“Why do I do this”? That’s a question that occurred to me a few times this weekend. I mean, the race course is shallow and weedy, which are two things I hate. But on the other hand, it’s the first 2 day race I ever did, and so far in the 3.5 times I’ve done it, it’s always been gorgeous weather. The organization is pretty good, and they allow us to camp on the grounds so that’s pretty cool, and it keeps the costs down.
Day 1 is 9 miles, including a 1/4 mile portage around a dam (and skirting the edge of our campground). I had planned to drive up early in the morning, arriving in plenty of time to get my surfski and video cameras ready to in time for the race. And instead what I did was have an incredibly sleepless night, leave an hour before I’d intended to, and have so much time before the race that I actually had to time to set up my tent and realize that in spite of all the tossing and turning I did mulling over the things I needed to remember, I forgot my air mattress. Although I did remember my air mattress pump.
Once again there was hardly anybody in “Unlimited” kayak – just me, Eric Y, and JM. I could guess where I would end up in that group. “Touring” was a bigger group, with Dave W who usually beats me, Chris L who I’ve only raced against twice and he beat me, Bob R who beat me badly at the USCA Nationals in 2018 but who I’ve barely beat a few times since, and a few other guys who probably wouldn’t be a threat.
At the gun, JM and Eric Y took off like a shot. At first, Chris tried to tag onto their wakes, and I got on his side wake. He quickly gave up trying to stay with them, but I really wanted to make him lead rather than doing my usual thing and towing all my rivals around the course. Dave of course was going to stay on somebody’s wake no matter what. And after the initial burst of speed to try to stay up with JM and Eric, we slowed down so much trying to make each other lead that it felt like a “track stand”. And of course, I was the first to blink and say “I didn’t come here to paddle at 9 km/hr” and head off at my own pace, towing Chris, Dave and Bob.
The canoes were cutting it in tight on the corners but we don’t try to divine their motives. I was just trying to avoid weeds – the bow of my V10 Sport (and Bob’s V8 Pro) is completely vertical at the water line and if it crosses a weed you’ll never get it off. I try to “bounce” the boat to shake off weeds, but it doesn’t work very well and I probably have a 5% success rate at best. I had picked up a very small amount of weed by the down stream turn but it wasn’t slowing me too much.
At the down stream turn, I tried to a bit of a sprint – sometimes you can get a gap at a turn and make it harder for the hangers-on to get back on your wake. I did get a tiny gap, but I couldn’t hold on and they caught back onto my wake pretty quickly.
About a quarter to a third of the way back to the carry from the down stream turn, I’d picked up some more weeds and evidently it slowed me down enough that Bob decided to take the lead. There was a bit of a shuffle around and now it was Bob, with Dave on his side wake, and then Chris sort-of on Bob’s stern wake, and me on Dave’s stern wake.
I don’t know if it was somebody practicing race craft, or just the varied depths of water, but the two ahead of me would suddenly speed up to 11+ km/hr forcing me to pull hard to get back into their wakes, then they’d slow down to 9 km/hr. The weeds on my bow made it a hard pull if I was even a foot behind Dave’s stern, so I was in as tight as I could get. But with the speed fluctuations, I tapped Dave’s stern a couple of times. I tried to turn aside when he slowed down, but sometimes I didn’t react quite fast enough. Dave didn’t take it well, and yelled at me a couple of times in the heat of the event. (We had a good laugh about it afterwards, so no hard feelings I hope.)
About a kilometer before the portage, I decided I wanted to be in the lead again. I’m pretty sure I can get started on the portage pretty quickly because I practice this stuff, but I know I’m pretty slow doing the actual carrying part. At least getting to the take out first would keep me out of any pile up at the start, even if there’s nothing I could do about there being another one at the end. And sure enough, I got to the put-in right behind Chris and Dave and slightly ahead of Bob. Unfortunately I couldn’t squeeze in until Chris and Dave were basically leaving and then Bob kind of landed right beside me. Chris and Dave had a good gap on me, and I couldn’t close it down. On the other hand, I got a decent gap on Bob, but he managed to catch me up about 3 kilometers later after the turn at the top. And we battled back and forth until we were almost in view of the finish where I put in a dig and managed to get ahead of him. I did a pretty decent finish sprint and he didn’t manage to come around me.
Final results had less than 45 seconds between Dave and Rob, with Chris and I in between. A very close race.