Last year Graham raced in Shawinigan at the “Classique“, la Classique internationale de canots de la Mauricie. It is the third race in the pro-canoe triple crown, involving 3 days (200km) of downstream racing with $45,000 in prize money. Last year Graham and Trevor came 8th, which is a pretty good result for a first time out (although Trevor was a multi-year veteran). Clearly this is a special case for training and 24-hour athlete model. There are portages, but the first 6-hour day is all on the water, so you also need a pit crew to give you new water bottles and snacks once you burn through the ones you started with. Quite an endeavour!
Since Trevor is a multi-year veteran, he has this down pat. He drives his truck there with his canoe on the roof and has local buddies that pit for him. He knows the whole course and is a pretty good guy to learn from. This year Graham will be racing with another Saska-buddy Ivan, and they are optimistic that they will have a great race – but Graham is now in charge of all the logistics.
In kind of a last-minute decision, my buddy Edith will also go and race. She will make up a telephone team (brokered by Trevor). Her partner has a boat and will drive there from New York State. But… she also needs a pit crew. At one point I told Graham I would go with him since he was looking for someone, but he found some dragonboat buddies in the region who were keen to do it. So I have some time, and I wouldn’t mind hitting up Montreal for a day or two on the way home, so… I am going to Québec to be a pit crew!
I have been asked a few times why I am not going to race. Of the 60 teams, most will be men and a few will be mixed. There are rarely women’s crews, and being overmatched makes it hard to ride wash, so you end up doing the whole thing alone: the Tour de France with no peloton. On mixed teams, women usually sit in the stern and let some burly dude do all the pulling up front while they do the skilled finesse work of steering in the back. I started sterning in earnest this year, but still am NOT ready for race of this magnitude, with the mêlée of boats, rapids, wash riding, portaging, etc. that is involved. I’d like to do it some day, but I either need to get as strong as a burly front guy or get better in the stern, and I think we all know which is more likely. At any rate, I’ll find out first hand what it is like and use that information later.