Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Competition Season Part II: GREEN RACE!

First Saturday in November, like death and taxes.

Credit: Seth Richardson

The Green Race is an event like no other; there is no competition in the sport that can even come close. I have been racing that river for the past six years, and it is an incredible day that I have never gotten used to. It's a pretty unique experience going from the energy and support surrounding the starting line... to silence from below Frankenstein to Boof or Consequence... to a bunch of people yelling at you at Go Left, to a river lined with hundreds of people from Chief down to the finish line. I very rarely take my eyes off of the river when I'm racing, but the roar of that many people screaming at you as you go by is pretty mind boggling. Not to mention the rapids... it goes without saying that it is the toughest rapid-by-rapid race course to link up, period.

And the most ridiculous part about the Green Race is that all that build-up... all the practice, visualization, training, trash-talking with your friends, outside pressure... everything, comes down to just one run per year for each of us. That is your slot, one minute behind the person in front of you, and a minute in front of the person behind you, in which to put everything you know and are capable of on the table. It all comes down to the day.

The Day.

Credit: Rob Hurst

I came into Green Race this year in a great mental place. I had no injuries, no sickness, and no girl issues, and that felt amazing. Holcombe started us off since he won last year, then Pat, then Geoff Calhoun, and before I knew it I was in the starting spot telling Shane to yell at me during the countdown, because I was about to turn my music on. I turned on a song that I am completely addicted to right now, Zion I, "Trippin", started taking some deep breaths and asked my Uncle Derek to guide my paddle and my boat.

5-4-3-2-1-GOOOO!!! I'm sure that my technique looks absolutely aweful every year that I come out of the gate at Green Race, my mind is always going on overload at that point and my blades can’t seem to push me forward fast enough. I made it through Frankenstein smoothly, had a little bobble at the rapid directly below that, but kept hammering downstream nonetheless. I was still so overloaded with energy and nervousness at Pincushion that I hit and high-braced off the Pincushion rock! I have never done that before in my life, and I was screaming at myself in my head to get it together and be fast, smooth and focused.

I couldn’t have asked for better lines all the way down through Go Left, Zwicks and Chief. I came off of the Flying Squirrel boof above Gorilla, and hammered into the Notch as hard as I could instead of catching my breath briefly like I usually do.

On the ragged edge of control coming into Gorilla.

Credit: Seth Richardson

Credit: Seth Richardson

The energy surrounding you during this race is incredible.

Credit: Andrew Wright

My Gorilla line felt great, and just when I thought that this might be my year to take the title, I couldn’t quite link up the last three slides of the race, going deep in Nieses Pieces, swinging wide and almost flipping at Powerslide, and swinging wide in sight of the finish line below Rapid Transit! A rough finish to the race, but that is what makes it such a great race, and what keeps us coming back year after year.

I hung out with my family and some friends for a bit at Gorilla, then began the long, poison ivy lined hike back up to the start for my short boat run. Run #2 was infinitely better and more enjoyable. All the pressure was off, I was loosened up from an intense first run, and I had absolutely nothing to lose. I turned on my song again, poured on the power at the starting line, and did not let up at all down to Gorilla. In spite of the low water, I was able to find deep spots to place good strokes, and I knew that I was linking things up very very well.

Go Left.

Credit: Rob Hurst

Rolling off the lip at Gorilla.

Credit: Clay Lucas

I bombed into Gorilla the same way that I had done on my previous run, but messed up the lip and found myself windowshading into and surfing Speed Trap! I’ve never surfed that hole before, so I had to laugh at the ridiculousness of my situation. I bounced out with a huge boil after a while, and gave a big victory yell to the crowd before refocusing and hammering with everything that I had through the last slides to the finish line.

Stoked to not be swimming!

Credit: Brad Roberts

It was a sick day and we were able to finish it with a great party thanks to Woody Callaway.


Long Boat
1) Pat Keller 4:31
2) Chris Gragtmans 4:35
3) Eric Deguil 4:38

Short Boat
1) Eric Deguil 5:01
2) Chris Gragtmans 5:04
3) Andrew Holcombe 5:08

1) Chris Gragtmans
2) Eric Deguil
3) Andrew Holcombe

It's coming up again soon so train up!



Anonymous said...

Chris, nice blog, thanks for the good content!!

Do you have another link to the toxaway head cam that you had posted a couple of years back? It linked to the riot site, which has changed since then. If you could re-post a link to that video, my wildest dreams will have materialized!

Thanks, Mike Brodene

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