Oops, I did it again – by Alex Young
Despite being absolutely convinced it was one-and-done, I just completed my second Chattajack. Why? I couldn’t help myself. It all started in April, when the Capital SUP race team started talking about the upcoming registration window, opening up at midnight on 1 May. Should I or shouldn’t I? Since registration of the 600+ slots maxes out within hours, I figured I’d sign up, just to leave the option open. Plus, I figured I’d likely put in the training miles with my teammates who were preparing, so what the hell.
Fast forward to race week. I had to check the weather to see what to pack. You’re kidding me! The forecast called for high likelihood of rain and high winds. I wasn’t worried about the miles; I knew I could go the distance after having paddled over 200 miles—in addition to normal race training sessions—since the beginning of August. What can you do? Nothing. A calm day would have been nice though.
Based on last year’s experience and training throughout the season, I had dialed in my hydration and nutrition, to include at what intervals. The day before the race was consumed with chatter amongst the team on the implications of temperature, precipitation, and wind speed and direction— and what to wear as a result. The last-minute “safety advisory” from the Chattajack organizers for racers to “be honest with yourself and your level of experience paddling in strong headwinds and potential rain” reinforced we were in for a rough paddle. As a side note, major props to the Chattajack organizers for all their efforts to keep us safe.
Now it was race day. We took to the water and paddled to the staging area. Wes, Scotty and I had talked in the weeks leading up to the race about forming a draft-train to conserve energy, so we hung out in the same relative area. The start cannon fires and the best-laid plans go to waste. Forget sticking together, the challenge was just getting through the melee of hundreds of paddlers churning up the Tennessee River. I was just focused on paddling hard and getting to clean water. At that point, the countless hours of training kicked in. I hit my pace, looked around to see who’s cruising at a similar pace, and jumped on the first train I could.
“I was just focused on paddling hard and getting to clean water.”
(Left) Alex leading the ‘draft pack’.
At one point, I cycled off of pulling the train to have the next guy take over. I was super happy to see Kevin in the train. Kevin hammered a great pace and then pulled off. After I did my next stint up front, I was bummed to see Kevin was no longer on the train. The smaller group held together a while longer before being blasted apart by a 30 mph headwind at mile 15.
From that point on, I never got back on a train. I kept myself focused by counting miles—number completed, to go, percentages thereof, how many until I have my next Clif Bar or Bloks, and so on. I started getting cramps and muscle spasms, I couldn’t feel my toes, and there were times the wind almost ground me to a halt or pushed me off course. But with every mile you tick off you think, “I got this”.
I ended up finishing 25 minutes better than last year. Sure, the conditions were different than the year before and I had the benefit of having done the race before; but I attribute my improvement to the quality of the race training sessions that Goose ran throughout the season and the Saturday morning extracurricular, distance-paddles with Brenda, Scotty, and especially Wes.
So, two-and-done. Or not.