In The Pack for Chattajack

Editor’s Note: This is a first in a Distressed Mullet Series on Chattajack Prep. Additional columns will focus on landmarks and navigation on the river and the all-engrossing issue of “bio breaks” when you paddle for 32 miles.

So…there’s two weeks and some change left on the calendar before this year’s Chattajack 31 (32) – my favorite flatwater race of the year!! The talk is already starting on The Facebook and elsewhere about what to eat, how to eat, how to carry it, etc.  This is my third year, and while I hope that by now, I have this dialed in, I am making some changes this year, based on what I learned last year. So here’s a look at what I will be carrying and with what gear, along with some other notes that hopefully will help those struggling. obsessing and downright fretting over what to take and how to take it.

Relax, don’t do it

My first piece of advice to those who are starting to freak out – breathe deeply. Drop your shoulders. Breathe again.  You’ve done your training.  You are going to be fine.  Really. I promise. Now is the time to be good to yourself.  Resist the urge to full-on freak out.  It’s wasted energy that will do you and your support team no good.  It will also cause you to inadvertently decide to take everything thing but the kitchen sink on your board or boat.  Do not give in.

That said….here we go with some ideas for what to bring along, for pre-race, during and after.

Pre-Race Nutrition

First, let’s just say that the subject of food is highly personal.  What works for me may not work for you. Test, test, test before race day. Know what your body needs and how it reacts to certain things.  Do not use something for the first time on Oct. 22!!

My routine stresses protein, because my body gets really cranky when I skimp on that. So, a little chicken soup with avocado, nut butters, and the like along with a concoction of oatmeal and yogurt will be on the menu before the race.

Secret Weapon: Beet shots. Distressed Mullet Jane Paddler and general kickass racer  Kim Hillhouse turned me on to the Power of the Beet before this year’s Graveyard. I am sure it helped me get through that and I am certain I would not have finished this year’s Paddle Imua without it. I take a Red Ace beet shot about three hours before the starting gun goes off. And one with turmeric after.

On Board Nutrition

So, last year, I went with Tailwind. Carbs and electrolytes all in one liquid. Just mix up the powder, put it in the hydration bladder and sip. Despite testing it well beforehand, on race day, Tailwind gave me a huge gut bomb, even though it’s not supposed to. So, this year, I am going with GU’s Roctane Summit Tea mix.  Taking your nutrition in liquid form helps ensure you are eating and hydrating as needed throughout the race, since you do not have to slow down or stop to open packets or unwrap something.

I will augment that with a few Hammer Nutrition gels or perhaps some homemade “hand helds” from the Feed Zone cookbook. These I may eat at my designated rest stop- usually Mile 21.  The Feed Zone books come from the great folks at Skratch Labs. Check them out. You’ll thank me.

Favorites from the Feed Zone:

  • Bacon Muffins
  • Waffle Ride Sandwich
  • Chocolate Peanut Coconut Rice Cakes

I plan to repeat with last year’s chicken soup too.  I made a batch of homemade in the crock pot and put it in a Hydroflask Food Flask.  At my one stop at Mile 21, it hit the spot.

There will be a Perfect Bar in the dry bag, too.

Now – I may or may not need or eat all of this.  And it may sound like a lot.  But it’s likely I will just nibble/sip at the one rest stop. But at least I have it if I need more. Know your own body and its needs. Everyone is different.

Less is More

I learned this lesson big time my first Chattajack. Streamline, streamline, streamline the stuff. Half of what I took I really didn’t need and a quarter of it I simply forgot I had, forgot to use or didn’t have time to use. The most important thing in that last category was food. I was so focused on making sure I made the 2.5 hour 10 Mile cutoff at Suck Creek I did not eat.  Every food item I had with me required two hands to fish out, open and eat.  So I didn’t. Until I made sure I’d made the cutoff. That GU was the best GU ever. Hence my advice above.  Take something you can eat/drink easily so it is not a deterrent to getting the nutrition and hydration you need.

How to Carry it – The Pack

I use the Osprey Rev 18 adventure racing pack.  It’s light weight, extremely functional and it’s big enough to hold two bladders. The Osprey Hydraulic hydration bladder has the quick release hose connect at the top of the bladder so switching from empty to full is literally a snap. No fuse, no muss.


Osprey was the first to integrate a magnet on the bite valve that attaches to a metal clasp on the sternum strap of the pack, keeping it right where you need it for hands-free drinking.  That is standard on all Osprey hydration packs.  It’s an add-on for most others.  Don’t know Osprey? Well, the company has serious backpacking cred and one of the best lifetime warranties in the business.

Pro Tip: Osprey has redesigned its adventure racing pack series, and it will launch next year. They are awesome. But, right now, you have a great chance to score a Rev pack at a great close out price if you look.


This is a hard one.  Weather could be anything. I’ll have appropriate tights by Virus, with the ceramic nano-fibers to help aid recovery.  Wore these last year and I swear my legs felt so much better right after the race and the days following. I will be prepared for rain and cold with Season Five and for more temperate conditions with Bluesmiths.


In almost all situations, I prefer bare feet. But this year I’m sitting in an outrigger.  I have noticed a potential for rubbing and blisters on my heels, where they meet the bottom of the cockpit. So, I’ll be wearing Body Glove’s 3T Barefoot Warrior shoe. It’s a super comfy, three-toed minimal shoe that drains well and will keep my heels protected but not make me wish I was shoeless.



There is one thing I hate worse that neoprene booties….gloves.  Just don’t like ’em, in any context. So, I will use Paddlewax’s SUP anti-sweat grip wax. I’ve used this stuff since my first Chattajack in 2014. Let’s just be honest, we’re paddling 32 miles. The hands are going to suffer no matter what.  This wax helps minimize that without sacrificing dexterity or comfort. And it’s one less thing to deal with when I stop and need to get into my solid food packets.


Miscellaneous Gear

Safety: DaKine PFD, Mocke Life Line Craft Leash, Phone – charged up and off or in airplane mode to save battery. Benchmade H2o fixed blade river knife.

Data: NK SpeedCoach, Garmin Fenix 3

Sunscreen: Two words- Banx Block. Enough said. Period.

Dry Bag: That’s where the solid food will go, and anything else I want to keep, well, dry. It can go in the SUP pocket (see below), in the Hydration pack or under deck bungees if you have them.

SUP-Specific: The SUP Pocket is an awesome way to carry a minimal amount of gear on your deck.  I used it last year and it was perfect.

Post Race

This is the stuff that will be waiting in my “spare change” after-bag I keep in the car for the end of the race. That bag is key. Also in the car will be a cooler with my perishable food items.

Nutrition: This is KEY for me. I have to have protein and pronto. The best chocolate milk you will ever have is served up at the finish line of this race, but I need more. I will use either Hammer’s Recoverite or GU’s chocolate smoothie recovery mix. I will also take a Red Ace beet shot with turmeric. (Turmeric is a known anti-inflammatory.) There may or may not be a chicken breast, or a burger, depending on my sherpas.

Then I will eat everything in sight.  For the next week.

Kit: Again, a lot depends on the weather, but you can bet my Bluesmith’s Kula hoodie will be ready and waiting.m-kula-fathom-blue-ltd-front-webres

Along with my Virus Energy Series Bioceramic KL1 Active Recovery Pant.

And probably my Maliko Run tee shirt. It’s so soft and comfy. And after 32 miles, I will want soft and comfy. And it will remind me how far I have come this year.

Hands: All Good Goop. This is THE best stuff for hands, or really any skin issue.  I keep a jar of this in my car and use it after, and sometimes before, every paddle. Very soothing, with natural healing herbs and it smells good too.



Miscellaneous All Good’s Herbal Freeze with Arnica will be in the bag for any acute specific muscle pains.  The foam roller gets to come to Chattanooga with me, along with my Lacrosse ball. Hammer’s Tissue Rejuvenator will be in the medicine bag as well.

So there you have it.  What did I miss? Chattajack veterans, what’s in your race bag?