to be on the safe side on the rivers. Which proofed to be the right choice, fast and still stable in critical conditions.

A race for Canoes (1 and 2), Kayaks and Sups.64 teams showed up at the starting line. The solos started first, the 2 man/woman-teams 10 minutes later. The evening before the start we had the skippers meeting and got our trackers.

At the start at 7 in the morning it was misty, cold and raining. I was dressed light with only race tights, lycra, compulsory life vest and rain jacket. I had my Supskin dry suit in my pack strapped on the boardalong with all the food, rescue and navigation gear, clothing and water. The organization gave us 20 pages with detailed maps and a description of all the waypoint, portages, hazards and checkpoints.

I started with a good pace and was just behind a few of the lead kayak racers when we hit the first lake. My strategy was to follow the 2 man canoes, who were way faster than me, for the first 45km across the lakes and as soon as we got to the rivers I would pull out the maps and start navigating. The first portage, after 2 hrs was a 2km walk/run to get to thenext lake. The paddling got me warm but the rain kept coming down with outside temperatures only a few degrees above freezing it was not very comfy but hell this was an expedition race.

Although at the first lakes we had a slight head wind, after the portage it came more from the back and you could even ride some bumps. Some of the lead C2’s (2 man Canoes) came flying by, but I was still the lead Sup and right with the lead kayaks.

At the first CP (check point) a medic asked a few questions to check if you were ok and not getting insane or too cold, and on I went down stream this time. This was very new to me and very exciting. I was flying along the river until I saw the first big rapids. For a brief moment I couldn’t see the portage exit to get around this rapids but found them just intime before I would be dragged down the rapids. We were not allowed to run the waterfalls and rapids, most didn’t look doable anyway and I could easily ruin my 14’ Starboard All Star hardboard.

The portage were exciting too. You throw your back packaround your shoulders, pull out the board and find your way to the other side, throw your board in the water and jump on again.

Nobody brought enough water for the whole race. I started with 2.5 liters. Along the way you fill up in the river, some purify the water, I drank it straight from the river ( don’t try this at home)

The scene is astonishing during the whole race. Beautiful hilly landscapes, winding rivers, true Canadian back country.

I tried to eat at least every hour and drink all day. This helps to have an even energy supply thru out the race without any bunking or dips. Food was probably the heaviest item I had with me. Next to the race food you needed to have 2300 Cal of emergency food with you. Apart from my liquid bike food (Hammer Perpethuem) I try to bring different solid foods because you never know what you going to like after 15 hrs of racing so mixing it up. is key.

After about 11 hrs of racing, 6 hrs on the river and many portages the weather cleared up but night was coming soon. By the time I was at check point 2 it was already late in the day. From here on it was upstream. The problem with the cold nights and warmer river is the fog. During the night the fog starts and becomes very thick. Lights are impossible to use because of the reflection you see nothing but white around you. I still felt pretty fit but dreaded this part because of the currents against me and the fog I didn’t know what to expect.

Some falls were impressive. You paddle up close against the current and just before the falls you pull out the board and walk around it. When night fell it was pretty dark, no moon but you could still see all you needed to see. I only used my headlamp to look at the maps or during the portages. By now the cards were shuffled. I was well ahead in the Sup field and I was paddling together with Graham a Canadian Kayaker who was in solid 2nd place. We pasted through some of the heavy current hazard areas were I had to give everything just to make a few meters. You see the trees on the side passing by so very slowly it was not even funny. The canoes had a harder time here with swifts and rapids and some turned over.

It was getting colder and colder and the fog thicker and thicker. At the last check point I put on some warmer cloths. We were still doing a very good pace and it was from here on only 19 km to the finish. The moon was coming out when we passed the last lake. Fortunately we found the entrance to the last river on the other side without problems. By now the fog was very very thick, all you could see was the contours of the trees. It was spooky and mesmerizing at the same time. The moon light shining through the trees, the fog swirling around us and every now and then a brief opening in the fog.

With the maps we found our way to the finish. The last few 4 kms were flying by despite the fact that we couldn’t see anything on the lake just before we entered the same town we left early the day before.

Graham and I crossed the finish line in 18 hrs and 23 minutes. Graham in 2nd place Kayak and me in 1st place and new record, SUP.

Of the 64 teams started only 44 arrived. Of the 6 SUP’s only 2 arrived.

1St Bart de Zwart

2nd Pete deMos

When I got back to the car, I realized how cold it was. I had ice on the roof of the car.

In all an amazing race in an amazing background. Some thing you have to do at least once in your life.

Thanks to Starboard, Supskin, Black Project Fins, Patagonia, Robijnsbv Suunto/CamelBak, Maui Jim and my wife, Dagmar who took care of the shop back in Maui.

Photo Credits: MRX