Racing Fun – The USCA Canoe & Kayak Nationals & The Great Race

Sprint to the finish at the Great Race 2022

One of the things we love to do, but rarely make enough time for, is kayak racing! Chris and I (Tug Hill Outfitters owners), started casually racing kayaks…and occasionally canoes, about 6 years ago. Since then we’ve done many different paddling races from the Wells Bridge race to the 90 Miler, mostly across Central New York and the Adirondacks. Although we don’t find enough time to train, we keep coming back for more! One of the reasons we love the sport is the community. Our paddle racing friends have become some of the closest people in our lives, and we are forever grateful for this sport.

Last Saturday, Chris Legard participated in the Cranberry Lake Kayak/Canoe Race put on by the Cranberry Lake Boat Club and came in 3rd overall in his Stellar SR. I (Emily Hart) travelled out to Newaygo, Michigan to race in the USCA Canoe and Kayak Nationals on Friday, August 12, 2022 (and also to see family). I raced in the women’s touring class in my favorite Stellar Kayak, the Stellar Falcon in the Excel layup. The course started on Croton pond with a loop around an island, a short portage around a dam, then a downstream paddle on the Muskegon River (~14.5 miles total). Lots of shallow water and riffles on the river which was a new and interesting experience. I have a lot to learn about river racing. I came in first in my age group, and 4th overall out of the women paddlers, with less than 20 seconds separating 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places. I wish I had known sooner that the finish line was around the corner because I still had some kick left at the end. A new watch or monitor that we can affix to our kayaks and see during the race, that displays speed and mileage, is on the short list to purchase. Congratulations to all the racers, especially Hollie Hall, Kim Schulte, Stephanie Schell, Edna Spang, Julie Mitravich. Friday’s race results can be found here. It was such a blast to race with this amazing group of women kayakers…and the guys and canoes too! It was especially fun to race against Stephanie Schell and Ed Leszek, whom I was with on the course for most of the 14.5 miles. I know that my boat would have had many scrapes and dings if I hadn’t been paddling with them. Stephanie wrote a great blog post about her experience at Nationals. My friend Robert Michelac also made a fun video with highlights of the race course.

We traveled back to CNY in time to race in the Great Race on Sunday, 8/14/22. Leo and Chris ran in the 1 mile kids fun run. Leo crushed the mile with a time of 7:23. I did the Great Race with an incredible all women’s team, Sascha Scott our blazing fast runner and Melissa Whipps our ass kicking biker. (add link to results) We came in first out of the women’s teams, and 18th overall out of 221 total teams with a time of 1:33:33. The race includes a 4 mile run, 12.5 mile bike, and 600-800 meter run plus a 2.5 mile paddle. Although I love competing in this race, the run/sprint prior to the kayak always throws me off and my heart rate is sky high when I get in my boat. No different this year, but I pushed through and did my best to sprint the whole thing…lots of deep breaths to try to settle in and push through. I was really happy with my 27:26 split (6th fastest kayak time), which included the run.

I feel especially proud and motivated after completing these races. With help from my friends Dan Murn and Phoebe Fisher Reese over the last couple years, both amazing paddlers, my technique is starting to come together. I’m noticing improvements in speed on the water, and am keeping pace with paddlers I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with in the past. It’s been a huge confidence boost and a lot of fun. I’m still smiling after these races and can’t wait to keep training and improving…and of course racing!

If anyone is interested in getting into fitness paddling or racing, or trying a Stellar Kayak, let us know. Nothing beats getting a workout in on the water…low impact, full body, beautiful locations, and fun! Some great organizations to follow for kayak racing in the area are NYPRA, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, and NECKRA.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: