Bridge to Bridge Race August 21, 2021
From Brent Ernsberger:
I wish to thank all the paddlers that attended my 3rd running if the Bridge to Bridge race. I have kept the course very similar to the one used by Buzz Lail and then Sonja Gilman.
I believe the most exciting and hectic aspects of this race are the bridge turns, which are done counter clockwise. Especially the first one which is about an eighth of a mile from the start. Although I always hear groans from the paddlers about the potential bumping and traffic issues with a turn when the whole group is still a sprinting pack, they always talk about how much fun it was post-race. This year I decided to give an award for the first boat to survive the turn and get back to the shallows going upstream. The first annual sprint award went to Matt Conrad, followed closely by Bill Kanost and Deb Kanost. Matt and Bill were in the front going into the turn. Deb was at the rear, but made a very tight turn as the traffic was lighter and was barely nudged out for the win. Congratulations Matt! Here are the results.
K1 Sea Kayak Man
Larry Swift 1:03:55
Matt Conrad 1:09:46
Roger Crisp 1:18:55
K1 Sea Kayak Woman
Den Kanost. 1:04:52
Colleen Curran 1:12:05 (paddling 14’ plastic boat!)
Bill Kanost 58:53*
*Breaks course record he set last year by 2 seconds
Ted Beatty 1:03:18
Steve Horney 59:09
Brent Ernsberger 1:05:40
Sonja and Guy Gilman 1:05:50
They raced at noon instead of at 10 since no other C2s showed up
Special thanks to my timers Julie Birge, Michele Ernsberger, Tim Taylor and the beautiful and pregnant daughter of mine Victoria Taylor. Who will be having a future paddler in February.
Many thanks to Brent for reviving this race! Not overly long, but definitely a challenge to both turning skills and river reading – and knowing your boat! Standard strategy going upstream on flowing rivers is to hug the shore to minimize the effects of current, but the downside of hugging the shore is the shallow water zaps your speed. If you can pop your boat in the shallows, you’ll make some time, but otherwise it can be a tradeoff between current effects and hull speed. Brent told me before the race that when he checked his speeds during a pre-run, he was .5 mph faster out in the deeper water than he was hugging the shore. His boat doesn’t do that well in shallow water, and neither does mine, so I put that nugget of wisdom in the forefront of my brain. I also changed my paddling style to a short, choppy, low-angle stroke keeping my arms close to my body and using my core extensively. Some shoulder pain led me to the change, but I also recalled it was how I tackled shallow water in the past when I had a boat I could pop in the shallows.
The start of the Bridge to Bridge race is different than any of our other races, in that the race starts when the local fire station siren sounds at noon – and the timing is not always accurate. I can tell you from experience that you don’t want to be caught pointing upstream when it sounds! Thankfully Julie Birge called out 5 minute, 4 minute, and 1 minute warnings, and the siren went off close enough to noon that we all got a relatively decent start. As Brent noted above, the first challenge of the race is the first bridge turn a few hundred yards downstream. We’re all still bundled pretty closely together, trying to funnel our way into one section under the bridge and hoping to gain a turning advantage. Here’s where my 21 ft surf ski is woefully lacking; it turns with the radius of an aircraft carrier. Thus I was motivated to get in quickly and hopefully block my competition until I could get turned. Bill got in just ahead and on my left (and we turned left), so he actually blocked me at first, then pulled out more tightly. Meanwhile, I had blocked Ted who had to go around a farther bridge pylon to get around the turn. But Matt Conrad, back just a little, cut inside all of us and really took off. He took the lead and held it at least as far as the return to the start line before some of us could catch up. Deb Kanost also pulled off a very tight turn and gained some valuable distance.
As we headed upstream, Ted caught up with Bill and rode his wake while Bill stayed near the left shore. Following Brent’s advice, I stayed further out in deeper water mentally thinking “I need to run my own race, and not Bill’s”. Good advice; I pulled ahead of Bill and held that lead the full upstream leg and around the top island; Bill did catch up going downstream as we passed back under the upstream bridge, having made up some time on me when I hit the shallows going around the island. By this time Ted had fallen off and was duking it out with Larry Swift further back. From there Bill and I shifted position back and forth for the rest of the race. He pulled ahead downstream, but I caught him again at the downstream bridge turn, he out-turned me, I caught up again as we headed back upstream, coming together at the upstream bridge turn, where Bill out-turned me again, then heading back to the finish I was on Bill’s wake as the finish line came into view. Being in some better water and feeling good, I started to pour on the power and pass Bill, but then Bill went right and I stayed more in the center of the river. Bill hit good water, and I hit weedy shallows killing any hopes of taking the win. As we finished and shook hands, Bill told me that Pat Sawyer used to say he couldn’t read a river. Then he looked to the heavens and said “You were wrong Pat – I can read a river!”
Meanwhile, something similar happened to Ted and Larry. Larry caught Ted at the upstream bridge, but Ted was able to find better water in the river on the way back and managed to pull ahead of Larry.
Brent Ernsberger and the Gilman C2 ran a pretty close race; maybe that was appropriate as both have been race hosts for this race! The Gilman’s intended to run in the C2 race at 10, but as the only ones to show up, the opted just to practice a bit and then raced with everyone else at noon.
Coleen came out with her 14’ plastic kayak. She put in an awfully good time for paddling a relatively heavy, sluggish boat.
Heat management was a problem for some during the race, but a couple of our racers found effective way to deal with the heat. Matt Conrad took a swim before the race, and then afterwards, getting thoroughly soaked each time. He said it helped a lot. Roger just took a rest break when he started to feel dizzy. As a side note, Roger showed true competitive spirit when his daughter Julie tried to get him to pull out at the end of the first loop; Roger basically said “no way” and proceeded to finish the course in a respectable time. Roger said his engine is getting a bit worn, but from what I can tell he still has what it takes!
As Brent noted above, he gave Matt an award for having the best bridge turn. I wish you could have seen Matt’s face when he got that medal! I don’t think I’ve ever seen him light up like that.
A number of us topped off the day with some excellent vittles at the Jaywalker restaurant in Mottsville. Those burgers really tasted great after some tough racing!
Thanks again to Brent, the Ernberger relations, and to Julie Birge for all their work in putting on this race!