Hopefully everyone is having a great summer, local/regional racers are going great, and your only friends are paddlers (& your dog)! Slowly but surely the months are ticking by as we creep ever so slowly closer to OCTOBER! Don’t worry, it’s going to be just fine, just keep paddling between now and then! We decided to jump right into the meat & potatoes of some Chattajack nuances, tips, and strategies that every CJ racer navigates. Hopefully by pondering them now while time is in your favor it will make for fewer decisions you have to make come race weekend.
Starting Line – Your goal at Chattajack may influence where you position yourself on the start line. Usually the fastest, more experience Chattajack veterans gearing for the front draft trains will line up slightly river left on the start line. This puts them in prime position to take the inside corner going around the first river bend.
Weather – We all dream of a bluebird Chattajack race day, zero wind, strong current, and temps in the mid 60’s. If history and percentages are to be considered in your mental/physical race prep, you should probably plan to deal with a headwind at some point in the gorge. On a positive note rarely will you have a problem with a side-wind inside the gorge since the mountains flank you on both sides. Historically mornings are rather cool and midday is mild. Make sure your garments will be flexible for the range. If you do plan to shed a garment midrace, know where and how you will secure it to your vessel. This can be a little more challenging for SUPs.
Drafting – Chattajack is a long race and chances are someone on the start line paddles at a similar speed as you. Some racers planning to work together line up alongside one another at the start, stay close while the masses spread and the chop settles to then form their train. A different strategy might be to go hard for the first mile then begin looking for a train you can jump on allowing for cardio output recovery and also potentially positioning oneself amongst a fast pack with high moving averages deep into the course.
HEADS UP! - Some draft trains may collectively agree to take short nutrition breaks or utilize aid stations, others will continuously charge meaning if you need to stop paddling to reach for your nutrition (switch a hydration bladder, take off a garment, etc), you probably just slipped off the back of the train. No one likes falling off a fast train but the good news is with so many paddlers on the water there will likely be another one coming up behind you that you can jump on. Some paddlers prefer to experience the race and the course without the use of drafting and that’s completely fine, you’ll have an amazing experience either way.
Nutrition – The Chattajack website gives the requirements that racers must carry for themselves on race day but outside of that additional tips include testing your nutrition on your training paddles. Make sure your stomach is happy with what you choose to fuel with on race day. Know how and where you plan to carry/secure your nutrition. There will be 3 aid stations on the course supplied with water and CLIF nutrition products.
Garments & Gear – Be comfortable with your gear and know what you plan to wear on race day so no matter what Mother Nature throws at you you’ll be golden. Race day temps can range from the 30’s all the way up to the upper 80’s, pretty crazy! With this variance you need to have options and with each option make sure and ask: Does it give you the proper range of motion? Will it keep you warm enough? Will you overheat? Will it interfere with how you plan to carry nutrition? Will it chafe you?
GPS - Electronics that provide paddlers with useful metrics can be extremely helpful to Chattajack racers. Knowing your current speed, your heart rate, strokes per minute, distance traveled can all prove useful in pursuit of a fast race. Most experienced paddlers prefer a system that mounts to their vessel and is in sight while paddling. Because of the length and remoteness of the course there are not mile markers. Your GPS will help you know where in the course you are and how much time as elapsed.
Personal Checklists – Having a checklist is extremely helpful so that you can keep your mind relaxed on race weekend.
Maybe you have a Packing for Chattanooga Check-List: Board, paddle, lifejacket, phone, wallet, charging cables, paddling garments, nutrition, toiletries, non-chafe cream, etc, etc)
Maybe you have a Friday Checklist (i.e. – Check-In to hotel, eat/hydrate, stretch, go for a leisure paddle downtown Chattanooga, drop off your board/vessel at the Chattajack board storage, organize nutrition supplements, charge Speedcoach, Pre-Race Check-In, Final weather check to determine which garments to wear, layout breakfast foods, apply bib to garments, SET ALARM, get in bed early, etc, etc, etc)
Maybe you have a Race Morning Checklist – Coffee/Water, 5-10 minute stretch, light breakfast, put on paddle garments, vehicle drop at Hale’s Bar Dam then catch shuttle, 5-10 minute stretch, bathroom, etc.
Everyone is having a great time but racers also have a million little things circling their mind that they’re trying to remember in hopes of a strong race. Check-lists allow for a little more relaxation, less anxiety, and the opportunity to enjoy the experience that much more.
Hopefully some of these topics lend food for thought as to how to maximize your best outcome on race day after a summer of diligent training. It’s a lot to juggle. Congrats to all of the 2019 racers out there logging the summer miles laying the foundation and building gears they’ll use throughout the race come October.