We arrived early (as always) for check-in. The process was smooth and the heats were posted. We were in the 2nd heat – right after the “elite” heat. Being in the 2nd heat was nice because it was early but also because it gave us time to figure out how the race was going to work. After walking back and forth to the car a few times we were ready for the instructions and warm up.
The boats were ready too.
And here is a picture of me before the start.
We learned that due to the current height of the river all boats would start in the water. And assistance would be provided to get in and out of the water. This brought me much relief. I usually pick an easy launch spot or get help if we are using a dock so this would be exactly what I was used to….which on race day is very important.
After some silly warm ups ….a beautifully sung national anthem…..and final preparations, the first heat was in their boats and ready to go. We watched them take off and realized that the start was going to be wild for us. As the boats paddled out of view we waited for them to come back. It took much longer than we expected and we realized that we might be in trouble. As the first boats finally came back we started cheering for the leaders. One by one each boat was pulled up and people started running. After the last boat got up we were able to go down to the dock.
At this point we had picked out PFDs and attached our race bibs (very stupidly in my case…more on that later). We also had bibs pinned on our running shirts. We opted to paddle in our running clothes so that no changing would be necessary at the transition.
We got down to the docks and picked out boats and were assisted into the water. We lined up at the start line and immediately noticed a serious headwind. We were pointed upstream (best to paddle upstream first…glad they thought of that!) and had to paddle a little bit to stay at the start line. Someone yelled “GO!” and the craziness began! Water everywhere. The water was choppy and everyone was paddling hard. I was taking on a lot of water. And then someone crashed into me and wouldn't move. I yelled at the guy to move and somehow we got away from each other. After that it was smooth sailing…ur, um….paddling. I tried to just do steady paddling. It was a fight to get out to the turn around spot. The wind was hard and water was choppy. At some point I realized that I had hurt my shoulder. I'm guessing I pulled a muscle paddling too hard.
I saw my buddy turn before me and we yelled to each other as I approached the turn. He was paddling fast and hard. I made it through the turn and did everything I could to get back. I could feel the wind and the river assisting me. I eventually caught up to a guy that had brought his own boat….this made me feel pretty good. I drafted behind him to get to the last turn. I made the turn and paddled hard to the dock.
I got a free ride onto the dock….the volunteers pulled my boat up as I threw my paddle and started working on my PFD. Here's were I realized the mistake I had made earlier. I had made sure to leave access to the buckles but I had pinned my bib across so I couldn't open the jacket. I quickly ripped the bib and got the jacket off. Rookie mistake that I won't make again. Fortunately I realized quickly and the bib easily ripped. I threw my jacket down near the water station and grabbed a cup of water….while running. I came out of the boat running. It never occurred to me to do anything else. I choked on my first swallow of water and decided to let it go so I threw the full cup and finished running up to the trail.
On the trail I really started running harder trying to get to my normal running pace (or better). I didn't notice anyone around me at this point. My arms were heavy and I realized that stringing together two sports was hard. The first bit of the run was hard but I was excited and focused and just kept going. I eventually caught up to a guy that I had seen paddling. He was stretching his arms and I could tell he was struggling. He started running with me and I told him he could run with me but he would have to talk to me. After a brief conversation he dropped back to walk. I kept running. As I was approaching the turn I was able to see my buddy up ahead but I knew he was too far away to catch. I saw him make the turn and I moved towards the center of the trail to give him a high five. I then made the turn myself after fighting with a kid desperately trying to give me water that I didn't need. It's a very bad day if I have to stop for water on a 3 mile run.
After the turn I started to pick up my pace. I knew I had run out more than 1.5 miles. I knew the course wasn't certified and everything was just an estimate but I had a sense of how much I had to run back to finish. I just kept going. I never once considered walking.
As I got to about half a mile left I started to speed up more and as I approached the finish I could hear people cheering so I kept running harder. To get to the finish I had to cross the timing mat for the start so there was someone telling me not to stop….but luckily I knew this and was sprinting all the way to the finish mat.
Right after crossing the finish I was handed this dog tag…
I had no idea they were giving these out and I was super excited to receive it. We made our way to the water table and then I went back to the finish to look for the guy I passed. I went up to shake his hand and congratulate him on a good finish.
Normally at this point I would get food and leave. I got food but I just couldn't bring myself to leave.
I tried to leave once because I had intense pain in my shoulder and considered a trip to the hospital. Whatever happened during the paddle caught up to me and I could really feel the pain. I got all the way to the car only to determine that I really wanted to stay and cheer for the other people. This race was in support of Team River Runner (www.teamriverrunner.org) . These people were amazing and I wanted to stick around and celebrate their amazing fundraising efforts and cheer for the remaining finishers and the winners during the awards ceremony.
We had chili for lunch and baked goods made by volunteers. We were entertained by the Hooligan Race. Here is a picture….
It was a bunch of people in costumes assigned to do crazy tasks while racing each other to complete them. It proved to be very entertaining. We then stuck around for the awards.
Here is where the race took place.
Apparently Team River Runner is looking to pair up with the Washington Canoe Club to do training for the paralympics which I think is awesome.
Overall it was an amazing day. We raced with some amazing people who have inspired me to keep running and paddling. I'm already planning to do this again next year. While it was hard I felt like my training had paid off. I ran really well even after the difficult paddle. We had so much fun and know that we raised money for some amazing people. I definitely believe in the healing power of sports. I know how great I feel after a great paddling trip or a terrific run. I'm so glad that Team River Runner is giving these opportunities to those that need it most.