Lions Paws for Support Paddlefest – informally known as the Fish Lake Race – presents a venue like no other. There’s a story that the band played while the Titanic sank, but I doubt they were playing classic rock, like the band at Fish Lake. And no one sank in this event (other than my race placement…) Emily Howard and the Lions Paws for Support put on another great event Saturday, filled with fun, vendors, food, recreational kayak, canoe, & SUP rentals, the aforementioned band, and racing. Lots of racing! We even had the paparazzi following us, with footage shot from a drone and a kayak-mounted camera with a cannon-sized lens. If you wanted to feel special, this was your opportunity.
As with the past few years, the race course started on the channel between Upper Fish Lake and Lower Fish Lake, and required paddlers to circumnavigate Upper Fish Lake, run into the large (but unnamed on Google Maps) pond or small lake just off to the southeast side of Upper Fish Lake, back through the channel into Lower Fish Lake, make a run around that lake, and finish back in the channel again. Distance-wise, it’s only 4 miles, but with various combinations of shallows, deeps, wind-driven waves, and weeds in some places, it makes for a challenging race course that requires paddlers to run close to a sprint pace.
As I’ve noted in the past, each race seems to take on it’s own “boat flavor”, and K1 Open was hot ticket this time. I just brought along my SR, assuming Bill Kanost and I would run semi-socially for a ways, then he would kick it into high gear, smoke me, and I’d coast into second place, with a good looking, but slower boat for display. But l hadn’t counted on Oleg Vengerowsky showing up with his ICF boat, Paul Kane bringing his SEI, and Larry Swift bringing his newly acquired Think Evo. I shoulda’ brought the SEL! 🙂 Brent Ernsberger made the sole K1 Downriver showing, but we had 3 paddlers in K1 Sea Kayak: Deb Kanost, Matt Conrad, and Roger Crisp. Terry Pontius and Skeet Craig showed up to give come C1 flavor to the event, while George Tinsley and Hilman Culp Jr rounded out the event with their classic C2 Aluminum craft.
When the starter horn blew, we made a mad dash to get clear of each other (and the other water craft in the channel). It’s a relatively narrow passage, so you don’t want to get caught behind a pontoon boat or something before you enter Upper Fish Lake. Right off the bat, Oleg and Bill began a duel that lasted the entirety of the race. Bill was running a theoretically slower kayak, but his stability skills, tighter turns, and mastery of the shallows would prove crucial later in the game. Paul Kane settled into position behind the two front runners, I fell back behind Paul, with Larry behind me and the rest of the gang a little further back. Rounding the first buoy, Oleg got a little confused on which way to go to the pond, giving Bill a bit of a lead (Bill and Paul did yell directions to Oleg as he ventured off, keeping him from going too far astray). Oleg caught up, gaining in the deeper water, but in the pond Bill out-turned Oleg at the buoy. They kept running hard, changing position along the way. Paul kept working to gain ground, but it wasn’t to be. I had to maintain a more modest pace; joint pain mandated a more “relaxed” approach to racing, so Larry and I entered a “race within the race” situation. I kept hearing Larry behind me huffing and puffing as he paddled, and when he caught me just before entering the channel on the way to Lower Fish Lake, I assumed his energy expenditure was such that he would be falling off before long. But Larry informed me later that he always sounds like that, and sure enough he didn’t run out of zest.
Lower Fish Lake is quite shallow in areas, playing to one of Bill’s strengths, and Bill again took the lead over Oleg rounding the first buoy. But as the water deepened, Oleg caught back up and it looked like he would put the hurt on Bill. But Bill got a break; some wave action shortly before reentering the channel destabilized Oleg slightly, and Bill made his move, just edging out Oleg at the finish. Paul maintained his position to the finish. Meanwhile I had fallen behind Larry, but as we made our way back to the channel I knew it was a “now or never” time. I changed my technique to employ almost entirely core and legs, minimizing stress on my shoulders. Not only did this change relieve the pain, but my speed increased to where I caught up with Larry entering the channel – much to Larry’s surprise (he said “Hey – I thought you were way back there!”) From there it was a sprint to the finish. Larry just edged me out. But I made him work for it. 🙂
Behind this lead group of K1 Open boats, the Sea Kayakers had some solid competition working, and Deb Kanost showed her dominance in leading the rest of the group to the finish, followed by Matt Conrad and Roger Crisp. Skeet Craig powered up for the win in C1 Man, followed by Terry Pontius, with Brent Ernsberger in his K1 Downriver boat separating the two. George Tinsley and Hilman Culp again crushed the C2 Aluminum field to finish off the “pro” races.
Next up was SUP racing. Humbled by 5th place in K1 Open, it was time to return with a vengeance, dominating my class of 1 in SUP expert. It was sort of humorous, in that two novice-class SUP paddlers were sent off with me. Not surprisingly, I came in well ahead of them. But these two guys were taking a REALLY long time to get back to the finish. It turns out they took some extra distance, but mostly they decided to just take a “sociable cruise” and come in together. But we all had fun! Other novice racing followed to give everyone a chance to compete.
Prizes awaited the top 3 finishers in each class, while snacks, water, and Gatorade were provided for all paddlers. Plus other items in a nice “goody bag”. Really a fun, first-class event. Many thanks to Emily Howard and her crew for all their efforts in putting on a super-enjoyable race!
As a side note, I saw George and Hilman perusing a yard sale on IN 4 as I returned home. I wonder if they were stocking up on give-away items for next year’s Hoosier Regatta? 🙂
Results are below. My apologies; I can’t locate the timing sheet with the times, but the finish order is accurate. Conditions were sunny, around 80, and with a breeze.
1st Bill Kanost (Razor)
2nd Oleg Vengerowsky (Nelo ICF)
3rd Paul Kane (Stellar SEI)
4th Larry Swift (Think Evo)
5th Steven Horney (Stellar SR)
K1 Sea Kayak
1st Deb Kanost (Razor?) 1st K1 Woman Sea Kayak
2nd Matt Conrad (Epic 18X) 1st K1 Man Sea Kayak
3rd Roger Crisp (Stellar S18R) 2nd K1 Man Sea Kayak
1st Brent Ernsberger
1st Skeet Craig
2nd Terry Pontius
1st George Tinsley / Hilman Culp Jr (Grumman)
1st Steven Horney (Savage River Needle)