Sheila Reiter in the front seat of Team That’s What She Said during a training run on the San Marcos River on March 24. Pam LeBlanc photo


Team “That’s What She Said” (it’s official!) returned to the San Marcos River today for a training run.

I’ve joined a three-woman team for the 2019 Texas Water Safari, a 260-mile paddling race from San Marcos to Seadrift on the Texas coast. My partners – Sheila Reiter and Heather Harrison – are veteran paddlers, each with multiple safaris under their belts. I’m a rookie who just started paddling in the last year.

Sheila Reiter scouts a log jam. Pam LeBlanc photo[/caption]


I’ve never paddled a boat more than 60 miles, I don’t know how to pee in a moving canoe, and I hate sleep deprivation. Other than that, I’m totally in.

We dropped a vehicle at Palmetto State Park and put in at a spot just west of Luling at about 10:45 a.m. this morning.

Heather Harrison, front, explains the finer points of a portage. That’s Sheila Reiter in the background. Pam LeBlanc photo

Today’s session felt great. Sheila adjusted our seats to better balance our boat, and we made our way down 20 miles of twisting river beneath overcast skies. We tackled a log jam, lined our boat down a rapid dubbed Son of Ottine, portaged a dam at Zedler Mill, and spotted the usual array of wildlife (snake in river, cows – dead and alive – in river, owl in tree eyeballing us, hawk, buzzards, and a very cute 6-week old puppy to finish.)

And we didn’t flip the boat, despite a minefield of staubs (paddler lingo for partially submerged logs or stumps that wreak havoc on canoes).

Sheila Reiter paddles as fast as she can past an attack heifer. Pam LeBlanc photo

Paddle training takes time. We spent about four and a half hours on the river (three and a half actually paddling – the rest scouting, breaking and portaging), but I left home at 6:45 a.m. and didn’t get home until almost 4:30 p.m. A lot of time is spent loading and unloading boats and gear, dropping vehicles for the shuttle and talking about what to expect on race day.

Sheila Reiter, right, explains how we’re going to get through Son of Ottine rapids. 

Things I learned today: Old white long johns once used for snow skiing make great sun protection on the river even if they’re ugly. It’s fun to walk down the spine of a giant fallen log. I’ve got a terrible knack for splashing the person in the front seat with water.

I’ve still got lots more to learn, like how to comfortably pee into a cup while sitting in a moving canoe, how to double blade to break up the hours of single-blading, and how to improve my paddling form. I need to dip my paddle in the water farther up and take it out a little earlier. I also need more power – and more confidence.

[caption id="attachment_464" align="alignnone" width="4923"] Happy teammates at the end of Sunday’s training run. Pam LeBlanc left, Heather Harrison, center, and Sheila Reiter, right.

But chalk today up as a good one. No blisters, my hands didn’t get numb like they sometimes do, I’m happily tired but not exhausted, and I love being outside, using my body.

Look for me Tuesday afternoon on Lady Bird Lake for a short session.




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