Ahhhhh, my local river race.
The one for local bragging rights.
The one I don’t have to drive a ridiculous number of miles to get to.
I woke up at 6am Saturday morning, 40 minutes before my alarm, fully awake and excited to paddle in my local race, The Rivanna River Regatta.
This was the 12th year of the event and I’ve been primarily responsible for promoting it so I’m always a bit nervous the morning of the race, hoping it will be a success but not knowing how many people will actually show up.
It had rained (lightly but continuously) here in Charlottesville for two days prior to the race and people are generally averse to showing up for outdoor events in the rain. And if that event happens to be a river race, they assume the river must be at flood levels.
This latter part makes no sense, but I think it has to do with human psychology tricking people into sleeping in. It certainly has nothing to do with USGS river gauges.
Friday after work, concerned that maybe the river would be too high or have obstacles too dangerous for novice paddlers, I threw my whitewater boat on the top of my truck and headed to the put-in a few miles from my house to run the race route to make sure it would be safe to race the next morning.
It was free of obstacles and not even very high so I communicated with race organizers who then decided there was no reason to cancel or postpone the event just because of a little rain.
When I arrived at the starting line on race morning, the river indeed was up several inches from the night before, but still very safe and manageable. The rain even stopped in the early morning and by race time the sky started clearing.
By the time my fellow racers and I got to the finish line the sun was starting to shine through.
It was a perfect day for racing. Somewhat overcast for most of the race so it wasn’t too hot, water level up but not pushy or dangerous, and great people with which to share the river.
Many of the side channels and rocks I saw Friday night were all washed over so the river provided more options and a greater margin for error which is great for race day.
I decided to once again paddle my Cobra Viper kayak but was a little worried when I got to the start of the race to find a fiberglass wildwater boat, an Epic V7 surf ski, and a long Necky ocean something-or-other made from Kevlar or fiberglass. On top of that was a home-built design that looked fast and a few other crafts that seemed highly competitive.
The race began and I started a few boats back in the pack. I suffered through the wash from other boats at the start and some of my fellow paddlers jumped out to an early lead.
I figured I was in for a tough race and was starting to question my decision to “go light” and not even bring water with me for the race. By the looks of things early, it was going to be a neck-and-neck, bitter fight to the end and I feared I might need to drink water later in the race, but I had none with me.
In fact, I took nothing with me except for my car key in a dry bag.
That was very unusual for me.
I almost always paddle with plenty of water, a GPS unit, my phone, and an emergency first aid & repair kit.
I was also a little worried about my nutrition beyond just water, especially if the sun came out and heated things up.
You see, in my morning excitement and with an earlier-than-planned departure from home, I assumed I would drop my boat at the starting line, grab something to eat, and then take my vehicle to the finish line and shuttle back, so I left the house with nothing but a cup of coffee in hand.
Well, I got busy helping out at the starting area and chatting with fellow racers and then led a parade of 4 other vehicles to the take-out, caught the shuttle bus provided by The Rivanna River Company, and next thing you know, it was race time and I had nothing in my stomach but a cup of coffee.
I had taken my allergy medicine when I woke up but that was it. A nasal allergy pill and a cup of coffee.
Just before the race I also did something unusual that I’ll share with you.
As an allergy sufferer, I’m always worried about breathing and getting enough air into my lungs when I’m outdoors and working hard physically.
Two weeks prior, at the Little D On The Monocacy race, I experimented with something new. (I love to experiment on myself and try to biohack.)
Along with a recent order of some sports supplements, I received a free sample of something called NaNOX9 Next Gen by MuscleTech. This particular supplement is a vasodilator and “nitric oxide amplifier,” something bodybuilders use to “get the pump.” (I do not benefit in any way from promoting this product and am not associated with NaNOX9 or MuscleTech in any way.) Well, at the “Little D” race I thought I’d try this vasodilator product sample to see if it would help my breathing.
It seemed to help.
So in the two weeks since that race, I bought a bottle of the stuff and planned to take 1 serving (4 pills) at the starting line of the race. So I did and washed them down with a bottle of water.
The stuff worked as planned. I’m sure this off-label use of the product was never foreseen or tested, but I am now a believer and I pass this ‘pro tip’ on to you as something to research and consult your physician on if you suffer from seasonal, nasal allergies. I am not a doctor and am not qualified to diagnose or treat anything, but in my untrained opinion, this particular dietary supplement helped me breathe freely for the race.
So I was off and racing on nothing but some water, some coffee, and this “pump” supplement.
I wan’t too worried, though, because I knew I was in a state of dietary ketosis and my body would be burning fat as its main fuel source. I’ve been adhering to the “NSNG” (No sugars, no grains) lifestyle promoted by Vinnie Tortorich, my fitness trainer, and got even more rigid with my diet for several weeks prior to the race to ensure I was in ketosis. I didn’t have much fear of fatiguing or bonking, but there was that nagging “what if” thought in the back of my mind.
Well, like I said. I like to experiment and this would be a true experiment.
Back to the race.
The racers got off to a fast start and I found myself in a near sprint for pretty much the first mile. I managed to work my way to the head of the pack but knew people weren’t too far behind so I kept paddling really hard for the entire 6.2 mile race.
The race video
Once or twice I settled into a marathon pace for 10-20 seconds, but for the most part I felt great and when I began to realize I might be able to set a new course record, I went right back into sprint mode.
I tried to crush it on the flat water and was liberal with bracing strokes through the white water to avoid doing anything stupid and making catastrophic mistakes.
At one point somewhere around mile 5 or 5-1/2 there was a nice family gathered on the bank of the river, cheering and whooping at me as I went by. I quickly said “thank you” and asked how close the guy was behind me and they replied with words I wasn’t expecting to hear. “We don’t see anyone behind you.” That was when I became aware that my lead was bigger than I thought it was.
Everything worked out and I crossed the finish line in 43 minutes and 6 seconds, a new race record.
It was another couple hours after finishing the race that I had a chance to eat, but I did not feel starved or depleted. Just really hungry.
It was a great day and a great race with a very good result. I think all the participants had fun and it was great to see old friends and meet some new ones.
Next Saturday it is on to the Tye River in Nelson County, VA for the rescheduled Nelson Downriver Race. Come join me. And come to Charlottesville on the second Saturday in May next year to run the Rivanna Race.
Boat cam of the entire run. condensed time