Bridge to Bridge Race, Bristol, IN 8.27.22

In some respects the Bridge to Bridge race has been the bane of my racing existence: I seem to run the race reasonably competitively, but I typically fail to find some critical lines along the way to give me the edge I need. Yet I think part of the draw of this race is the challenge of running the perfect lines – there’s always something to strive for. Along with the fact that it starts at noon and I can get a good night’s sleep before heading over… Speaking of which, I had a great drive to the race, with temps in the upper 60’s and almost no one on the road, until near the race when I encountered a minivan that pulled out right in front of me while I was traveling at 60 mph and proceeded to accelerate with all the gusto of a Dramamine-drugged glacier. But accident avoided, and after a swift hemi-powered pass I made it without further drama to Hermance Park.

Brent had an ideal day and ideal water levels Saturday for this running of the Bridge to Bridge (which I think we figured out was started around 1999).   It was a beautiful morning that gave way to a warmer, but not terribly uncomfortable, day. Water levels were a little higher than usual, and the weeds – while still plentiful – were at least seldom showing above the water. I missed the early race, but we had one pair (I believe from Michigan) who ran the C2 short course (Patricia Thornburg and Andy Weeks).  Here’s where I would have expected Guy and Sonja Gilman to have shown up for some C2 competition, but apparently they were elsewhere doing some cycling. We did have a post-race discussion about passing a law that anyone living on a river must be at races on that river…

A much bigger crowd showed up for the noon racing (with Patricia Thornburg now racing C1 Woman). With the unreliability of the noon whistle (our traditional start for the race), Brent’s son-in-law had us line up and sent us off with a hardy “GO!”. Now one wrinkle added to the standard racing format was a trophy Brent brought along to give to the first kayak to make it to the bridge. Matt Conrad saw that trophy, and he gave it his all, edging out everyone else to make the first bridge turn. Great job Matt! As we all tried to negotiate the turn (always a challenge with so many boats bunched together, and different turning rates), things got interesting with some racers being cut off and others choosing alternate line, but then things got settled as we found our positions and began the upstream workout to the 2nd island. Interestingly, I find I generally make better time upstream than I do downstream in my SEL, but I wasn’t quite fast enough to hand with the leaders, so I had the opportunity to see which lines they chose.

At the front of the pack Ted Beatty was making fast time with his RPM downriver boat, but Rick Widman from Ohio wasn’t letting him off easy, and Rick gave hard chase to Ted throughout the race. Rick paddles a sea kayak, but he can make it run like almost no one else – and he never seems to slow. Following those two (and running close for the first part of the race) was the gang of Bill Kanost, Paul Kane, and Jon Henderson. I trailed behind them, running with Deb Kanost. Everyone followed pretty much the same line, staying to the left side of the river heading up, but as we came to the first island most of that crew stayed far left, while Bill Kanost went right, running closer to the island. I nearly collided with Deb as she moved to follow Bill (as a loving wife does), and I decided to try the far left. On my second loop I went the Kanost route, and I think it was the better choice. At any rate, past the lower island we ran under the toll way, moving to the right side of the river, then a bit later back to the left side as we approached the top island.

Rounding the top of the 2nd island, we headed back downstream, mostly keeping left through the toll way bridge and running left of the lower island. Coming around the lower island is where keeping a correct line really paid off; most of those ahead of me stayed left until they got closer to the start line, then moved right. I moved right coming off the island, but found it was a slower choice. On our second loop (which was just to the toll way bridge, around the lower island, and back), I followed the line the others had set, finding it faster (but I was too far back at this point to gain on anyone). A fun race with a lot of strategy!

Roger Crisp start the race and was actually running quite well, but severe leg cramps caused him to have to pull out after the first loop. Matt Conrad also had cramping that caused him to fall back quite a bit. Ken Stelter brought one of his wooden kayaks and really paddled impressively well, really pushing Brent Ernsberger to the end, where Brent just edged him out by a few boat lengths. Brent was paddling his downriver boat for this race. Patricia Thornburg and Larry Swift had quite the competitive race, with Patricia edging out Larry by 1 second!

Lots of records were set this race – and several of the times would have been records were it not for other even faster paddlers. Ted Beatty set a smoking time, setting the overall course record and the K1 Open record. Rick Widman set the course record for K1 Sea Kayak Man, Deb Kanost set the course record for K1 Sea Kayak woman, Brent Ernsberger set the record for Down River Kayak, and Patricia Thornburg set the record for C1 Woman. Wow!

A number of us topped it all off with some great food and fellowship at the Jaywalker Restaurant in Mottville, MI right after the race. Many thanks to Brent for putting this one, for Julie Birge for helping with timing and photos (I’ve attached a few she sent), and to Michele, Tim, and Vicky for their help with timing and putting on this race.



Morning race

C2 Mixed short course

Patricia Thornburg 

Andy Weeks


Noon Race Long Course

Open K1

1st Ted Beatty.       56:15 (New Open Kayak & Course record)

2nd Steve Horney.  1:02.19

C1 Men

1st Bill Kanost.       59:46 

2nd Paul Kane.       1:00.25

3rd Larry Swift.       1:10.56

C1 Women

1st Patricia Thornburg 1:10.55


Sea Kayak Men

1st Rick Widman 58:03 (Record)

2nd Jon Henderson 59:44

3rd Ken Stelter. 1:06.38

4th Matt Conrad. 1:14.20

5th Roger Crisp DNF

Sea Kayak Women

1st Deb Kanost. 1:04.17 (Record)

Downriver Kayak

1st Brent Ernsberger 1:06.36


Note: The 2nd annual sprint to the Bridge winner, Matt Conrad. Matt also won the first sprint in 2021.

Special thanks to my timekeeper and untold helpers and cheerleaders

Tim Taylor 

Julie Birge (Thanks for the photos too!)

Victoria Taylor 

Michele Ernsberger 

Jack Taylor 

Bridge to Bridge Records Long Course 6.5 miles

Open Kayak & Course

Ted Beatty   56:15.  2022

C1 Men

Bill Kanost.  58:53.   2021

C1 Women

Patricia Thornburg 1:10.55. 2022

Sea Kayak Men

Rick Widman.   58:03.  2022

Sea Kayak Women

Deb Kanost.     1:04.17.   2022

C2 Mixed

Sonja & Guy Gilman. 1:04.59 2019

Downriver Kayak

Brent Ernsberger. 1:06.36.  2022

Short Course (4 Miles)

C2 Mixed

Kelly Harrington 

Ted Beatty.           43:49.  2020

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