The Hawksbury Canoe Classic. -111km 27th October 2012
Through the eyes of Sharon and Darryl:
The Hawkesbury Canoe classic is a very tough yet fun event which is run annually. It is an overnight paddle which begins at Windsor and finishes at Brooklyn over a total distance of 111km. The major objective of this event is to raise money for the Arrow Bone Marrow Transplant Foundation which contributes money towards helping people suffering from leukaemia.
This year Darryl Stenlake and I paddled the 111km event in a time of 10.01.05 and enjoyed the entire 111km of this event. We began at 6.00pm on Saturday afternoon and finished at 4.00am on Sunday morning. When we began our paddle the weather was a balmy 25 degrees, however, as the night went on the temperature dropped below 8 degrees, which saw many paddlers including myself shivering uncontrollably.
While we did this in order to gain a sense of achievement and to help others we also regard this type of activity as “fun”. The Hawkesbury River is a rather scenic river with steep rock embankments swathed in green foliage and flanked by sturdy gum trees. We did see some of this beauty however mostly we just saw darkness. We paddled with two cyalume lights at either end of our craft, but apart from this we travelled in the black of night. We were equipped with a compass, map and energy gels. As we knew this race would be tough at some point we had decided that out mental strategy would be to imagine that after each 30km mark we were starting afresh and had not already paddled a previous 30km. This strategy proved effective though we had to remind each other when several blisters manifested and our aching muscles were calling out telling us to cease this madness.
We were continually surprised and impressed by the camaraderie and friendliness of other paddlers, always asking “are you okay?”, and “how are you going?” before proceeding on their journey. This seems to be the essence of marathon paddling where the challenge is to beat the event rather than other people, there seems to be a realisation that if we work together we can achieve great things.
Our support crew were nothing short of amazing. Dave Kair and Di Phillips accompanied by Trudi Epple and Rob Hanger. They made the long journey from the Gold Coast to Sydney entirely for our benefit. They looked after our wellbeing by feeding us prior to the event, they assisted us with equipment and travelled to each and every checkpoint with warm blankets and hot drinks and of course a smile.
Our friends Amanda Rankin and Grant Epple withdrew at the 65km mark after a mighty effort and after getting caught in fishing line and suffering mild hypothermia. We continued on through the night despite grounding ourselves on a monstrous submerged rock and having to lift our boat clean out of the water and over the rocks. Finally at 110km we saw a warm orange light indicating the finish line. Somehow after having paddled our mind and body to their very limits we managed to move our boat as fast as possible to the finish line, at least we thought we were moving fast. What a wonderful feeling to cross that line and finish this grueling yet “fun” race.
We were greeted with the comradeship we had experienced throughout the race with lots of “well dones” and “we will see you next year”. We managed to win our division and though our mind and body were aching we felt a deep satisfaction in what we had achieved.
Through the eyes of Amanda and Grant:
Things did not go according to plan – if you had your money on Shazza & Dazza then you would have backed the right team. They put in a lot of training together and were able to get home in 10hrs and first in our Class i.e. Mixed Open UnRes 2. Amanda & I did not have a good night out. Our boat was delivered to the race precinct about the same time we arrived on site – a brand new Fenn Elite double. A beautiful boat but we had only spent about 5 minutes in a similar boat prior to race day – not nearly enough time to get our act together.
The first mistake (mine) was to tape over the venturi holes – we (me) were hoping to keep water out of the foot well and stop the water sloshing back into the seat well. Within 5kms from the start we were trying to pick off the tape to let the water OUT!! We needed to make an emergency stop to punch a hole in the duct tape – we had then lost our place in the race!!
A couple of unscheduled wee stops, a massive fishing line tangle around both ends of Amanda’s paddle, around my head and right foot, thousands of bugs into Amanda’s face and the cold of the night starting to sap Amanda’s willpower proved too much – we elected to withdraw at the 65km mark, Checkpoint O. Amanda was shivering badly and it was unfair to expect her to carry on – neither of us were having any fun at this stage!
Were had been sponsored by Sharkskin and were wearing their “Performance” vest which has a Polartec torso and compression lycra long sleeves – in theory great, but the lycra provided an evaporative cooling effect to the arms, which proved too cold for the girls. Darryl and I were OK in the back seats in the same garment, but the girls copped the brunt of the water and wind and caused them to cool down rapidly.
The people at Sharkskin told us later that we should have been “layering” i.e. the Performance Vest should have been worn under the “Rapid Dry” garment – see www.sharkskin.com.au Too late for good ideas like that!! The Polartec body of the Performance Vest is wind proof and designed to be against the body to wick away body moisture – the Rapid Dry top is designed to keep the outside water off the Performance vest. The Sharkskin gear is fantastic and we will get it right next time!
To the credit of Dazza and Shazza, although they too were suffering from blisters and near hypothermia at Checkpoint O, they got themselves re-composed, put on some dry thermals, bandaged the blistered hands, skulled some hot fluids and soldiered on. They did really well considering the poor state they were in at Checkpoint O.
We have elected to defer our solo Murray campaign until next year and Darryl, Sharon and myself are considering having a go at the Hawkesbury solo also next year – I think Amanda has been turned off ultra marathon paddling for life!!!