Guest blogger: Salli O’Donnell

I recently caught up with Salli O’Donnell who earlier this year completed the Yukon 1000 Canoe Race, the longest canoe race in the world, with her teammate Paul Cox.

I simply asked her to share her experience with you.

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Salli O’Donnell:

“The hardest thing for me [is] to try to summarize not only 1000 miles of the most amazing stretch of nature I could ever want to explore, but how to include or exclude all the other facets that overwhelm ones senses during so.

After a long day of airports, planes, delays and lost baggage, we arrived at our hotel in the small mining town of Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon Territory.  It was not long before midnight on Thursday, July 19th and we were already exhausted. My paddle partner Paul Cox – who flew in from Atlanta, GA and I from Norfolk, VA – connected in Vancouver for the final flight into Whitehorse. We were about to embark on what is billed as ‘the longest canoe race in the world,’ the Yukon 1000.

Friday morning we met the Kevlar Seaward Passat that would be our home and ‘wheels’ for a good 8 days. This is a type of boat that neither Paul nor I had ever been in; we had a lot of ‘getting to know it’ to do!

After a few hours of deciding how and where all the gear, food and water we would need for this race would be configured, we took it on a 12-mile test ride. After discovering and fixing some major issues with rudder control (thank you Team Kiwis!), we felt a bit more comfortable.  The rest of that day was spent gathering supplies and food for the race.

This is truly an unsupported race in that we must carry all we will need for the full extent. There are a few little pockets of civilization along the 1000 mile course but we are not allowed to take advantage of any of them unless we’ve an emergency, which also means we forfeit the race.

Saturday was full of boat adaptations, race and safety briefings, gear checks, satellite phone configs and tests (which were later sealed and only could be used in emergencies) and last minute purchases.

My favorite boat adaption was my footboard.

Being mostly a surfskier, the idea of having to use widespread foot pegs for 1000 miles was not thrilling. I searched the surrounding area until a found a decent plank of wood that would span the pegs, then I duct-taped closed cell foam pads to its base on either end – it made a fantastically strong and stable footboard for me to drive against.

Sunday morning the race began at 7am. The water on this part of the Yukon River is crystal clear and pleasantly cold (when it is hot out). Within the first mile, we settled into 3rd place and for the next 20 or so miles, we had a nice push from the river. Then came Lake Laberge, a 30+ mile stretch of open, slow and potentially choppy water but at the far end it necked back down to the river and we were cruising at 10 to 11 mph!

Unfortunately those speeds didn’t last too long but it sure was reinvigorating to have them and periodically over the next few hundred miles we would see them again.

Late in the afternoon, we came across the 2nd place team, Team Hobo Squad. They had stopped to get a bite to eat and were surprised to see us come by. They scrambled to get back in their boat and eventually caught up to us – they were definitely faster than us. We went back and forth a couple of times but by mandatory stop/camp time they were ahead of us.

As part of the race rules, we must stop and make camp for a minimum of 6 hours every day. The race managers said the beginning of this 6-hour stop must fall between 11pm and midnight, but they would allow a little leeway on either side of that hour. The Hobos stopped around 10:45 and, although they offered us to join them, we pushed on to find our own spot…and later wished we had accepted their offer!

About 30 minutes later – tired, wet and cold – we found our spot. Paul changed into dry camp clothes and I threw on a wind breaker. We unloaded our gear and set up camp. For safety, we had to position our food and water away from our boat and tents. In doing so, I noticed numerous moose tracks and bear prints, a skull and other bones, fur etc. I mentioned this to Paul and he, too, had come across some on the other side of his tent…we were NOT in a good place!

After looking around more, we realized we were in a ‘killing field’ (aka a good place for bear and moose to enjoy their supper) and knew we had to re-position.  Aack, that night we learned a lot about properly scouting out our potential campsite before investing too much time and energy into it! Oddly, that first night was our most mentally challenging night as it seems from that point on our rationale appeared to be more intact.

For the next couple of days, we went back and forth with the Hobos because they occasionally took breaks to get out of their boat, we didn’t.

On the 2nd night, we camped with them on the same little island just past Fort Selkirk although they reached it first. It was on that 2nd day they asked if we ever stopped and, in retrospect, we should have lied and said that we did! They quickly adjusted their strategy and we did not see them again – or any other racer – until the morning of the 4th day.

By this point, the waters of the Yukon River had already been insulted by the confluence of the White River. Around Race Mile 364 (afternoon of Day 3), it was mesmerizing and sad to see the silty plumes of the merging White River obliterate the beautifully clear Yukon waters. From that point on, not only did we listen to the hissing of the silt as our boat glided along and our paddles dipped in but we had to find clear sources of drinking water to filter as the silt was so pervasively thick that it clogged Paul’s water filter in less than 2 seconds.

To make matters worse, we ran into our first of several fires at the White River confluence. Visibility was not good, smoke was thick, burnt flotsam everywhere, water now silty white and hissing – not my most favorite portion of the race.

Day 4’s anticipated highlights were passing Dawson City (Race Mile 440) and entering the United States (Race Mile 532). Dawson City is the race’s only supported drop out point. Up to then, we knew if we had any issues and needed to pull out of the race, as long as we could hobble to Dawson City, we’d be taken care of.

After seeing the Hobos off and on in the distance on the morning of Day 4, we stopped to filter some water at a clear creek just past Dawson; we did not see the Hobos again until that night. We paddled through another huge section of fires and smoke and finally crossed into Alaska, 11 miles farther we arrived at Eagle. It was within the mandatory stop window that we climbed up the steel stairs to Eagle, found the phone and called US Customs to announce our arrival into the United States. Not wanting to make camp there, we pushed off for the island across the way and came across the Hobo’s camp. They invited us and we joined them for a windy, windy few hours of rest.

Day 5 was full of fires, wind and rain. We thought we saw the Hobos late in the day (they confirmed they did see us) but that was the last glimpse of them until the finish. That night we found a comfy little place to camp, enjoyed taking in the beautiful surroundings, then tucked ourselves away for a nice little rest. Little did we know how dramatically different the next couple of days would be.

Up until this point, the Yukon River carves a path through mountains and bluffs but on the morning of Day 6 we hit Circle, AK (~Race Mile 700). For the next couple hundred miles the Yukon River meanders through an area referred to as ‘the flats.’ There are no mountains nor bluffs to slow down the winds and the river itself works its way around multitudes of islands and sloughs that are transformed annually by the spring’s ice movements. The river gets very wide, several miles wide, with competing currents that you had to fight against not to be taken down a path adding miles to your race.

Unfortunately, we did not read this section well and by the afternoon of Day 6, we were passed by Team Kokura and later by Team Independence Poland. We went back and forth with Poland and even camped together on the same little beach that night but since they arrived there first, they left there first the next morning. After that, we saw no one until our finish on Day 8.

By the way, we did see much wildlife along the way – eagles, moose, bears, beavers, links, and wolverines. There were 31 teams that applied for this race, 14 teams accepted and 13 teams completed it. At the finish, the race managers were there to greet us with a Yukon River chilled beer, a race T-shirt, a commemorative coin, pictures, interviews and assistance in unloading our gear.

The logistics they endured to put on this race for us was phenomenal and I only hope I can return and do it again.”

# # #

My next kayak

I’m developing the short list for my next boat. Think Evo 2, Epic (gasp) V8 Pro, Stellar SEL and Nelo 550. What else belongs in the consideration mix?

Let me know if you are interested in buying my: Phoenix Mini Slipper, Prijon Interceptor, Wenonah Orion, Phoenix Match II or, possibly even my Cobra Viper.

I need to free-up some cash.

The Thunderbolt-X now becomes my winter trainer, which is weird because not too many years ago I bought a winter trainer as an alternative to her.

Wye Island Regatta Kayak Challenge 2018

Yesterday I returned to Wye Mills, MD to compete in the Wye Island Regatta Kayak Challenge.

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It has been 5 years since I last raced this race, last in my Thunderbolt-X kayak in the Racing Single division which put me in with all the surfskis.

Prior to registering for this race I contacted the race coordinator to ask what class I should enter.  I explained my Nelo 510 is a surfski but plastic and 16’9″ long with a beam of 21.6″.

He replied and told me the technical specifications put me in the Recreational Kayak division so I grudgingly accepted that but told him that if anyone at all complained, to please bump me up a class or two, either into the Fast Touring or Racing Single.

Since my boat didn’t fit neatly into any category, I really didn’t know which division to choose.  I certainly did not belong with recreational kayaks but I certainly did not belong with composite racing skis either.

So I registered in the recreational kayak division and at the time I registered I was the only entry, which I thought was odd.

When I raced the first year of the Kayak Challenge, there was a plethora of kayaks in the event, so I figured maybe everyone was waiting for the last week before the event to register.

Sadly, there were only 4 or 5 true kayaks there plus myself, and the rest of the field were all males on racing skis.

I hope the organizers address this issue at some point and try to appeal to a broader range of kayakers in the future.  I realize this is primarily a rowing event, but if it wants to include kayaks then I think it ought to try to appeal to paddlers who are below the level of advanced or elite surfski paddler, perhaps with a reduced entry fee for true kayaks or some other level of recognition.

Trust me, the people who showed up in kayaks yesterday worked harder than anyone else.  It was a shame there weren’t more of them.

The organizers bumped up the starting times by 30 minutes to try to beat impending storms, but as luck would have it, as we launched at 8:30am it started raining before we even paddled to the starting line.  By the time the race started at ~8:45 the rain was coming down steadily and at times became very heavy with strong winds and choppy waves.  This lasted for much of the first 5 miles of the race.

By the time we rounded the far end of the island and started paddling back east, the headwinds were very strong and choppy waves were coming straight at us.  In fact, in this race, the wind and waves came from all different possible directions over the course of the race so those with the best balance and skills in a variety of conditions were rewarded.

wyecompositeMy Nelo 510, my tracks from GPS and step count

As I reached the far side of the island, the Kent Island Rowing Club in a 6-person outrigger canoe came up from behind be and slowly passed me into the wind.  We chatted back and forth and a couple times I was able to retake them over the next couples miles.  Their wind profile was so high it was holding them back so I was evenly matched with them under those conditions purely based on out-of-the-water wind profile.

I paddled very close to them for the final 3 miles and tried to catch the last of the composite surfskis toward the finished line, but still came in about 10 seconds behind him.

I ended up taking home the winner’s medal, but I did not feel good about it knowing I beat a really nice guy in a regular 16′ recreational kayak who poured his heart into it.

I felt like I brought a gun to a knife fight.

But there were no Fast Touring kayaks and only 3 men and 3 women in the Recreational Kayak division so even if I entered in the Fast Touring Kayak division (20″ beam or greater & 17′ or longer,) I would have been the only entrant and the race organizers would likely have combined kayak divisions

I wish there was more competition in the kayak divisions.

This was a much different scene from the early years of the Kayak Challenge when there were many more true kayakers. In 2010 there were at least 10 participants in the rec kayak division and more than that in the Fast Touring division.

I’ll probably not come back to this race unless I buy a composite surfski and compete with the more elite racers.  Lack of participation from other kayakers doesn’t make me feel very appropriate in this race.

The race organizers should either embrace kayaks or announced this race is for rowers and surfskis only.

I have my eye on the Think Evo, the Nelo 550, the Epic V8 Pro, or the Stellar SEI, but I would only use one of those boats in one or two races per year and they would not suit my needs for the vast majority of the paddling I do where rocks are an issue.

So I find myself in No Man’s Land with regard to the Wye Island Regatta as I don’t want to invest 3 or 4 grand into a boat that is only suited to a couple races per year, and I don’t feel good about competing with far superior plastic against a limited field.

I wish there was a more affordable option to get into a composite surfski.

# # #

Below is my video from the race.  I had two cameras but the rain was so heavy and the water so choppy there was water on the lenses for much of the race so much of the video is unusable.

 

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Race report: Richmond Paddle Cup 2018

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Yesterday I paddled in the 17-mile canoe & kayak race during the Richmond Paddle Cup event.  The sponsor, Crosswind Paddle Co., added a longer, 17-mile race this year after they were approached by the James River Association (JRA) and asked if they would consider adding a longer race in lieu of JRA hosting the James River Rundown this year.

I’m very happy that Crosswind Paddle Co. added this longer race and encourage them to hold it again next year and think about expanding the distance.  I’ll do my part to help promote the event and encourage more participants.

The race began at 8am at the Maidens boat ramp and the weather was perfect paddling weather, which is to say it was mostly overcast for the duration of the race.

I had only paddled this section of river twice before.  Once during the 40-mile James River Rundown in 2015 and then again in the 100-mile James River Rundown in 2016, however, in the 2016 race I paddled this section at night and didn’t really get to see it, but I did recall scraping a few rocks both times.

So I knew from experience there were some rapids early in the race but the last few miles were wide and deep with the possibility of wakes from recreational boats.

I chose to paddle my Nelo 510 due to the possibility of hitting rocks and knew Paddling Buddy Dave was taking his 19’2″ X 18.9″ carbon/Kevlar Stellar SR, so I fully understood I would not be any real competition to him so I hoped to compete well against other similar boats that showed up, especially any Epic V7’s, of which there were two of them in this race.

We got off to a good, clean start and Ryan jumped out to an early lead in his racing canoe followed by Salli & Mike in their tandem Stellar ski and then Paddling Buddy Dave.

I managed to work my way up through the main pack to stay in 4th place behind them and I was able to keep Dave at least in sight for the duration of the race.

I found myself in the ever-so-familiar no-man’s land again: well behind the leaders and well ahead of the main pack, so once again I paddled alone for the whole race.

I managed to average 7.2mph for the first 14 miles and then when the river got wide and flat with a slight headwind, my overall pace dropped to a 7.1mph average, but I was happy to maintain a steady, brisk pace throughout the race with no signs of fatigue.

Screenshot_20180811-210822_Mi FitScreenshot_20180811-210920_Mi FitScreenshot_20180811-211017_Mi FitScreenshot_20180812-180953_Mi FitGPS tracks from  my Amazfit Bip wristband along with pace data

I don’t recall my official time and I overshot the finish line a little bit before I turned off my GPS, but I think I finished at ~2:25:00 which was good enough for 2nd place, about 4 minutes behind Paddling Buddy Dave.  {Official time was 2:23:44 which was more than 12 minutes faster than every other kayak/ski that was not a carbon/Kevlar ski longer than 19′.  I believe there was also a fiberglass Prijon Expedition in that mix.}

I was quite happy with that.

And this is a real testament to the Nelo 510 since we know the paddlers are about even and the Stellar SR is far superior in terms of weight and speed, so kudos to Nelo for designing a plastic ski that smokes the V7 and any plastic competition!

jrr2018medal2nd place, Men’s Solo Kayak

FB_IMG_1534380559130Me and Paddling Buddy Dave

The best part about this race, though, was the fact that it seemed like a homecoming for former participants of the James River Rundown.  It was great to see and visit with Mike, Salli and Joe from 10th Life Kayaking and also Justin from JRA.

We finished at the same pavilion we had two years ago when I crossed the finish line pretty tired at midnight and Mike was in ill health and had to drop out that year, so we had a much more pleasant experience at the finish line this year and I felt like I was part of a very cool fraternity.  It was great to hang out with friends.

 

 

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My video from the Richmond Paddle Cup 2018

Salli also agreed to an interview so I could ask her about her very recent completion of the Yukon 1000 race.   She is a true paddling rock star!

My interview with Salli O’Donnell

My nutrition for the race was typical.  2 side orders of eggs and 2 side orders of bacon from Burger King along with ample black coffee.

Before the race I also took 3 Cellucor NO3 Chrome capsules.  This is a nitric oxide/vasodilator product that I find helps open up my nasal passages due to chronic allergies and sinus congestion.

I did, however, try something new in my water bladder this time.  I added 1/2 scoop of BodyLogix BCAA’s powder with salts, which has about the cleanest (i.e. no sugar, but it does have Sucralose listed as an ingredient, which is probably just as bad, hence only 1/2 scoop in more than 40 ounces of water) profile I’ve been able to find in a BCAA product.  I’ve used this product for other, strenuous workouts but never for a kayak race.  It seemed to work well.

 

 

My experiment with BCAA’s and electrolytes

I was feeling good today and got in a workout with fairly heavy volume this afternoon at Planet Fitness.

Screenshot_20180812-203912_AtlasToday’s workout, tracked with my Atlas Wearables 2 workout tracker

As I was working out, I thought about my next boat and it is probably going to be a high-end surfski.  If you’ve been paying any attention at all then you know I typically buy a boat that hasn’t been done yet in my paddling circles.  I like to try something a little different and/or unusual.

So I’m open to talking with any surfski companies who think they have something for me to consider, but I’ll have to sell off some of my existing boat inventory first to make room both with the finances and in the garage.

Boats that will probably soon be up for sale include:

  1. Phoenix Match II downriver racer
  2. Prijon Interceptor downriver racer
  3. Wenonah Orion, K1 flatwater sprint boat
  4. Prijon Beluga
  5. Phoenix Mini Slipper

Let me know if you have an interest in any of these boats.

PS – I know I dropped several brand names in this post so I therefore want to remind you:  I am not sponsored by anyone and don’t have any incentive to promote or mention any of the brands I just talked about.  I merely share those products and brands I use and like.  People often write me to ask about the details of the gear and gadgets I use so I thought I’d share the details in advance this time.

If you choose to check out these products I encourage you to do so via my affiliate links below:

What I use and recommend:
Amazfit Bip Fitness Tracker by Huami
Cellucor NO3 Chrome Nitric Oxide Pump Amplifier, 90 Capsules
Bodylogix Ultra BCAA Powder
Atlas Wristband 2: Digital Trainer + Heart Rate Band

Products mentioned by Mike and Salli (I have no experience with either product):
TUF-FOOT Liquid Foot, Hoof and Paw Protection – 7 oz
Infinit Nutrition GO FAR Nutritional Drink

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Homemade DIY compact kayak ergometer

A customer who purchased the video plans for my kayak ergometer was nice enough to send me a photo of the finished product and I think it looks fantastic!

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Completed compact kayaker ergometer built by Alan M. using my plans

Alan took the time to sand and stain the device and it truly looks beautiful.  He also reports the device paddles much smoother than he imagined it would.

Getting feedback like this is great.  Thanks, Alan!

Buy your video plans and part list for only $20 USD.

Read more:

Homemade kayak ergometer from Nordic Track ski machine
Buy the video plans and part list now for $20 USD.
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PS – And now I just found his YouTube video!

The Oscar Chalupsky interview on the Vinnie Tortorich podcast

Absolutely fascinating interview combining several of my passions, diet, exercise and kayaking.

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Update on the Prijon Interceptor project

You may recall me bringing home an old-school, Hyperform Prijon Interceptor last summer. https://davethekayaker.com/2017/08/10/a-vintage-downriver-racer/

I finally finished her restoration in between the thunderstorms and decided to make her pretty rough and ugly.

Here’s the back story.

Since the James River Rundown (JRR) is no longer, a new outfit, The Crosswind Paddle Co., is hosting a new race in August, The Richmond Paddle Cup. Rumor has it they added a 17-mile race to try to attract the JRR long-distance crowd.

Well, I have news for them.

It is going to work.

In fact, it is going to work so well that the elite JRR paddlers have agreed to enter the race but we will all compete with kayaks and canoes we purchase from Craigslist for $200 or less. It is known as the Craigslist Challenge and will be a race within the race.

I finished the restoring the old Prijon Interceptor (purchased for $90 from Craigslist) and took her out for a paddle this evening.

She is the most uncomfortable boat I’ve ever paddled and the cockpit opening is so small it is hard for me to get in and out of.

Nonetheless, she will be my boat and I painted her up nice and ugly so nobody in their right mind would ever think of stealing her.

The boat is now a cross between a Swiss Army knife and a candy cane.

I hope her integrity and my lower back will be able to survive those 17 miles on August 11 on the James River.

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Nelo 510 surfski first impressions

This was originally going to be my James River Rundown boat for 2018 until the James River Association discontinued the event.

Now it is a boat in search of a race.

I’m waiting for the back-ordered, over-stern rudder to arrive before I can do any downriver distance with it, but as it stands, it is a very fast boat for a plastic design.  I do not yet know how it compares to the Epic V7, but hope to have that verdict to you soon.

Initial impressions?

I wish it was sharper in the bow to cut through the water rather than splash and push a bit of water (I felt like it always had a leaf stuck on the front) and wish it had a reasonable space for a water bottle within easy reach, but overall I like this ski.

I’ve got only 14 miles into it over the weekend so a full review will be coming once I’ve had a chance to put it through its paces.

I have to say, the difference between under-stern and over-stern rudder is huge. The shorter ‘wheelbase’ of an under-stern rudder makes turning much more efficient such that it takes very little movement of the peddles to turn the boat significantly.

I’ll explore this more fully in a future review, but once I got everything setup and adjusted I found that if I found myself thinking about using the rudder I was already overthinking it.  Only the slightest press of the foot with a toe involved achieved the desired effect.

And Ben not too many years ago…

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New river race in Central Virginia?

I’ve been pondering a new race on my local river for a few years now and have made the first steps toward making it a reality.

First, I asked East Coast paddlers if they’d have an interest in a 44-mile race and they overwhelmingly replied, “yes!”

Second, I went ahead and reserved a domain name this evening.

What are your thoughts?

Are you interested in a 44-mile race–the full length of the Rivanna River–in Central Virginia?

If so head on over to www.RunOfTheRivanna.org and fill out the form so we can determine if there is enough interest.

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Rivanna River Race 2018

The Rivanna River  Race has been held every year since 2006 and until this year I’ve raced in every once, except the first year when I did not know about it.

In all previous years the race was organized by one man, Merrill Bishop, who did all the heavy lifting of planning, organizing and arranging volunteers.

For the past several years I have quietly contributed behind the scenes assisting with marketing, public relations, communications and building communities to support the race via the Rivanna River Paddlers Facebook group, www.CvillePaddlers.com, and @CvillePaddlers on Twitter. I was happy to help promote kayak racing in the local community and always took great joy in helping ensure the success of our local race and helping others develop an appreciation for paddling.

This year was different.

Merrill decided to step back after last year’s race and I agreed to be a co-organizer this year along with Paddling Buddy Dave.

The amount of planning for an event like this is not insignificant.

There was the development of a race webpage, creating a race flyer, numerous news releases, constant communication via the Facebook group, a radio interview, posting the event on calendars such as PaddleGuru.com, Nextdoor.com, and Blue Ridge Outdoors online, getting and organizing volunteers, etc.

Filing a County Park special event permit application at the last moment because I had no idea we needed to file one.  Applying for ACA affiliate membership and event insurance, subsequent revision of the insurance to include co-insured, creation of an online pre-registration form.

A lot goes into an event like this.

Getting up early on race day to set up tables and chairs at the finish line, helping at the starting line to ensure things went as smoothly as possible for our paddlers and volunteers.   Paddling the route the night before with Paddling Buddy Dave and removing obstacles to ensure a safe race.

The list goes on.

I had decided a while ago I was not going to race this year.  It was a difficult decision but one I felt was the right one.

And to be honest, if we would have gotten a lot of rain with a high river on race day, I might have changed my mind.

But since I have been helping out with communications for years the local paddling community naturally associated the race with me, not the person truly to thank, Merrill Bishop.

I never intended to become the face of the race but I had.

So I decided I needed to take a year off from racing, get some perspective on the race, and avoid any appearance of conflict of interest or seem like the race is self-serving in any way.

As you know, I participate in many races and always write about my experiences and usually do a video of the events because I want to promote all kayak races and promote paddling in general. I do what I do because I love the sport and believe more people could benefit from a more healthy lifestyle and improve their mental state by participating in paddle sports.  Race organizers usually love it when I show up at their events because I help give them a bigger footprint on social media.

But my local race?

Maybe I had lost perspective.

So I helped set up at the finish line early Saturday morning and then drove to the starting line to help there as best I could.

Racers started arriving and registration seemed to go rather smoothly.  Somebody even brought copies of the regional Magazine, Unbound, which featured our local paddling community and race on the front cover.

I swear I did not bring any of these copies of the magazine.

rrr2018_1.jpgPaddling friend and volunteer, Shelli, checking out Unbound Magazine at the starting line

So the racers got checked in and the safety briefing began at ~9:35am.

During the safety briefing Shelli and I headed out in our boats to sit at the first significant set of rapids and serve as safety patrol.

Everyone who knows me fully realizes I’m human and suffer from all the maladies, flaws and shortcomings associated with being human.

As I headed down to the river with my boat prior to launch I felt a bit of resentment that I was not going to participate as a racer this year.  All the hard work.  All the bumps, bruises, stress and skirmishes during the pre-race planning…and I wasn’t even going to enjoy racing myself?

I was not happy.

I did not have the joy in my heart that I had in all previous years.

But a funny thing soon happened.

As soon as I got into my kayak everything changed.

We paddled down and got to our post and took up residence on some rocks and waited for the racers to start coming through the “railroad” rapid.

I brought my video camera and tripod and set up shop.

What then happened was amazing.

I got to see the smiles on every racer’s face as they came through that rapid.

I got to capture video and pictures of every participant in the race.

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I felt their joy and I was able to share their adventure with them, if even just few a few moments as they paddled by.  I was able to cheer on every person as they passed by.  I saw young paddlers, old paddlers, serious paddlers and paddlers who were simply thrilled to be on the water.

After our safety boater, Scott Shaw, came through we knew the last participant had passed through our checkpoint so we jumped back in our kayaks and escorted the “back of the packers” to the finish line.

I gained even more perspective.

I paddled ahead and then waited below rapids to make sure everyone got through alright.  I got out of my boat a couple times to help people get unstuck from rocks and made sure everyone completed the race.

I thoroughly enjoyed the race and, quite possibly, it was my most enjoyable race because I got to see it through the eyes and perspective of others.

The volunteers. The racers. Merrill Bishop.

Two astounding events encapsulated the entire event.

One: An anonymous donor gave a $100 bill to be awarded to the racer with the fastest overall time.

Two: Said paddler taking the envelope with the cash, asked who the race benefits, and when he was told the proceeds were being given to  The Rivanna Conservation Alliance, immediately handed the envelope back and said, “Give it to them.”

That is what it is all about.

I am hopeful that new volunteers step forward to take on organizing responsibilities in future years.  I know I’m not cut out for it.

Now that I’ve been through a full cycle myself I’m happy to help transition the race organization to new volunteers and/or management and I remain 100% committed to ensuring the future success of this race.

But I do want to get back to racing in this race.

Merrill has left a race legacy that deserves the support of our community.

One way or another I will help that legacy endure.

It is a worthy endeavor.