I had to miss last years LLLBR because of other commitments which is a shame because this is always a good competitive race. Also when the weather is good (like it was this year) it’s a spectacularly beautiful venue. Unfortunately whatever wind there is tends to funnel straight down the lake, but it’s the same for everybody so no problem. This year it was sunny and cool, and with almost no wind at the beginning which built into a light breeze in the middle.
In previous years, it’s been a simple out and back, but evidently last year they changed it so we start at the same place, but go in the other direction under the bridge, go about 3.5 km into the lower part of the lake, come back under the bridge, then circle around an island and come back for a total of about 17km. Not only is it more interesting route but it’s more spectator friendly. This year there was actually cash prizes for the touring class kayaks, so there were a lot of people in touring class, meaning that the unlimited class looked like it was going to be a fight between John H, Pete G and myself. Todd, Roger, Doug and others were all fighting it out for the money.
Less than 100 meters after the start, Todd was leading, John was on this tail, Roger and I were side by side, and Pete was behind us. (Update after reviewing the video, it appears that it was Pete and I side by side and Roger was already on John’s wake.) Within another hundred meters, Roger had claimed John’s stern wake, I was glued to his stern, and Pete was glued to mine. The canoe wave had started a few minutes ahead of us, so we were passing the slower ones almost immediately. And Todd was not taking any prisoners. At the first canoe, he tried to scrape us all off – John didn’t lose the wake, but Roger ended up a little off John’s wake and I was a little off Roger’s, but we fought back on. At the next canoe, John lost a little distance, but clawed back on. At the next canoe, John ended up going the opposite side of the canoe from Todd, and Roger lost his wake as well. That was pretty much the way it stayed to the first turn – Todd alone, John alone, then Roger, me and Pete in a conga line. (Update: from the video it appears that John got back on Todd’s wake after the scrape, and stayed there around the turn.)
At the turn, I intended to follow Roger around, even though his boat doesn’t turn as well as mine. But Pete decided to turn as tight as he could and come around us on the inside. I took the bait and latched on his stern wake and Roger latched on mine. On the way back to the bridge we came up through some wakes of some of the faster c-2s and slower c-4s, as well as some boat wakes, but otherwise it was nice and flat. A couple of times Pete looked like he decided to try to catch John and put in a big dig for a few hundred meters. But we were nearly a minute behind John even after those digs and not really closing.
Now this whole way I’d been paddling way too hard. My heart rate was in the low 160s and I was sure Pete was going to blow me up, so at about the six kilometer mark I decided I needed to slow down, drop off Pete’s wake and paddle my own race and hope I could catch him later. But after I slowed down, he slowed down as well, so he ended up not getting more than two or three boat lengths ahead of me.
After the bridge, there was a strong head wind, and it seemed to be slowing down Pete more than me. I caught him not long after and almost immediately he wanted me to come through. He asked me if I thought we should follow Todd towards the left side of the lake or John towards the right. I didn’t think it made any difference because there didn’t appear to be any shelter on either side, so I just went straight towards the boat at the turn. Pete latched on my wake.
About half way from the bridge to the turn, I got passed by a stranger in my boat. That wasn’t a total surprise – I’d advertised my Think Legend and this guy Kurt had agreed to pick it up today at the race. But I hadn’t seen him before the race, so I wondered if he’d blown me off. But now he came steaming by. We introduced ourselves to each other and he went off to hunt down John and Todd.
As we got closer to the turn, I was starting to think that I was starting to close the gap on John. I timed the gap at around a minute back at the bridge, and now it was closer to forty seconds. Hope bloomed. And then as I’m turning, I sneak a look back and I’ve got a few second gap on Pete and Roger. Time to put the hammer down!
For the whole last four kilometers from the turn to the finish, I’m convinced that I’m getting closer and closer to John, but I just don’t have any gas left in the tank to put in a final sprint to catch him. I sneak glances behind and it appears I have a good gap on Pete and Roger, and it may be growing. As I cross the line about 10 or 20 seconds back on John, he appears completely surprised to see me there. He jokingly accused me of sneaking up on him like I had at Armond Bassett. There was nothing stealthy about my approach – I was wheezing like a steam engine, but he was probably working just as hard and just as loud. I looked back and it appeared that Roger had taken back the lead from Pete and Pete was latched onto his wake.
Results haven’t been posted yet, but Todd won touring class, followed by Roger and John won unlimited class followed by me and Pete. All in all a fantastic race and a very pleasing result for me. A great way to end the race season.
Update: Results are here. I was only 11 seconds behind John at the finish.
The third canoe that I mentioned above that Todd successfully scraped off Roger, Pete and I and nearly scraped off John posted his how video. You can see us at the 1:50 mark.