Tenandeho Whitewater Derby 2019

Months ago I had decided not to compete in the Tenandeho Whitewater Derby this year. Instead I would be sensible and just run the 5 mile Delmar Dash running race in the morning and call it a day. So I registered for the Delmar Dash. Then I discovered the Delmar Dash wasn’t awarding Grand Prix points for folks over 40 this year so I decided to not run that either! At which point all of the above had been scratched from my schedule and I was left with a free weekend. A few days ago I said to M, “hey I’d like to do a trail run either Saturday or Sunday”. “Saturday would be better”, she said, so I met with MM for a 7-hour/24-mile trail run circuiting the mini mountains surrounding Breakneck Ridge in the Hudson Valley. At the end of the adventure when I hopped into my car, my body and brain were drained of all their juice to the point that I couldn’t readily remember where I was. Just then I got a notification on my phone. Two notifications actually.

"Delmar Dash" tomorrow
"Tenandeho White Water Derby" tomorrow

Hmmmm. I had forgotten all about those, I didn’t realize running on Saturday would leave the option open to do either (or both) events on Sunday. I drive home and M and I head to Muza in Troy for dinner. On the walk from the car to the entrance, Mindy touches my arm. “Let this woman go by”. I’m holding up pedestrian traffic with my hobbling down the sidewalk on my way to the restaurant. As we enjoy our amazing meal of pierogies, kielbasa, and golumpkis, I casually mention Sunday’s running and kayak races. M has some activities planned for the morning, so it fits in with her schedule reasonably well.

Later that night, I crawl up to bed without setting an alarm. At 6:30am I wake up. I look up race times. If I move quickly I can pack up the car with a ton of running and boating gear and make it to the first race of the day. I drive down to Delmar, eating an old cold burrito on my way, leftovers from yesterday’s trail snacks. I pick up my bib and do a warmup run. I’m running really gingerly. My poor feet are tender and sensitive from yesterday. This is their way of making it impossible for me not to take it easy. During the warmup I meetup with some fellow teammates, B and C. Running with them helps me forget my concerns and I actually warm up at a reasonable pace. Things are looking better for the race.

I start the race very conservatively. B passes me early on and he pulls me along for a while, slowly increasing the pace little by little. By 3.5 miles I’m feeling a little soreness in my hip so I ease off a little. I cross the finish line. It certainly felt like a normal race. I ran as fast as I could, even if the pace was a little slower.

I’m getting ready to make my way to the car to the next event when a guy from News Channel 6 with a huge camera says, "Hey did you run barefoot? Would you mind answering some questions?" I’m almost frustrated as he asks me questions like, "does it hurt"? The truth is yeah it hurts, but only because I’m an idiot and destroyed them yesterday! But instead of telling it like it is, I do my best to tell it like it would have been if I weren’t on the verge of total physical and mental collapse.

I drive north to Mechanicville with my kayaking equipment, eating a second burrito which thankfully has been warmed by the sun. I take care of logistics: dropping off the boat at the start, dropping off the car at the finish, registering, and hitching a ride back to the start. After which I have a 30 minute break, so I lay down in a field of onion grass and enter a deep slumber.

"Hey no sleeping on the job!"

I blink my eyes a few times and a man’s face comes into focus.

"Only napping!", he laughs as he and his canoeing partner place their boat on deck for the race. A siren sounds, and it’s announced, “the Kayak race is going to start in 10 minutes.”

I get up, put on my wetsuit, gloves, and spray skirt, and climb into the kayak. Despite the fact that everything is still rather gray in color, it’s a perfect spring day with sunny skies warming temps up to the high 60's.

I’m the very last kayaker to start in my division, I’m #12. Kayakers are released in 2-person waves, with 1 minute between waves. #11 and I wait our turn and take our places at the starting line. The announcer counts down from ten with his bullhorn and we start paddling. My arms don’t work. It doesn’t help that I haven’t kayaked in a year. #11 takes off ahead of me. I do my best to pace myself, paddling aggressively sometimes, and resting other times. It’s kind of a double whammy because I’m going more slowly than I’d like and meanwhile I’m more uncomfortable than I’d like to be. There’s no pity for self-indulgence.

I try to keep #11 within sight, which keeps my pace fast enough to catch up to the occasional kayaker. Meanwhile, a female kayaker who started in a wave after me blazes past all of us. Eventually #11 disappears up ahead.

There are two kayakers immediately in front of me as we approach a stonework island that marks a choice between a left channel and a right channel. The race director instructed everyone to stay left here, but I’ve always gone right. One guy asked, “is it ok if we go right?” and the director said yes. Apparently the right channel is a little rocky, which means you’ll scrape the bottom of your boat a little. I’m ok with that! Both kayakers take the left, and I veer to the right. I made the right choice! As the two paths merge, I am now ahead of both of them.

One of the things that makes this race so great is that the river winds through countless bridges and backyards through the town of Mechanicville, and on a nice day like today, huge crowds are gathered to cheer on paddlers. Just as the rapids get more exciting, encouragement from both sides and overhead help to inject a little more adrenaline into my dying arms. My face is contorting into looks of panic, excitement, and relief as I survive the more difficult sections while under scrutiny from many spectators. During this surge of excitement I catch up to #11 just before the final rapids where the river dumps itself and myself into the Hudson River.


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