I have often maintained that I would rather paddle ten miles than portage one. With the Paddle and Portage, you don't really get a choice. 1.5 miles paddle, 1.5 miles portage, 1.5 miles paddle again. The start is Monte Carlo-esque, and it's quite a mess with over 380 boats in the water at once.
The last time I did this race Whitney was three, maybe four. The t-shirts were teal. Yes, teal, the official color of the mid-1990s. I did it with my friend Patrick Moore, and had broken my ankle in February, so I was in a walking cast. We were fifth out of the water and got smoked on the portage as we were walking, not running. We finished 16th overall, and I think I decided at that point to swear off canoe races where you had to run with a boat for 1.5 miles.
Then Whitney grew up and decided she wanted to experience the P&P in all its glory. I am a good daddy so I said I would do the race again.
So here we are in a small breakaway group, behind the leaders but way ahead of the masses. We're the boat at the bottom of the picture (Whitney in the bow paddling with pinky, her paddle). We did okay, 10th out of 76 in our age class, with a heavy boat and a nice walk rather than a run across the portage. We were 4th out of the water (in our class) for the first leg, but got smoked again on the portage. We made some of it up on the second leg but we were both knackered by the end of the race as we had trained exactly three minutes for this race a few days ago.
I like to think I am not particularly competitive. Notice I said I like to think that. Put a boat in front of me and I see red and smell blood...must catch...must hunt down...must destroy. I feel like a lion on the Serengeti when a Wildebeest starts running...all I can think is that I want to catch that Wildebeest and have a giant Wildebeest barbeque. Unlike the lion, I don't bite their necks and consume them, but I fully understand why lions do what they do.
The feeling doesn't last long as my less-reptilian brain says "It's only a race." But I admit that the old frontal cortex has quite a wrestling match with the must-kill-and-eat reptilian brain. Now I can be calm and civilized. Retrospective, even. But part of me still wants to kill and eat a Wildebeest. Or a Springbok. Or whatever has horns and runs away.
Until next year (?),
3 weeks ago