It was a beautiful weekend in the Adirondacks for the 37th Annual 90 Mile Adirondack Canoe Classic, better known as the 90 Miler. It has been about 12 years since my last 90 experience, and it was just as beautiful as ever.
Our team was the perfect blend of experience, camaraderie and caffeine :) Gene Newman was our sternsman, with Dave Thomas sitting in seat 3, I sat 2 seat and Kevin was our stroke seat. We began our journey only after some slight miscommunication at the start, but we looked great in our matching shirts-and then we were ready to go! I expect Kevin to provide a much more accurate assessment of the actual race dynamics and metrics, so I will expand a bit on the color of the race.
After Brian yelled "go" it was a brilliant start. The boat moved smoothly and we were right out in front with the best of them. Dana Henry wasted no time welcoming Kevin to his First 90 Miler and told him he was doing a fine job. Paul Olney and his crew put on a sprint and before Dana could offer Kevin another compliment their wake was our funeral....and we were alone.
I could not help but start giggling at the fact that this seemed to be the norm in all of my 90 experiences. Hot Rod and I would often be by ourselves, wondering why the heck we were doing this, and where did that party wave that Peter Heed promised us, go? Kevin and I started singing Here I Go Again by Whitesnake and before you knew it 2 hours flew by.
This was my first 90 experience with a set of wheels, which I highly recommend for any type of water vessel you choose for this race. Kevin was fantastic! After Gene or Dave put the wheels on Kevin was off like a shot! We would switch on and off pulling the hull on the portages, but Kevin did most of the heavy lifting. I provided much cheer leading and positive support whilst trying not to wipe out on roots and rocks. Rest in Peace my favorite pair of Sal's Boutique Sunglasses at Brown's Tract Portage.
Also at this laughable 1.5 mile portage was our very stylish Pit Crew-Ben Schlimmer, you may know him as a pro paddler, but I know him as pro bf and in this case, Pro Pitter Extraordinaire! He dropped jugs for the team and sprinted back to the car to rescue his amateur girlfriend from an asthmatic event. Andy Melnychenko was a full witness to this sprint and stated that the Race Officials did not stand a chance at stopping "the blur". The blur reached the dock with moments to spare and a few new blisters from his Croc running footwear. An A++ effort for Day 1.
As we started into Blue Mountain Lake I may have led Kevin astray telling him it was just "around the corner" a few corners too soon. However, we made it and the sun was still shining! It was a great day for a paddle in the Adirondacks, then it was time to set up camp!
Even before the horn went off, Mike Davis had to say "Man, this is a LONG Lake!" giving credit to Rebecca's aunt for corny jokes-I think he enjoyed telling it too :) Off we went, and there it was-that Party Wave that Peter Heed always told me about!!! It was a great experience riding 3 abreast down the lake. Dana's endless encouragement for Kevin always sparked some fire in our boat and Mike's corny jokes always got someone giggling.
The wind picked up by the end of the lake and it was a bit challenging keeping the boat true in the washing machine waves. After the day Gene was telling me how Dana Henry and Paul Olney can muscle their way back to straight, Gene needs more finesse. His alias is now Gene "The Finesse" Newman.
Once we got to the river we were dropped and again were singing Whitesnake. It was a great paddle through the river and Kevin found several fans of the color orange and complimented them all. A few more turns and a portage and we found our Pro Pitter Extraordinaire again! This time he was in a C1 and was ready with jugs a plenty! It was quite a feat, however, Kevin gave this pit experience a B- because I got Kevin's drink and he got mine. Gene also received a drink, but couldn't figure out why. A few seconds after the pit we got everything situated and paddled on for a few more corners and found the finish line. It was a very chilly end to the day, then we were off to Fish Creek!
At Fish Creek Ben and I met Ben Rochon, the guide boat Champion for the last few years. He was the fanciest camper I had ever met with his stemless wine glass and very satiable bottle of fine red wine. He told of his 90 experiences that started when he was 12, he has 28 finishes and only missed one year for the birth of his child, whom he hopes to take on this 90 mile journey with one day. Another moment brought to you by family :)
After a night of some hearty chili and a couple pizzas it was time for day 3. We awoke to some whistling and Brian's voice saying "here's the spot for the start line" I climbed out of our tiny tear drop and said good morning to all standing around. Wave 1 was getting ready to take off and it was time for Kevin's daily Rockstar Energy Drink!
Wave 9 made it to the start line on the chilly, breezy morning, as it always is on the third day of the 90 Miler. It was a great ride through the lake, under the bridge and onto the next. Dana was chipper with his encouragement again to Kevin and it was a great morning start. We successfully navigated Upper Saranac Lake, The Narrows, Eagle Island, then Doctor's Island to Birch Island and ultimately to Huckleberry Bay. This was all thanks to Gene "the finesse" Newman at the helm. Occasionally Gene would yell up to Kevin to make sure he was awake for various stumps in the way, but Kevin had a keen eye and we made it through unscathed. We made it to Bartlett Carry and it was a fairly straightforward portage.
Once we got back in, the real fun started. This was always my dad's favorite part of the 90, and I can honestly admit-I don't remember much of this day. The scenery was absolutely stunning. The cool nights had the leaves already starting to turn, there was some fog on the lakes as we made it through the buoys. It was just perfectly #Adirondack and would set anyone's mind at ease.
The last portage was exciting-Team GRB was in full race mode by the end of the carry and Gene insisted that we dart down the bank! Kevin was unsure of how we were going to get in the boat 26' out into the river but Gene said "walk out the boat" and after some small clarification from 2 seat-Kevin jumped in the middle and made his way to the bow.
Back in and away we went, more red and green buoys and then finally, the finish line. Lake Flower was here and we arrived in a solid 3rd place. It was another great day on the water, chilly, but wonderful. There were hugs all around and smiles abound. It was such great fun and I am already looking forward to next year. A huge thanks to Gene Newman, Dave Thomas, Kevin Olson, Peter Cain and of course-Ben Schlimmer <3 I couldn't have done it without you!
See you on the river!