This post is a little overdue, because I've been focusing on facebook publicity lately and letting the blog fall behind. We have a new facebook athlete page (you should go "like" us). The objective is to have a way to share stuff with all those people that sent me friend requests even though we have never met. We set a goal of getting more likes than Todd Wells' facebook page. He may be a bigger deal (maybe), but there are two of us, so... I'm not sure Todd knows about this. I mean, we're not really super close friends or anything. But I'm getting off track.
The Gore race is one of my favorite events. This is the sort of race that I seem to be able to do well at. Small mistakes have a minimal impact on your time. It's really more about endurance and some flatwater technique. Apparently I tend to average out better than a lot of other paddlers in that arena. For a few years now, the Gore race, for me, has been all about me versus Conor Flynn. This is mostly because we started racing the Gore race around the same time as each other. Neither of us was really that amazing, so we weren't winning, but we could compare to each other. He raced one year that I didn't and he got fifth, I raced one year that he didn't and I got fourth. There was a lot of trash talking between us for another year or two, while Conor started working for Charlie MacArthur and improved his technique. Finally we raced against each other and Conor won the race while I took sixth. This made me furious. I started training a lot harder on the Slave river, since this race is usually just a few days after I come back from Canada. The next time, equipped with a faster boat (the Fluid Bazooka) Conor and I were the first two starters. When we finished, he had beat the interval by 12 seconds, so we thought he had won again. However, when the times were posted, it turned out that we hadn't started at one minute intervals, and I had actually beaten him by 4 seconds (in a 23 minute race). Check out the video I put together from that year.
After winning last year, I knew that Conor would be feeling a lot like I had felt after he beat me, and would probably step up his game, so I started training even earlier, in a sort of fitness preemptive strike. I consulted my old friend Andy Corra for a training schedule. (Andy is a real downriver racer. Like, better at downriver than I am at playboating.) I bought a heart rate monitor and started actually doing whole runs on the Slave devoted entirely to race workouts. I was feeling fast.
Funny thing about the Slave river: it's like 6,000 feet lower in elevation than Gore canyon is. I don't know why I never noticed that before. Maybe this is the first time I had literally come back the day before the race. I did a practice lap with my fancy heart rate monitor, and noticed that my heart rate was about 10 percent higher than it should be. Walking around with my boat on my shoulder was hard all of a sudden. Climbing hills left me out of breath. Conor drove down from Aspen (down as in, down by a couple thousand feet of elevation), and seemed pretty calm about the race. I started to worry.
Well, race day started bright and early and then kept on starting for about 3 hours. I filmed a lot of interviews. There were many different training strategies. Apparently my whole "paddling hard for long lengths of time" strategy was pretty rare, which made me nervous again. By the time we got to the start, I was wondering if I had acclimated any better than yesterday, but either way I was starting to have a pretty good time hanging out with all the USA friends that I hadn't seen in several months. I started to let go of a little of my attachment to winning, and just focused on doing as well as I could at altitude. I came out of the gate really fast, to frighten the other racers, then immediately got winded by the first little rapid.
Throughout the race, I was not sure how I was doing. I was trying this crazy new strategy that Andy had described to me in some detail. It was called "pacing yourself". I wasn't dying, but then again I wasn't sure if I was going as fast as I could be. I hit a few really fast lines, like the meat line through Gore rapid, and I finally had a fast boof in Tunnel (every year I seem to mess that up a little).
At the end of the race, we had the usual trash talking at the finish, and a fun paddle out. Results were posted early (less suspense than last year), and it turned out that I won by 14 seconds (of course Conor was in second). I was totally stoked. Now that I've beat Conor twice in a row, there's no way I can relax. He'll be out for blood next year. I've already started training.
Although this post has mostly been about me and Conor, the race wouldn't be the same without everyone else that I didn't have a chance to mention here. Josh Oberleas and I settled another rivalry that started with our fifth and sixth place finishes at the Wind river race during last spring break. Maria Kallman and Natalie had a super close finish in the women's class, which I didn't really capture very well in the video. Ken Hoeve finally managed to finish in two classes in the same race (he did a short boat lap and a long boat lap). Austin Woody came out of retirement to get trashed somewhere along the course. Charlie Mac won the long boat class again. Peter Kabzan (I like to call him Pedro - Pedro Kalishnakov) had me very very nervous because of his C1 downriver background. Tony Meily let me pass him at a convenient spot (if we had battled it out we would have been doing a boatercross through Tunnel). Will Rawlstrom showed me a better line through Tunnel. Cody Beach... was there. Ross Herr "borrowed" a pair of hip pad shims which I still haven't gotten back. And many more. Hopefully I'll see everyone again next year.
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