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HomeNL-2013-04 Buffalo Bayou Regatta TH

Buffalo Bayou Regatta
Mar. 16, 2013
by Terry Herdlicka

March 16, 2013 - the Buffalo Bayou Regatta is finally here.  John Ohrt and I had practiced 6 to 14 miles on the bayou over the last 2 months with water levels at around 90 cfs.  Upon arriving at the put-in at San Felipe / Voss Streets, John heard they allowed the water level to rise to 200 cfs.  Upon registration we found our number to be an even number which meant we would be on the east bank, great.  After getting the finishing touches on preparation we headed to the east bank to search for our location to put the canoe in.  There was a flat rock landing which we headed for, but were beat by just seconds by two guys moving their
  The launch site
canoe through the water to obtain the spot first.  We decided to sit next to them and obtained our position, I going forward and finding a decent foothold in the muddy bank, and John at the back and up the hill slightly.  We still had about 30 minutes to wait, neither of us ready to move back up the hill for anything.  We discussed our entrance into the water and John stated he was not stopping for anything,  I said; "Okay, sounds good to me".  I stood there, beginning to slip some in the mud.  I checked  for other footholds closer to the water and decided my best option would be to stay put, until the gun went off.  I practiced in my head how I was going to enter the canoe after John had given me ideas.  My heart racing in the next several minutes to prevent slippage on the mud and into the water.  Since John was slightly higher on the bank I asked him to let me know when he was in the canoe.  The key words were "go-go".

Go go!  
The time had come and the gun went off.  I was surprised at my 55 year (senior category) agility to have paddle in hand, clutch both sides of the front of the canoe and sit in as the bow hit the water.  John said go-go just as planned and we were off.  Our first obstacles were 4 canoes trying for the front spot.  One of the canoes started to head river right, right in front of us.  Our bow caught their stern and some how we just pushed them out of our way.  We had to toggle two other canoes for a moment, one of which took off way in front.  After we cleared the start, one of the canoes once again had managed to get in front of us and drifted river right and our bow caught their stern.  I had to reach forward to push their stern just enough to be able to draw left to get around them.  They ended up in some tree branches.

Harmon had taken a video of the start.  Upon reviewing this, we counted 7 boats ahead of us at the start.  View the video, here: YouTube

Maintaining speed was the key to winning.  At times, I did not feel my right side was as strong.  I found upon training if I held my head down my strength and concentration were the best.  I shared this with John during practice.  He stated down-river to watch for obstacles in the water.  The obstacles that were there during our practices were pretty much unseen at this water level.  There was one flat rock that we jimmied into the side of that was totally not  visible until we were right next to it.  I never once felt any slowing of the canoe from John's steering.

I was so used to during practice discussing our times with mileage.  I knew from the starting point to Woodway it is about 6 miles and it took us 1 hour to get there at approx 90 +/- cfs.  When we arrived at Woodway (which didn't seem to take us very long), I wanted to ask John the time.  I couldn't because he said he wasn't stopping for anything. 

After the above incident, we were on the water by ourselves  for what seemed an eternity.  Although, that was a good thing.  Up river from Woodway I could hear voices behind us.  I attempted to pick up speed, but to no avail they arrived. Our transfer for changing paddles was 'hut.'  As the voices became sharper so did their huts or changes, I had to really listen for John's voice when he said 'hut.'  I can remember at least 3 canoes passing us after Woodway of which we were able to keep up with them for several feet before they took off. We managed to keep these 3 in eye distance up ahead until at least Montrose or Sabine.  In the last of the three canoes one of the guys stated that we were really doing great and going fast.  I chirped back to state "not if you pass us."  I thought we did well enough to keep up with the younger age group for a short distance.

I started to feel discouraged as these 3 had sped on.  I failed to remember that John had stated we were in the senior category in the recreational canoe portion of this race.  I tried to watch some of their strokes to only come to the conclusion that my strokes were possibly twice as many as theirs. The other part of this conclusion is that it may not be about the amount of stroke, it is about the muscle power behind the stroke,  something that I do not obtain well in my upper body.  My power is in my lower body for endurance.

I had mentioned to John during practices that on the long straight-a-ways to try extending the paddle on each side to possibly 15 to 20 strokes to decrease the amount of time to change paddles because we were going through the stride of 8 to 10 strokes per side so quickly.  He discussed all possibilities as to why he might keep it short.  When we passed Shephard, he said he couldn't maintain that length.  I stated to him to just do what needs to be done and I will follow through. 

At some point, there were at least 3, maybe 4, double kayaks that had passed us between Shephard and Sabine.  The usual feel in that area when paddling is the lack of current.  Maintaining speed was of utmost here.  Knowing  that Sabine was around the corner and Sesquicentennial Park was near, we put forth the
  Finish line
effort to pick up our pace with the upper back feeling the push.  When we arrived, John went to check out the times chart.  He came back and stated that we may have won the senior division.  Later, he stated we won by 21 seconds.  I almost dropped to the ground and cried, concerned that I was getting discouraged earlier about my own performance. Maybe it was a good idea not to know whom we were competing with.  This definitely helped with paddling as hard and strong as we possibly could to FINISH and make the WIN.     

Thank you John Ohrt for allowing me to race with you this year.

John Ohrt and Terry Herdlicka with first place trophies for the Senior Division.