In today’s “This is How We Prepare for the Texas Water Safari” chronicles, Team “That’s What She Said” tackled a 25-mile race on the San Marcos River.
Team member Sheila Reiter had to detour to Houston, so her boyfriend, Jeff Wueste, filled her seat. I sat in the middle, where all I have to do is paddle ceaselessly, and Heather Harrison took her usual spot in the back, where she steered us around half submerged logs, through minefields of rocks and stumps, and into the fastest-moving water.
I chalked up more valuable lessons today, from experiencing a chaotic mass start (one boat flipped), a sprint upriver and around a buoy, to leaping off the mossy embankment of a dam. The race, put on by the Martindale Athletic Club, stretched from Staples to the gravel bar at Luling, a small portion of the 260-mile route from San Marcos to Seadrift that I’ll face during the big race in mid-June.
My favorite moment came at the Staples Dam, where my partners yelled at me to jump down a 5-foot embankment and help maneuver our three-person canoe over the ledge. I got to leap into the water chest-deep, then scramble back into the boat as we pushed into the flow.
Not everything went right. I accidently tossed my paddle off the boat at one point (we retrieved it, but it took a few valuable minutes), I realized I need practice jumping out of the boat and dragging it over gravel (my feet got tangled in the boat’s thwarts) and I still need to work on endurance and paddle form.
But more things went right. I ate better and didn’t feel like I’d been run over by a truck at the finish. I’m improving my shove-food-in-your-mouth-as-fast-as-you-can skill. My back muscles are a little sore today, but not bad. Ibuprofen is my friend.
Count it as the best day on the river that I’ve had yet.
Highlights and lowlights? Red-tailed hawks and red-eared sliders. Spiders and caterpillars on our hat brims and legs. The squealing of jack pumps around Stairtown. Clouds of gnats. Two race observers, on a bank in the middle of nowhere, who hollered out, “Is that Pam LeBlanc? I follow you on Instagram!” (What?!)
And one scary sight – a coil of barbed wire dangling into the river, right where boats cut through. I hope no one got caught on that.
We finished in less than 4 hours.
I want more!