Sunday, July 1, 2012

Texas Water Safari Part 5

Texas Water Safari Part 5

Cheapside Bridge  - Checkpoint 6

I arrive at Cheapside to my crew and a round of hoots and hollering.  Seems the SUP disease is mingling about the folks.  My crew and some people welcome me in and Michael takes my spent bladders and changes them out for new ones.  I take a small rest here.  I find a mother (Becky)/daughter (Allie)/friend  (daniel)crew team  here who is waiting on the boat they are supporting to come in.

4 man boat(Cuatro Sinko) that Becky/Allie/Daniel are crew for
(I end up leapfrogging with this boat throughout the night)
(post race I find that they were told the same thing that I was at the race start. 
 You're not going to make it in that craft! Well, we did.)

My crew has been talking with them proior to my arrival.  The mom (Becky) says how awesome it is that I'm doing this on a SUP, she gives me praise and encouragement.  She is excited for how far I’ve come.  Her daughter Allie and her friend Daniel are all smiles and just as stoked for my journey.  They are supporting me and rooting for the Stand up guy.  They believe in what I’m doing here.  My Team Captain, Michael, tells me of all the people asking about me.  They are genuinely happy to know I’m still paddling.  He says there are so many people that are behind us now.  They love the fact that a craft that was not made for a race like this, has taken all the abuse and torture that the Texas Water Safari can throw it, and survived, A craft that has never been seen on this race course in it's 50 years.  They also are excited for a paddler that comes from out of state, never has seen the river, does  not know anything about the portages, the stumps, rocks, and treacherous terrain that is here.  This coupled with temps in the mid to upper 90’s as well as  heat exhaustion, sleep deprivation, food deprivation, and dehydration that are all in play.  The Texas paddling community is starting to accept a stand up paddle boarder into their ranks.

                                                                         Arrival at Cheapside
                                          (dang, those Maui Jim sunglasses look good on me)
                                                                      (stopping at Cheapside bridge)
                            Left to right: Allie Garcia, Me sitting on my buttocks, Daniel Buffington, and
                            Michael My Team Captain  (not sure what pose he was going for here.

                               Taking off the fingerless gloves I've been wearing up to this point reveals
                                      some nice blistering and a severe case of pruning. I ditch the gloves

          Another 15 miles to get to the Cuero checkpoint.   The river is widened and slow.  There really are not any paddlers around on this stretch.  It’s the point in the race where it changes from more of a physical challenge to more of a mental game.   Trying to balance everything becomes a chore.  I have to constantly remind myself every 45 minutes to an hour to eat something.  Clif bars have dominated my diet so far and continue to be the choice.  They are the one item I have, I know my body always does well with.  That and I have about 70 of them.  The best part about eating them is that every hour I eat one, I free up a little weight from my load.  At checkpoints I treat myself to a bagel with a scoop of peanut butter slammed in between the two pieces.

     Hydration is a constant concern.  My system that I have found works best is wearing a camelback.  It adds weight to my shoulders but the delivery system is tried and true.  I don’t have to mess around with tubes in bottles running from the board, up my body, and  to my mouth.  I can simply bite, suck, and swallow.  I keep 1-2 extra bladders in a deck bag just in front of my feet.  When my bak gets empty, I kneel, take off the camelback and swap out bladders.   In addition to water in the packs I keep a Nalgene bottle in the deck bag as well.  I switch off electrolyte product in the Nalgene every time I fill it.  Powdered Gatorade, then Heed, and also camelbak’s Elixir tabs (with caffeine).  The key is I have to listen to my body’s needs and be aware enough to satisfy them.  Too often people think, oh I can make an electrolyte drink at the next checkpoint.  5 hours later when they reach the checkpoint, they have now set themselves back in electrolyte balancing. 
     With hydration and food under control, I am now faced with a problem I didn’t plan for.  My left ankle is swelling.  It’s not painful, more of a discomfort.  Yet, I can see that it’s going to be a problem.  There’s not much I can really do for it.  I pop a couple Tylenol to try and combat the swelling.    I paddle on and pull the old Jedi mind trick on myself and make myself think of anything else besides my ankle.  “This is not the ankle you are looking for.” Thank you Obi wan.

                                              The franken foot.  My left foot and ankle begin to swell.
   Cuero comes soon enough.  160 miles in!  100 left to go.  Piece of cake.  I make it in to greet Joe and Michael.  It’s Just the standard pit stop.  Michael takes the empty bladders and swaps out new ones with ice and water.  Load the Nalgene bottle with water and I throw a Gatorade powder in.  Just chatting with the crew makes me completely forget about any soreness, hurt, pain, hunger, or any other concern.  Seeing these guys after paddling for hours is a Huge boost.  I’ve already touched on how important a good crew is, but it’s worth mentioning again.  They are my lifeline. They are my most valuable tool in this race, more than they know.

        Leaving Cheapside.  All my gear still intact. Still plenty of Go left!
        After Cuero I press on as my foot and ankle continue to swell. The area where it began is just below my compression pants. There's a gap between where the compression pant ends (an inch above my ankle) and just above where my Columbia shoes end (an inch below my ankle). I loosen my shoe and the swelling gets worse in my foot. Now, the swelling radiates up to my knee. 
       Next up, 40 miles to Victoria with a couple stops in between.  I'm manage to paddle efficiently, even with the beginning wierdness in my left foot and ankle.  As I paddle on,  I catch up to  a couple boats here and there and a couple catch me too.  One lady I catch up to is Myla.  Along side her Safari boat it reads, “Going the extra myla.”   Pretty cool.  I ask her how she’s doing as I watch her boat not able to track properly.  She informs me that she crapped up her rudder.  With little steering she is in a constant battle to track straight.  She bumps logs here and there but her boat is tough. These Safari boats are made specifically for this race.  Alot of people would give up with a setback like this.  She keeps paddling, using her paddle to steer, a difficult task. 
     This is what I find about the paddlers of the Texas Water Safari.   They are a different breed of paddler.  They take everything that is thrown at them and smile.  They are in the "World's toughest canoe race" for a reason.  They want to go up against a race that defies all odds of racing.  The course is the hardest you will find.  That's why she's here.  That's why I'm here.  To test ourselves physically and mentally beyond what's normal.

                            Myla and I paddle and chat a bit. She's super nice and one tough paddler.

Post race through emails with Myla I get more of her story.  I learn that in 2011 her daughter (Courtney) raced the TWS  and became the youngest female C-1 solo finisher.  Myla had to leave during the race for treatment  of stage III breast cancer.   Yet, she managed to make it back for the finish, having hated to miss any part of the race. However, after surgery, chemo, and radiation she vowed to beat cancer and began to train for this year. She wanted to do this year solo showing cancer it has nothing on her!  Once her hair started growing back in, she the dove into training.  She showed up this year with her brother in-law as team captain (whom also had Prostate cancer at the time she had breast cancer) and she raced through adversity.  With a broken rudder, cracked Bow, and no boat lights for night navigation she triumphed!  She not only finished, but finished 4th place in her division! In prior years racing the TWS, she holds 2 finishes in the 3 man boat boat division,  with 4 attempts.
     People like Myla I hold in the highest regards.  No matter what life has thrown at them, they persevere and push past adversity.  I feel very priveledged to have paddled with her and for her to share her story with me. 
Myla crossing the bay at the end of the race.
"Going the extra Myla"
  Paddling on to Victoria becomes more difficult as the swelling becomes an issue.


  1. Hah! Thanks for the shout out. I just blogged about the Stand Up Guy last week in my recount of the TWS. Check it out:
    Good luck, and Godspeed!
    Mike, Bowman, Team CuatroSinko

  2. Very cool Mike! It's funny that we were 2 of the boats out there that most everyone counted out of the race. But checkpoint after checkpoint I'd see these high end boats up on top of vehicles with big holes in them or the stern ripped off. Glad to have paddled with y'all!