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Discussion: ITERA Scotland

in: Adventure Racing; News

Aug 12, 2019 2:40 PM # 
Bash is being derelict in her duties (probably off paddling in some non-scenic location) so I figured I'd start up the chain.

Once again, a robust field in attendance for the 2019 version of ITERA. Great to see this race back on the calendar after RD James Thurlow said he might not put on another one due to health issues.

Here's the tracking link:
Aug 12, 2019 2:55 PM # 
In case anyone is wondering why the field has split so early in the race, ITERA offers what I believe is a unique course format in the ARWS - time penalties for missed checkpoints, rather than disqualification. The amount of the penalty depends on how difficult each one is, but I believe the sliding scale goes up to 8 hours per CP. The exact amount for each CP is listed in the course book.

It is highly likely that the top teams will have to visit all the course CPs, but for teams wanting to cut a leg short or preserve themselves for the long-haul, skipping CPs is a smart strategy.

Our buddies from NYARA appear to have taken the short-course option on the first trek and are making good time. They'll probably duck in and nab a few CPs
Aug 12, 2019 3:58 PM # 
That's an interesting approach! I wondered why the field was so spread out already.
Aug 12, 2019 4:30 PM # 
Yes, I've been paddling! And a little running and biking and wine drinking. :)

Here is the route book - not sure if this will work for non-Facebookers.

Rob Howard is in Scotland, and Sleepmonsters is doing a great job of covering the race on Facebook and with new articles.

SM has the race maps but has been asked by organizers not to release them for copyright reasons. So you can ask a question about a map on Facebook but they won't post it for you.
Aug 12, 2019 5:54 PM # 
mmmm, delicious Open Tracking. Love it!
Aug 12, 2019 5:58 PM # 
For reference, SM speculatd before the race that ten teams will finish the full course this year, which seems about on par with previous editions. Looks like it will be spectacular, whether you’re one of those teams or just hitting the mandatories.
Aug 12, 2019 9:37 PM # 
Course changes on the paddle due to wind.
Aug 13, 2019 10:45 AM # 
As a 3x ITERA participant, SM has it right:
time penalties assessed after the race to finish time for missed OPs. No short course teams are allowed to leave TAs ahead of full teams. Yes, to be full course, you have to visit all, and you are ranked ahead of anyone skipping a point. A fast team could get cheeky, be super fast and only skip 1 hr point, but they would be ranked behind all teams completing full course.

The RDs also work unusually hard to make sure that short routes are still really enjoyable (unlike most races where short routes become miserable slogs).
Aug 13, 2019 10:48 AM # 
Also, watching our friends from NYARA closely: they were wise to drop points early but have slowed down a fair bit overnight it seems. They now looks to be in serious danger of missing the TA3-4 cutoff, which is 6 or 630PM. They look to be about 6 hours behind the first short course team, and that still puts them a fair ways out from TA. As noted above, I imagine the short route through the trek will still be nice, but it will be mostly/entirely at night (which, btw, always seems to be our team's luck: trekking in the mountains at night in ITERA)...
Aug 13, 2019 11:25 AM # 
I was just looking ahead in the racecourse and wow, what thoughtful treks they've put together! There are SO many route choices and at night, I expect that it would be quite tough going. Perhaps we'll see teams heading in very different directions between CPs. I just hope they don't have to shut down any of the CPs so as to get top teams to the finish line as creating trekking sections like these are such a rarity.
Aug 13, 2019 2:29 PM # 
According to a post from SM, full course teams missing the cutoff for the canyoning section will still be ranked on the full course but will receive an 8-hour penalty.

On the first hike, the RDs have given teams a couple of helpful navigational hints, and have moved the path on the ridgeline in bounds, which may cut down on route choice we'll see. This apparently is being done to speed teams up.

For the short course teams, the new cutoff is 19:00 Tuesday for TA 3/4 and 19:00 Wednesday for TA 4/5. Teams missing these cutoffs are required to continue on the mandatory short course route, not picking up any additional optional points.
Aug 13, 2019 2:58 PM # 
Such a tight window between that eight-hour penalty and the mandatory short course - just two hours. Right now, it looks like a couple more teams may sneak through, but they may only have 4-5 full course teams before nightfall.

I’m curious about the logic behind the eight-hour penalty for missing the canyoning. Seems steep, considering how long the canyoning was meant to take teams and that it was due to course changes and weather that many teams won’t get there, rather than something the teams had control over.
Aug 13, 2019 4:10 PM # 
Wow, just had a first look at the tracker. The map is incredibly detailed! Hopefully the race maps are that good.
Aug 13, 2019 4:57 PM # 
They are JayXC!
Aug 13, 2019 5:25 PM # 
No teams on the water right now...I wonder if the conditions worsened and the wind has made it impossible to paddle (that happens in ITERA, trust me).
Aug 13, 2019 6:45 PM # 
I am wondering how team 6 is going to get their kayaks down the hill/cliffs to the water. Carry or toboggan ride them down (that might end badly)
Aug 13, 2019 7:51 PM # 
If Team 6 still has their kayaks (I would have just ditched them and walked to the nearest pub), that is truly an epic kayak-whack.
Aug 13, 2019 9:06 PM # 
Recap on the craziness from SM. Sounds like headwinds and portages derailed efforts for most teams. NYARA, in good company with several other teams, ended up being bussed around to the trek.
Aug 14, 2019 12:12 AM # 
Bummer, NYARA just went unranked. I had a bad feeling after they turned west on the paddle...
Aug 14, 2019 1:22 AM # 
Back to the maps, Brenda and I are thinking and wondering that the dashes are clifs and the dotted down slope lines are terrible erosion gullies perhaps?
Aug 14, 2019 7:38 AM # 
Kiwi Mike:
Back here in NZ the dashed cloud looking lines would be rock formations or vertical cliffs and the dotted lines would be scree slopes. I.e. not terrible gullies but a really quick and safe (and fun) way of dropping height.. probably don't have it much in scotland. It all seems to be grass or gnarly cliffs based on the photos. Jealous of the scenery!
Aug 14, 2019 10:26 AM # 
Helpful! I too am jealous of the scenery and those maps are amazing.
Aug 14, 2019 10:55 AM # 
New updates overnight here in the states:

Itera news update. The course has now been adjusted taking out TA5/6 and 6/7 and removing Liathach from the course.

On stage 7 CP 23 has been removed and the A896 at Annat is now in bounds.
Aug 14, 2019 2:06 PM # 
I love ITERA because it markets itself as a manageable, entry-level expedition race, of which there are very few in the ARWS circuit. But once again, about half the field has gone unranked early in the race (as was our experience at ITERA Ireland). And once again with ITERA, it's the paddle section that has caused all the trouble. From the SM pictures, it looks like the boats they were in were similar to the Ireland edition, which were slow, leaky and low to the water.

James and the entire ITERA crew are amazing, but this shouldn't keep happening. Either provide real sea kayaks that are capable of withstanding windy, wavy conditions, or don't put people on the ocean or other large bodies of water, where even a 20 mile-per-hour wind can make it impossible to make any forward progress. Or don't market the race as manageable for teams other than the five that remain on the full course.

Frustrated in Fresno
Aug 14, 2019 7:46 PM # 
OK, revisiting my earlier comment, I do want to clarify that I'm not sure if ITERA markets itself as a easier race. But it does have that reputation, and it does have a pre-planned short course.

In any case, we're down to four full-course teams, which are all making good time along the coastal bike route.

And the good news is, the wind appears to have died down, according to SM.
Aug 14, 2019 8:26 PM # 
Never mind, SM reporting "horrible weather... beating down right now."
Aug 14, 2019 10:22 PM # 
Kiwi Mike:
How do the checkpoints work? Electronic tagging? It seems Lozere may have forgotten to tag CP 27 or sailed right past it. Gutting.
Aug 15, 2019 12:13 AM # 
Kiwi Mike:
They do have e-tagging. Leaderboard is synced with their trackers and set to update within a small radius. Great system, though i don't believe it works well in areas with poor-no cell reception. Unique to the UK as far as I know.
Aug 15, 2019 12:43 AM # 
Kiwi Mike:
A 4G/3G system? That's pretty cool. Probably really cheap that way and allows easier 2-way communication compared to the SATCOM systems. I was wondering how the updates are so frequent compared to the 15 minute pings we have here. I wonder if in the future there will be devices that use 4G with sufficient bandwidth to upload photos and or messages on course. Make it a good spectators sport.
Aug 15, 2019 12:53 AM # 
Hmmmm. StrongMachine. I hear you, but I do think there is another side to this. I think the RDs at OA are some of the most thoughtful and deliberate RDs out there. I also think they are more daring than many. Add in a climate that is arguably more volatile than any other ARWS location, and you have a very unique canvas as an RD. Racing in the UK ultimately can and often does tend to be rather epic and amazing at any level from what i can tell from many dot-watching episodes and race report reading, but it can also end up being extremely challenging for racers and RDs alike.

This isn't just for AR and ITERA.

Dragons Back, The Spine, even short stage events like OMM: all probably have more sketchy installments than they do clean ones. Some truly legendary races. I don't think you can go to the UK or Ireland and not expect things to go pear shaped. Great if the dont, but thats probably unlikely in a long event.

As for ITERA specifically: I do not think ITERA advertises as an easy race (I know you correct yourself), and when it says its accessible to beginners, I don't think it's saying it will be an easy journey for them either, nor that anyone can complete it. But, I think their format is uniquely accessible. Still, when you get unlucky (or rather, the norm) and the weather plays a factor, it makes it considerably harder for novice teams who have tons of added obstacles to completing a short course beyond the challenges of the course itself.

As we have discussed many times (we being the AR community): I think it comes down to the hard realities of the sport of AR at this level: ITERA often goes wrong when there is sea kayaking and the weather is bad. True, their boats are not amazing, but honestly from chats I've had with a host of RDs at all levels and our own considerations and experience: Sit on tops can, in fact, be safer for teams that have little true open ocean experience. If the boat does capsize, it is much easier to right the ship and carry on. With more legit sea kayaks, many are less stable, and they require a higher degree of proficiency to self rescue , dry the boat out and continue on (all in VERY cold water...). There is also the question of fleet access: few RDs can actually outfit a race like this with like boats. Is there a top notch fleet of 80 boats for OA. I don't think you're necessarily wrong, but I don't think it's necessarily that easy for the RDs. (FYI: Godzone is one of the only races I know of that sources big quantities of nice kayaks for an XPD...and they built and bought that fleet...)

Finally, many of us are looking at a big expedition like this wanting something more than the sanitized short (or long) event . These events are really the pinnacle of the sport. I know when "Sea Kayaking in Ireland" or "Sea Kayaking in Scotland" or "Sea Kayaking in Maine" :) is advertised, many of us ooh and ah, and we get very excited; the RD posts amazing, sunny pics and video and we send our cash. . Don't get me wrong, some of the best moments of my three ITERAs have been on a mountain bike, cruising through rural Scotland, Ireland, Wales and just counting hedges or sheep. But I'm sold on trekking through the highlands and sea kayaking. I'd go anyway, but the potential wildness of most editions of this race is why we keep going back and why we have gone three times vs. going to some other events that don't appeal as much (but which might and SHOULD for others).

Bottom line, I don't envy James and his crew. Do you go big and try something truly epic like they have done the last two years (FYI: in Wales in 2014, it was also epic, the sea kayaking ALSO caused issues and half of it was canceled, but that leg wasn't such a big hinge, so it was easier to work around. The last two years really have been based on these epic paddle legs) or do you go the safer, still fun, but less amazing journey? The first option admittedly requires perfect... everything... when you're talking open ocean paddling in the North Atlantic, and there's probably a 20% chance or so that it goes off...but if it does...

Anyway. I think there is a place in our sport for events like this. I think most/all people going know what can go wrong in the UK. When we went to Scotland in 2012, we really didn't have any race reports to go off, but we knew the weather was notorious.

Again, I hear you, and I for one am glad there are a few races out there that offer such big and bold adventures, even if they don't always go as expected!
Aug 15, 2019 1:00 AM # 
Yes, I believe so. At ITERA, you carry two trackers. I honestly don't know what the difference is offhand. But one of them has a cell transmitter in it and it syncs with their cell network, pinging location and then noting when a team essentially reaches the CP (they also use standard epunching to actually prove that you visited).

I know the folks at Adventure Enablers connected with Open Tracking and they rent out the trackers. That said, the one or two events I've followed in North America that use them have had some spotty tracking. Some have explained this is because they rely on cell reception and in the US, that can be dodgy in AR territory. It seems the UK has much better coverage overall...

I'm not a tech expert, so don't quote me on it all, but this is my understanding.
Aug 15, 2019 2:11 AM # 
KIwiMike, I have to address your media comments. While its true cell coverage is getting better at a lot of races, we will never be able to count on the racers posting content. They are just to busy racing. I can't count the number of times I have given a GoPro to a team and when I get it back it hasn't left their pack. It's cool, they are racing. Now it is nice that I can be out there and Live stream/ post from the middle of nowhere.
Spotty Tracking. Both cell and satellite fail, usually when you are close to a team. The upside of cell systems is that you usually know where that coverage will suck.
Aug 15, 2019 10:16 AM # 
Kiwi Mike:
Team 15 is going backwards now!

Edit: and they've turned their map back around the right way. Close race up front!
Aug 15, 2019 11:15 AM # 
"Itera course update: FromTA7/8 teams can now be taken forward to the Clunie Inn for a shorter trek, allowing them to reach the rafting in time today.

These teams, and those who were bussed forward to Ardessie on the second paddle, will now be classed as ranked with a 36 hour penalty for each transfer.

(This ensures they finish behind short course teams, but they will now be ranked.)

Teams missing cut offs, who took shuttles on other points of the course or withdrew will be unranked."

Circling back to Strong Machine's and my comments. I DO have a problem with half the field being wiped out by something like weather. I didn't comment on it yesterday, but I was bummed that so many teams went unofficial. All are doing well and making steady progress save for that lost time and energy on the water two days ago and it does seem a shame that so many RDs just DQ teams in situations like that. I get it, and it does pose a ranking nightmare, but...

SO! I'm very happy to see this decision.
Aug 15, 2019 11:53 AM # 
Kiwi Mike:
I presumed that section was packrafting based on the map! Then I saw the photos of the kayaks being being dragged. It's a shame, the packrafts are slow and expensive but would have provided many more portage options and been much lighter to carry to make it more manageable for everyone. Is packrafting a standard discipline that way? Or just kayaking?
Aug 15, 2019 5:17 PM # 
"The French team said they thought CP30 was not there and took a picture of the location "

It will be interesting to hear if VidaRaid and Sweco also thought CP30 was missing, won't it? Didn't look like any of them spent significant time in the area looking for it, though I suppose the feature (hilltop) is rather obvious.
Aug 15, 2019 5:29 PM # 
And then there were three...Swiss/UK Adventurers dropping down to short course after skipping some trekking points.
Aug 15, 2019 5:32 PM # 
Broots, I'm also glad to see lots of teams bumped back up to official., especially our NYARA friends, and some of the other teams I got to know during the last version of ITERA.

There's always going to be an inherent push and pull between wanting to make a course difficult and going too far.

I was excited and a little surprised to see how many teams were on the start list for ITERA, and how few of them I recognized from previous ARWS events. It looked from the pictures like lots of them were weekend warriors. Getting DQ'ed after hauling a kayak through a field for 12 hours is not likely to bring them back.
Aug 15, 2019 9:53 PM # 
Just saw some of the white water rafting pics, WOW! Looks fun. But saw the bug net pictures too, yuck.
Aug 16, 2019 2:56 PM # 
Congratulations to all the teams finishing, awesome work. Especially NYARA! USA! USA!
Aug 16, 2019 3:00 PM # 
Exciting race at the front end, with first place Columbia dropping down to third due a stop from what SM seemed to attribute to total exhaustion.

I've hung with Sweco a couple of times and they're great, happy for them to get second. Matthias is a NY Rangers fan so he's OK in my book :) And Marie broke her leg in Raid Gallaecia two years ago, glad to see she's back in top form.

As for the short course, I'm a little sad, but not surprised, to see a couple of teams had moved above Swiss/UK Adventurers in the rankings. It seemed to me that some of those CPs on the first trek had too low of a time penalty for the effort they took to get.

Broots, I believe we talked about this before the last iteration of ITERA (see what I did there?), but there really is a strategy about attacking the short course, and you can see that play out here, with teams who took a short course strategy early able to better plan their race.
Aug 16, 2019 5:35 PM # 
It appears Columbia is unranked now. Looks like they took the wrong road into town and then a boat or swam to the finish. Not sure what happened since I last checked.
Aug 17, 2019 12:08 AM # 
I saw that too. That sucks.
Aug 19, 2019 11:40 AM # 
Hi all

I was in Team Endurancelife (#8) who finished third at ITERA 2019. It was a great race and it was subject to adjustments following the difficulties on the Leg 3 paddle/portage.

Ask away if you have any questions.
Aug 19, 2019 11:58 AM # 
Congratulations! :)
Aug 19, 2019 2:42 PM # 
Congratulations GD44! Well done in some spectacular conditions. So the maps are really that great? What are your thoughts on the changes along the way? Everyone on Vidaraid OK? Thank you for anything you might wish to share, and again, well done.
Aug 20, 2019 1:54 AM # 
Gary will be on the podcast when I get back from Iceland
Aug 20, 2019 11:46 PM # 
Awesome result, congrats GD!
Aug 21, 2019 6:46 PM # 
Member of NYARA here. Just getting my feet under me after finishing the race, sorting my gear, getting back the states, and sleeping a bit. I lost 12 lbs. during the race and now, even a few days later, am still overwhelmed and grateful for the experience. What an amazing place to race alongside my solid teammates. It was very challenging but I wouldn't trade a second of it. I'm very grateful to James and Co. for taking all into account and keeping us on the short course.

So tired....
Aug 21, 2019 7:01 PM # 
Thanks all!

The maps were very good. 22 No. A3 sized Ordnance Survey maps at 1:50,000 scale. Not waterproof so we laminated them with coverseal before starting. We got the maps after the briefing on Saturday afternoon. So we had more than a day's worth of time to look at them before starting at 0830 on Monday morning.

The changes along the way had to be made as a result of two things in my opinion: a) the portage sections on Leg 3 took longer than what the organisers had anticipated and b) the strong winds on the west coast resulted in slower progress for the front teams and resulted in many other teams struggling to get round that stage.

The first change made by the organisers was an extension of time on the canyon section between the Leg 3 paddle and the Leg 4 trek. This was good for us as it allowed us to make the extended cut off and avoid having to incur an 8 hour penalty. Lucy Noble in our team refused to do this at first due to the cold but she changed her mind (thankfully) when she realised we'd take 45mins to do it (in a neoprene wetsuit) to avoid an 8 hour penalty.

It was at this point that we as a team acknowledged two main points: a) that the long course was probably going to be beyond the capabilities of the vast majority of the teams as a result of the slower than intended progress on Leg 3 and b) there was a need to hit the rafting cutoff on Leg 9 to avoid another 8 hour penalty.

In response to the above, we reluctantly decided to drop three CPs on the Leg 4 megatrek (65km 3500m ascent) as the penalties were small relative to the amount of effort needed to collect them. This was a good move on our part I think. We incurred 8 hours of penalties as a result of this.

The next and last change made by the organisers was the removal of the two trekking CPs in leg 6 sandwiched between Stages 5 and 7.

We dropped both CPs on the Stage 8 trek to make sure that we got to the rafting cutoff in time. The ruling was that we had to get to the rafting stage (on Leg 9) by 2030 otherwise we'd have to incur an 8 hour penalty, and have to walk down the valley to the kayak put in. We got there by 1930 and managed to do the white water rafting section without penalty. Other quality teams failed to make this cutoff and incurred the 8 hour penalty.

After that, it was ~9km paddle to Fort Augustus where we were disappointed to have missed the closing time for the fish and chip shop!

And from there, we mountain biked (Leg 10) on the Great Glen Way to the finish on the high ground parallel to Loch Ness.
Aug 24, 2019 12:36 PM # 
Career Move:
I raced with 24H Adventure Meals from Sweden. We had a fun time and finished 15th I wrote a race report if anyone wants to read

This discussion thread is closed.