California 100 Adventure Race


Well it wasn’t terribly easy, but we did it! This year Kayak Connection fielded a relay team of four that we sent up to Redding to paddle one-hundred miles all the way to Chico. We took a Seaward Passat G3. It is a long boat with a fairly narrow beam, but still plenty wide that I would feel quite comfortable doing long camping trips out of it. The width did mean that we weren’t going to be the fastest on the water, but we were likely one of the most stable! Which sucked when we were against surf skis with a 17inch beam…

Reilly and I were to do the first twenty-three mile leg. Race start was at 6am and we of course had to be up much earlier than that. I was happy that we had the early leg, the weather was forecast to be up to 100*! We also got the section with the most amount of rapids. Luckily we had printed up maps that were going to show us where the rapids were and would also give us an idea where the fastest water was at. A few minutes before the race we were out in the river warming up and getting in position for the start and that’s we noticed that we didn’t have any maps on the front deck, which was totally my fault. We sprinted for the dock and I ran out to the truck, but to no avail, they had already left for the first bridge down the road to cheer us on!

The start was a bit crowded. We were in it for the long haul and wanted to conserve for our next leg so we planned on using the first couple of miles of the race to warm up. This strategy probably lost us loads of time since we were stuck behind a bunch of slower boats for about half a mile. The race started going against the current and once we rounded the turn around buoy we were free. With two people in the boat and the current at our back, we caught right up to some of the front runners.

Photo: Tom Gomes

I do wish we had the maps though. There were several turns that we took that slowed us up quite a bit. Several times we passed some solo boaters and took a turn only to find them right back in front of us since they took the faster moving water. It wasn’t really much time, but me being competitive I became a bit obsessed about it. Our leg was fairly uneventful. We caught a bunch of solo paddlers and made really good time. Towards the end I started to feel a bit stiff in my back but everything else was firing on all cylinders. Our second leg certainly gave us a nice hiccup though.

Photo: Lisa Thomas

Photo: Lisa Thomas

When we got to the first check point (2:30hrs) they notified us that the keys were locked in the car. Apparently, it had happened shortly before their leg was to start and they really didnt have any time to figure it out so the charge of getting in was put onto us. The keys were locked in the camper bed of the truck so we tried to get the camper windows open, but that didn’t work for us. Fortunately, Riley has AAA. After talking to them on the phone a bit it was determined that it may take some time for them to get to us. They need a locksmith to get the camper bed open and since it was a holiday weekend, who knows when that was going to be possible. We had to find another way.

Naturally I started talking to people at the race. There were a good amount of families there at that gave me an idea. Of course I warmed them up by talking about the race and who they were cheering on and all, but the point I came to was ‘can I borrow your child?’ If we could get the truck open, then we could get a child to crawl through the window, across all of our gear, rummage about the truck bed, and get our keys! Of course the kid, Owen, was all about it and he did just that.

It was great, when the truck driver got there and got the cab open he had the most bewildered look on his face. We gave Owen a Kayak Connection sticker and welcomed him to come paddle with us down in the Monterey Bay! That kid really is our hero, we had to drive the Truck to the next checkpoint and meet up with the team. Otherwise things would have gotten very very complicated.

Photo: Tom Gomes

Photo: Tom Gomes

Their leg was rough. The heat of the day was setting in and they had a thirty-something mile leg. They had fewer rapids and it sounded like they had still been catching up to people. I know I am the same way with that, if someone is in front of me I will do my very best to try to catch them. That mentality really fried Franco, our third team member, and he wasn’t doing that great after their leg. From what he described I think he was suffering from heatstroke.

Our team’s third leg was Reilly and I again. Both of us ended up adding in some padding on the seats, I have basically no butt to cushion my seat, and it helped greatly with my back. This leg was another twenty-three or so miles and went by incredibly quick. We were both feeling the miles a bit and certainly the heat was winning. It was all we could do to use the river to cool off. We had an intense evaporative cycle going on. Every twenty minutes we would completely douse ourselves in water using our hats and then rapidly the sun would dry us off.

We kept this up the whole way in hopes that we would be able to push harder if we were a bit cooler. We really gave it everything we had in the last eight miles or so. Going off the map I would say we averaged 10 miles per hour in that section and finished the leg in 2:45hrs. A bit slower than our first leg, but we had much faster moving water on our first leg and it was cooler and we weren’t as tired and excuses. Rounding the corner to the last checkpoint before the finish we couldn’t see our teammates. I had this brief thought that they somehow locked the keys in the car again. We would wait twenty or thirty minutes and then finish out the final leg. They were at the checkpoint though and had another interesting development for us.

Photo: Lisa Thomas

Franco wasn’t fit to paddle the last leg. He was nauseous and way overheated. Either Reilly or myself was going to have to paddle the last leg with our fourth, Larry. We decided that we would take a few minutes to rest and by the end of fifteen minutes see who is feeling the best. I was a wreck. My lower back was very tight and my neck had cramped up. Reilly on the other hand was a bit tired but shrugged and said he would go. I would have love to have gone and done it, but for the good of the team it was good I did not. I am happy that I was able to put my ego aside and let someone else take the glory. I think I could have done it, but my body likely would have rebelled most of the way.

Franco and I rested some more and waited until I was good to drive, we didn’t want him driving with his heatstroke. Eventually we drove over to the finish line and watched all the top end paddlers come in. I have to say I am amazed by how far people can push their bodies. A lot of the people that finished before our relay team were paddling solo the entire hundred miles. A single person is able to do this epic 100 mile race faster than four as a team. Sure there is a lot to be said about the equipment that they are using and the amount of years that they have put into training, but still it is really frikin  impressive.

It stayed hot for the last leg. Reilly and Larry absolutely crushed it though! They came in after a hot 22 miles with another 2:30hr leg! Reilly ended up paddling three of the total legs for the Kayak Connection team totaling about 67 miles. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t do it again next year. I saw him jogging about the next day while helping put up the party decorations.


Our time ended up being 12:03:46. I’d say we did quite well. Out of the Adventure Class our team had the 7th fastest time and if you include the Competitive Class we had the 24th fastest time. That is including all of the crazy hiccups we had along the way! Full Results

Part of this event was to help raise awareness of the Sacramento River. Rivers for Change is not only trying to keep the river healthy and free of trash but to also open it up better to the paddling community. The California 100 certainly opened up my eyes to the river. I had no idea how pretty it was! If anything I am doing this race again next year just for the scenery, not to mention the bird life!