There is hardly a time that creates more buzz than when Halloween rolls around in the kayaking world. Not because people get to dress up and have a few beers as the Joker, but because that means the Southeast races have arrived.
The Lord of the Fork race on the Russel Fork is one of the most fun races out there, though not the scariest, it is always a challenge to put down a clean run with a long boat. It is also such a perfect race to have leading into the week of training for the Green Race, really kicking things off for one of the greatest races in the world. Despite having arrived from a project in China the day before, and staying up all night the night before the race due to the time change. I was stoked to still be able to lay down a clean run, take the win and set the course record. With the race being 6 minutes long it is hard to go flat out for the entirety of the race, while keeping the long boat in control. If you make it down the entire run without at least one spin out, that’s always impressive. I laid down one of the smoothest runs I had put down, and it will be interesting to see if I can still shave off some time next year.
More than anything winning the Russel Fork is such a moral booster going into the week of training for the Green Race. This year was the most determined I have been to try and go sub 4 at the Green Race. This was the first year I not only spent some time in the gym in October and did some flatwater workouts, but also studied previous runs from myself and others. Normally I just show up, get the training in without checking the training times, then go hard on race day and see where it ends up. But this year I decided that I needed to know where the most important moves to keep the boat moving, and really see where time is saved to have the super fast runs like Pat and Deguil had. In my mind I had always felt to go sub 4 was “have a smooth upper section, don’t beater go left, keep the boat moving from gorilla down to the finish, keep a good sprint pace the whole way.” But then after seeing Pat’s 4:05 with not the craziest stroke rate, I knew I wasn’t looking at everything right. So this was the first year I was like I am gonna see where this time is saved. So I downloaded as many race runs from the past, from myself and others, and broke it down as much as possible. It started off as me splitting the race run in 3 sections and timing those, and seeing who had the fastest time where.
I only used race runs between the 8-12in level since that is where the race generally ends up, and to keep the comparisons consistent. But when I found combined the fastest times on each section from previous years, between myself, Pat and Deguil. Then put them together, I thought I was gonna see a 3:58 or something. But instead, even after re timing, and getting the absolute fastest times put together, the lowest time was around 4:02. That made me realize it was gonna take more than just having the perfect smooth run on the 3 main sections of the race as a whole. I realized that just a smooth run wasn’t everything, and that it wasn’t just beatering that would stop you from breaking the record. I realized that there was a big time difference between seeing a “good” run on a rapid, vs a “great” run, even if they looked similar on GoPro. Because in the end, the Green Race is so full of moves that every little bit adds up. So once I started breaking it down, it went from timing big sections as a whole, to me knowing how to save half a second from the Notch to the pad of Gorilla. More than anything it was cool to realize that I had to treat every little move as if it was as crucial to nail as something like Go Left.
Unfortunately despite having spent that time in the gym and training in October, when I went to China I ended up hurting my arm on a drop which set me back a bit. Though it was feeling almost 100% during the week before Green Race, that combined with the super high water. It didn’t let me get the amount of proper training laps I was looking to have. That being said it was pretty satisfying to do a full race run at 20 inches to realize on the GoPro after that my time was a 3:50, my first time doing sub 4. I had always felt that 11 inches was the perfect level to do sub 4, and although I now know that 20″ it’s possible, I still feel 10 inches is the best level. It’s high enough to keep things smooth in the smaller rapids, but low enough that it’s still possible to stay bow dry and smooth through Gorilla and the slides.
This year for the race we ended up with 11 inches which got me fired up cause it was the level I had always wanted. All in all I am definitely stoked on my run, but when I got to the bottom I knew it wasn’t sub 4. The only problem with knowing every little place you lose time, is you already have a good idea of how much you lost when the race is over. So I knew it wasn’t as fast as I could go, making a mistake above Go Left, getting stopped in the Speed Trap, plugging Neeces etc. There is definitely time to be saved on my run, and I am already stoked to try again! Although everyone was anxious to see me put down that sub 4, and I unfortunately didn’t deliver, I was stoked to come out on top again. I was able to set the course record in both short and long boat, learn a ton of useful info in the weeks prior, and have another epic weekend enjoying one of my favorite events in the world! Although I didn’t make it happen in 2019, I know I can get that sub 4, and I am already fired up for 2020 to try and make it happen!
Check out my full race runs here-
Russel Fork –