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HomeNL-2015-09 Neches River

Neches Wilderness Canoe Race
August 1, 2015
by
David Jacobs


Notes:

  1. Race website: www.necheswildernessrace.com.
  2. I stayed at Mary Zaborowski and Paul Woodcock's place, near Elkhart, Friday night. And since no one else accepted their invitation, I had their 28 ft. RV all to myself. We left their place just after 5:30 AM, Saturday morning, to get to the race check-in by around 6:30 AM. Paul volunteered to drive my car to the finish line after the start, so I wouldn't have to do the shuttle at the end of the race...Thank you Mary and Paul, for your generous hospitality! Mary was a timer, at the finish line. Paul said he might plan a multi-day club trip on the Neches River in December.
  3. Pictures are from Neches River Runners.
    Posted by Neches River Runners on Facebook, 8-2-2015:
    "I am in the process of posting pictures of the race. It may take a few days for me to post all of the pictures I have taken. Feel free to share the pics with all your family and friends."

~~~~~

 
Bruce Bodson and Will Blumentritt in the foreground, second and fourth from the left, at the pre-race meeting:
 
 

David Jacobs, in the orange pfd, at the pre-race meeting:


  
 

Fellow HCC'r Bruce Bodson, in his blue Dagger Seeker, just after the start of his pack, in the Senior Male Solo Kayak class (600 series numbers).




   

 

Bruce won the Senior Male Solo Kayak class. Good job Bruce!


David Jacobs, leading his pack off the starting line, but forgot to put his rudder down:

 
 
 
When he relaized he couldn't steer, he tried to find the rudder cable with his right hand, as shown in the next picture: 
 
  

He finally got the rudder down, and had to re-enter at the middle of the pack:

 
 
 
 

At the finish line, David came in fourth in the Senior Male Solo Kayak class (600 series boat numbers). Not bad, for my first Neches Wilderness Canoe Race!  ; )

  
Fellow HCC'r Will Blumentritt on the left, just after his start:
 
    
 

Will was wearing a "Texas Winter 100" shirt, with yellow lettering on the back:

 
  

At the finish line, Will came in third in the Senior Male Solo Canoe class (800 series boat numbers). Way to go Will!

 

~~~~~


For most of the race, the Neches river was cluttered with downed trees, as indicated in the above pictures. During this year's rainy season, the river flooded and the banks became so soft the soil would not support the roots of these big trees.


Imagine Buffalo Bayou, in Houston, with trees laying across it. Boaters had to go over or under the downed tree trunks, or pick their way through or around the branches.


Since the river was so congested, boaters had to go single-file through the narrow passages, until the river widened up enough to pass. One time, as I was going through a narrow passage between two tree limbs, a tandem aluminum canoe came around the curve behind me. They were going so fast and had so much momentum they ran between the same two limbs, such that both boats were stuck there. They kept flailing their paddles and scootching their boat until they finally squeezed through, ahead of me, with little regard for any damage they could have done to my fiberglass, gelcoated boat. Luckily, my boat remained intact.
The river contained many curves. Several times, the river would open up enough to where I could start to pass someone, only to find my path blocked around the next bend. This would put me farther behind than when I started to make the move. I ended up passing and being passed by the same boats three or four times, before finally staying ahead of them.


Some log jams were removed by chain saws prior to the race. Even so, short portages around trees were necessary in at least three places. Many boaters carried their life jackets in the boat, instead of wearing them. This made for a lower profile when leaning forward or backward, in order to get under fallen tree trunks low to the water. My hat got knocked off several times, when going under tree trunks or through tree branches. It was clipped to my shirt, so it was retrievable each time. But, I did lose my "frogg toggs" cooling bandana somewhere, which had only been held on with Velcro. Bruce Bodson said he had lost boat-mounted life jackets, in previous years.


There were huge spiders, which looked like "grand-daddy-long-legs" on steroids. A circle touching the tips of their legs would have been about 5 to 6 inches in diameter. One of these critters would occasionally drop onto my hat when I went under a tree. Whenever I saw their long legs sticking out over the bill of my hat, I would brush them off with my gloved hand.


There was only one shallow area, where boats had to be dragged through.


Race organizers encouraged racers to start drinking water prior to starting the race, and to stay hydrated. They even provided water, bananas, and orange juice at the start. Water was also available at the two checkpoints during the race, if needed. Due to the tree canopy, most of the race was in the shade. So with proper hydration, and by staying wet, the heat wasn't much of a problem.


Getting the boat through tight turns, scootching or hefting it over downed trees, an occasional swim and getting back in the boat, all took extra energy. After about three hours into the race, I realized I had not been gettting enough carbohydrates: I got tired and started to feel that my wrists would cramp up if I kept up the pace. After slowing down and drinking more carbs, my wrists began to recover.


The guy in front of me also slowed down for about the last hour of the race, so I kept seeing him ahead. Lacking the drive to catch him, I was content to keep him in my sight. I had planned to wait and save my energy until I saw the finish line, to try to catch and pass him. The race website said the race distance was to be 22 miles. But at under 20 miles on my GPS, I came around a curve and saw the finish line, with the guy in front of me already there...Lesson learned.


There is something about seeing the finish line which gave me an adrenalin rush, so I sprinted to the finish line, anyway. Later, I discovered the guy in front of me was in third place, so it would have been worth it to put out the extra energy required to pass him... again, Lesson learned.

 

The author, David Jacobs