We are only weeks away from the 2022 General Clinton Canoe Regatta 70 miler which is the first of the Triple Crown events of the year. As this will be the first Clinton since the pandemic, lots of us are very excited to be racing down the Susquehanna and testing our skills and fitness against the best marathon paddlers around. In these final weeks I find that it helps me to get organized with all of my pre-race plans so that when it comes time, I am not scrambling around and stressing out. One of those items that I like to plan out is a scouting plan for a big race. Seeing some of more difficult, or important sections of the racecourse prior to the race can definitely help and that is why I thought I would share some of the places I would choose to scout, based on the amount of time one has at the racecourse prior to race day.
There are a couple of benefits to seeing sections of the river in the preceding days before the race. The first one in my opinion is to have a familiarity with the course. Seeing a section of river only a couple days prior keeps it fresh in your mind, and you can understand where you are in relation to other sections of the race. This can help you in your pacing, where you assess your current location and your current racing intensity. It can also help you to know when to hold back or make a move if you know what the course is like up ahead. Another big benefit is that rivers change over time, so there might be new obstacles or changes in the river since the last time you were there. This helps to prevent you from taking a bad line during the race because you got to work that out in your scout run. It can also be a good time to check out spots that might have multiple paths to choose from on the river so you can be confident that you are taking the fastest path on race day.
For this article I am going to lay out some plans based on how many days you might have to scout the Clinton course starting with just 1, and up to a full week. Some of these sections might not look the same as on race day depending on water levels, because they do release water from the dams for race day, so be prepared for water to be higher in sections of the river come race day as opposed to when it was scouted depending on recent water levels.
If you are like me, and you cannot get to the area in time to have multiple days to scout, this plan can work. For me this year, I will be doing this scout plan on Friday before the race. This can be used as a tune up workout as well. I suggest having someone travel with you to shuttle your car from start to finish of each spot to make it move pretty quickly and so that you don't get too cold between paddles.
HOSPITAL TO INDEX - 4.7ish miles
This is the first section of the river after the first portage at the dam in Cooperstown. This section is also known as the swamp and is twisty and technical. Being familiar with this section can be helpful as one turn tends to lead right into another one so to know how to set yourself up for the next corner it is good to have an idea on what is coming up. This section also has the first of the "cuts" what I refer to as the swamp cut. You might not be able to actually paddle this cut if the water is low, but if you don't know where this is, it is easy to miss, and the corner going around the cut can be tricky. I suggest going around it, then going back up and walking the cut if there isn't enough water to paddle it. I did a whole article on the cuts HERE if you want to check it out.
PORTLANDVILLE TO COLLIERSVILLE - 3.6ish miles
I run this section primarily to scout the "cut" after the Goodyear dam portage. If you put in at this launch site you will have to travel across Goodyear Lake, but it can give you a good idea on where some of the suck water is in the channel leading to the lake. This would also be a good time to throw a pickup or 2 into your paddle. The cut is after the portage, and there are multiple entrances to choose from, these entrances are highly dependent on water levels though. The take out is just past the bridge after the cut.
UNADILLA PARK TO SIDNEY BRIDGE - 4.9ish miles
The reason I run this section of river is primarily to check out what is commonly referred to as the Green Acres Cut. There is usually multiple paths to choose from for this cut, and another option when the water is high. The current in this section is usually moving pretty well and can swing you into debris if you are not careful. Some people like to put in at the Sidney bridge and paddle upstream and then back down thru the cut, but because the current is pretty strong it is maybe only 10ish mins longer to do the downstream, and you get to see more of the course.
If you have the chance to paddle twice before the race, my suggestion basically only increases the amount of course that you see while still hitting the main spots covered in the single day plan. This will consist of about 4hrs of total paddling, so I wouldn't do this if you were getting in on Friday, but if you got in on Wednesday, this could be easily done.
HOSPITAL TO MILFORD - 13ish miles
This is basically an extension of the first section from the one day plan. Between Index and Milford the water starts to widen out a bit, and the corners are more gradual, but knowing how to hit them to maintain your speed can gain you valuable time in this upper section of the river.
PART 1 - PORTLANDVILLE TO COLLIERSVILLE - 3.6ish miles
I still find value in scouting this section of the river and it doesn't take that long to run it. I keep the length of this run the same so that you can still get the other run in.
PART 2 - WELLS BRIDGE TO SIDNEY - 11ish miles
This is a section of river where the depth is changing pretty regularly, and there are some better channels to take to help keep your boat speed up. You are also going from deeper sections to shallows, so knowing when and where to pop your boat can be helpful to keep that speed up so you don't lose valuable time in the later section of the race. This run also still brings you thru the Green Acres cut, so by the end of this 2 day plan you still see each cut.
The 4 day plan is basically a full week plan. This one is pretty simple, and covers the whole course. I would suggest just breaking up the course in 1/4s so that you are running 2hr or less paddles along the way. The order that I would run these sections though would change based on the length of paddles. I would not suggest to run this plan if you are trying to do 4 consecutive days before the race, such as Wednesday-Saturday. I would suggest a rest day or 2 sprinkled in there to make sure your rested enough for the big day.
MILFORD TO ONEONTA - 16.5ish miles
I chose this section for day 1 because it will be the longest section, and there is quite a bit of back water leading up to the goodyear dam, so the current isn't as strong. That means this will lead to the longest of the days in this plan.
ONEONTA DAM TO WELLS BRIDGE - 15ish miles
There are definitely some good sections to check out especially right after the Oneonta dam. Some of these sections if the water is high enough can produce pretty large rollers. The current starts to back off down towards Wells Bridge and this section is one of the easier sections to navigate so that is why I have this as the second day
WELLS BRIDGE TO FINISH - 15ish miles
This is the last 2 hours of the course. Lots of shallows that were described in the 2 day plan, but this adds the last couple of miles to the finish. It is always nice to know how many corners you have left when your closing in on 8hrs or more in the boat.
HOSPITAL TO MILFORD - 13ish miles
This is the same section that is in the 2 day plan, but I have it listed as the last day in this plan because it should be the shortest, and there is technical sections that I believe are better to have the freshest memory of.