Avon Descent 2009
Without roof racks it is hard to transport the kayaks to the start line, but luckily Muz can take one of our boats up and Karen has space for the second one. Friday 4.30pm we leave and on our way we have a quick look at Extracts weir. After registration in Northam (just picking up your timing device), we drop off the kayaks in grid 67 and drive back to Clackline where we are staying with Julie and her dogs, cats, horses, eagles and owls.
Troye and Abby arrive shortly after us and we have our lasagna together before getting ready for tomorrow. We all go to bed early as we want to be ready to go tomorrow.
Northam is only 15 minutes and we all jump in one car, including Winnie and Nelson. At the start line we find Muz, Lisa, Suzie, Clayton, Dave, Fran, Paul, Erin and Paul. We get ready to go and before I know it we’re on the water and forming our grid. Muz, Jon, Dave, Clayton, Karen, Troye and I are all in the same starting grid.
First hurdle is Northam weir. By the time I get there everybody from my grid is stuck at the top, so I find a little spot on the left and paddle straight over (advantage of weight!). Luckily the boat straigthens up on the weir and I have a perfect slide down. I quickly lose sight of everybody and just keep on paddling on my own, chatting to everybody around me and secretly laughing at people who are falling in.
To my surprise I am overtaken by Troye half an hour later, I thought he was well ahead of me. But it turns out Troye, Muz, Karen, Clayton and Jon are all behind me! Next person to come past is Muz (or was it Jon, can’t remember now… they might remember or else the times at Katrine Bridge might tell), he is struggling with the shallow water so it takes a while and we paddle together for a bit until we get into deeper water and the PRS is a lot faster.
I pass Katrine Bridge (first team change over point and first timing gate) and I am still ahead of Jon. He comes up not long after and after chatting a little bit he continues as he is faster. But I seem to have a good run and keep catching up with him. In the end we decide to paddle together as it is more fun and we can draft behind each other.
We stop for lunch and a refill of bladders in Toodyay (thanks Lisa and Abby!), Karen floats past as we are having a sandwich and Clayton comes in as we are leaving.
We have a reasonable run together through the ti trees and even catch up to Karen after our lunch spot. She finishes just ahead of us, Clayton is behind and Troye and Muz are ahead. Grid times for tomorrow aren’t up yet, but we leave anyway as it probably will be a while.
We have dinner and desert with Julie, prepare for tomorrow again and go to bed early after having a closer look at the eagles. Wow, they are so big and beautiful.
The next morning it is cold, but not too bad. Jon and I are in the same grid (92) and leave at 8.47. We have a bad run in the first ti trees as we are trying to avoid a big pile up and end up in a bit of a dead end. Jon has a swim on Super Shute as he is trying to avoid a swimmer and I don’t see him again until a lot later. I have a swim at the last rapid of Emu’s, but the sun is out by then and it is not too cold.
I have a nasty swim in some ti trees which are determined to push my head under. After a while I finally get out and Jon is waiting for me. Karen continued on as she was paddling with us at the time I think.
Then disaster struck at Syd’s. Jon went first and I followed. It was all going fine until an official started shouting stuff at me as I was half way down Syd’s. I tried to listen and must have looked at her, next thing I know is I am in the water and I am facing down on my back. Not good. Half a second later I am hit by the first rock on my lower back, then 3 more follow quickly. I have no time to turn around or do anything as the water just pushes me along and eventually spits me out at the bottom pool. I am in a lot of pain, but luckily some guys around me who are also trying to get back on their boats help me by pushing my boat towards me. All I can think off is to try to get my back out of the water as I am afraid of hitting another rock. I manage to hang on my boat, but can’t lift my leg over. It takes another 5 minutes of hanging before I manage to swing my leg over. A nice guy (378 I think) holds my boat to ensure I am not going somewhere wrong. Jon is floating a bit further and eventually I manage to get some sugar and 2 nurofens into me. I am so happy I am carrying nurofen!
I try to paddle, but my stroke is rather weak as my back is hurting and I find it difficult to put any power into it. Jon lets me draft behind him and we slowly continue down. I am afraid of going down Bells as I can’t brace well or paddle with any power. I manage to get down it with only 2 swims, getting up on my boat is probably even more painful.
3km or so after Bells we meet up with Abby, Joe, Zoe and another girl. They feed us and give us water and I can stretch my back a little bit. Another swim in the ti trees thanks to a power boat that tries to cut me off, and then it is ‘just’ another 30 odd kms to the finish line…
I just keep paddling, trying not to think of my back and how much it still hurts. Jon and Pat are a little bit behind me, chatting away.
When I see the pagoda I relax a bit, I have made it and I wait for Jon as we have paddled pretty much everything together so it will be nice to finish together. Total paddling time over 2 days: 13hrs and 56 minutes.
Everybody is there, Muz, Lisa, Karen, Paul, Erin, Abby, Troye, Dave, Fran and I can’t remember who else. We get changed and eat something and the guys load all the boats. Kim and Marty also join us after picking up Karen’s car from Toodyay – yeah! that saves us having to go and pick it up now!!! Karen drives us home after Paul and Clayton also finish. We share some pizza and we all go to bed early.
The next morning my back is still sore. When I see my hip surgeon he tells me to have some x-rays done and he’ll have a look at them for me. X-rays are done immediately and not long after I finally know why my back is hurting so much: it is broken! I managed to break off 4 transverse processes in my lower back! Ouch!