The ITERA Course Is Revealed!
The curtain slowly rose before the expectant teams at the ITERA Expedition Race briefing, and the race route was revealed. A huge race map filled the stage and showed them where they would be going in the coming week. Their Highland adventure was very real now.
They had trained for many months and travelled from all around the world to Inverness, and only now did they find out exactly what the race would entail. They were not disappointed, more like awestruck and in some cases maybe a bit fearful, but they got what they’d come for. The almost circular route includes ocean paddles on both East and West Coasts, iconic mountain climbs on Suilven, An Teallach and Liathach, wilderness treks and rides, castles and canyons. The 565km route will be a true expedition race, no doubt that.
James Thurlow of Open Adventure and Course Planner Tom Gibbs had given them a quick introduction, had little fun telling them they might see Nessie and explaining the Haggis should be left roam freely should teams come across the rare beasties. More seriously there was advice on a very real and ever present threat – the midge. There were introductions of key staff and the ARWS Referee, Adrian Crane, and all the usual race administration – but it was the maps the teams really wanted and as soon as the curtain went up they were given out with the route book.
The race is using the Milburn Academy School and there were plenty of tables for teams to spread out and start analysing the route in detail. Soon there were intense study groups all over the school, measuring and calculating on maps, while reading every word of the route book very closely. They had plenty of homework to do.
Fortunately for them it does not have to be ready in the morning. The race does not start until Monday morning and gear checks and registration were completed today, so there is ample time tomorrow for more work on their race plan and for Q&A’s with the organisers and planner.
There is time tomorrow to finish preparing their gear too, or to wait for it to arrive. Quite a few teams have arrived in Inverness minus bags or bike boxes, and although some came in today there are still a few missing. Team Sweco arrived without any bike boxes, 3 came in today but Tomas Norlander told me, “The one that is still missing also has the portage trolleys in so if it does not arrive will be carrying the kayaks even if we find another bike!” With any luck it will be here in the morning along with any other missing kit.
(Yesterday wasn’t a great day to be travelling in the UK. Airport strikes and IT failures are ongoing, blackouts shut down many trains and torrential rain and floods closed roads and rail lines!)
All of the teams are staying in the Youth Hostel right next to the school and for much of the day it’s resembled the aftermath of an explosion in an outdoor gear megastore. Teams could not check in until after the 3pm briefing so the gear and bike boxes piled up and once the course was revealed and packing could start in earnest they were all emptied into any available space. Luckily it was a fine day until a heavy rain shower arrived in the early evening, so teams could spread out.
The packing and the course plotting will go on into the night and through tomorrow. There are 21 two-sided A3 maps to mark up and once they’ve done that the teams will have a true grasp of the scale and challenge of the course, and of the stage by stage detail which will allow them to break it down and move around it.