If at first you don’t succeed, try again. And so we did, and this time success embraced our efforts to ignite the paddle racing season! Terry set up his usual excellent race on the Tippecanoe, although he did lack his usual donuts. I blame that on the expense of his new truck. But on the plus side, Terry set us up with some good high water that meant if you hit a rock, you were aimin’ for it! The only rock I saw the entire trip was a massive boulder near the side of the river close to the end.
High waters also meant that race strategy consisted of a two basic elements: work hard, and try to get there first. 🙂 It pretty much didn’t matter what line you took, the water depth and flow were high enough that you probably wouldn’t get any real advantage (or disadvantage). Some decent ripples a few places may have been a small challenge if you were stability compromised, but everyone seemed pretty solid in their respective conveyances.
Canoeists ruled the day, with 12 paddler in various forms of single-bladed propulsion, while 4 paddlers opted for the double bladed lifestyle. We had some intense competition, and not just overall; there were numerous “races within the race”, and really, that’s where a lot of the excitement formed.
We started our preparations with the usual start of the season complaints: no one has had much opportunity to practice, aches and pains are worse than before, and we have no idea if we’ll make it to the end. Kind of like an old whiner’s club. Until we get on the water; then muscle memory and our racer’s instincts take over, and we press hard to the end. Even if we do feel like we may expire along the way… Speaking of which, the most challenging part of the race may have been the transportation back from the car drop-off point. Our transport vehicles were so packed Tom Thomas was literally sitting on the console of Terry’s truck, head against the windshield, hoping for all he was worth that Terry wouldn’t engage in a high-stakes game of chicken. Tom, as one of our tallest and oldest paddlers, came away from the experience with either an improved sense of agility, or a permanent crik in his back.
At the shout of “GO!”, we dug in hard. Paddling my “training wheel canoe”, I took an initial lead, but that didn’t last long. Ted Beatty and Bill Kanost were going hard at it, and they gradually caught and passed me. I tried to get on the wake of Ted’s boat, but he didn’t seem to have much of a wake to ride, at least at the stern. Must be from his ultra-light weight. Bill tucked in behind Ted shortly thereafter, rode his wake a bit, then pulled a classic Kanost and just gradually pulled away until he was beyond catching, leaving Ted a bit more worn down. Meanwhile, Tom Thomas was finding his groove and moving up until he caught up with me. We ran side-by-side for a bit, until Tom pulled ahead and I found contentment riding his wake for a few miles. I dropped back a little in the one shallower area, and couldn’t quite catch him again, but I did manage to stay pretty much a constant distance back as Tom gradually overtook and then passed Ted. I held onto hope until the end that I could catch Ted, but ’twas not to be; we stayed almost exactly the same distance apart for probably the last 4 or 5 miles of the race.
Meanwhile we had a few other sub races going on within the overall race: Matt Conrad and Roger Crisp were dueling it out in Sea Kayak, until Roger got leg cramps and Matt pulled ahead decisively. And just behind them Deb Kanost and Betsy Arnold (yes, Betsy was back again!) were putting on a tough fight, staying close all the way to the end. Terry Pontius was hanging on to this foursome as well, inserting a bit of C1 flavor among the kayakers. In the mix of this fivesome was the foursome – in one canoe! – of the Gilman C4, creating wake-riding opportunities for the solo boats around them. And finally Larry Swift just edged out the aluminium duo of George Tinsley and Hilman Culp. Larry was paddling an interesting home-built canoe/kayak hybrid, paddling it in canoe form with a single-bladed paddle.
Everyone put on an excellent performance Saturday, especially considering some of our competitors were coming back from significant medical conditions.
Following the morning races (PM races were cancelled), we had our Spring USCA meeting, with some of us concluding the day with a fine meal at the Oakdale Bar and Grill.
Many thanks to Terry for putting on an excellent race, and for Bill Arnold taking on timing duties! Bill brought his bike, intending to get in some riding, but when duty called he willingly answered!
Next week: Sugar Creek!