GREEN RACE 2017: A Tale Of Two Races

Taking on the Green Race Ironman Challenge

by: Bobby “The Dogg” Miller

Photo: Greg Knicker

Every year on the first Saturday in November, the best paddlers from the East Coast (and some from other areas) come test themselves on a challenging stage of the highest magnitude at the Green Race. There is always a large amount of carnage mixed in with smooth lines as the racers feverously battle to go fast while feeling the burn in every ounce of muscle, bone, and sinew! Those that complete the course in under 5 minutes gain the prestigious honor of earning their “Class 5 Certification.” Crowds of people pack the banks to cheer on these racers. It is a spectacle rarely seen in the complacent and serene world of kayaking, and has been aptly deemed the “Greatest Show on Earth!”

Photo: Alex Harvey

Photo: Alex Harvey

The Dogg has come out 3 of that last 4 years to take on the monumental task of racing the Green, without much success. You see reader, I have had bad luck at one rapid, Go Left and Die, due to a log across the entry, swimming out of it the last two years, leaving me heartbroken and frustrated. I decided to take a trip down to the Green this summer when they weren’t releasing, using a pulley system, a crow bar, and a 15 amp Sawzall to shift the log and drop it down, so water would flow over it, allowing for a straight on run. I find it important to alter the river bed to suit your needs when you struggle to run a line properly. With Go Left taken care of, I was ready to lay down a fast time, with a goal of not just going under 5 minutes, but crushing that time. This year, I had a stroke of good luck fall into my lap. A few days before the race, as Dagger Kayaks team manager Chris Gragtmans emailed me to let me know that there was an extra Phantom prototype for me to use in the short boat division (this is Dagger’s new creek race boat due to hit the market in February). When offered the opportunity to race the Ironman (2 classes), you can bet that the Dogg was ready to dance with that devil in the pale moonlight!

Photo: Chad Blotner

Finally, it was race day and I was feeling both excited and ready to dominate. To intimidate the other racers, I walked up and down the field flexing the massive muscles I had built up from my training. When I was satisfied that everyone was legitimately afraid to race me, I geared up and began the hike in. My friend, Greg Bezier, had agreed to help me out and paddle the Phantom in and out of the Green, so I wouldn’t have to deal with the burden of towing a boat. To get my muscles warmed up, I Prancersized down the trail to the putin. After a short easy paddle in, we arrived at Frankenstein and parked the boats on the left bank. Greg went downstream to watch the race, while I practiced my Warrior II Pose (Virabhadrasana II) to awaken the warrior within.

Photo: Chad Blotner

I got in my boat, ready to race, and, before I knew it, it was go time! I headed out of the gate hard, determined to keep pace with the top racers. I was giving it everything I got!

The race started out well as I navigated my way down the course. I took the straight left line at Go Left. I rocketing through. I was excited that I had that drop behind me, but still very aware that there are plenty of tough drops left. Before I knew it, I was approaching Gorilla and the sight of the MILLIONS… AND MILLIONS of fans cheering from the bank. I sailed off the lip of Gorilla, but my boof stroke was off vertical, causing my bow to turn a little left. I hit the left eddy at the bottom and spun around. As I peeled out, I decided to conserve energy and not drive to the right as hard as I could. Instead, I entered the next rapid, Scream Machine, left of center. I had always skipped right over the hole in the past, so I gave it little thought. However, this time, the hole stopped me completely and pulled me back in for a surf. I was deep in the hole, lovin’ her strong, but soon I realized just how tired I was. I had no air and no energy left to paddle out. I got flipped and the river slammed me into a Downward Facing Dog pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana) that I couldn’t escape. My boat was getting tossed around like a rag doll in spin drier, and I saw no alternative but to pull the freedom cord.

Photo: Todd McGinnis

I swam toward the rock in the middle where I saw a familiar face in Andrew Grizzell with his hand extended. Unfortunately, my Greenboat floated between us, and I pulled him into the torrent with me. He was tethered in so he got back to the rock easily, but I continued swimming down Nies’ Pieces, a bumpy slide that has injured several swimmers in the past. I hit the hole at the bottom and was pulled down into the Mesopelagic Zone, where little light can hope to penetrate. Once I reached the bottom of the river, a squid faced man with a crab claw for a hand tried to keep me under! Luckily, my Astral life jacket pulled me back to the surface where I saw a rope coming my way. I grabbed on and rode it to shore. It took a while to catch my breath and, along with copious amounts of water, up came most of my lunch. Since I was in need of an energy boost for the Short Boat class, and because real dogs are fond of this, I decided to give my lunch a second chance to be digested. I greedily devoured it off the jagged rocks, along with a few chunks off my drytop, before heading downstream to get my boat. Waste not, want not, I always say!

Photo: Todd McGinnis

Photo: Todd McGinnis

I picked up my Greenboat and paddle at the finish line and ended my long boat race with a horrendous time of 14:19. To say The Dogg was disappointed would be an understatement. I felt that I had been reprimanded by the river, like the time I got yelled at for taking a selfie by the casket at the viewing for one of my distant relatives. Another year of training, another disappointing finish, another 365 days until I could try again. The wheel in the sky keeps on turning. It was time for the violins to start playing, the life boats to be deployed, and the blue diamond necklace to be tossed to the depths of the ocean! If I wanted to view the glass as half full, I could say that I was now in 1st place for most swims during the Green Race! Whenever I am feeling sad because of some dilemma and need cheering up, I think of Jay Z because, all b****es aside, 99 problems is a lot of problems for one man to have!

But wait! Not this year! I still had another run left in me and I had a boat waiting for me at the start line! I was not entirely stoked to race again but the Phantom was up at the start and needed to come down the run one way or the other. Racing again after a rough swim was like watching my brand new Cadillac roll off a cliff with that annoying family cat inside, I had mixed feelings. I ran into Wade Harrison, who enthusiastically encouraged me to go back out there and have a great short boat lap. No time to cry like a baby with a skinned knee, this was a time for redemption. It was time to turn this moldy bread into Penicillin! What? Who says stuff like that?! I couldn’t let fear get in the way of reaching my goals. After all, fear is the cockblock of all dreams! Nothing harshes my mellow worse than unfulfilled goals. To get myself in the right mind space to make another race run, I sat in the full Lotus position (Padmasana) and envisioned my run. As I opened and rested my jaw, I looked deep inside at who I am. A flash of thousands of successful descents of steep drops at the lowest of flows ran through my mind like an old movie reel spinning out of control on fast forward. I saw myself as I needed to see in this moment: I am the Dogg and he is me. I came back to consciousness, feeling uplifted and ready to kick some a$$!

I got in my boat, deciding that I would run the course at a steady pace, focusing on hitting my lines and keeping my energy level up. Soon, I was in the starting gate and my race lap began. My nervousness disappeared as the high performance of the Phantom kicked in and I settled into a comfort zone. The Phantom won’t make you handsome like me, but it is an incredible creek race boat! My confidence grew, my stroke rate picked up, and it was suddenly like BOOM! I exploded like a hedgehog, sonically! I was in the zone and everything fell into place for me. The race was a blur, filled with fast lines, all laid down flawlessly one by one. I aced Go Left again then skipped right over the hole at the top of Zwicks to nail the low volume race line. My confidence was growing as I accelerated over that slick rock shelf that cuts out the turn in the river. There ain’t nothing wrong with a little bump and grind!

I backed my pace down approaching Gorilla, to make sure I hit the line. I landed well off the falls and skipped over the Speed Trap. Moving away from that drop, I was careful to get further right than my long boat run and keep the bow riding high right through Scream Machine. I kept my speed up rocketing over the holes in the next two drops. I flew down the final slide and crossed the finish line. I sat there in the eddy smiling. I like smiling, smiling’s my favorite! Not really thinking about my race time, Brad McMillan paddled up and congratulated me on going sub 5. I was so zoned in on nailing my lines that I hadn’t thought about going sub 5! YEAH! It ain’t even a question how my dough flows! My run was the embodiment of focus, discipline, and unwavering concentration! Namaste b****es! It’s been said many times that the Dogg has the heart of a lion, and it was never more apparent than at this point. The same was once said about my alcoholic uncle, but his got him a life time ban from the zoo. I digress.

I was ecstatic to finally reach my goal! I earned my Class 5 certification! It took a lot longer to reach this moment than expected but that made it all the sweeter! I was in a celebrating mood, and I needed some alcohol in my system fast! Luckily, the vodka suppositories I kept in the takeout vehicle did the trick and before I knew it I was butt wasted, no pun intended. I later found out that I made top 10 in the short boat class, placing 9th. I smiled so wide that I had to turn sideways to fit through the doorway at the Blue Ridge Community College, where the post-race party was held. So, until next year, I will say vamonos, amigos, throw the busted leather flintcraw over the loose weave of the saddlecock, and ride on in the friscalating dusklight.

I want to thank all of the companies who have supported me this year with phenomenal gear: Dagger kayaks, Accent paddles, Immersion Research, and Astral.

Photo: Brad Roberts

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