Inside the 2022 Green Race – #6, The 2022 Green Race Wrap Up
Without doubt, Dane’s sub 4-minute race and Adriene’s 13th win made this year’s Green River Narrows Race one for the record books. But so many more aspects combined with those unmistakable milestones to make manifest the depth of an event that turned twenty-seven this year. People raced Saturday who have competed more years than many of the contenders have been alive. The race continues to draw paddlers of all walks of life: Class V certified, slalom racers, wildwater racers, weekend warriors, and those that are paddling the hardest whitewater in the world. Though the Green is no longer the cutting edge of river running, the Green Race is undoubtedly the intersection of all paddling.
The Lead Story: Dane and Adriene have been dominating the Green Race for a long time now. Adriene for many years longer, but I see Dane’s streak going for a while to come. They both have lost during their reigns, but we all know who the favorite will be the following year, no matter the last year’s finish. This year, Dane obliterated the field. To put it in perspective, Dane finished 12 seconds ahead of the next racer and in the following 12 seconds 11 racers finished. Oh, and he broke the 4-minute barrier, no big deal. On the women’s side, Adriene won by 9 seconds, a few weeks after getting a cast off her hand! No big deal.
The Fun Story (that I got totally wrong): Can you believe how well the old, I mean seasoned, veterans did? In the past few years, the race has gotten younger, by a lot, and many of the top contenders aren’t even legal age. I predicted this year would be a youth onslaught. however eight of the top twenty were over 30 years old, and most were well over. Matt Anger, 32 (the youngun), Brad McMillan, 35, Geoff Calhoun, 36, Peter Kazban, 37, Andrew Holcombe, 41, Tommy Hilleke, 45, Billy Jones, 47, and Jason Hale, 49 to round out the top twenty. But don’t let this feel-good story fool you. Another eight in the top twenty were 22 or younger. So, the youth are coming for you, and age just keeps coming, folks.
The Slalom Influence: Over the years, quite a few slalom paddlers have joined us for the Green Race, often in the hunt to win it all. Most notably: past champions Eric Deguil, Isaac Levinson, and Mike Dawson. Key to their success: slalom paddlers train to go fast in long craft nearly year round, staying in top paddling shape, while many of the rest of us just go paddling, jumping into long boats for the fall race season. They also bring the advantage of constant competition keeping their minds ready to compete. It’s one thing to bomb down a river fast with friends; it’s a whole different animal when it’s timed and pride is on the line. This year we had two incredible athletes join us, Zack Mutton and Evy Leibfarth. The two had minimal practice before the event but used their strong competitive and visualization skills to prepare themselves for the day, and it showed. Zack came in 4th overall and Evy took home a Silver in the women’s category.
The Legacy of Paddling the Green: More and more regularly, parents who have raced have kids coming of age joining the fray. Like in many sports, the offspring of talented folks in that sport raise up kids who go well beyond their reach and take it beyond. Brian Miller and his son Landon have been ripping together for a few years here at the Green Race; now joined by Tommy Hilleke and his boys Kelly and Daniel; Kirk Eddelman and his son Alex. New comer to the Green Race, Evy, is daughter of extraordinary, decades-long paddlers as well. This year: Brian lost his race with Landon, while Tommy and Kirk held off their younguns for another year. I can’t wait to see the parent/child combos next year, and living inside and alongside the joy that our extraordinary river families share.
Standing on the bedrock near Gorilla as the last paddlers worked their way downstream, and the most committed spectators clambored up the slippery trail, I felt great comfort knowing the Green Race was in good hands. The hands of long-time paddlers who have followed their dreams around the world, and those who are just learning to drive their boats around the block. That feeling of comfort comes from the constancy of competitors and crowds, but also from the race itself growing from crazy grassroots commitment to established, but always turbulent event. It’s not easy bringing aggro paddlers and relentless spectators together to make an event that feels alive, not generic, electric, but as safe as it can be. Throw in fiber optic live stream in a deep river canyon and, well, it comes down to herding cats. It’s special to watch the crew of John, Chelsea, Jason, and Tommy pull this wild child together and walk that line all while John and Chelsea’s kids are tormenting the band playing on the stage late into the night, and all of the kids are nipping at the heels of the best racers in the world. It’s fitting.