For years now I have wanted to be a part of the Green Race family but other engagements have kept me away from the country's best extreme race. This year I planned to stay around the southeast through the first of November and participate in the Green River Narrows Race. The 2006 race showcased 126 racers including some of the galaxy's best kayaking talent, and approximately 500 spectators.
Leading up to race day I wasn't sure what to expect in the race. I have been down the Narrows 100+ times but never actually raced the Narrows. The day before the race I paddled a fast pace but eddied out above Gorilla due to a traffic jam leading into Pencil Sharpner. I found that eddying out and catching your breath makes a big difference in a rapid like Gorilla. My goal for the 06 Green Race was to have fun. My strategy was to paddle a steady pace, stay in the current and have good lines.
Race day I showed up and registered along with the other 100+ kayakers. Because it was my first year racing my start time was near the back of the pack. I was racer number 106. This gave me lots of time for warming up, and visualizing the rapids in my head. Time was moving slow but before long it was my time to go. Ten seconds the starter says, three, two, one, go. I am off into the current and my mind is surprisingly relaxed.
As I paddled into Frankenstein, the first rapid, everything felt good and I made my way down stream. It seemed like my race just started and I was already to Go Left and Die. As I dropped into Go Left I heard somebody yell, "yeah Eightball." Eightball is a nickname I have among my friends in NC. I made a smooth line through Go Left and stayed in the current leading into the next rapid. I linked a couple of other rapids together and before I knew it I was paddling into Chiefs. While exiting Chiefs I looked up to see hundreds of spectators watching and cheering on the rock adjacent Gorilla. I have paddled this river over 100 times and never seen Gorilla this way. It was truly an amazing sight and rather inspiring. I spotted my line going into the first drop of three in Gorilla rapid. As I boofed the ledge, I again heard someone yell my name. I wanted to look away but I stayed focused on the task at hand. Coming through the notch, the middle drop in Gorilla, I felt good but eddied out by accident after the Notch. Stopping in the Notch eddy is not preferred for racing but it does not take long to get back into the current. I rushed back into the current and off the pad I flew. Due to rushing I did not have the best line off of, “the monkey” causing me to flip at the bottom. Next, I rolled up hearing hundreds of spectator's encouraging cheers. To me this is what the Green Race is all about. Pushing your limits to total exhaustion and finding energy from the crowd to keep paddling down stream. I made my way down through the series of slides and finished the race.
I was satisfied with my race results. I finished with a time of six minutes flat and that included a good bit of time rolling up after Gorilla. After racing I realized I could have paddled faster and still had enough energy to finish the race. Next year I plan to have similar training but add more simulated race runs down the Green. The Green Race has been a great learning experience and I can say I am a better kayaker for it. Hopefully I will be back next year to be part of the best kayak race going.
Green River take-out morning of the race. Racers were registering and donating money to the Katie Hilleke Cancer Fund.
Photos by: Jay Gifford and Jason Aytes