Below is an excellent write up of the Yukon River Quest on what it is like to kayak for 60 plus. If you are interested in the race then take a look at this to get a feel of what i’ve signed up for.
3 weeks today and i’ll be flying to Yukon!!!!
June 29, Wednesday 2005 – Race Day Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada – Rainy,Cloudy Day. We are up early to complete race preparations. I’m making 8 sandwiches for the first day, 4 peanut butter & jelly and 4 meat and cheese. Rain continues through the morning as we get stuff ready. We take down our tarp and tent. We head to start line along the river and unload canoe and gear and set up boat 2 hours before the start.We setup the boat for our water system, food, and emergency equipment. Race officials check our gear a second time, we have added a towline attached to the bow so we now have all the required items. The river is lower because the dam is closed and water levels have dropped so we can have more shoreline to setup.Canoes and kayaks are organized by race numbers 1- 71. We are team number 25 in the 68 teams to start the race. The race starts downtown Whitehorse so we drive back to the center of town for team introductions and information about the start. Introductions start at noon and every team is announced and cheered by the spectators along the street. As the introductions are being made the sun comes out and the rain stops. We take off our rain gear and tied it around our waist and get ready to go. The gun goes off and we jog easily (about a half mile) to the river and our boat. Along the route a band is playing and people are cheering and shouting out encouragement – lots of folks are lining the streets. The elite guys trying to win prize money are running and hit the water before we even get to our boat.Roger and Marv are at the boat. Marv is shooting video and Roger is helping Bob and I get into the boat. Roger has set up an empty milk crate for me to stand on so my feet don’t have to get wet. Bob and I are both able to get in the boat with dry feet! Thanks to Roger. Yukon River is about the size of the Mississippi River right in front of my house so we feel comfortable on the water right away. We head for the fast water were the current helps the most. I guess we are about in the middle of the pack. We are both happy to be paddling after the long trip to the Yukon and all the pre-race preparations not to mention all the training time. The day is fairly calm and sunny, perfect weather to paddle. Rain and clouds are gone.We talk to many people while paddling. The Brady Bunch, a father(Jeff)/ daughter(Annie) team is interesting since Annie at 15 is the youngest person this year doing the race . We meet a team from Wisconsin who started the race last year but flipped their canoe at Five Fingers Rapids and then dropped out. We observe many other paddlers with a variety of techniques, equipment and intensity levels. It is hard not to get caught up in the moment and go too fast. Bob reminds me to back off our pace since we have a very long day ahead of us. I agree completely. We relax and the river feels very comfortable to paddle.The race started at 12:30 pm. We reach Lake Laberge at 3:45 pm (paddling time is 3hours and 15 minutes) and feel good. We drink and eat on our 30 minute schedule – which is regulated by my watch which beeps every 30 minutes around the clock. This ensures that we will eat /drink and rest each and every half hour.Lake LaBerge is huge and has small mountains along the shore surrounding it. We secure our spray skirts and start. The lake has waves and wind directly from the north. One wave washes over the bow and over me waist high. We are able to comfortably ride most of the waves without feeling unstable but the waves definitely have our full attention. It will be a very long crossing if the conditions don’t change. We are going directly into a head wind. After about an hour the wind dies down and it is clam and absolutely great paddling, we are actually enjoying the scenery and lake. We go by a checkpoint along the shore manned by the Canadian Navy. They are from the minesweeper called Whitehorse. The navy has volunteered to help provide support and has personnel camped along the shore with a rescue boat and are helping with record keeping. The rescue boat is heading out to check on a kayaker who missed the checkpoint and is on the opposite shore line about 3-4 miles away. The lake is huge about 5 miles wide in places and 31 miles long. In the distance we see a rainstorm approaching the lake over the mountains. We get a small sprinkle falling on us but don’t even bother to put on rain gear. After a short rain storm the sun reappears. The major rainstorm is still off in the distance miles away. Now the wind changes direction and picks up from the west. Small waves are created by the cross wind but the wind dies down again after a few hours. The sun comes out again. The lake becomes perfectly calm and we are having a grand time paddling. We reach the end of the lake after 7 hours of paddling with breaks lasting 2-5 minutes to eat, drink and rest every 30 minutes. We are feeling good. Lake Laberge had been a major concern prior to the race – due to its huge size and the possible windy conditions. So we felt very relieved and thankful to have had such a marvelous day to paddle the lake. The time is now about 10:45 pm (paddling time is 10 hours and 15 minutes) – we still have plenty of light. The river is now tricky with rapids, roils and boils so you need to pay attention as you paddle. The boat is getting pushed around while we look for calm passages. Temperatures start to drop and we put on more clothing. We see a few other boats around us that are changing into warmer clothing and taking rest/food breaks. I need a bathroom break so I get out of the boat and put on long pants and a warmer top. I manage to get out and in to the boat with dry feet. Bob stays in the boat. Just for your information we urinate in the boat into our mandatory bailing devices and then pour the urine into the river. However defecation is on shore though some paddlers manage to do that in the boat as well. As evening settles in around midnight the fog starts to descend on the river. The fog obscures the river channel and we can barely see the path of the river. This is a very weird feeling especially while paddling we go over a roil that tips the canoe to one side, we regain stability quickly but it scares us. I worry about more roils and boils ahead especially since you can’t see the turbulence until you are in it. Austrian Heinz catches us while we are on a scheduled break. He wants to get warmer clothing on without going to shore. So we assist him by rafting together so his kayak will be stable enough for him to change clothes. We talk and find out he has done the race before but is slower this year due to the head wind on the lake. We paddle together for a while in the fog. We lose each other when we take our break again. The fog stays for four hours and it is now fairly dark in the early morning hours. However the river cooperates and is smooth with no tricky water to paddle so we have no real problems. It is impossible to determine our location on the river maps due to fog. I start feeling very dizzy about 4:00 am. (paddle time is 15 hours and 30 minutes) and cannot paddle very much. We try everything to eliminate the problem. I eat more, drink more, take aspirin, talk to Bob, close my eyes, and finally realize that I should take my blood pressure medication. Then I put my head down and try to sleep about 10 minutes. At about 7:00 am I feel more “normal” and can resume paddling on our regular schedule. Bob has been paddling continuously to keep the boat moving forward and has been incredibly patient with me. More sunlight helps me feel better and better. Bob was strong paddling through out the whole night, amazing mental and physical toughness. The weather is good with sun and it is getting warmer and warmer. The last few hours getting to Carmacks seem very long. A race official has told us not the distance but that it is only 3 hours away. So we are expecting to get there in 3 hours however it took us 4 .5 hours of more paddling. So you can imagine how much fun the last 1.5 hours were when we thought we would be done around each and every corner only to see nothing but more water and shoreline. Anticipation and expectations can create huge frustration ~ again I feel more frustrated than Bob who is handling our long first day very calmly and with a philosophical attitude. I am just pissed off. We see some power lines that indicate we are getting close to Carmacks. We finally get to the dock and people help us get out of the boat. Bob and I have difficulty standing due to sitting for so long. I have been out of the boat only once in 25 hours and Bob has not gotten out. We arrive at 14:19 (2:19pm.) ~ paddle time is 25 hours and 29 minutes covering 186 miles or 300 km. The dock is a floating one – so it is moving and this makes standing even more challenging. Marv and Roger are taking photos of our arrival. They have prepared food and the van for us to rest in. We talk briefly and head for a shower to clean up. We are very happy but tired, dirty, and hungry. A shower feels great. I have a rash on my butt so I apply some hydrocortisone to help it heal and recover. Dry clean clothes feel good. We eat chicken noodle soup, ravioli and drink one beer and crawl into the van to sleep. It feels very hot outside. We turn on the AC. in the van and sleep about 5 hours on and off. Meanwhile Roger and Marv clean up and restock the canoe for us. I pee about 4-5 times so at least I know I’m getting enough fluids in my system in this heat. The AC. really helps cool our bodies down. Bob has had problems in heat before so this is real good for us ~ we keep the van running the whole time we try to sleep. We wake up an hour before our departure time. We eat more soup and bread plus drink more fluids. While we slept Marv added more padding to our seats ~we both have a sore butt. Numerous canoes and kayaks are leaving just in front of us ~ so we see lots of activity as we prepare to leave. We get on the dock and climb in with lots of help from the volunteers ~ who carry our boat and help us get in. We are ready – happy to be feeling ok ~ no real problems with blisters or injured body parts except a sore rump. Paddling actually feels good. We start off with the attitude of preservation since we still are not half done with the race (over 250 miles left). We resume our 30 minute cycle with food/drink and rest. We began at 9:20 pm so we had 7 hours off. We have a warm evening that is fairly calm ~ excellent weather to paddle. We are both anxious about the 2 sets of rapids ahead especially Five Finger Rapids – since we have been hearing stories about it for over a year. We paddle about 2 and half hours at a relaxed pace and talk about the rapids. We check our maps again, secure our spray skirt covers and notch up our courage and determination and head for the rapids. The time is midnight and we can still see very well. We have traveled north 200 miles almost continuously from the start. We actually have even more daylight than the first night. As we approach the massive pillars of Five Fingers we are sure to go to the far right passage. Once in front of it we try to stay in the middle of the rapid. We hit the middle and a standing wave washes over my waist and shoulders. The canoe bounces on and over and through some more waves. We are moving very fast and do an eddy turn to the right side to rest briefly. We are both relieved and happy to be upright and dry ~ the spray cover worked well. We start to paddle again and see Marv and Roger fishing along the shore just below Five Fingers. We paddle over to say hello and pick up a couple items we forgot. Marv catches a fish just as we approach them on the shoreline. We are excited and pumped up after going through the rapids successfully. We now head for Rink Rapids if you take the far right channel it is supposedly easy. We encounter big waves and are moving very fast. We see lots of bigger waves and turbulence but on the far right side we have no problems. Now all we have left is a long canoe paddle. Scenery remains much the same with steep banks of gravel and sand or solid rock. Very little wildlife is along the shoreline. Have seen only 1 moose, 2 bears, a few eagles, few ducks, 1 osprey, and beavers slapping their tails. We see many huge eroded soft rock pillars long the shoreline called hoodoos. Our second night approaches and I am again having problems with dizziness and now many hallucinations of all kinds. I see two beavers in a cage, various crazy shapes, hockey players and cartoon characters. Dizziness and instability are not good in the middle of a canoe race. Bob tries to help me through all of this craziness. I try to eat, drink more, not look at the water, and try to focus on a fixed object like the canoe spray skirt or clouds or anything to settle my mind down. Finally I want to go to shore to change clothing and step on dry land. At 3:00 am. we go on shore I put on long underwear and a warmer top. While on shore another team goes flying by us. We now realize just how fast the current really is when you see someone else. When you are on the water you lose your perception of speed ~ especially on big water away from shore. We resume paddling and catch the Brothers R and R team (Rick and Ray Wagner). We talk and find out Rick is having problems similar to mine. We give him a couple of energy gels to eat. Once we start talking to them I start to feel better. This makes me wonder how much of my craziness is psychological or physical fatigue. The time is now 4:30 am. (paddle time is 7 hours and 10 minutes since the rest). Both teams are benefiting from the social interaction. We stay together until about noon. We share our race stories and talk about our training and families. We provide them our spare paddles and take one of their paddles for backup. Rick and Ray have been using heavy wood paddles. Rick loves the light carbon fiber paddle but Ray goes back to his wood paddle. He feels more comfortable steering with his own paddle. We enjoy our time together ~ paddling, resting, eating and sharing stories. We encounter strong headwinds and rain and hug the shoreline to try to escape some of the wind. One interesting perception is of going downhill like on a downhill ski run in winter. This feeling is very strong and feels pretty cool. You can see downstream for miles and miles and the surrounding terrain is sloping down so it feels like a downhill paddle ~ maybe not a black diamond slope but definitely a bunny hill. The river speed is about 5 miles per hour – if you add paddling speed we are going 10 + miles per hour ~ which is fast in a canoe. We are heading for our final 3 hour rest stop ~ Kirkman Creek. We are feeling pretty good because we have been paddling very relaxed so we still have some energy. So for about 5 hours we pick up the pace and focus. We catch a boat that is drifting and resting. Ask if everything is ok· “yes” – they answer just taking a break. We lose the R and R brothers. A voyageur canoe passes us about an hour before Kirkman Creek. We try to maintain our pace however the last few miles always seem to be long and take forever. When you are tired and looking for rest- time seems to extend and expand. We finally arrive at 5:52 pm. (paddling time is 20 hours and 32 minutes with a grand total of about 46 hours). We get help getting out of the boat. Walking is difficult again and now it is raining as well. We try to gather what we need for the rest stop out of the boat and also keep the boat covered to keep out the rain. We hobble up to the old, dilapidated log cabin for food ~ tomato soup, turkey or salmon sandwich, cookie, and coffee. The woman owner serves us the food. We find the outhouse but no toilet paper. We eat on a picnic table outside in the light rain. Teams are leaving and arriving while we eat. The voyageur canoe had arrived just ahead of us so we talk to some of the people. After eating we look for a place to sleep and find one tent full of bodies lying on the ground. The third canvas wall tent has some room so we find some bare ground ~ no cots like we expected. We squeeze in to a small spot. We had brought our sleeping bags just in case and are glad to crawl into them. I use my shoes and raincoat for a pillow. I leave my lifejacket outside the door so race officials can find us ~ our team number has been pinned to the lifejacket. We are exhausted and sleep about 2 hours – on the bare ground. Kirkman Creek is an interesting place with no electricity, no phone, no road in ~ just a very simple life in the wilderness ~ one woman (Linda Taylor) lives there alone. She sells bakery goods and meals to Yukon River travelers. Kirkman is busy with paddlers and noisy. Paddlers are coming and going and snoring and coughing. Race officials are waking up paddlers up while you are trying to sleep. Some paddlers are setting up their own tent to have some peace and quiet. Ray Wagner can’t sleep due to all the noise and activity in the tents. Bob and I manage to get some sleep. We can hear rain falling on the tent roof. We get our wake up call and pack our sleeping bags into our dry bags and wander down to our boat by the river. Bob needs to use the outhouse before we leave. At 8:52pm. our boat is on the water and we both feel remarkably good with only 97 miles left. Kirkman Creek had no water available. We pump water out of the river. Using our water filter I pump two gallons out of the river and add cytomax energy powder. We decide to work hard and use up all the energy left in us. We establish a steady pace and effort. I begin to keep track of our 30 minute work sessions. I figure we need about 10 hours or twenty ~ 30 minute sessions more to get to the finish. This calculation helps me get into a very determined mind set The river adds new water with numerous tributaries. The most dramatic is the White River, which is large and so full of silt that the water changes color. You can see a line where the river water actually changes color to a dingy gray. What is most unusual is the noise the canoe makes going through the water. The frizzing sound is almost like we have sprung a leak in one of our air cambers in the canoe. We finally realize that the noise is silt hitting the hull ~ this noise stays with us until we finish the race. Bob heard the same noise the first day when smaller rivers had joined the Yukon ~ we now realize that it was silt making the noise. We are paddling well and eating and drinking on schedule. After completing 6 sets we still feel pretty good. Our rest/drink/eat breaks are about 3-5 minutes long. The river is now 3-4 miles wide in places with numerous islands and channels. Bob does a masterful job of reading the water. Our goal is to stay in the fast current. Bob looks at the compass, the horizon,the amount of water flowing and then makes a decision about which channel or side of the river to take. There are numerous choices to be made and Bob makes a lot of good decisions. We stay in fast water most of the time. We see other boats around us that we are catching and passing. I keep trying to fight my early morning demons by wearing sunglasses through the night. We have significantly more light all night since we are farther north. One of the factors causing my dizzy spells we feel might be the changing light patterns reflecting off the water ~ they can tend to mesmerize you. I also avoid looking at the cliffs and terrain right next to the shoreline to try and avoid hallucinations. We are working harder tonight than any other night. I am eating, drinking and taking my blood pressure medications. By focusing so much on paddling I hope to avoid problems. We now have done 10 sets of our schedule or 5 hours of paddling and are feeling pretty good considering everything. We continue to be challenged by the numerous choices to be made ~ do we cut this corner or stay wide or take that channel or which route around the various islands. The Yukon feels like the Mississippi River delta – which also provided many options. We pass a couple of boats that had started ahead of us. Our boat is finding the faster water. Bob really does a marvelous job navigating and making great choices. We have not looked at the river maps since Five Finger Rapids or used the G.P.S. system at all during the race. Bob is really navigating by the seat of his pants and it works. We come across a canoe camper along the shoreline. He tells us we only have 50 k (31 miles) to paddle to Dawson. I ask how he knows this? Does he have a G.P.S. system ? He says very confidently he has river knowledge. Bob and I believe him and unfortunately this information plays with our minds (especially mine). We later find out he was wrong and we were about 75 k (46 miles) from the finish line. We continue to paddle along happily thinking we only have 30 more miles to go. When we don’t find Dawson in the next 3 hours we start to wonder and worry. Bob pulls out the maps and starts to work back from the finish. We think we have determined our location and that Dawson should be just around the next corner – but nothing appears. We start to realize we are still a long way from Dawson. I am not a happy camper or canoer and feel so down I want to go to shore for a rest. I am having new visions as well. I am crabby and complain to Bob. For example I tell Bob to be careful to not get water into the canoe from the waterfall along the cliff. He laughs and gently tells me there is no waterfall. I try not to look at the shore to avoid having crazy hallucinations like waterfalls. I tell Bob he won’t believe who I saw on the shoreline pointing out the correct direction ~ none other than Montgomery Burns from the Simpson’s tv. show. Bob talks me out of going to shore. We keep going with Bob doing most of the work. I lay back and try to sleep and actually get a few minutes of rest. I gradually start to feel better. Bob holds his head and body together and keeps us moving forward. I ask Bob if he has any hallucinations and he admits to seeing a few strange figures on the shore – but he is enjoying his visions. I wish I felt that way. We finally get a handle on the map and figure out where we are or must go ~ it is still a long way to paddle. But we feel confident that we will be able to tell when we are getting close due to the changes in the river’s direction. Dawson appears finally and the Klondike River enters with clear clean water that pushes the silt away. We do see the finish banner and our crew on the bank. The race officials sound a horn to indicate we have crossed the finish line at 7:29 am. JULY 2, Saturday. We are happy, tired, and glad to try and crawl out of the canoe. Our legs don’t function very well on dry ground. Roger and Marv congratulate us and help us get out of the boat. A race official comes over to check out our mandatory gear ~ we sign the forms and are officially done. Roger thinks we are in 23 rd place so we feel good about that ~ our time is just under 57 hours (56 hour and 59 minutes) for the 460 miles ~ we accomplished our goals. Number one goal was finish and number two was get under 60 hours. The brother Team R and R come in about 30 minutes later. Rick thanks us and returns our paddle immediately upon finishing. He was happy to have a light paddle. The Wagner brothers were a delight to talk to for many hours while paddling and resting. They did a great job since they had not trained a great deal. We unfortunately don’t see them again ~ since we leave before the awards banquet on Sunday. Numerous other boats continue to come in – we talk briefly with everyone but are tired and hungry. We go eat breakfast, check into a motel, shower and fall asleep. When we wake up we go back to finish line and see more kayaks/canoes finish. We don’t see the Brady Bunch finish but hear that Annie 15 and her dad did make it and the Wisconsin guys who flip a year ago made it as well ~ good news! We must leave before the Sunday awards picnic because we need to catch a ferry in Skagway, Alaska to take us to Prince Rupert, British Columbia. We wish we could have stayed to talk and socialize ~ hopefully next time! The end. OUR PREPARATIONS FOR THE YUKON QUEST 2005. Prior to doing this race Bob and I talked a great deal about how we were going to be able to finish such a long canoe paddle. We had both done numerous long canoe trips and paddles but never on this scale. We read the entire website for the race including all the articles written about the race and how to do it successfully. We had many concerns and fears – the information on the website helped us plan and prepare. Thanks to all the contributors for taking the time to write – to help newcomers complete the race. I have included our race preparations and how we approached the race ~ maybe it will help someone else. Our number one goal was to finish so we held ourselves back at times to ensure accomplishment of the goal. We were 23 rd place out of 68 starters and placed 7 th in canoe division in 56 hours and 59 minutes. 1. Length ~ 460 miles and paddling through the night. Our training – we paddled 32 times covering 692 miles with three – 10 hour paddles with a total of 117 hours. We are extremely happy to have completed the race – especially without any major mishaps or injuries except a sore butt and fatigue. Our training and the 30 minute rest /work schedule really worked well for us. 2.Lake LaBerge ~ 31 miles of unpredictable water. Windy and wavy start but became calm then only a light wind came up. We were Lucky! We paddled on a large open lake (Lake Pepin) in Minnesota in preparation for Laberge and its waves. 3. Rapids ~ how would we handle them ~ especially Five Fingers and Rink Rapids. The spray skirt worked well and we following the far right channel on both rapids. We didn’t do any whitewater practice. 4. River speed and currents in general ~ our comfort level while paddling. The Yukon felt good – very much like the Mississippi River were we trained. Yukon River was very small in Whitehorse and huge in Dawson with a fast current. Very few boats of any kind were on the river ~ very little wildlife was on the river considering how far we paddled ~very beautiful scenery along the shoreline with steep banks make of rock or gravel ~ river has fast currents but at times seems slow due to its size. 5. Hypothermia ~ making the transitions from warm or hot days to cool or cold nights. We changed or added clothing before we got too chilled or too overheated. The race information on the internet was useful especially the article ~ “How not to Blow the Race.” 6. Dehydration and Energy – our water system worked (gallon jugs with tubing) and the 30 minute work/rest/eat/drink schedule was good. We ate some regular food (sandwiches), energy bars, goos, water with energy supplements, soup at Carmacks. We had tried out the drinks and foods during training. We used a water filter pump and to pump water out of the river . Kirkman Creek didn’t have water so we really needed the filter. 7. Equipment~ Canoe, spray skirt, seat padding and paddles. Bob bought a 17 foot We.no.nah canoe for the race and so we could train in the boat we would race in. New paddles -we bought new light weight paddles that weighed 9 ounces which were 5 ounces or more lighter than our old race paddles. Get light paddles! We added padding to the tractor type seats. My wife Sue created the spray skirt for the canoe ~ we tried it out and practiced tipping the canoe over in Lake Pepin. The rental canoes in Whitehorse looked excellent and if I did the race again would probably rent a canoe instead of driving 6000 miles up and back with a canoe on top of our vehicle. 8. Technique ~ we tried to improve our paddling technique to be as efficient as possible. We watched a technique video and had ourselves video taped. We paddled with some expert paddlers (Keith Canny and Lee Jarpy) who gave us great advise : about paddles, a water system using tubes, a 30 minute schedule run with a countdown timer on your Ironman watch, and technical paddling help. All of these helped improve our paddling. Bob also bought a book on canoe racing which was very informative, helpful and confirmed what we were doing seemed to be correct. 9. Expectations and Anticipation· After all these years of doing a variety of ultra distance events you would think I would know better. Twice during the race we were told information that was incorrect and it had an adverse impact on my mind. Bob handled the misinformation well. But when I expected to be done and was still paddling hours later ~ frustration did occur. I should have known better ~ you never trust this type of information given out during a race unless you can confirm its accuracy yourself. Bob helped me deal with it and I must thank him for being so tough mentally as well as carrying the load physically during my three hallucinogenic episodes. My best advise is get a partner who is tough both mentally and physically. 10. Support Crew ~ our guys were great! They cleaned out the boat and restocked it while we slept. They had food ready and the van parked in a shady spot. Thank you to Roger Hendrickson and Marv Meyer. If possible have a support crew to help or be sure you get your stuff to Carmacks so you can re-supply your boat. 11. River maps and GPS. Many teams had GPS. systems. We had one but didn’t really use it. The river maps were used only a couple times mainly before the rapids and at the very end to figure out how far we had left. GPS. could have helped with exact location and boat speed. We had only used GPS. in training to find out our boat speed. 12. Have a partner who shares your goal and plan for training and racing. You need to talk ahead of time. Read as much as you can about the race to avoid surprises. Try out your food and equipment during training so you know how it all works. Even flip your boat to see what could happen. You will feel more confident and know more about your limitations. Try to train the same way you will race. Written by Roland Ring-Jarvi Anoka, Minnesota USA. October 19, 2005 Thank you to the Yukon Quest Race Organizers and Officials you did an excellent job! I would highly recommend the race!