Would you, could you paddle a 100 miles? The California 100 or Cal 100 takes place on the the Sacramento River. My plan this year was to participate in the Cal 100 as a relay team with some other paddle friends. Some of the gals in Southern California did it last year, and it sounded like a good challenge, and a lot of fun. If I did a relay, I figured I could paddle at least 25 miles with the current on the Sacramento River. Well many of my friends were busy with other areas of their lives, and it looked like the Cal 100 would have to wait until next year!
But then I received an email on May 5th, 2015 from John Dye, Co-founder of Rivers for Change. John Dye and Danielle Katz founded Rivers for Change in 2011. They organize several events throughout the year to connect people with the rivers, and the Cal 100 is one of those events. Rivers for Change “envision a world where people and communities are active stewards of river systems with a holistic understanding of their interconnectedness and interdependence.” You can visit their nonprofit site at www.riversforchange.org.
Here is what John sent me in his email: “I’ve got a Starboard 16' tandem inflatable SUP board I am racing and have not filled out my team yet. I've got 2 potential partners up here but no one firm yet. I'd entertain paddling with a person who has some SUP skills but is "iffy" about doing the whole thing, or doesn't have river experience and wants to be part of a tandem team. The board is a blast, a fast stable king size mattress with a fin.” Okay I got some SUP skills, but no river or tandem SUP experience. So yes a little “iffy” about doing the whole thing, but how hard could it be? Three of my SUP friends did the Cal 100 solo last year, and believed I could do it. Sometimes all it takes is a little belief and a little nudging from your friends.
So John and I met on Sat. evening the day before the Cal 100 race for the first time. We took the 16’x 32” Starboard inflatable SUP out on the river for a quick test run. John went over some of the basics of the river and where the start line would be. He also explained to me that while we are paddling he will be calling out “hut ho.” “Hut ho” would be the signal to switch at once to paddle on the other side of the board. I guess I won’t be listening to any of the 7hrs. of music I downloaded to my iPod shuffle. John put me at ease right away on the river. The Cal 100 adventure race started the next morning at 6 a.m.
My biggest concerns for the Cal 100 were water, electrolytes, & nutrition. The longest time I have been on a SUP was 2hrs. Prior to traveling to Sacramento for the Cal 100 race, I visited the local REI, and loaded up on some different flavors of GU, and ProBars. The ProBars are meal bars packed with calories and good fat. I also had some Skratch Labs energy chews with me that came in handy during the last leg of the race. John and I shared some beef jerky and pb+j sandwiches as well. When doing the Cal 100 there are several factors that come into play- air and water temperatures, physical health, nerves, and experience. Several people or teams did not finish (dnf) for different reasons. The air temperature was cool on the morning of the race. The river water was around 55 degrees. By the the 2nd & 3rd leg of the race air temps were in the low 90s. So we ran the risk of hypothermia at the beginning of the race, and heat exhaustion later in the race. By the time we stopped at the 3rd station of the race, we had travelled 80 miles, and had been paddling for almost 12hrs. When I got off the SUP I felt “woozy”! What was going on? I didn’t feel like eating anything but probably needed sugar! I drank some electrolytes and tried to eat something, but definitely not feeling well. We only had 20 more miles to go, and I wasn’t stopping now! Well we got on the SUP and headed down the river. Within a 1/2 mile or so down the river I threw up 2x. John had me sit and rest for a while. One of the benefits of being on a tandem SUP! ;) He told me if I wanted to go back to the last station one of the fishing boats along the river could take me. All kinds of thoughts were going through my head-what if I pass out & fall off the SUP would John be able to help me? I got to finish this race, I made it this far what’s another 20 miles? Man, I don’t feel good! I told John about my friend Amie who is battling breast cancer, and everyday is a 100 mile race for her! I slowly drank some gatorade & eventually ate some energy chews. I was back up paddling after about an hour or so. Thank goodness for the river current, and the setting of the sun. The air temperature cooled off, but now we were paddling in the dark, and had to avoid river obstacles (logs, grassy areas, and shallow water). We came into the finish at 9:40p.m., finishing the Cal 100, 1st place coed tandem SUP in 15:40.
What I learned from the Cal 100:
-Train with a river master like John Dye.
-Tandem is fun you don’t get lonely (especially for us extroverts).
-Paddling in the dark on a river is challenging-logs, little grassy islands, shallow water.
-Do some training on a river prior to a river race.
-Have a support team at the stations.
-Know your body and your physical capabilities.
-Enjoy the scenery (bald eagles, white pelicans, great blue herons, egrets)
-Don’t give up.