By Jeff Jouett - Houston, Texas - USA

The race is now over and I'm happy to say that we finished. The week leading up to the race I did some solo training runs to stay loose and keep in shape. I spent the rest of the week getting all my things together.


Skip (left) and I about 10 minutes before the start of the race.

click images to enlarge

Tracy and I went to lunch on Friday and left for Bastrop shortly after 1:00pm. We arrived shortly before 3pm and Skip and Susie were already there. Skip had already checked in and showed them our mandatory items for the boat. I got checked in and we were done until the pre-race briefing at 7:30pm. We went and checked in at the hotel and relaxed for a bit.

My wonderful support crew. Tracy was a great "Boat Bunny".

The pre-race meeting informed us of the rules and regulations and the safety measures that were put in place for the event. When it was over we went back down to the boat to look things over and then decided to call it a night.

Susie and Tracy before the heat and long hours of waiting for us to arrive at checkpoints.

We went back to the hotel and I got all my food ready for the race. My initial plan was to use my Hammer Nutrition products for most of my nutrients. The powder mixes with water and provides everything needed during racing but I got sick at the end of our last training run and couldn't drink any more of it. I had a backup plan in case I couldn't drink the mixture. I got numerous snack foods that would give me some energy and would taste good.

We broke our rudder putting the boat in the water. Here we are at the start duct taping it together.

I was finally able to shut it down and go to sleep. The plan was to be at the boat around 6:30am. I awoke at 4am and was unable to go back to sleep. I laid in bed until 5:00 and decided to go ahead and get up. After a long shower I felt awake and ready to go. I ate breakfast while Tracy was getting ready and we packed up and headed for the start.

Waiting for the horn to sound. All paddlers must be standing by the boat prior to the start signal.

The solo adventure class started at 7:00am and our group (the tandem adventure class) was to start at 7:10am. We had a problem right at the start. We broke our rudder mechanism off putting the boat in the water. We frantically started duct taping the rudder assembly back on in hopes that it would hold up until Smithville which was about 24 miles away. We made it about 50 yards before it came off. We pulled over to re-evaluate. I thought some zip ties might help so we had some brought down to us and we tried the fix. We only made it about a mile before that failed. We decided to tie the rudder up and go without it all the way to Smithville. This proved to be more difficult than I expected as the boat didn't track well at all and we were all over the river. We were not able to hold any kind of hull speed which was very frustrating.

Arriving at the Smithville checkpoint. Our duct tape never worked so we paddled 25 miles with no rudder. We were able to get some tools and it took us about 30 mintues to fix it.

We finally made it to Smithville and that stretch had taken its toll on us physically. Looking back, I realize our best solution would probably have been to pull the boat out of the water at the start and make the necessary repairs. We ended up repairing the boat at Smithville. It took time to get everything we needed for the boat to fix it. We paddled about 200 hundred yards to an island and began the repairs. It took us about 30 minutes to fix and we were finally on our way to Plum Park. We both screamed out loud because our rudder worked for the first time in the race. We made great time to the next checkpoint. We passed boats on the way the Plum Park and then jumped ahead of many more as we didn't stay there long. Once we snacked and reloaded water jugs we left in good spirits for LaGrange.

Arriving at Plum Park.

The stretch to LaGrange wasn't bad other than the fact it was hot. We had neck wraps packed with ice when we left Plum Park and they are definitely worth having as they help keep the body from overheating. Once they melted we probably stopped a couple of times to submerge in the water to cool down.

Slowly pulling in to LaGrange around 7:30pm.

We arrived in LaGrange about 7:30pm and knew we were on the home stretch. Only 36 miles to go but it would end up all being done in the dark. We had paddled this stretch only 2 weeks before so we knew what to expect though some areas were hard to navigate in the dark. Skip's bow light worked great and we both had on headlamps. Since I was in the front it was my job to navigate the river. I left my headlamp off as much as possible and only turned it on when I couldn't tell for sure what was up ahead. The bow light only showed what was in front of us so I would use my headlamp to scan the sides of the river to decide what the appropriate route needed to be. Overall I did a good job. There were two or three times however when I chose wrong and we ended up in shallows and had to drag the boat to the other side of the river to get going again.

The LaGrange boat ramp. We ate dinner here and then went on our way. Once leaving LaGrange it is 36 miles to the end and there are no stops for assistance. Once you leave here be prepared to finish.

We stopped at one point during the night to assist another boat that was in trouble. They had already called for an evac which was waiting for them but when they were almost there they hit something in the middle of the river and got pinned. Their boat was taking on water and by the time we got turned around to paddle back up stream to help the boat was upside down and they were hanging on to the boat. We were able to get them to the evac crew right around the corner and then went on our way.

At the fnish. FINALLY!!! We started at 7:10am and this picture was taken at 4am. That makes our overall average(stops included) 4.8 miles per hour.

The rest of the night was spent trying to keep moving but we found ourselves stopping more frequently as we were both tightening up. The first 24 miles without the rudder had taken its toll on my shoulders and Skip's elbows. We kept our stops brief and paddled on. We arrived at the finish in Columbus at 4am and it was a very welcome site. Susie and Tracy were there to greet us. I can't emphasize enough what an excellent job they both did as our boat crew. We looked forward to seeing them at each checkpoint and they took care of us along with offering encouragement. My friend Geoff was in the race also and they went out of their way to take care of him also.

My hands look great don't they? I realize I'm smiling in this picture but my hands hurt BAD. Can you see how white and pruny they are?

I would like to thank everyone that offered encouragement before the race and to those that called or emailed congratulations when it was over. Thanks to Skip for letting me tag along in his boat and for helping me make my first paddle. It was very rewarding to finish the race with a paddle that I made. My biggest thanks goes to Tracy for being so supportive from the time I decided to do the race until it was over. THANK YOU TRACY!!!

Skip and I at the finish. We achieved our goal. We finished in a homemade boat with our homemade paddles. Thanks Skip.

My goal for next year's race is to compete solo and finish by midnight. I had Skip design a solo boat for me that I will begin construction on very soon.

Thanks to all,


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