Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Texas Water Safari Part 3

                                                           Texas Water Safari
                                                                      Part 3

Texas Water Safari

Part 3

  A good shot of below Staples Dam. Portage was river right down the metal stairs.

I leave Staples pissed off.  I slam the paddle to the water and grunt on the initial take off.  I hit it hard until I’m around the bend, out of sight of people.  I think to myself what the hell am I going to do when I get to the 1.8 mile portgage?  I had a system that I worked out to portage the board. Even practiced it walking around my backyard.  I planned to put on my awesome Line trimmer harness (again, thanks work, the harness is back in the shed) and clip into the front hand hold on top of the nose.  Then pull the board as the wheels I brought along would be strapped around back by the fin. I was angry. Then realized, I should be angry at myself.  I should have clipped the harness back onto the board’s center hold like I had been doing.  Ok, I admitted I was not thinking right. Move on Shane. Find better thoughts.

     The current is still pretty good at his point in the race.  I’m making good time while ducking under low water bridges and avoiding stumps and downed trees.  I’m feeling better. The wanting to puke feeling is gone.  I’m finally in a good rhythm of paddling.  Everything’s loosened up and flowing.  In time I  make it to Luling (Zedler) Dam mile 46.   Michael signals me to portage  right over the concrete wall and carry the board over the concrete to the other side.  He says most solos are sliding their boats down th 2ft. concrete spillway by the dam.
                                                                                 Luling dam
                          The top of the dam lowering the board down the concrete spillway
                                                   Portaging down the side of the spillway.
                                                   If you look at the picture above,  I'm now
                                                   where the 2 guys are waiting at the bottom.

The portage is tricky.  I lay the board on the concrete and let it slide down as I grab a hand hold on the tail to lower it down, all while traversing large rocks.  I let the bottom of the board scrape over the concrete.  At this point I have full faith in Board Shaper Todd Cartanto's rubberized coating on the bottom of the board.  It's taken a ton of hits and is now being scraped on concrete.  I get to the bottom and Michael meets me there.  He hands me more bladders with ice and water. 
                                                         Team Captain "Michael Rokos"

At this point in the race, some Texans have lost some bets.  Many folks said I'd be pulling out at Luling.  I'll be honest, It was a tough 46 miles to this point.  There was good flow on the river but you had to be heads up all the time.  Alot could of gone wrong. I see why they bet against me.

Back on river after a welcomed chat with Michael.  Everything's still good. My spirits are up, plenty of water, and still a little daylight.  I paddle on a ways as it gets dark.  Night hits and everything slows down.  I have to slow my cadence so I can try to see what's ahead.  I have a fenix flash light duct taped on my deck bag to see what's immediately ahead of me.  I don a headlamp so I can scan the river. I switch from high beam back to low beam.  I catch glimpses of sticks or stumps in the river and adjust my trak accordingly.  Night travel is not too bad, just slow.  It's hard to see what;s coming.

     It's dark and as I paddle I hear running water.  I can't see but 20 ft in front of me and still hear rushing water.  WTF is it?  I get about 5 feet on top where the sound is coming from and I see it.  I see a drop off.  I back paddle to try figure out what I'm looking at.  It makes no sense. It must be a portage spot.  I paddle back upstream and pull off to the side of the river and hold onto some brush.  I flip through my laminated notes.  Ahhh. Son of Ottine. It makes sense now.  It's an old broken concrete dam.  It's runable, but only center right.  I get back in the center of the river. Paddle slowly. Get right up in the center and finally see it. There's a small chute about 3 ft wide center right.  I take it and paddle through.  I actually clear it until the fin catches the concrete.  It's a nasty feeling with a crunching sound.  It leaves me with a bad feeling.  I paddle over to the side of the river and take a look.  Yup, it broke a fin.  Broke it right at the fin screw.  I take out the fin and decide to make it work.  I put the fin back down in the fin box and jam it forward, wedging the fin into the fin box.  It stays.  I paddle on.
4 miles later I get to Ottine dam. I have to portgage right. The porage sucks!  It's uphill about 15 yards. But it's sandy material that when you step you slide back down the hill.  Every step yields about 6 inches in travel.  The race official there says," man you're my hero."  It's enough encouragement to keep me going uphill.  Then I say to him," Most people had me only making it to Luling.  I guess they lost a bet somewhere."  He replies with," I have you past Gonzo at Hocheim.  Prove me wrong. Get to Seadrift!"  I say," That's the plan."

                    Ottine dam looking up river.  Portage is to the right coming down river, uphill,
                    around to the left, through the woods, an 8' drop off from washout, then back on river.

 As I portage ,I hear a guy I have been paddling on and off with, nick-named 'Polecat' yell,"  Ottine!" (very drawn out).  Sounds part like he's cursing it, part like he's praising it.  Wierd.
 Just a couple miles past Ottine, I make it to Palmetto Bridge. Check point #3   More bets lost. My crew informs me that people are shocked I am still in the race.  They actually are starting to root for me.  The crew says they are getting a ton of questions about the stand up guy.  This is good.  This is definately good. The SUP disease is spreading.

Paddling on throught the night the river starts to get slower and wider.  Already a bit tired from a day of technical paddling,  I still have technical paddling, but now with less current, which means more output.  I find mental outlets to take my mind of paddling.   I am now singing  songs that I sing to my son as I put him to sleep at night.  Curse that Elmo book! The lyrics ring in my head...Things may not be what they seem now, all throught the night...  Clouds are drifting, frogs are peeping..
What the hell am I doing? The sad part is I do this for over an hour. I run through the songs in the dam Elmo book!  No matter.  It works. I get through the night and get to day break.  I make it to Gonzales Gravel bar. Mile 85. I chat with my crew alittle bit and do a board inspection.  I find that I've put a hole in the nose of the board somehow.  Not sure how, but I go to my repair kit.  Surfco hawaii's Quick fix putty.  Dave from Surfco says it works. We'll see.  I goober the nose with enough putty to make sure it holds for the next  170+ miles.   I also take the opportunity to change fins.  Up to this point I had a 7" rubber proteck fin on.  I switch out to a 9".
    I've hit a point I need to rest the legs a bit.  Standing up is hard enough.  Doing it while paddling, not an easy task.  I lay the board on the gravel bar. Tell Michael I have to rest.  I walk up under the bridge and take my shoes off and lay down.  I hear the cars running over the bridge.  I don't even care about the sound. I tell my Team Captain to wake me in 30 minutes. In 30 seconds I'm out cold!
                                              My first sleep in almost 24 hours of racing. 


1 comment:

  1. Shane,

    Thanks for writing up your story and sharing it with us here. I can't tell you how many of my friends and family have been inspired and amazed at your efforts and accomplishments during the last year. And that awe only grows with each subsequent race. I love getting the break down of how it went for you out there, kinda living vicariously through you this year as I have had to take time off from racing. Keep it up buddy, and I can't wait to read the next installment.


    P.S. While I was in Austin, Texas right after the Safari I went to West's fundraiser for the Amazon Express and I must have heard a hundred positive and awestruck comments about that "crazy stand-up guy that finished the Safari" from the guests there, most of whom had either raced it or were involved in other ways. Not a negative word was said, you definitely won over the people I talked to.