Your Questions Answered
Q & A
Q. From a newcomers perspective, can you provide more detail on the skills and proficiencies required to participate in Wilderness Traverse?
A. Click here to see this lengthy answer below.
Q. Can we use gravel bikes?
A. No. Mountain bikes with a minimum of front suspension are required. While we do cover some paved and gravel roads the trail sections are quite rough and technical and you’d be walking a lot if on a gravel bike.
Q. I noticed that in the photos and videos everyone has kayak paddles. Are those included in the canoe rental or do we have to get our own? And our kayak paddles a big advantage?
A. It’s generally accepted in adventure racing that using kayak paddles in a canoe is more efficient, but it also depends on your skill level as a canoeist. The theory goes that while using kayak paddles you never have to perform a j-stroke, or steering strokes while travelling a straight line as the alternating side nature of kayak paddles results in all effort pushing you forward. However, a strong canoeist with canoe paddles can move a canoe as fast, or faster than a less experienced team with kayak paddles. It comes down to your experience, comfort level and desire to either purchase, or rent kayak paddles for the event. Kayak paddles are not provided by organizers (canoe paddles are), so those teams using kayak paddles have brought their own. We recommend going out and testing your speed with canoe and kayak paddles and seeing if you notice much of a difference.
Q. Can you explain what you mean on the gear list by "Long-sleeved synthetic/wool shirt (in addition to any tops being worn)"
A. Each person must have: 1 Long Sleeve Synthetic/Wool Top (base-layer) in addition to the top you're wearing (short or long-sleeved) at the beginning of a stage. You must have both shirts at all times, either on your body or in your pack.
Q. Is a Waterproof Pack Liner the same as a dry bag?
A. Yes. Any waterproof bag will be fine including thick garbage bags so long as it keeps the contents of your pack dry.
Q. Will hot and cold water be available in the transition areas in 2022?
A. Yes, we'll again be providing hot and cold water in the transition areas.
Q. How much portaging will there be in the 2023 event?
A. Roughly 4000m broken up over roughly 10 portages.
Q. Are portage wheels recommended for the 2022 event?
A. Most portages are quite rough and we don't recommend bringing or using portage wheels.
Q. Will packrafting be a possibility during the trekking stages of the 2023 event?
A. Packrafting will not be permitted during the 2023 event. There has been a huge improvement in packraft technology over the past few years and it would be unfair to permit their use. Racers may not use a paddle other than small hand paddles designed for swimming. It is prohibited to use any flotation device designed for use with a paddle. Use of flotation devices to aid with swimming, or crossing bodies of water are recommended.
For those not familiar with packrafting, see the following link.
Q. Should we expect to swim long distances on the treks in the 2023 event?
A. This depends on your route choice, but one swim of 25m will be needed. This could be a wade depending on water levels.
Q. What type of bivvy bags do you recommend?
A. SOL brand is recommended:
SOL Bivvy Bags at MEC
Q. Can computers and phones be used pre-race to consult apps like Google Maps etc.?
A. Yes, pre-race only, not on the race course.
Q. How many transition areas can we expect (to plan our water and food transportation needs)?
A. An email will be sent to all the teams 2 weeks before the event that will describe the number of transition area’s and how long each leg will be.
Q. Will our bins be available at any checkpoints (if the checkpoint is not also a transition area)?
A. No, gear bins will not be accessible at any checkpoints that are not Transition Areas.
Q. Cell phone. Why do we need one? Most people have smartphones which means they have an integrated GPS. Are we going to ‘seal’ the phone and be expected not to open unless there is an emergency? Or do you expect us to find a ‘no smart phone’ and activate it for the competition? Please clarify.
A. Cell phones will be used in case of emergency. Yes, cell phones will be heat-sealed in a small black plastic bag before the event and should only be used in case of emergency. If we find that teams have opened the sealed bag unrelated to an emergency they will become “unranked”.
Q. Canoe section: are the paddles provided by the organization Kayak paddle type or are they traditional Canoe paddles?
A. Only canoe paddles are provided. If teams want to use kayak paddles, they must bring their own, however, we will transport kayak paddles for teams to the beginning and from the end of any paddling legs.
Q. Bicycle helmet. Do we need to wear or carry them for the full race or only for the bicycle section(s)?
A. Bicycle helmets are only required during the bicycle section(s).
Q. Can portage wheels be transported with paddles and PFD's, or do they need to go in the TA gear bins/duffel bags?
A. We can transport portage wheels if they are attached to your paddles and PFD’s, or you're welcome to stuff them in your gear bins/duffel’s. However, we do not recommend using portage wheels. The portage trails in the event are rugged, narrow and rocky and it would be very difficult to use portage wheels. Plus, the canoes used in the event are 16-17ft long and made of Kevlar, they will only weigh between 46 and 58lbs. Portaging them on your shoulders is the recommended method.
Q. Can the first aid kit be broken up amongst the team or must it be contained in one bag as a kit?
A. Yes, the first-aid kit contents can be split up amongst team-mates.
Q. Do you have any further requirements for the flares other than “launching” (I was thinking size of flare, burn time or launch height). Do they need to be nautical type flares fired from a pistol or must they simply be the launching type? I have seen some smaller backpacking type flares and I wanted to know if they meet your requirements.
A. There are no specific requirements for flares other than they must be of the launching variety. There are pen-style flares available that are the smallest/lightest I’ve seen.
Q. From a newcomers perspective, can you provide more detail on the skills and proficiencies required to participate in Wilderness Traverse?
A. For most adventure races in Ontario, there are three disciplines:
Trekking or Running, on and off trail
Paddling - usually in canoes but often using kayak paddles. Canoes and paddles are often provided by event organizers but many racers bring their own kayak paddles to go faster.
At least one person on your team needs to be navigating during all these activities so that's the 4th discipline – and it’s really important.
For each discipline, you need to develop both fitness and skills, although not always in the same training session. The fitness aspect is a huge subject that you may know something about, and there is plenty of information available. On the skills side, you'll need to work on:
Running/trekking in rough terrain, including bushwhacking comfortably at a decent speed. Trail running on rough trails is good too.
Technical mountain biking - A lot of adventure races in Ontario travel on ATV or snowmobile trails so we often ride through mud and over rocks. If you develop technical single track skills at places like Albion Hills, Kelso or Hardwood Hills, you will do better in an adventure race than participants who mostly ride on roads.
Paddling - Many adventure racers ignore this skill. You want to be comfortable in a boat, and ideally, you want to practice paddling with the person you'll be racing with. Whether you use canoe or kayak paddles, you'll need to know how to steer a canoe properly and how to use your core and back instead of just your arms. There is a paddling school in Toronto on Lake Ontario called the Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre. That may be a good option if you live near the city and your team is looking to build its paddling skills. You also need to practice your portaging. Keep in mind that if you race as a team of three, you will need to paddle three in a canoe and figure out some kind of seat for the middle person. It is more comfortable to race on a 4-person team and use two canoes. For useful information check out Paddle Toronto and see Ontario Canoe Kayak Sprint Racing Affiliation for links to clubs and events in your local area. Clubs offer the best place for newcomers to gain access to great coaching and boat use. Also visit the The Ontario Marathon Canoe and Kayak Racing Association for paddling events.
Map and Compass Navigation - This is a skill that is new to most novice adventure racers. On some teams, only one person knows how to navigate. On other teams, everyone learns. Teams only get one set of maps in AR so generally one person watches the map at a time. While the navigator is reading the map, his/her teammate can be up ahead following an assigned bearing and choosing a good line through the forest for other teammates to follow. Another teammate can be a short distance back, double checking that bearing while another is measuring time or paces to help the team estimate the distance they have traveled. It is helpful to have at least two navigators on a team so they can bounce ideas off one another.
To become good at adventure racing, you need to become good at the disciplines, and a great way to improve is by racing against people who are specialists in those disciplines. You could practice your trail running by entering Summit 700, or races in the 5 Peaks or OUTRace Series. There are various mountain bike races including those offered by Superfly Racing and Chico Racing. Chico's 24 Hours of Summer Solstice event in June is a great event to practice teamwork and riding at night with lights. There are paddling races and you could plan a canoe trip weekend with your teammates where you'll also do some paddle practice.
For navigation, there are a few ways to learn and improve. There are occasional instructional clinics, usually hosted by orienteering clubs. A great way to learn is to attend orienteering events and learn by trial and error. Newcomers are always welcome. Adventure racers often attend these reasonably priced events. You can learn about upcoming public orienteering events at Orienteering Ontario and you can also "like" the Facebook page.
While you're there, be sure to "like" the Wilderness Traverse Facebook page! :)
The Toronto Orienteering club invites novices to join them for their inexpensive Summer Series on Wednesday nights in parks around Toronto. The Series starts in April or May each year.
Orienteering maps are more detailed than the ones you typically get in adventure racing but orienteering is still a great way to learn nav skills. In addition, you will also need to become familiar with 1:50,000 topographical maps. You can create your own training course using a topo map of a park or conservation area, even if a more detailed map exists. Choose obvious locations as your checkpoints - road junctions (that you approach through the bush), the west end of a lake, buildings, etc.
Gear is a *huge* topic. You'll want to get a good quality backpack, shoes and technical clothing layers. You obviously need a mountain bike, a PFD (life jacket) and possibly a kayak paddle unless your team decides to just use the canoe paddles supplied by the organizer. If you read the Mandatory Gear section of the WT race rules, you can see what you'll need. The gear lists are different for every adventure race but a lot of the items are the same. Check out the Wilderness Traverse gear list.
One of the relatively expensive items you'll need is a bright light suitable for mountain biking at night, along with sufficient battery power to get you through the night. You don't know which discipline(s) you'll be doing at night so you need to be prepared for anything. Biking requires the most powerful light because of the speed. For trekking or paddling, many people use the same bright light but it’s possible to get away with something less powerful.
Aside from the mandatory gear, you'll probably do some other gear shopping and preparation. For example, a lot of teams carry an elasticized tow rope so that a faster racer can pull his/her teammate along, usually on roads or trails that aren't super-technical. Some people use bike tows as well, although these tows require considerable practice and can cause accidents and injuries, especially for inexperienced teams. It’s best to learn to draft (ride close together in single file) as a team first.
A key rule is: "Nothing new in a race". That applies across the board. You don't want to wear new shoes or even new underwear that might chafe. You don't want to drink a sports beverage you haven't tried before or eat a big sandwich before a bike ride if you've never done that. After you buy lights, you need to get to know them well by using them after dark. What this all boils down to is that as often as possible, you need to train the way you're going to race. Test your clothing layers and your pack. See how your body handles certain types of food while doing different activities. Practise changing the tire on your bike. Even practise doing the things you will need to do in transition, e.g. "remove helmet", "take off bike shoes", "change socks" (or not), "put on new trekking shoes", "add food to pack", “refill water”, etc.
If possible, your team should try a shorter race or two before Wilderness Traverse if you are able to fit them into your schedule. See the Adventure Racing Ontario website for a schedule of shorter events taking place in the province. (2020 events have been postponed.)
The Storm Adventure Race is a shorter event that suits both first-timers and experienced racers.
You may find it interesting to review old Wilderness Traverse courses to get an idea of how we think. :) The maps are posted online on our Past Races pages (under More).
A number of the adventure racers in southern Ontario log their training on Strava. If you follow some experienced racers, you can get ideas for your training.