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.


Youghness Monster 25, 2018

Friday afternoon I drove up to Pennsylvania to paddle in the inaugural running of the Youghness Monster 25, a 25-mile paddle race on the Youghiogheny River between Connellsville and West Newton, PA.

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I got to the check-in to pick up my race packet and immediately recognized some old friends and started making new ones.

First I bumped into Brian Ammon, whom you may recall I first met at the Lehigh Classic race in 2016 and then again at the Little D On The Monocacy race in 2017.  Brian hasn’t changed a bit and is never shy to share stories of paddling adventures which is part of what makes him so charming.  He is a wealth of paddling information and history.

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Me and Brian Ammon

I soon then met Hansel Lucas, owner of Performance kayaks who, along with Stellar Kayaks and others, sponsored the race.

20180504_174812Hansel Lucas, Owner of Performance Kayaks

I then also soon met Steve Bruner, who graciously agreed to an interview with me.

Shortly thereafter I headed to Uniontown where I was staying at the Holiday Inn Express.  The rain starting coming down and questions started coming to mind.

How cold would it be in the morning?
Would it rain all day for the race?
How high will the river be?
How shall I dress?
What happens if continuous Class II rapids are above my skills level in this boat?

I took one last look at my boat and then headed into the hotel for some sleep.

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I had some trepidation about this race because it was the first time I was taking my Thunderbolt-X kayak onto any moving water and I was not sure how skilled I would be with her in rapids.  I’ve only used her as a flat water training boat and the thought of rapids bigger than advertised or possibly smashing her into rocks worried me greatly.

Flipping and filling her full of water would equate to “game over” for the race as it would take long time for me to empty her out and recover.

Hansel Lucas assured me the water was at a good level and that the Army Corps of Engineers agreed to release some more water from the upstream dam so the water would come up at least 8″ overnight.  He said he and friends run carbon/Kevlar boats on that section of river regularly and that anything above 4 ft. at the Sutersville, PA gauge was fine for any construction of boat.

I looked at the gauge on my RiverFlows app one last time and saw the river was well above 4K and was already starting to rise, so I felt better about the situation.

gaugeThe water came up to a great level overnight

The alarm when off 6:30am on race morning and I quickly got ready and ate a breakfast of some scrambled eggs with 2 sausage patties and black coffee before heading back up to the starting line at Connellsville.

I grabbed another black coffee for the road for the 20 minute drive.

It should be noted I had no other food until ~7pm when I stopped for dinner on the drive home.  During the race I only had water in a CamelBak bladder and was not again hungry until well after the race.

Being fat-adapted is great. #NSNG #LCHF

People were starting to gather at the starting line and dropping boats at the ramp.  There seemed to be an inordinate amount of high-end surf skis to me, especially for this land-locked area of the country.

The weather was warming up fast so I realized minimal clothing would indeed be appropriate (even though I brought a wet suit just in case.)  I had safety clothing stowed in my dry bag, but I was not going to start with too much clothing because a body generates a lot of heat when exerting sustained energy.  It is better to get to the side of the river to add layers than it is to try to remove layers due to overheating while trying to paddle and balance a boat.  Just my opinion.

I chatted with several people before the race began and it wasn’t until I was driving home after the race I realized why one particular guy seemed very familiar.  He was Joe White, or JoeDirt22222 on YouTube.

He designed a kayak ergometer which served as the inspiration for my own do-it-yourself, DIY, kayak ergometer design.  Please, purchase one of Joe’s ergometers! Dude is amazing and is an awesome paddler.

There were skis everywhere. Primarily Stellar but Epic skis were also well represented.

 

 

We had a pre-race briefing and then the race began.

We were given ankle bracelets with timing chips and walked across a mat to start our time and then went to the water to get into our kayaks and begin paddling.

I allowed the first big wave of paddlers to start first as I hung back a while since I knew I was racing against the clock and didn’t want to be in the first giant cluster of paddlers.  Plus I thought I might get better video if many of the racers were in front of me.

I got in my boat and pushed out and quickly realized something was wrong.

I worked my rudder tiller and realized I had very little control over my kayak.  Not a good thing in a 21′ craft.

I soon surmised my rudder cable fell off my rudder so I paddled back to shore, got out of the boat, slipped the rudder cable back into its track, and then got back in and started paddling.

Already a loss of two or three minutes which didn’t sit well with me.

Oh well, you can’t change it, you just deal with it and move forward.

So I took off downstream and quickly hit the first set of Class II rapids.

The real test.

I took short, choppy, bracing strokes and essentially “floated” through the rapids trying to remain upright to get a feel for how the boat behaved,  That worked well so I decided that would be my strategy for the day.

Short bracing strokes and conservative through the rapids and give it all I have on the flats.

The strategy worked well and I found myself in 1st place amongst all kayaks at the finish, 5th overall amongst solo paddlers.  With nothing but 4 fast surf skis with elite paddlers ahead of me I felt satisfied with my performance.

 

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Crossing the finish line at Youghness Monster 2018

It felt good to pass so many surf skis!

This section of river is mostly flat water with numerous sections of Class I and Class II rapids.  The flats aren’t so long as to get boring and the rapids are not threatening and they are plentiful enough to keep you on alert the whole time.

I ran a pretty good race and took some risks in term of lines chosen and guessed right most of the time as I was often able to gain on the paddlers in front of me by taking a different path around a few islands or taking a different line through the rapids.  I paddled alongside and chatted with a few other paddlers throughout the race and it just reinforced my opinion that fellow paddlers are some of the nicest, most interesting people in the world.

What really kept me going, though, was the fact that my sister was bringing my parents to the finish line to greet me and I couldn’t wait to see them all.

DSC_1390Mom and dad meeting me at the end of the race, the first kayak race of mine they’ve ever experienced. Astute readers may recall them posing with the boat when it was brand new in 2011.

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Thanks, sis!

I neared the finish and my eyes welled as I spotted my parents at the top of the ramp.

We got in a great visit for the next few hours and then I headed back home to Central Virginia through heavy thunderstorms.

It was a long day but a wonderful day.  Physically I felt fine and felt as though I could have easily paddled another 25 miles.

The organizers of this race did an amazing job for a first time race.  The awards ceremony was a bit of a letdown since there were technically no awards, but that did not diminish a wonderful experience on a very scenic river and a very well organized event.

I look forward to paddling this race in future years.

In the meantime, come paddle our local race in Charlottesville this Saturday, May 12 with me!

DSC_1397Yinz paddle?

 

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Here is the entire race from the bow of my boat, reduced down to ~43 minutes.  Happy viewing and happy scouting to those who race in future years!

 

 

 

 

Charlottesville Area Paddling Gets Some Love

A new local magazine named Unbound hit the local newsstands today and I was happy to see our area’s paddling scene highlighted in such a wonderful way.  Not only did the editors feature local paddling on the cover, but they were generous in covering our annual river race on the inside.

ubcollageThe first issue of Unbound Magazine

I was also honored to have been interviewed as last year’s race winner and given a full page in the magazine.

I think it was somebody in Paddling Magazine recently who wrote that kayakers need to stop talking about the technical aspects of how to paddle and talk more about why they paddle.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share the full transcript of the interview before it got edited down for space.
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{begin transcript}

UB: How did you get started kayaking? How long have you been doing it (on your own and with the Cville Paddlers)?

DTK: It all started at a young age attending a summer camp outside of Ligonier Pennsylvania.  One of the activities at the camp was “Waterfront” which involved canoeing and kayaking on the camp’s lake.  It was painful to have to start first in a rowboat and then progress to a canoe to prove proficiency before they’d let us paddle a kayak solo, but paddling a kayak was my ultimate goal on that lake that week and I wanted to get into one as soon as I could.  As soon as I did I was hooked for life.  I guess it represented freedom.  I must have been around 10 years old at the time, so I’ve been paddling  40 or so years.

Throughout my youth I did countless canoe and whitewater rafting trips with our Boy Scout troop and I always envied the guys and girls in the kayaks who’d pass us on the rivers.  They were always going faster and always looked like they were having more fun, so I paddled a kayak as often as I could borrow or rent one since I didn’t own one yet myself.

Fast-forward to moving to the Charlottesville area 27 years ago, I soon met a close friend and local paddling icon, Konrad Zeller, who got me back into paddling after a few years’ leave of absence as I was establishing a new life and career.

Konrad and I began meeting on the S. Rivanna Reservoir every Wednesday after work to paddle, eat chicken wings, get caught up with each other, and talk about life in general.  Shortly thereafter other friends started joining us.  That was the very beginning of what is now the Cville Paddlers Group, also known as the Rivanna River Paddlers on Facebook.  That was also the beginning of the tradition of after-work, social paddles on the reservoir on Wednesdays during the summer months, a tradition that continues to this day.

The core group of Wednesday evening paddlers now self-organize into smaller groups for paddle trips down the Rivanna and other local waters.  That organizing happens through the Rivanna River Paddlers group on Facebook and it has been fascinating to watch local paddling evolve over the years, especially as social media has matured.

UB: What do you enjoy most about it?

DTK: In what seems a contradiction, I enjoy both the solitude and the people I meet.  I enjoy unplugging and getting away from the rat race and other people for a few hours, yet also treasure the people I meet and friends I’ve made through the sport.

Most everyone you meet paddling is friendly and willing to do almost anything for a fellow paddler.  Regardless of the type of paddling we do as individuals, we share a common bond when it comes to powering ourselves across lakes or down rivers.

The scenery is almost always beautiful, there is ample opportunity to observe undisturbed wildlife, and the sense of peace and being one with nature is palpable.  It is a great way to relax and recharge while also getting great exercise.

Lastly, it is a sport that can be enjoyed at any age and like fine wine, people often progress and improve as paddlers as they get older.

You asked me what I enjoy most and I can’t narrow it down to one thing.  Is that okay?

UB: What kind of gear do you use?

DTK: That’s a hard question to answer in a short space since I have ten kayaks hanging in my garage right now, ready for just about any water condition or type of paddling.

The best boat for any particular race or trip depends on the level of difficulty of the water, the comfort and confidence level you have in any particular boat for the length of the trip, and whether you are looking to go as fast as possible or go slow and enjoy the experience.  Fast boats are tippy and require greater balance and skill which can cause fatigue fairly quickly whereas more stable boats are significantly slower.  We are forever chasing the right balance between performance and comfort for any given body of water.

My primary training boat is something call a Thunderbolt-X  kayak which is 100% Kevlar, 21 feet long and 18 inches wide at its widest point.  It is long, sleek, fast, and light and is perfect for flat water training and covering as much water as possible in a given amount of time. I can go fastest in that boat but I would never put it in an environment where I might smash it into rocks.

I have an eclectic collection of older, classic downriver racing boats I’ve restored, a modern plastic downriver racer called the Cobra Viper, various other recreational kayaks, and even a plastic surf ski, which is a specialized type of sit-on-top kayak that is long, skinny, and fast.

Regardless of the boat I’m paddling, I always use something called a wing paddle made out of carbon fiber so these paddles are strong and stiff yet light.  The paddle blades are shaped like airplane wings and when paddled correctly create a low pressure or “lift” in the forward direction of the kayak.  This can provide the paddler on the order of a 10-15% increase in efficiency once the unique stroke technique required by these paddles is mastered.

Aside from the boat and paddle, I try to keep my gear simple and functional.  Never underestimate the value of a baseball hat, polarized sunglasses, comfortable life jacket and a large water bottle.  I always keep a mobile phone tucked safely away in a dry bag somewhere in case of emergency and to notify my wife when I’m safely off the water when I’m out training alone and I also use a small GPS device to track my distance, speed and various other parameters.

UB: I see that you broke a record last year. By how much? And are you going to try to do that again this year?

DTK: I was very fortunate last year in that the water levels were very high and I had a good run during the annual Rivanna River Race.  Those two things don’t always happen.

The race starts at the bridge under Rt. 29 just north of the Doubletree hotel and ends at the boat ramp at Darden Towe Park.  I covered those 6.2 river miles in 43 minutes and 6 seconds last year, which beat my old record by more than 3 minutes.  It was one of those races where everything just came together.

The goal is always to set a new record on race day, but it is very difficult and unpredictable because so much depends on the rain the week leading up to the race, the actual water levels on race day, and boat selection.  Last year gave us near perfect conditions and a fast river so it is unlikely the conditions will be that perfect again on race day this year, but you never know.  If the water is high again I’ll be aiming for a faster time.

UB: How and when do you train?

DTK: I train year round either on the water, on land, or in the gym.

Most of my on-water training takes place on the S. Rivanna Reservoir.  When I’m in town during the summer months I do a training run right after work on Wednesdays and then join the Rivanna River Paddlers group on my inbound/return leg of the workout.  Those workouts are usually 10 miles and start at the boat ramp just above the S. Rivanna Reservoir dam at the end of Woodburn Rd. and go to the bridge at Reas Ford Road and back.

On Saturdays I typically do a longer run and paddle all the way up to the far end of the reservoir where the Meechums River feeds in, not too far off Bleak House Road.  That round trip is 14 miles and when I ramp up for racing season I’ll also paddle up Ivy Creek so it is easy to log 20 miles or so on the reservoir during  a training session without doing any laps.

reservoirmap

Two years ago my paddling buddy and training partner, Dave Segars, and I started paddling the whole length of the Rivanna River to prepare ourselves for some of our longer races and ultra marathons.  The Rivanna from Charlottesville to Columbia is about 44 miles.  Last year we did that and added some miles of the James River to Cartersville and covered those 55 miles in just a little over 8 hours.

The winter gets a little tricky as air and water temperatures drop which requires a wetsuit and makes the efficient, tippy boats more risky in case of accidental capsize.  Fortunately that’s never happened to me, but I usually paddle one of my slower, more stable boats in the wintertime just to err on the side of caution and safety and as a result paddle far fewer miles on water during the winter.

Several years ago I needed a solution for those times in the winter when the reservoir is frozen so I designed and built myself an indoor kayak ergometer out of an old Nordic Track ski machine so I can paddle indoors anytime now.  When the water is frozen I just paddle in my basement.  Much to my surprise, the device found somewhat of a global, cult following on YouTube and I’ve built a few more of these devices for friends and now in a strange twist due to popular demand, offer a “how to” video teaching people how to build their own.

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I’m in the gym year round.  Extended cardio exercise like paddling is primarily catabolic so I try to counter that in the gym during the off season.  When paddling time is light the weights get heavy.  When the paddling picks up in the Spring, the amount of weight and total volume in the gym drops so I don’t hammer my shoulders, wrists, elbows, and back through overtraining.

UB: Briefly describe the Rivanna course.

DTK: The Rivanna River around Charlottesville is mostly flat water with a few sets of small to medium rapids to keep it interesting.  The largest rapids qualify as Class II+ under the right conditions, but those only last a short distance so the river is generally safe for a wide range of skill levels.  My daughter did her first downriver solo on the Rivanna when she was 8 years old.

The river feels amazingly remote in many sections and it is quite common to spot an American Bald Eagle or two.  It is such a gem I wish public access was a better so more people could enjoy the peace and beauty of this local treasure and enjoy all it offers.

UB: Have you done other kayaking races? Where? How does the one in our area compare?

DTK: I’ve paddled many races and they are all different.

The most comparable race to the annual Rivanna River race is the Nelson Downriver Race held on the Tye River in Nelson County the first Saturday in May each year.  It is a little longer and more technical than the Rivanna race and seems more like a wild mountain stream when compared to the Rivanna.

The Nelson Downriver used to be my first race every year until I discovered another race, “Little D on the Monocacy,” in Frederick, MD held in April that is a fund raiser for a young child, Danny Sullivan or “Little D,” who has a terminal disease.  It has become my new season-opener and last year I raced in the 19-mile version of the race and never felt more of a sense of purpose and community coming together to support one of their own.  The Monocacy River is easy technically but it seemed like the whole town showed up at the finish line to cheer on the racers so it had the feel of a much larger, more challenging event.

I’ve paddled the Wye Island Regatta in Maryland several times which is a 13.1 mile, open water race around Wye Island and the Lehigh Classic Whitewater race in Pennsylvania which was a terrifying experience for me because I chose the wrong boat which was way too  tippy for Class III rapids.  I got home after that race and immediately told my wife I needed a shower to wash off all the fear and regret.

I’ve paddled in some other races that no longer exist, and in 2016 paddled the Cumberland River Challenge in Kentucky.  That 15-mile race was an absolute hoot because of the great people I met there who made me feel especially welcomed as an outsider.  I managed to set a new race record in that race and as a result met and shook hands with the mayor of Barborville, KY at a finish line awards ceremony as he presented me with a commemorative, Overall Winner wooden paddle with brass plaque to place on my mantle.  How often do you get the opportunity to shake hands with the mayor of Barbourville, KY, for goodness sake?

Last but certainly not least is the James River Rundown, which to my knowledge is the longest race on the East Coast.  I set the 40-mile race record there in 2015, came in 2nd place to Paddling Buddy Dave in the 100-miler in 2016 and tied for 3rd place with a wonderful man named Bill Crawford last year in the 120-miler that started in Lynchburg and ended at Tucker Park in Goochland County.  Bill and I paddled neck and neck for nearly 70 miles and became instant friends even though we started out as competitors.

The James River Rundown was my first experience paddling an ultra-marathon race and it is certainly quite different than paddling the 6.2 mile Rivanna River race.  The Rivanna race is more of an all-out sprint but when you paddle the longer races a lot more planning, strategy, preparation, nutrition and other factors come into play.  During the long races you put your body into auto pilot paddling while your mind focuses on everything else.  It is a very different experience where all those base, training miles pay dividends.

Probably the next level goal is to paddle in the Missouri River 340 race.  I’ll let you know how that goes when it happens.

UB: Anything else you want to say about kayaking, or being outdoors in Charlottesville/Albemarle?

DTK: Kayaking is better than therapy or a social networking site.

I’ve made good friends through the sport and last year was contacted by Los Angeles-based celebrity fitness trainer and best-selling author, Vinnie Tortorich, who reached out to me to help him train for a 100-miler he’s preparing to do in Louisiana.  I now consider Vinnie a friend and look forward to paddling with him and alligators down Bayou LaFourche in Louisiana later this year.  We’re doing it on a diet absent of sugars and grains and it promises to be a unique experience.

The Charlottesville area is a wonderful area for training and being outdoors.  I can ride my road bike on some of the back roads and see some of the most majestic views, climb up into the Blue Ridge Mountains for unforgettable hikes and paddle any one of the numerous rivers or lakes…and maybe even do all of that in one day.  Please don’t tell anyone about the fly fishing on the Rapidan River near Camp Hoover.  That place is so special I want to keep it to myself.

The local kayaking and paddling community is very healthy in the area whether you are looking for recreational opportunities, flat water training, or whitewater thrills.  I’ve been lucky to be able to participate in the local paddling community and have enjoyed watching it grow and evolve.

My wish is that our community comes together to support our annual river race held the second Saturday each May and that the event itself evolves into a charity event or fundraiser to give it greater meaning and purpose.  It would be wonderful to one day see the whole community come together to support the event for a good cause and know that I played some small role in creating a spark to help make that happen.

# # #

And, no.  I never thought that faded Prijon Beluga I bought off Craigslist would ever make the cover of any magazine.

Unbound

Preparing for kayak racing season

littledfinish2017

It has been a late Spring in Central Virginia.

I’ve only paddled ~40 actual water miles so far this year so my on-water training is behind where I’d like it to be.   This is mainly due to a busy schedule and cold weather.  In fact, as recently as this past weekend we experienced snow and freezing rain here in Charlottesville.

As a result I’ve continued to hit the gym hard but will back off starting next week and have several light weeks in a row as I get back on the water to log some serious miles and get back into paddling shape.   If the weather is bad, I’ll be ramping up the miles indoors on my kayak ergometer.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve lost much of my technique as the few sessions I’ve had on the water so far with Paddling Buddy Dave have been very good workouts and my form is still there.

I sold my Pyranha Octane and ordered a new boat which will be revealed in due time. (I don’t want my competition to know what’s coming.)  Keep an eye open as a new boat with a fresh review is always exciting!

I’ve also been busy as a co-organizer for our local river race this year, The Rivanna River Regatta Canoe & Kayak Race on May 12.

I hope you will join us on May 12.  I’d love to meet you.

2018headerStart of the 2017 Rivanna River Canoe & Kayak Race

The end of the James River Rundown

jrr-end

We just found out this week that the James River Association is no longer going to host the annual James River Rundown, which was becoming a popular ultra-marathon kayaking event on the East Coast of the U.S. This is sad news because many of us looked forward to this event each year and its popularity was growing.

Years ago there was a different race to benefit a day camp, The Camp Kum-ba-yah Race, in Lynchburg on the James and that was a great event, but they, too, stopped hosting that race.

So we are left with no kayak/canoe race on the James River in Virginia.

I’m hopeful that somebody else will pick up and run with the idea of an organized marathon kayak race on the James. When they do they can count on me for support.

Paddling Buddy Dave and I have talked about hosting a 44 mile race on our local river, The Rivanna, or possibly making the race longer by extending it onto the James where we could easily turn it into a 55, 66, or 85 mile race. Dave and I might have to talk more seriously about this for 2019. If you represent a charity and would like to take on this fundraising project, just let me know.

In the meantime in 2018, the closest thing we get is a new race called The Richmond Paddle Cup hosted by Crosswind Paddle Company with the longest race being a mere 17 miles. A huge letdown for those of us looking forward to another ultra this year close to home.

To make it more interesting, a couple of us have hatched a plan. In order to make this 17 mile race more interesting and as a reminder that we don’t always need to be looking for the next fast boat or better gear, we are having an event within the event.

We will adhere to all the regular rules of the Richmond Paddle Cup but we will have our own division within the 17 mile race in which we will all have to use a boat we found on Craigslist for $200 or less. It has been dubbed, “The First Annual Craigslist Challenge.”

Let the games begin.

beatupcanoe

Two Old School Kayaks

I just found this photo in the archives and it is one of my favorite photos.  Two old school boats, the Phoenix Match II and the Perception Wavehopper, taking first and second place on a low water day in the 2015 Rivanna River Race, Charlottesville, VA.

finish

Paddling the Rivanna River –the whole thing

I hate the phrase “bucket list,” but yesterday I was able to check off an item that has been on my bucket list for a couple years.

Paddling buddy Dave and I jumped in our kayaks and paddled the entire length of the Rivanna River from just below the dam at the South Rivanna Reservoir in Charlottesville to the James River at Columbia, VA.  This was a training run for our upcoming 100-mile James River Rundown.

I paddled my new-to-me Prion Beluga and Dave paddled his Epic V7 surf ski.  He definitely, once again, had the boat advantage and I probably pushed myself a little too hard trying to keep up.

We started at 6am but paddled through the heat of the day on a very hot day and it has taken me most of today to recover.  Maybe a little heat stroke or maybe a little sinus infection, I remember rolling on my side in my sleep last night and waking up and feeling dizzy.  And again this morning, when I bent over I felt dizzy.  So I took it easy all morning and early afternoon and am back on track this evening.

Nutrition yesterday consisted of bacon and eggs with coffee for breakfast, a couple of Epic bars and water along the way, a “cheat” snack of a MusclePharm Combat Crunch bar at one point when the heat was getting to me and I felt weak, and 1 Nuun tablet in water.

Now I’m feeling good and I have a sense of accomplishment.  It took us 7-3/4 hours of paddling at 5.8mph over the 44.1 miles and we saw countless turtles, Herons, heard a few beaver tail slaps, and were even treated to two American Bald Eagle sightings.

Rivanna River Race 2016

I raced in the Rivanna River kayak race last Saturday and had a wonderful time.

The race organizers did a great job of coordinating a well-run event and the volunteers were outstanding.

I arrived plenty early to drop my boat at the starting line and then drove to the finish line/takeout to try to catch a shuttle back to the start. This year, a new outfitter in town, The Rivanna River Company, provided a complimentary shuttle with their bus which made life extraordinarily convenient.

There was another guy at the put-in with a Cobra Viper, my buddy Dave with his Epic V7, and several other fast boats so I knew the competition would be fierce this year. Organizers reported a record number of ~70 racers and with that many competitors, you never know what is going to happen.

The starting horn sounded and I got off to a fairly good start. A few boats were out ahead of me and I was able to pass them fairly quickly. All except for one, Dave S. in his Epic V7.

I paced behind Dave for a short while and then saw an opportunity to make my move to get in front of him about a quarter of a mile into the race. I passed him fairly easily but heard him file in behind me and I knew he was close.

We approached a bend in the river less than 1 mile into the race, and I thought Dave’s bow was at or ahead of my stern and we followed the main current where a tree was protruding from the left bank of the river. Rather than use my rudder to make a quick adjustment to the right and possibly bump into Dave, I decided to cut as tightly as I could to the tree and stay as tight into the bend as I could.

That was a mistake for a couple reasons.

First, my boat hit and branch that was just under water which forced me into another branch that hit me in the left shoulder and chest. While either one of these would normally have been recoverable events, combined they caused me to lose balance and I overturned. I thought my race was over.

The second reason the decision to cut it close to the tree was a bad decision was the fact that Dave wasn’t actually just behind me. He had split river right, so unbeknownst to me, I had plenty of room to maneuver around the tree. I should have spun my my head around to know for sure where Dave was.

After I overturned, I was able to quickly get to some shallower water and when I looked up, Dave was paddling back up river to check on me to make sure I was OK. I yelled at him that I was OK that he should turn around and keep racing but he kept coming back upstream. I yelled at him again, “Go, go set a record,” and he said, “no, I can’t leave you.”

I quickly flipped my boat over to try to drain out as much water as I could and watched as least 5 or 6 boats pass me. I jumped back in my Viper telling Dave, “I’m fine, go, go!” At that point he turned back downriver and started racing again.

It took me another 10 or 20 seconds to get my boat turned around and start downriver again, but I probably lost at least 90 seconds in total and now had an inch or so of water in the bottom of the boat which represented a great deal of extra weight.

I realized quickly I had two choices. Paddle leisurely knowing I was defeated or start racing again to see if I could catch up to the front pack.

I decided to continue racing.

Much to my surprise, I was able to catch up to and pass most of the other paddlers. All of them, in fact, except Dave.

I kept him in sight for the rest of the race and tried as hard as I could to catch up to him just to see if I could do it, but I had decided that if I caught him, there was no way I was going to pass him. His selfless act in helping me earned him the right to win this race if it came down to just the two of us. I was able to close in on him but wasn’t able to entirely close the gap.

When I crossed the finish line, Dave was already there and I gave him a high five and thanked him for his help and concern. He finished in 52:47 and I finished in 53:41, a little less than 1 minute behind him. The next closest time was just under 58 minutes so even with my mishap and Dave’s sacrifice, we pretty much smoked everyone else.

I don’t think I ever felt so good or had as much fun in a river race! Adversity threw itself at me and I was able to quickly recover and overcome.

I also know that I have the best paddling partner possible for the James River Rundown and I predict right now, if we complete that 100-mile race together, we will have exactly the same time as we cross the finish line together.

Last Saturday

As feared, the water levels were very high last Saturday on the Tye River, forcing the race organizers to postpone or cancel the Nelson Downriver Race.

It was a disappointment.

But I used the morning to take advantage of the high, local water on the Rivanna River and took my whitewater play boat down river and tested out a new helmet cam.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be racing in a kayak on the same section of river.

See you there.