It's early in the year and time to get the ball moving. Nothing brings form faster after the cold season than a grinding, soul-crushing, effort.
Enter the Lula Bridge race. The Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club hosted the event at the former Olympic site on Lake Lanier in Gainesville, Georgia. The course offered 20k and 10k options that meander around the shores of the lake.
We arrived to overcast skies, choppy water and cooler temps---not exactly what I was hoping for as a kick-off, but it could have been worse.
The majority of competitors were on sprint boats with a handful of skis on hand. Categories were correspondingly arranged with K1, team boats and surfskis in separate categories with the start staggered to reflect the distinctive divisions.
I opted for the 20k for the sole purpose of waking my body up from winter hibernation.
We lined up at the lanes arranged for sprint competition. In a refreshing change, officials fastidiously lined the racers evenly before the start. Absolutely no drifting allowed. This was going to be a proper sprint style with no advantage afforded.
The horn sounded and off we went. Former Sprint National Champion Morgan House (Epic V14) jumped in front from "go" and methodically began building a lead with excellent technique honed from years of elite level competition.
Fellow Chattanoogan Cory Hall (Vajda Hawx), Rick Carter (Epic V12) and myself (Think Uno Max) formed a posse and began trading pulls straight away with Hall taking the lions share.
We kept a solid pace and worked well together ---generally trading pulls and offering encouragement as we pushed forward, holding out in the hope that House may fade late in the race.
I felt surprisingly good for the first race of the year. I fell into a sustainable groove and really enjoyed myself.
It was to be short-lived however. We rounded the buoy at six miles and began the return trip to the Olympic Tower. On the way back, I got separated from the others a few times rounding corners and coming around oncoming paddlers.
With the repeated surge it required to regroup, I taxed myself out. The fat lady sang for me around 8-9 miles in. I watched helplessly as my water taxi pulled away, unable to expend the energy to run them down. I didn't have a full 20k at that pace in me at this point in the year.
In a show of sportsmanship, once Carter and Hall realized I was off the back, they stopped to give me a chance to rejoin.
I waved them on.
Both were clearly the better men and didn't need to be slowed down.
As I continued, I "hit the wall". After feeling bulletproof for 8-9 miles I just suddenly fell apart.
As I limped across the line, my partner took video. Clearly horrified by the spectacle, she advised me not to look at it. Apparently, my grotesquely contorted stroke would've added insult to injury as I lily dipped my way in.
House finished solidly in first with Carter holding off Hall in a match sprint for second. I dropped a little over four minutes in the final 3-4 miles, finishing behind Hall in the surfski category.
Dana Jo Richardson (Epic V10) took the win in the ladies 20k with Wyndy Anderson (Epic V8) following in second. Lindsey O'Shea (Vajda Hawx) was tops in the ladies 10k with Myrlene Marsa in second.
John Mitchell won the men's 10k as Michael Herrin slotted in behind at second
J. Di Chiacchio
Photos: Lindsey O'Shea