Wally and Joe 2011 TWS

I had the priviledge of racing the 2011 TWS with Wally Werderich.  He even talked me into wearing the Luchadore mask and cape for the first 10 miles or so.  It was one of the greatest adventures of my life and certainly one of the most fun.  I am honored to have shared it with a friend and racer like Wally.  The original excerpt was from a thread in the rivermiles forum from the summer of 2011.

The full thread can be seen at: http://www.rivermiles.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1308366312

Wally kicks this off:


Some random thoughts/stories on the TWS
 
The TWS and the MR340 are two completely different animals. The only really large similarities are that they are raced by canoes and kayaks and they are both really really long races.
 
Previously I could not understand why boats from Texas were so heavy and appeared to be made so poorly. Turns out that they are not made poorly, they are made with extra strength layup that may make them look crude, but he layup is absolutely necessary due to the beating that the boats take during the race.
 
As strange as it sounds, it is easy to get lost during the TWS. It is true, at one point during the race when our wits were a little gone, Joe jumped out of the boat and climbed a tree when I was working with the GPS. He was like a spider monkey he climbed it so fast. At that point we were very sleep deprived. There were lots of cuts on the Guadalupe River and Joe was scared we had accidentally taken a cut that put us in the wrong place. He climbed the tree to see if he could see a land mark. I think it was just in the state he was in, he was just reverting to his natural King Kong self. As it turns out, we were less than a quarter of a mile away from where we needed to be.
 
This year was the lowest water year in the 49 year history of the race. It was tough as a result. Lots of shallows, suck water, and flat out dragging the canoe.
 
I was in the stern during the race. It was a very difficult race to jump into and steer having never seen the rivers before. Most of the Texas teams had spent countless hours scouting the course before the race. Unfamiliarity was definitely our disadvantage. To counteract this, I spent a great deal of time wake riding off of boats that were familiar with the river. Some were friendly wakes, some were unfriendly wakes, but regardless, it was a strategy that helped us to a successful finish.
 
West's run was remarkable and his boat looks like a traffic cone.
 
If you are going to race the race for your first time and you have never seen the course before, I would highly recommend using an aluminum boat.
 
The portages were CRAZY during this race. They were long, difficult, and numerous. Among many areas, this is where Joe really shined. Joe was an absolute horse during the portages.
 
Rapids like those found in the Lisbon Bottoms cut are commonplace in the TWS.
 
As an analogy, at times, I felt like I was a refined polo player (my USCA style of canoe racing) who was asked to enter a rodeo and compete on the bucking bronco (the TWS). Only it was not for 8 seconds, it was for 60+ hours.
 

During the race, it felt like Joe and I were marked men. Multiple racers really really wanted to beat us. Nothing like having a target on your back as a motivator.
 
MR340 racers hung together and helped each other when we could. It was nice to be part of that fraternity. Hoff and Cox + Werderich and Mann = 8 hour of help to each other at a crucial time during the race. But for the 340, this never would have happened.

My favorite part of the race was in the morning of the 3rd day. We were paddling with Hoff and Cox and were following two boats about a half of a mile in front of us. The decision was made amongst us to try to pass the boats in the morning and put some distance on them that would be harder for them to make up during the heat of the afternoon. We put the hammer down and made up some ground. The aluminum was in the front and the starzs unlimited was in the draft. When we came upon the boats, the best strategy would be to keep the hammer down so that they could not draft us. Unfortunately, we had some "technical difficulties" in the aluminum boat and had to slow down right at the point when we needed to increase speed to shake the boats were trying to pass off our draft. Momentarily, the boat being passed caught our draft and it looked as if we would not be able to shake him and our plan was all for naught. It was right at that moment that the speedy unlimited boat of Hoff and Cox flew out of our draft at a speed that seemed like 60 MPH. They passed by us and gave us a wink at which time we dropped into their stern draft and we once again put the hammer down. It was like they were the afterburner we had in our pocket that kicked in at the exact moment we needed it. Working together again, we ended up putting on at least 15 minutes on the boat we passed. It is racing moments like this that make me keep coming back to canoe racing.
 
Hut,
Wally Werderich
Los Humungos Paddleos

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I will pick up the ball here:

The "technical difficulties" were:

By the third day, I was nursing everything I ate; I couldn't eat any large bites of anything or it would trigger a gag reflex. Even gu packs I had to "sip" and it would take like 20 mins to eat one.

So I was nursing this payday candy bar. Like a squirrel, I had a quarter of the candy bar in the side of my cheek, and I was swallowing a tiny bit at a time. As we came upon the boat we were passing, a bit of the payday bar shifted in my mouth and my stomach said "NO!". Literally, we pulled up beside the boat and as the guy was getting ready to say hi or what the hell?, I leaned over the side and let it rip. To my credit I kept paddling, and I may have missed about a stroke, but it was enough that the guy we passed had time to jump on our wake. That's when Paul and Melanie gave us the 60 mph wink.

I just have to laugh when I think of what that guy was thinking when we pulled up going at an almost sprint just so I could puke right next to him.

I knew Wally was the technical half of our team and I wanted to make sure I made up for it on the portages. My favorite one was the log jam. It was about a 300 yard portage through the forest. There was a path of crushed weeds and that's about it. We were 50+ hours into the race at this point and I didn't want to carry our aluminum boat with all the gear that far. I quickly found a small log (2" diamter x 2.5' long) on the ground, used some rope I brought, and made a harness. I put the log across my chest with the rope coming off each side going back to the boat. Like a mule, I leaned forward and began running. Wally made sure the back didnt slam into a tree, and I pulled that thing all the way through. It felt great.

Climbing the tree wasn't my best decision ever, but it was fun!

The TWS is like a video game. There is always something to engage you, and decisions you have to make. The price of admission (besides the price of admission) is cuts, bruises, abrasions, insect bites, and poison ivy. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. 

Joe Mann
Dark Horse Paddler


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Back to Wally:

Interestingly, paddlers mostly used single blades the whole race - even though they carried double blades.  The canoe that won the USCA class was a proboat that used to be my old racing horse.

We had the ugliest canoe in the race. Check out the pictures. The canoe was dented all over and the bottom was hogged and patched crudely in multiple spots. In fact the previous owners we got the canoe from had saved the canoe after she was found bent in half and fortune cookied on the river. I grew to love her by the end of the race though. She kind of reminded me of the Millennium Falcon.
 
It was dang hot all three days, about 98 degrees. The hottest part of the day was late afternoon.  Always remember that something very little in a race can develop into a major problem, so always be careful. At the first pit stop water exchange, a jug exchange from our boat happened too hastily. When the water jug was dropped out of the boat, the tube came out and unbeknownst to us sunk to the bottom of the river. When our ground crew could not find the tube, they went out to buy pieces for another one. As a result, we missed them at our next water stop and I ended up going for over 4 hours without water. During this period of time, we had to dial the thrusters back. We lost many positions during this time and while we eventually caught back up with our ground crew, for the rest of the race, we basically battled to get those lost positions back.

Prior to the race, someone told me the best way for a man to stay cool was to put an ice pack under their crotch. During then race I was very scared about over heating because it has not been too warm here in Chicago. I tried this ice crotch technique and it worked well.
 
Deciding what to take food wise was very difficult. We probably took too much food because I was scared to put my trust in Spiz which was our main food supplement. I had never used Spiz before. For the race, we each had 4 jugs with Spiz portions marked on them. We would get a bike bottle of water from our ground crew and pour the pre portioned amount of Spiz into the bike bottle. The system worked great and the Spiz worked like a champ. All I ate was peanut butter sandwiches, cliff bars, gel packs, and Spiz and everything ended up great.
 
The real kicker of this race is they save the hardest part for last. The bay crossing is a real test. Again, little mistakes will cost ya. We did not put our skirt on properly and we slowly sunk. When we sunk, we did not know where we were, and we did not have any sleep for 60+ hours. Let's just say our boat became unhappy very quick. Fortunately, we got it back together and finished after what could have been a catastrophic chain of events. Unfortunately, again a little mistake blossomed and the error ended up costing us about 3 hours on our time and about 3 positions on the leader board.
 
Just like the 340, there are some amazing racers in this event. That being said though, again just like the 340, some of the most amazing stories come from the people who ARE NOT amazing racers.
 
When put in situations when you seem to be facing insurmountable odds, sometimes your body can come up with some insurmountable results. I made it through 3 days and 2 1/2 nights staying awake using only one 5 hour energy drink. The key was to do something to really really increase my heart rate every time I started to doze. Also, I embraced the hallucinations. That was cool, but I still cannot figure out why I kept hallucinating so many mariachi bands.  
 
I am still tired.
 
It was a great experience and I was honored to have Joe as my partner and my mate as we took on the TWS in our maiden "novice" run.
 
Canoe racing rocks and the Texas Water Safari is one of the best races in the country!

Hup,
Wally "Mastodontico" Werderich
Los Humungos Paddleos

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And finally, me again:

The cold ice pouches we used we referred to as horse collars. They were homemade (very well) fabric things that were folded and had pockets that opened with velcro. You would put ice into these and then the ice would stay evenly distributed instead of bunching up. Then they would go around your neck and shoulders and velcro together. I started calling them horse collars. They worked good but they cold reminded my muscles of how sore they were. I chose to go without them. Which worked great for Wally because then he could have more.
 
That poor guy from Chicago. He was not used to the heat. Countless times he asked me, "How much further until the next checkpoint?", "10 miles...why? you OK?", "I'm out of water". "Oh, I haven't even drunk half of mine. Here have some."
 
That first afternoon, when I threw the drink jug out, it sunk and disappeared, it caused our ground crew to miss us at the next spot that we were going to get water. As a result, we went from 11:15am - 4pm with only a half gallon of water. It was about 98 degrees. We were at the point where we actually saved our pee just in case we didn't see our ground crew at the next checkpoint (we thought maybe the truck had broken down or something).
Luckily, we did NOT have to drink our pee. But I was totally ready to if I had to. This WAS the safari after all.

Navigating the first night for us was a lot of fun. It was like travelling through a graveyard of Dinosaur bones. The river was so low, all the dead trees at the bottom were halfway out.  With my keen night vision and Wally's excellent paddling skills we skimmed through that first night and passed about 10 boats either going slow or who had laid down to sleep.
 
Another good one is the Ceuro gravel bar. We stopped there right before the 2nd night, and I wanted to change clothes. I am a huge believer in changing clothes in the middle of a race. you feel so fresh and so much better. the extra 5 mins it takes usually is worth it because you'll paddle faster and better and be more comfortable. I also think that your perspiration will lead to micro salt crystals in your shirt and such and will act like tiny grains of sandpaper which will cause more chafing. So if you change during the race, you eliminate that too.
 

So we stop at the gravel bar and there are about a dozen people there, 9 men, 3 women. I step out of the boat and yell, "Warning! I am getting naked!" so I strip down to nothing, wade into the river and do a quick underwater rinse. (much cleaner river than the MO). As I exit the water, I see a 3 man (no women) boat pulling up. they didn't see me go in, but they pull around the bend just in time to see a naked man materialize from the water. I had my new clothes from my drybag all laid out and ready to go, but there was a flaw in my plan. I didn't have a towel...I had to use my bandana.

With new clothes and a new outlook, we set off into the evening ready to tackle night number 2. As we were paddling away, I mumbled my thanks and apologies to those who had to endure my nakedness. One of the ladies yelled out real loud "No problem! Anytime!!"

We laughed about that for a while. Believe me, we all know how things get after being on the river for 2 days...it was probably a funny story for them too!

Joe Mann
Dark Horse Paddler

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