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HomeNL-2014-02 Winter 100 2

Texas Winter 100k
Jan. 25th, 2014
by Kent Walters

This was a USCA-sponsored event in which HCC members Christy Long, Terry Herdlicka, Will Blumentritt and Kent Walters raced and Harmon Everett ran support. The race started at 5:00 AM under the I-35 Bridge across Lady Bird Lake in Austin (see top left of first Texas Water Safari map page, no associated mile marker). The temperature was hovering at 28 degrees F and a heavy mist was coming off the water. We sprinted across Lady Bird Lake (aka Town Lake) to a well-marked and staffed take-out to the right of Longhorn Dam for a long portage (1/4 mile) up a bank, along a trail, through a tunnel, around a field and down a rough concrete bank to the river. By this time we all realized that the cold temperatures were going to be a significant factor throughout the next several hours. I had caught up with Will Blumentritt at this point, but was pretty much to myself for the rest of the race in sweep position, except when the Competition class racers that started two hours after us passed me.

Now on the river, we were paddling in the dark and through a mist that settled and froze to everything as the temperature dropped to its lowest point of 26 degrees (paddle shafts felt particularly cold). I was running into gravel bars because the light from the headlamp reflected back off the mist and I couldn't see anything until I was on top of it. Note to self: Turn off the light on the first gravel bar next time.

For me, the portage at Sheila’s Devil Dam (aka HAZARD: LOW WATER DAM at Safari mile marker 284 on the map) came just before sunrise. This was significantly shorter than the first portage, but misrepresented as a 15 yard drag, which was really more of a 30 yard drag over logs and weeds and gullies and branches.

There was a beautiful sunrise around 7:30 which revealed the full extent of the ice that covered everything. My jacket and hat, and my whole kayak were sheeted in ice that did not fully melt until about 10:00. The effect of all of that melting was to thoroughly soak all the rest of my layers.

The river was low and hardly moving at all except in the shallows and squeezes. Wildlife I observed included osprey, heron, egrets, bald eagle, fish, ducks, duck decoys and duck hunters. From the number of shotgun blasts I heard in this upper section of the race, I have to assume that at least some of duck portion of the original wildlife quantity was reduced slightly. Margins of the river varied from shallow gravel banks to 40-foot high bluffs.
Steve & Christy Long     The boat
I have to relay information on the rest of the trip from others because I took too long to get my Sisson (a pretty fast kayak carrying a not-so-fast handicapped paddler) to the first checkpoint at Little Webbervile Park (~29 miles at Safari mile marker 267 on the map). Note to self: Don’t have shoulder surgery a week before a kayak/canoe race.

Between Checkpoints 1 and 2 the miles seemed to go on forever with continuing flat water conditions and the new element of a pretty strong headwind through much of that segment. Christy and Terry in their tandem Alumacraft were trading relative positions back and forth with Will in his trusty old Rob Roy through this portion.

As I understand it, Will was ahead at the second checkpoint (Utley Bridge at Safari mile marker 248) by about 15 minutes, but then it got dark again and the challenges multiplied with trying to read the river while dealing with some level of exhaustion, rock gardens and sweepers. Christy and Terry narrowed that 15-minute gap significantly during this last 3.5 hours.

Will came in to the finish line at Fisherman’s Park in Bastrop (see middle of second map, Safari mile marker 234) at about 8:30 with Terry and Christy about 30 seconds later. That's a pretty tight finish for a 15.3-hour, 62-mile race!


For Will, Christy and Terry – 62 miles in 15.28 / 15.3 hours = 4.05/4.06 mph average speed (note that all stops, portages and groundings count against this overall average speed)

For Kent – 29 miles in 9.2 hours = 3.15 mph average speed (the hour spent on a gravel bar nursing his swollen shoulder counted against his overall average speed).

For Reference:
• Recreational paddling average speed is about 2 mph (no wind, no current)
• The fastest Competition Class finished this race with average speed = 6.87 mph

Texas Winter 100k

The author, Kent Walters