Heather Harrison, left, Sheila Reiter and Pam LeBlanc pose by their canoe before a training session on Lady Bird Lake on Sunday, Feb. 24.

My three-woman Texas Water Safari team chalked up a short training session this morning on Lady Bird Lake.

Besides the first spin in the actual canoe we’ll put on the water at this year’s race, a 260-mile jaunt from San Marcos to Seadrift on the Texas coast, it served as a chance to do some planning, lay out expectations and talk about how we’ll handle stuff that goes wrong, because it invariably will.

The paddle itself felt great. I’m the least experienced member of the team. Both Sheila Reiter and Heather Harrison have logged multiple Safari finishes, but I just started paddling in the last year. I’m hoping my training as a swimmer will somehow come in handy when digging a paddle into a river for three days straight. So far the rhythm of paddling reminds me of the bilateral motion of swimming freestyle.

Highlights of today’s spin? An aggressive swan that wanted a peek inside our canoe,  turtles stacked on logs like dinner plates, bright sunshine and crisp air.

We single bladed, or used paddles with just one blade on each end. We’ll do some double blading during the race, too, but that involves lots of splashing, and since it was 45 degrees when we started, we skipped that today. That didn’t stop me from sloshing plenty of water on Reiter, who sits up front. (She yelled, I stifled laughs.) I sit in the middle and Harrison steers from the back seat.

My favorite thing about today’s session came during the post-paddle debriefing, which involved talking about the horrors of past Safaris. My teammates described one long, terrible portage gone awry as “the worst day of my entire life.” They also described boats flipping in the bay near the finish, core muscles that gave out, dry heaving and staggering around on the banks.

Just typical Safari stuff.

Our number one rule? Laugh – about the funny stuff, about the stuff that goes wrong, about everything.


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