Dylan and Jason Geiger Chattajack 2017
Editor’s Note: This is the first in series of first-person posts recounting individual paddler experiences of this year’s Chattajack 31 endurance race in the Tennessee River Gorge. It’s from Jason Geiger of Satellite Beach, Florida, who for the past four years, has entered the race with his 14-year-old son Dylan. They are a mainstay of this race because of their big hearts, wide smiles and encouraging words. Their story from this year, well, get the Kleenex box ready…LS Photos by Diane Blakenbaker , CrossSup, Becky Geiger, Deb S. Action Photo
By Jason Geiger
Here’s the post I couldn’t bring myself to write yesterday after the race…
TLDR Version – I made the podium but I’m sad.
I managed to work my way onto the podium for the first time as a solo paddler at Chattajack. I didnt have a great day on the water but I feel like it was my best job yet at managing my output from start all the way through the finish. I’m usually gassed in the last 5 miles but yesterday held a pace through the middle miles that was competitive yet conservative enough to leave something in the tank for a final push. I laid it down and spent everything I had left over those last 7 miles…and felt strong doing it.
I’m totally heartbroken because my place on the podium was only created by Dylan’s absence. He left me at the start and I watched him work for two miles to get on the lead 12’6″ draft pack. And he looked absolutely amazing doing it. After that, he was gone and I slowly lost sight of that pack as they hammered on. I never saw him again and never found anyone in my class to work with. Paddled the whole 32 miles alone and thought about Dylan all 32 of those miles.
I held hope he was able to persevere the conditions and I wasn’t seeing him because that crew was blazing the trail ahead. But I also dealt with the thought that I wasn’t seeing him because he had to pull out because of conditions. I forged on hoping for outcome A. Paddling into the finish line as Lindsey ran along side, I asked about Dylan and she gave me the bad news. Dylan had to pull out early because of the cold. She said he was okay but those words hit me hard. I fell off my board 50m from the finish (first and only fall of the day).
I paddled around and found him on the dock. Hugged him longer than it felt like my last mile took to paddle and then paddled out into open water, slumped over on my board and cried.
He loves this race as much if not more than me. He worked his ass off training harder than the last 3 years and was having the race of his life. I couldn’t believe how absolutely dominant he looked working his way into that lead pack. He had his eyes set on the podium and his heart set on his 5 year belt buckle next year. It just wasn’t meant to be and he made an incredibly mature decision to pull out.
We had talked long and hard about that exact scenario and having the courage to quit when you know you’re in danger. By the time he got to Becky at the shore, he was near hypothermic and all his muscles were seized up.
I love this kid more than I ever thought possible.
I’m proud of him. He’s handling the let down like a champ and he’ll be back next year stronger, with a chip on his shoulder…and a duffle bag full of neoprene!
For now, I have to remind him (and myself) that we grow stronger not from our victories but our defeats!!!
Photos by Diane Blakenbaker , CrossSup, Becky Geiger, Deb S. Action Photo