Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Red Bridge Run! Canoe Race & Results

Above: Foreground- Chuck Ryan and Bill Briggs; back-Brett and Devin Arenz; Photo: Natasha Laumei
Above: Chuck Ryan and Bill Briggs; Photo: Natasha Laumei

Above: Chuck Ryan and Bill Briggs; Photo: Natasha Laumei

Above: The winners Brett and Devin Arenz; Photo: Natasha Laumei

Sunday, 06-15-08

The Red Bridge Run! canoe race wasn’t going to start until noon today. People were planning on sleeping in at John and Wanda Arenz. Several of us have been staying at John and Wanda’s during the week-end for the Chippewa Triathlon and for today’s race in Park Rapids. I was up around 6 am and decided to go in the house to heat my water for breakfast. Anna Peterson was already up and was looking at the photos and the results from yesterday’s Chippewa Triathlon on

I ate my breakfast outside then came back in the house for more coffee while other people were slowly getting up.

Several of us were on the road at 0930 am heading to Park Rapids that was about 50 miles away. When we arrived there were several other racers there. The folks at Red Bridge Inn Bed and Breakfast were welcoming everyone. They appeared to have many volunteers for the race.

The Pro class has two laps with a ¼ mile portage between the laps for a total of 10.75 miles. There were three possible classes in the Pro division: Men’s, Woman and Mixed. There wasn’t anyone signed up for the Woman class in the Pro Division. All classes were for single-bladed paddles only. The C-2’s are 3x27 and 18.5 feet long. The entry fee was $30.00.

The recreational class was one lap for 5.5 miles with no pro boats allowed. There were different classes in the recreational division. The entry fee was $20.00 except for the C-1 class and it was $10.00.

There were 12 racing canoes in today’s race. There would have been 13 if George Stichlier would have come to Park Rapids instead of Grand Rapids. George eventually made it to the race. Steve Yurista and he completed one lap and the portage.

There were also 12 recreational canoes.

This year the recreational class started first followed by the racing class 5 minutes later. These were both water starts. The recreational boats had to line up in front of the rope where one end was tie to a tree and the other end to a pontoon boat in the river.

The racing class the stern person had to hold onto the taunt line.

This was a very good course to paddle. It had a little bit of everything. There were several buoy turns, shallow water, and tight spots under bridges, weeds to go around or through; there were larges waves on Fish Hook Lake. You can ask Mike Davis and Julie Boehrer about the waves. Julie told me on the second lap in the large waves that Mike who was in the bow said to her that he thought they were going to go over because their canoe was full of water. Well, right after he said that they went over. The water was about chest deep so they walked the canoe to shore and dumped the water out before continuing.

I spoke to the owner of the Red Bridge Inn Bed and Breakfast who has been putting this race on for the past two years. He told me that Tony McKeown, a local paddler, wanted to have a race in Park Rapids. Although they didn’t know anything about canoe racing they had the organizational means to assist Tony in putting this race together.

Bill and I had pre-registered so I picked up our race packet that had a few items inside. I noticed a copy of the June issue of Silent Sports magazine. This is the copy that has my Snake River Canoe Race article and a couple of my photos inside. I gave this copy to Bill. While at the check-in table the volunteers requested the paddlers fill out a short questionnaire on how they could improve the race in the future. It appears the organizers are serious about not only keeping this race going in the future, but to keep on improving it. Very nice!

Another volunteer walked with me over to a large map of the race course and explained it to me. There was going to be a water start, with two laps and between the two laps there was going to be a portage. I’m not sure the distance of the portage but the race description has the portage as being a quarter mile.

The racers were in the parking lot exchanging greetings, finding out how they did in the Chippewa Triathlon if they participated and who they were racing with today.

Bill and I got on the water to paddle upstream to the start location. There were some canoes ahead of us and several more were getting in the water behind us. I decided to paddle over to the beach area where the end of the portage was located since we never walked the portage a head of time. Another volunteer was on the beach that must have heard us talking about the portage and asked if we had a question. I asked her where the end of the portage was and she pointed to the very south end of the retaining wall. It was marked with some flagging. After putting the canoe in the water at the beach we would have to go to a buoy across the river and slightly south for the second lap.

The recreational class was the first to go then 5 minutes later it was the racing class. Once again it was the Arenz brothers; Devin and Brett first off the line, with Al Rudquist and Kate Ellis. I don’t remember if Bill and I were the third or forth canoe. Io Harberts and Dan Schaffer and us were jockeying for position around several of the first buoys.

Eventually Brett and Devin and Al and Kate were riding one another up ahead. Bill and I were pulling Io and Dan on the upstream portion of the first lap. Bill and I were actually gaining on the canoes up front and were maybe 20 yards behind them when they punched it up in the shallows and put some more distance between us.

We maintained the distance between the front canoes and somewhere toward the north end of the river we pulled away from Io and Dan.

We had to go under several low bridges before making a left turn into a shallow cut to Fish Hook Lake. There was a westerly wind and it was kicking up some large waves in the shallow water of the lake where we had to paddle. We would have to move out into deeper water to get around another buoy before we could head to the south end cut back to the Fish Hook River.

Bill and I didn’t have any problems in the waves, but we were going slower due to the conditions compared to the river.

Once again Bill and I were making up some ground on the two canoes up a head. Then I saw both canoes move off line from one another and there was some frantic movements.

Someone in the group lost a paddle, but they continued on. Bill grabbed the paddle that was floating in the water when we came upon it. I was hoping they would be kind enough to allow us to catch up and let us ride. I knew that wouldn’t happen because Al and Kate wanted to be as far a head of us going into the portage. Al was going to portage Kate’s Corbin V1 and Kate was going to run with her crutches since she is recovering from a broken leg.

The two front canoes hit the beginning of the portage about the same time. Brett and Devin were off running the portage. Kate got out her crutches and was a little slower getting out of the canoe and Al got the canoe out of the water just as we were pulling up.

Bill and I were off down the portage. We passed Al who had his long arms wrapped around the middle of the canoe and he was being assisted by his sister, Ann Manns. Kate had taken off her large cast off her leg and was moving much faster on those crutches than I expected. Bill and I passed them before going over the Bridge. I just followed Bill and I had no idea where we were going once we got off the paved trail. I remember going up a slight incline through a wooded area. Once again I was breathing heavily during the portage and it was nice to see the beach where the end of the portage was located.

We got the canoe in the water with the bow pointing upstream. I knew we needed to go left and I yelled to Bill to go left. I didn’t realize it at the time why Bill appeared that he wasn’t listening to me and wasn’t responding. Bill told me later some guy told him he needed to paddle a couple canoe lengths upstream then head downstream. Bill was looking for another buoy and when he didn’t see one he made the turn to go downstream. The other volunteer prior to the start told us where we put in was at the end of the portage, since there wasn't anything marking us to go any further why do so.

Bill also gave the paddle he picked out of the water back to Ann Manns before we took off.

One more complete lap and the race would be finished. We were now in second place but with Big Al in the canoe behind us and plenty of water it was just a matter of time before they would catch us. We had Brett and Devin in our sights but we would never be able to catch them. There was one point where they went way left before realizing they had to move to the right to go further upstream in the river. We might have picked up a couple seconds on them.

We were now getting close to Fish Hook Lake when someone in the recreational canoe who was going downstream warned us of the large waves on the lake. Bill told him, thank you!

When we went through the cut to the lake it did appear the waves had grown a little bit more.

Bill and I stayed closer to the shore before moving out in deeper water to go around the buoy. Big Al and Kate went out in deeper water once they entered the lake. Bill and I made it through the waves and we were now on the river going downstream. Al and Kate caught up with us and were riding our stern wake.

I heard Al tell Kate to move up on our left side. It was a matter of time when Al and Kate would make their move. They made their move going through the shallows off a point close to the beach. We didn’t have enough punch to keep up with them in the shallow water. Once we got back to deeper water we did make up some ground but there was no way we were going to catch them. It was now a matter of what our time would be, since there wasn't anyone close behind us.

Bill and I came in 2nd place in the Men's Division with a time of 1:37:53 and we were 3rd overall. Brett and Devin’s time was 1:36:16 and Al and Kate’s time was 1:37:38.

Afterwards, Al told us they made up the distance between us in the shallow water before the lake.

I saw Lilly Manns in the stern with her father, Joe Manns, in the bow of their canoe. I asked her how the race went and she said her father (Joe) made her paddle too fast and she was throwing-up. Joe later said that he was two for three in making his partner’s hurl in races since Hoigaard’s last week. He did admit that maybe it was something he shouldn’t be proud of. I wonder if Lilly wished her father, Happy Father’s Day, while they were racing!

The Red Bridge Inn provided food for us after the race. Then it was the award ceremony.

This is another race that everyone should attend and the racers are treated very well by everyone associated with the race.

I want to thank the Red Bridge Inn, Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, Tony McKeown, and all the volunteers for putting on this race and I will be back next year.

Proceeds benefit the Hubbard First Response Team.

Red Bridge Inn:

Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce:

I didn’t receive the results for the recreational class and if I get them I will include them here.

Natasha Laumei was kind enough to send me a few photos of Bill and I and Brett and Devin Arenz when I mentioned in my blog I did have any actual race photos. Thank you, Natasha!


Chuck Ryan

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