I’ve got one more week to get real sleep before the start of the Texas Water Safari.
Next Saturday, my teammates and I will climb into a 27-foot canoe for the 260-mile paddling race from San Marcos to Seadrift on the Texas coast.
Hell yeah, I’m scared.
This race hovers like a cloud of pesky gnats way outside of my comfort zone. I’ve been paddling less than a year, and somehow I’m signed up (with veteran teammates Heather Harrison and Sheila Reiter) for what’s billed as “The World’s Toughest Canoe Race.”
I’m diving headlong into a three- or four-day adventure fraught with mosquitos, alligators, snakes (a water moccasin tried to climb in our boat last week), palm-sized spiders, hallucinations, unbearable heat, giant rib-busting fish, hatching mayflies, sweat, huge mats of bobbing logs, dead and bloated farm animals, rapids, menacing rocks and stumps, and personality disorders.
As I learned today, a big part of canoe racing falls under the category of “boat rigging.”
This involves everything from looping zip ties around every spare inch of metal bar inside the boat to sloshing contact cement everywhere else to secure big sheets of foam with holes cut in them to hold water jugs. There are lights to secure, pee cups to tether, layers of padding to glue onto seats, and race numbers and team name (That’s What She Said) to affix to the bow.
Rudder cables need adjusting, cracks need mending, and plates must be installed so the boat doesn’t get shredded when it’s dragged across gravel beds.
I feel recklessly, dangerously underprepared. Today, these thoughts ricocheted around my brain:
Will our three-person boat get run over at the start, like one veteran paddle racer (thank you, West Hansen) suggested to me yesterday? (Hopefully not.)
Will I puke my guts out on the side of the river? (Possibly.)
How will I stay awake? (Lots of caffeine.)
How badly will my butt hurt? (Very badly.)
Will I develop trench foot by race end? (Good lord, it’s a real thing.)
Will my back hold up? My core? My brain? My sense of humor? (Crossing fingers.)
The entry list is official – 185 boats are registered for this year’s race. Our team number is 333.
Check in takes place Friday. The race start is 9 a.m. Saturday, and the deadline to reach Seadrift is 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 12.
Want to watch? Great viewing spots include Rio Vista Dam, just 1.25 miles from the start at Spring Lake; Cottonseed Rapids at mile 9.12; and Staples Dam, at mile 16.6. Even better, drag yourself down to the checkpoints at Hochheim, Cheapside or Cuero to cheer on paddlers when they really need it, on days two and three.
Want to track Team That’s What She Said online? You can do that. We’ll have a SpotTracker attached to our boat. Tracking information should be available before race start at www.texaswatersafari.com.
And please, wish me luck.