How the professionals find the Yukon…

i’ve been trying to get a sense of what i’m up against in the next couple of weeks by looking for blogs/reports on the Yukon race. i found this interesting report on This report was by Robyn Benincasa who won the women’s race last year. i get the impression that she does these sort of things a lot.

Woo hooo! Team Merrell/Akali’s Carter Johnson, David Kelly and I swept the men’s and women’s solo divisions and the team division in the Yukon River Quest this weekend. What a thrill to see all those orange jerseys at the top of the podium. Made my little heart sing. The boys were well ahead of me (David was in a 6 man boat with some very cool Texans, with Carter drafting behind in his solo kayak like a madman for 43 hours!) by the time I neared Dawson City, but although I finished in the wee hours of the morning on July 3 (1:43 am to be exact), it was still light outside! That was the main reason I had chosen the Yukon River Quest (460 mile “Race to the Midnight Sun” from Whitehorse to Dawson) as my first major solo ultraendurance kayak race. Not a big fan of the dark. I hadn’t seen a soul in @20 hours when I arrived. Just me and the river. And I got caught in a CRAZY downpour in the final 12 hours, in which I couldn’t even see, with lightening everywhere, and the wind threatening to tip me over with every stroke. I didn’t know if it was scarier to stop and freeze or to keep going. So I kept going. Then I was rewarded about 30 min later with the most gorgeous double rainbow I have ever seen over my shoulder when I looked back at the black clouds to see if they were following. With one end of the rainbow in the river, and the other end in the mountains. Wow. I had to float backwards and stare at it for a minute. So remote and beautiful. Most of the time I felt like this tiny little orange dot in a huge prehistoric landscape. That sense that this river (@1/2 mi wide at this point) was here for millions of years and would be here for a million more when I’m gone. And then a bald eagle launched off the cliff and circled my boat, screeching a warning that I was too close to it’s nest (or that it wanted me to surrender my Cheetos. Not sure). That was the highlight reel. The rest of the 51 hours and 43 minutes I was out there just focusing on moving as fast as I could, while managing drinking, eating, and all bodily pains/functions that needed addressing while inside the tiny cockpit of an Epic 18 sea kayak. And listening to books/music on my ipod. And wondering what the heck I had been thinking entering such a long silly race in a boat I had rented the day before (LUCKY it was perfect!) and on a course I had never seen. But I’m an adventure racer at heart, so “making it up as you go” is just par for the course. Yadda yadda yadda, as I made my way through the course, passing boats one by one, I realized why I felt the need to do this race. Turns out I’m ok at paddling ridiculous distances after all (as I had hoped, but didn’t really know for sure). Even on training that mostly consisted of dry land paddling on a KayakPro ERG inside the fire station the last few months. I was the first chick by @ 8 hrs and the 3rd solo boat overall, out of 25-28 entries (And 9th out of all the boats–@80, including team boats). I couldn’t believe it. Carter was first solo, of course (and 2nd overall. He’s amazing), and set a new course record, and David Kelly’s boat with the Texans was 1st overall. So a clean sweep for Team Merrell/Akali across all divisions! How sweet is that? Well, I might be hooked on a new sport, but we shall see. The jury is still out until I no longer have to bring my head to my hands to shampoo.  I’m not afraid to tell you that I was pretty scared out there at times. Going solo in this race was definitely one of life’s little challenges/confidence builders.


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