Training for the Texas Water Safari

I’ve started the 260-mile Texas Water Safari canoe race 25 times and completed it 21 times, with numerous category wins and two overall wins. Expedition partner, Jeff Wueste, and I have raced together a handful of times, but only raced tandem once, back in 1995 – finishing 3rd overall, first tandem-unlimited class in 42+ hours. We were both in our early 30’s at the time. Now, both 60+ years old, we’re giving tandem-unlimited another goal, with some realistic expectations. We’re still steady and can be faster than your average bear with the right conditions, but not near as fast as we once were. Last year, we set a tandem record in the Neches Wilderness Race and I set a record in the men’s solo division of the Alabama 650, but the Safari is a whole nother animal.

These shots were taken by Pam LeBlanc from the seat of her three-woman boat as they ran the same stretch with us from Staples to Luling, Texas – our 24-mile go-to milk run. It’s one of the more technical sections of the course, only because of the shallow water and numerous tree stumps, log jams and sharp turns. Along the way, we ran into the two six-man canoes that will be bent on tearing each other up many hours faster than us.

Training for the Safari is perhaps a welcome activity each year, more so than the actual race, which can be an anxiety-producing affair. The weekend runs throughout the late winter and Spring months, allow us to spend time with friends and acquaintances along the river that we only see once a year, discussing racing, boat rigging, river conditions, weather and the occasional race drama – anything but politics and conflict outside our little community. This is our world. Our haven. Our people.

Bring your sense of humor, humility, swagger, overconfidence, apprehension, sense of adventure, threadbare river attire, friends, family and whatever floats and let’s get on the water.

This is Texas canoe racing and you are welcome.

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