The Kayak Race

I found myself 1 hour into the race. Shoulders burning but my will stronger than the pain. It was the summer of 1988. On the Kansas River; about 40 miles from where it converged with the Missouri River. Again the river was making me a man. It was as if I woke up in a dream, or maybe a nightmare. I was in a kayak I had bought only the week before. I knew nothing of flatwater kayak racing.

In fact I knew nothing of this race. At the beginning of the race, the announcer said over the speaker, “The river is a bit low so you will have to follow the channel to not bottom out. This will add a few miles to the race.” Miles? Oh yeah, I forgot to find out how long this race was. I asked the guy next to me just seconds before the start, “How long is this race exactly?” “Well it was 15 miles, but now it looks more like 17.” Big gulp. “How long does that typically take?” “Oh, about 3 hours.” “Boaters ready!” “Go!”

I paddled to stay with the pack of experienced racers. At first my arms were tired. Then they got dumb. They just did the motions that they were supposed to without asking questions. Three hours passed and soon after that, the finish line. My legs were numb. My arms, shoulders and back totally worthless. They summoned the racers over to a shallow place where we were supposed to get out out of our boats. I couldn’t feel my legs and had no strength in my arms and was too proud to ask for help. But the helpers knew and they grabbed under my arms and lifted me to the bank, pulled my kayak up beside me and gave me some water.

I think I am dumb now. We pushed through the burn of the first part of the race and now we are just going through the motions, day after day, not really having the strength, just the motor muscle memory to keep going. That is likely a good thing since it helps us to function. But if we have to stop for some reason, I don’t know if we’ll get back going again. Then I suppose someone will grab us under the arms and lift us up, and set us on the bank.

Tara is hanging in there. I hate to keep talking about the fluid, but that is the bane of her existence. We wonder when we should get it drained again. The doctors are of the opinion that we shouldn’t do it unless we have to. Well what is “have to”? Do you have to stay up all night to warrant “have to”? Do you have to stop often to fight off the pain? I don’t know. So we take it day by day.

Now we rest. We pray that God will again sustain us tomorrow like he did today. He will, I am certain.


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