The forecast for Saturday morning continued to switch between rain and clear but not too cold. Mid April in northeast Ohio could be sunny and hot, cold and snowing, or anywhere in between. This is why we had waited until the last few hours of early registration prior to signing up for the 2015 Grand River Canoe and Kayak Race. Race day turned out to be absolutely perfect with sunny blue skies and temperatures that made shorts and a T-shirt comfortable on the water. The rain earlier in the week put the river flow around 3.5 feet which kept us off all but the largest rocks.
The boats were loaded into the back of the truck around 7 AM, we dropped the oldest daughter off for her track meet and then drove straight to the race start at Harpersfield covered bridge. Arriving around 8:10 we found the park bustling with activity. We pulled through to the turn around near the starting line where race staff assisted unloading our boats. We proceeded to park across the river, register, grab our T-shirts and get our photo taken for the maddest hat contest. Overall it was an efficient and well run process.
We migrated to the “starting chute” to hear the pre-race talk on safety and rules. The rules were pretty simple. They release three boats every 60 seconds (or was it 30?) from the starting line that was about 10 yards from the shore. Paddle 8.5 miles down river, pull out at Hidden Valley Park and run to the finish line near the pavilion to ring a bell. A professional timing system was used to track all the racers. A tag on the back of the race bib triggered the clock at the start and finish lines. This also provided real time results showing your time and place in the various race classes by entering your bib number in a terminal located near the finish line. You could also get real time results online via a smartphone.
To say the wife was nervous about getting in and out of the boat would be an understatement. It was just less than a year ago when she had a full knee replacement which makes it a bit awkward for her. I assured her it was easier than at the beach and I would help. It turns out race personnel also assist with launching and landing the boats. She had no issues at all. As far as the race, I was not going to leave her behind so this was more of a casual group paddle for me.
Towards the beginning of the race there was a boat pulled off to the side. I thought it was a bit early for a break but after approaching they warned of rapids ahead. The park service had stationed boats upstream and downstream of the rapids to ensure everyone’s safety. Overall it was an easy paddle but with cold water temperatures and over 300 participants they take the extra steps to make sure all boats safely reach the finish.
Overall it was a great day and well run race. I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone. The race is a bargain at $12 for early registration which includes free transport between the start and finish as well as a shirt.