INSIDE the 2016 Green Race – Wrap Up
By: Shane Benedict
Well, the Green Race week has come and gone. Stats, times, photos and videos are flying around the interwebs, but to me, the stories created over the weekend and grown on decades of Green history make the best part. A few of the chapters from this year:
Eric Deguil finally captured a Green Race title just for himself. Last year, he had to share the top of the podium in a tie which had a little kissing-your-sister flavor– nice and all, but you don’t get that sexy feeling. Every year but one for nearly a decade, Eric has come to North Carolina to compete in the Green Race. It was a « vision quest » as he called it the first time. Most years he improved, occasionally slipped back, but always he returned. Now he can wrap his arms around the glass entirely.
Adriene Levknecht continued her stranglehold as Queen of the Green, and once again she competed way beyond just her class; she set her sites on the entire field. This year she posted the 13th fastest time over all. She crushed male egos with each stroke she took.
The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of defeat have never felt more palpable to me, and that says a lot about where the Green Race rests in the minds of racers these days. I saw Deguil’s well-earned tears at the awards ceremony. Though Pat was happy with his second place finish and new personal best time, you could see the anger simmering behind his zen exterior. Brad McMillan was giddy with excitement over his breakthrough 3rd place finish. We also had quite a few people who didn’t finish- equipment failure or plain getting beat down took them out of the game. Celebrations and chagrin have been on display in the last couple days as racers share their experiences. Powerful emotions were evident in facebook posts and long faces answering the ever present question, « how was your race? » … I hated it for them, but at the same time the visible emotions speak to the strong feelings this day and this event evokes.
The bet is on. Green Race tradition pits paddling partners against each other in bets with stiff consequences for the loss. John Grace, the race organizer, has a history of betting a shaved head or dyed hair for losing. This year’s victim was Rush Sturgess, who pretty much walked into a fixed bet. Not only did he not beat John; he had a race run to remember, resulting in a beautiful shock of purple hair. Huge respect to Rush for coming into this intimate event with a « game on » attitude!
(Here is the video evidence. Careful; the audio is not safe for work but it is the best part.)
Racers come from far and wide and add great flavor to the Green Race. A big group of paddlers came from Quebec again this year to take another stab at glory. The Quebec Connection, as they call themselves, staked out a nice camp near the takeout and slammed and sliced their way down the river all week in preparation for the race. These boys party hard and paddle even harder. Once the race was over they joined the after party and then got on the road for 20 hours straight of driving so they could be at work on Monday morning. Good on you boys!
Legends. A growing list of « experienced » shall we say, paddlers have continued to crank out the race runs through the years. They come off the couch and from all over the country to crush young men’s dreams. The likes of Tommy Hilleke, John Grace, Adam Herzog, Chris Young, Keith Sprinkle, and Jason Hale breathe life into this event and carry the tradition on. #myfriendsaremyheros
To think this race contains 164 different stories, and there are many many more to come. Maybe someday you will create your own story at the Green Race.