Pam LeBlanc and Sheila Reiter pull out after a brief stop at the Utley Bridge checkpoint during Saturday’s Texas Winter 100 paddle race. Photo by Libby Geisinger

I learned a lot at yesterday’s Texas Winter 100 canoe race, my first ultra-marathon distance paddling event.

One, I love spending a day moving with the water as scenery scrolls past. During the nearly nine hours I spent on the Colorado yesterday, I saw a river otter playing on the bank, a red-headed woodpecker perched on a branch, a spotted llama kneeling in the grass in someone’s backyard, and a hawk carrying a fish in its beak.


Hank the Hound Dog looks over my snacks during a brief pit stop at a checkpoint during Saturday’s Texas Winter 100 paddling race. Photo by Libby Geisinger

Two, I need to learn how to pee in a moving canoe, because there’s no stopping in canoe racing. Someone loaned me a woman’s urinal, and I gave it the old college try as my paddling partner Sheila Reiter kept the boat going downstream. No luck. We had to pull over, and my shoes got sucked into the mud as I did my business.

Three, my form still lacks. Especially on my left side. My wrist started hurting after about 5 hours, and was completely numb when I woke up this morning. I’m sure it has something to do with the way I’m holding my paddle.


Here’s the view from the back of the boat. There’s no stopping in canoe racing, but Sheila whipped out her phone and snapped this halfway through yesterday’s race. Photo by Sheila Reiter

Four, I love the rhythmic feel of paddling. It reminds me of swimming.

Five, word games take your mind off the blisters that are forming on your hands. As we rolled down the river, Sheila would name a famous person, then I’d name another whose first name started with the same letter as the last one’s last name. And so on. It’s remarkable how many names are stuffed inside the human brain.

Six, team crews make me happy. Heather Harrison, Jeff Wueste and Dave Froehlich handed us fresh water, hot tea and snacks, and kept us smiling at all the checkpoints.


That’s me and Sheila, at the top right, skipping through one portage while our crew hauls our boat. We’re spoiled. Photo by Patty Geisinger

We portaged twice – once at Longhorn Dam, where our crew carried our boat through a tunnel to the launch point downstream, and at Sheila’s Devil Dam, where we scampered up a slick bank and through some brambles to the put-in. We got lucky with the weather – mostly clear and cool – and the river was flowing at a great clip, which made the race easier than usual. We finished at the back of the pack.

I’m proud of the hat I earned for completing the race, and felt pretty happy gobbling up a bowl of homemade chili made by volunteers at Fisherman’s Park.


We smell bad and I’ve got a snot rag shoved in my sports bra so I look weird(er than normal), but we’re happy to have the Winter 100 in our rear view mirror. Heather Harrison photo

I woke up this morning sore all over, especially my back, but an hour-long swim at Rollingwood Pool loosened things up. Swimming makes everything better; I’ve always known that.

Yesterday’s race covered roughly 60 miles. That’s just a blip on the screen compared to the 260 miles I’ll have to cover at the Texas Water Safari this June.

Not going to lie. I’m scared about that one.



Cruising into Utley Bridge – 46 miles down, 14 to go. Photo by Heather Harrison


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