by: Sue Silvernail
As the name of the General Clinton "70 Miler" endurance flat-water canoe race implies, it is a long race and can be a long day. You must plan ahead now to have a fun, safe, and rewarding experience on Memorial Day.
As the winter starts to turn to spring, many canoeists want to train on the water. This thought is a good one -- in that training on the river is a much better sport specific method than running, lifting weights, or padding on your indoor paddle machine. Safety should be your #1 concern.
Early spring paddling requires a wet suit or dry suit, whistle [to call for help, remember the movie "Titanic"?], life jacket that can be worn comfortably, hat, gloves, waterproof footwear. These items can be purchased through NCR catalog, EMS stores, Camphor, or Sierra Trading Post. The lifejacket I recommend is by Extra Sport.
Putting your canoe safely on your vehicle is important. Using "super straps" is the easiest and most convenient method. They hold the canoe still at highway speeds. I recommend that a Thule or Yakima car rack system be installed on the roof of our car with canoe carriers. Local boat shops will order and install your rack system on your car at no additional charge. Canoe carriers are L shaped and prevent the canoe from shifting left to right.
Outfitting your canoe is very important. Seat pads are sold in 2 thicknesses: 1/2" grey/black and 3/4" purple/green "ridge rest" foam. They sell for $5 to $6.50 per seat cushion. The bow person may want a foot brace so their legs can get involved in their power phase. 2 suggestions are: a block of ethafoam 2" thick can be shaped to the sides of the bow and cemented in or a thin piece of luane wood can be fiber-glassed in at the correct comfort angle for the bow paddler. Southern Tier Canoe carries a unique adjustable bow foot brace. It is adjusted to the size of the bow paddler's legs and gives the boat a better fit for more types/sizes of paddles, i.e., adult, youth, or mixed. If portaging the canoe upside down you should remember to take out this adjustable foot brace as it may fall out and then you would be out $55.00.
Drinking fluids throughout the race and overall nutrition for 7-12 hours is mandatory. You must drink even if you are not thirsty. Eating, drinking proper fluids and rest 3 days before the big race is important so your body has stores of energy to fall back on. Eating healthy prepares your body and mind. I suggest pasta, salads, breads, bananas, milk and lean red meat. Stay away from soda, chips, and junk food.
The morning of the race eat a large breakfast of oatmeal, toast, bananas, orange juice, coffee, bagels, pancakes, etc. In the canoe, you should duct tape inside under the gunnels [within reach of the paddler] GU or Power Gel. These "pudding-like" nutrition packets will be a "lift" about each hour as your body struggles to keep up with the calories burned throughout the day.
The drink in your jug should be packed with electrolyte replacement as well. This means water is ok, but not suggested alone for this long distance race. Some commonly used supplements added to water are: Gatorade, Power aid, Met Rx, Cytomax, and Endurox. Your jug should be replenished about every 2 hours throughout the race by your pit crew. It should be easily accessible directly behind your seat in a 2"ethfoam block with a cut out the exact size of your jug. Most people use 2 liter plastic soda bottles or Coleman cooler jugs. Accessibility for the pit crew is essential for quick pit stops along the way.
You should use a clean flexible drink hose extending from your jug bottom to your mouth with a few inches of slack to give the paddler freedom to slide forward in the canoe, i.e., in shallow water. The end of the hose can be cut at an angle so that it does not suck to the bottom or side of the jug when drinking. Stick a piece of Velcro on the mouth end of the hose and the opposite Velcro strip to the gunnel of the canoe to stow when not drinking and when portaging. The soft pliable hose is sold at 65 cents per foot. Try not to let your hose drag in the water behind you or in the bottom of your canoe.
Other supplements recommended are Ensure or Boost. This liquid nutrition is easily taken in and digested to replenish your energy. Please do not litter our rivers. Give empty cans and waste to your pit crew to dispose of.
Remember: Treat your pit crew with respect at all times! You cannot successfully complete this race without them! The race organizers cannot provide nourishments to all 700 canoes coming down the river. You must have an adult following you throughout the entire race. If an emergency arises or if you pull out of the race prematurely, please notify an official at a checkpoint.
Once you finish the race, you can be proud of your accomplishments and respectful of the mighty Susquehanna River. Take a moment to thank your pit crew, the canoeists around you, as well as the race organizers and volunteers. This race is a major undertaking for the volunteers of Bainbridge. The funds raised help keep park where the race finishes maintained and improved each year and also helps local organizations raise monies to help with their programs.