My paddling buddy and I logged another run on the San Marcos River this morning, and officially (yet unofficially) decided that yeah, we might do the upcoming Texas Winter 100K paddling race.
I’ve done the race, a 62-mile dash down the Colorado River from Lady Bird Lake in Austin to Fisherman’s Park in Bastrop, twice before (three times if you include the time I just paddled part of the course, and stopped for a picnic midway just to see what competing would be like.) I’ve gotten lucky with weather every time – kind of cold at the pre-dawn race start, but reasonably comfortable during the day.
The weather doesn’t always cooperate, though. I recently interviewed several year-round paddlers for an article I wrote for a statewide magazine (check the January issue of Texas Monthly). One described in detail how ice formed on her braids and she couldn’t stop shaking the first time she did the Texas Winter 100. That scared her away for a few years, but she did eventually return and do it again.
Cold would be fine, but I draw the limit at cold and wet, which is what the race delivered in its first year, 2011. Paddlers got pelted with sleet as they made their way downstream. Depending on water flow, it can take 12 hours to finish, and that’s a long time to shiver. Still, a little discomfort does make the hot chili or stew at the finish taste even better.
Today’s leisurely run down the San Marcos, from Shady Grove Campground in Martindale to Staples Dam, reminded me of what I love about paddling this time of the year – brilliant sunshine, equally brilliant orange and gold leaves on all the trees bent over the river, and plenty of quiet. We passed a few folks out fishing, but no tubers, no campers, and no swimmers, just a bunch of turtles out sunning themselves.
We glided along, letting the breeze help push us downstream, and enjoyed the peace. It won’t be like that for the race, but for now, I’ll take it.
To register for the Texas Winter 100K, go here.