It's that time of year again, where I scramble into the car and book it back to Colorado from the Slave River, just barely in time for Gore Race. This year, I trained extra hard while I was up at the Slave, trying to paddle hard for about 10-20 minutes on flatwater every day. Also, this year I had the large Bazooka, a very fast but still very manuverable boat. I was primed for a rematch against Conor Flynn, my nemesis.
Conor is a fast paddler. We've had a rivalry for a long time. At the last Gore race, Conor took first in the creekboat class, with me in 6th. My private goal this year was to beat Conor.
Come race day, I was feeling pretty stoked. Conor and I paddled in together across the flatwater, each of us paddling a little faster than we were comfortable, but trying to pretend that it was easy. He was the first racer in our class, and I was the second. I watched him bust out of the start, then waited through the longest minute of my life until my own start.
I left the start at a full sprint, trying to not hold anything back through the flatter stuff at the beginning. Every now and then, on long straightaways, I caught glimpses of Conor, still holding about a minute ahead of me.
I felt like I had good boofs on most of the major rapids. In Applesauce, in particular, I had one of my largest boofs ever. My only major mistake was getting eddied out relatively deeply below Tunnel falls. Every now and then I would catch myself slowing down, and I would imagine racing without that one minute interval between racers. Conor would probably be right there, and he would start pulling ahead here! That would dependably spur a burst of speed.
Before I knew it, I was in the midst of Kirshbaum's, the final rapid. I laced together three segments really well. The top I had already practiced. The middle section was pretty untested; I had watched Jules Campbell take a sneaky goalpost move during my practice lap on friday, and I barely managed to duplicate it. Then again at the bottom, I snuck over to the far left in a rocky shallow section, where Peter Benedict had breezed past me on that same practice lap.
I held it together through the finish line. When I eddied out, Conor was right there, chuckling.
"Nice lines," he said, "but I'm out of the water and my boat is already dried out. Just sayin."
That bastard. I got out and jogged.. well, walked... back upstream to where my mom was helping out with timing. When there was a break between finishers, we asked her which of us was faster. She said that I had finished 1:12 behind Conor. I was pissed. I had felt so fast, but somehow I had ended up 12 seconds slower than my nemesis.
After watching most of the other racers finish, a big group of us paddled the rest of the way to takeout. I started to feel a lot less pissed. Regardless of how much Conor had beaten me by, I had still gone pretty fast. I crossed my fingers for a top 3 finish.
The awards ceremony always takes forever, and I took advantage of the wait to film some time lapses. Right when they got to the creekboat class, I was fiddling with the camera, not paying much attention. I was a little surprised to hear my name, and made my way up to the front, where someone handed me a mug. It wasn't until I got back into the crowd that I read the mug and realized that I had won. The start interval hadn't been exactly a minute, it had been 1:16, so that I had actually beaten Conor by 4 seconds.
Mission accomplished. Booyah.
Here are a couple photos, mostly from the day after the race.
|One of Conor's few mistakes during his race run. Photo by some random jerk.Gore Race 2012|
|Brian Bank at Applesauce. Gore Race 2012|
|Pleasure paddle crew, below Applesauce. Gore Race 2012|
|I'm gunning for this line next year. The boof isn't as majestic, but the exit is a lot faster. Gore Race 2012|
|Here's Spencer swimming out of Tunnel. Gore Race 2012|
|Back home again. Gore Race 2012|