Chattajack 2017: Kathy Summers
Editor’s Note: This is another 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 Kathy Summers of Washington, DC. Photo Credits: Deb Action Photo
By Kathy Summers
For the last two days I have been either hanging with friends, driving or asleep, recovering from my third Chattajack (couldn’t race last year because of injury) but it feels more like a first, in two ways: the re-start of my five consecutive years belt buckle award and like a first place win feels just because I finished! Half way through I wasn’t so sure that was going to happen.
Mother nature was not happy with us on Saturday and she showed it.
I am nowhere close to as fit as I have been in the past so all I cared about was finishing within the cutoff and I knew I could do that as long as I made the right clothing decisions and didn’t get too cold. We all knew what we had in store for us when we got on the water that morning, but trying to prep for six-plus hours of rain, wind and dropping temperatures was really tough and unfortunately about half way through I knew I was in trouble. I actually got in the water to warm up and started to think about exit strategies.
That was a really rough moment.
And then I heard a very familiar, “Summers!” Guillermo Loria came at the perfect time. He promised he would help me get to the next take out and re-assess. I hated that I needed him to stay with me (sacrificing his own race) in order for me to feel safe enough to continue, but I did and he knew if he could keep me moving (and talking) I would be ok. He was right. There is no way I would have finished without him, thank you G’mo!!!
I thought about a lot when I was out there, mostly about how grateful I am for life and for all the people in it, but also about how precious life is and how quickly it can be turned upside down. Around mile 25, on that last crossing to river left in another bout of driving rain and wind, I let out a few tears and with them, some of the fear I still carry from all we went through last year. I was exhausted and needed to stop. I had my hands and feet warming up in the water and then G’mo said, “Summers, look up.”
The rain had stopped!
With him by my side, we found a new gear, cruised past the weeds, passed the people that had passed us and made our way to the finish!
We did it… together!
I hardly touched my phone/camera the whole weekend so I poached a few photos. They are just a tiny look into this spectacular weekend. I really want to name everyone but I’m sure I will accidentally miss someone and this post is already way too long so please let me just say: Thank you Kimberley Friberg, Ben Friberg, Katie Elzer-Peters, Melia A. Jacobs, Dottie B. Hodges, Hal Turner and all the Chattajack 31 volunteers, spectators, sherpas and participants, each of you helped me to finish, thank you! More thanks to Lowell Usrey for taking care of Mallory and Deb Stipa for all the excellent photos and to my extended Bark/Surftech family for all you do on and off the water! I also want to say how special it was to share this year with more of my Washington Canoe Club family, thank Stacey Lyon and Kim Andrade for being excellent sherpas, congratulate Tim Summers and Dale Andrade on their first place win, Pam Boteler on her second and Ian Ross on his first and probably only (for anyone!) … 32 miles on one knee in the tippiest craft out there! One of the funniest things ever was listening to all the comments and questions about who and what Ian was!
Congratulations to Kim Hillhouse who crushed it for first place, two years in a row, and to Hannah Aker Elrod who got to share the podium right beside one of her best friends!
I was very, very happy with 13th female and 21st overall in the 12’6″ division.
So, when does registration open for 2018!?
Got a Chattastory? Send it to Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org!