In 2015 Adventures in Whitewater traveled to Steamboat Springs, Colorado to compete in the Yampa River Festival's raft race. The end result was AW taking 2nd place by about 2 seconds. In my life, there has never been a motivating factor as powerful as taking second place. So, you might say this lit a fire in us to take first place this year.
So, throughout rookie guide training and early season trips, we all knew that every paddle stroke was a 'stroke in the right direction'- towards victory. We trained our minds and bodies to be the ultimate water-moving machines.
Yesterday, driving towards Steamboat, I definitely felt a bit apprehensive- had we prepared sufficiently? What about the other teams? I'm sure they practiced too, right? Our practice run made me feel really positive. We moved together as a team very well, and moved faster in a raft than I had previously thought possible. Due to high water, the put in was moved down river- way down river. What was roughly a 5 mile race last year was going to be only 2/3 of a mile this year. Looks like we're doing a sprint.
The put-in was quiet when we got there, but by about an hour before launch time it was buzzing with activity. There were over 100 racers there- including some serious whitewater paddlers. I started to worry that we might be in over our heads. We all line up to draw launch numbers- Justin walks up and pulls out a '2'. Looks like we're launching second. The supervisor tells the first team to go, then tells us to line up. My heartbeat jumps. This is happening.
The put in involves moving a raft down a flight of stairs at a slow jog. The team before us lost two paddlers entering the water. I'm the first one to hit the water- as soon as I'm knee deep, Josey and I jump in and start paddling. I glance over my shoulder;everyone is in the raft- our entry was flawless. We paddle downstream, avoiding anything that might slow our progress. After about one minute of paddling, my arms start burning. I start sucking wind. Our guide, Justin, begins his very unique motivational talk, mainly consisting of flinging encouragement at us with his bullhorn-like voice. We keep paddling. All the way down the river we see the finish line- a massive water feature known as 'Charlies Hole'. We paddle even harder now that the finish is in sight- paddling with all our effort until we triumphantly smash through.
We eddy out to watch the rest of the racers paddle through, then take our boat out of the water. They tell us that the winners of the race won't be announced until the very end of the festival. So, we try not to think about the outcome of the race, and get to enjoying the festivities.
After a very long four hour wait, they announce the results. The winners? Adventures in Whitewater. Feels good to take first!