Kate Tart Photography: Blog https://www.katetart.com/blog en-us (C) Kate Tart Photography (Kate Tart Photography) Fri, 12 May 2023 02:52:00 GMT Fri, 12 May 2023 02:52:00 GMT https://www.katetart.com/img/s/v-12/u830005098-o310974487-50.jpg Kate Tart Photography: Blog https://www.katetart.com/blog 120 90 2017 TWS Race Report https://www.katetart.com/blog/2023/5/2017tws DSC_0933DSC_0933 Hustle and Grind & Tart/Jones

Where to start?  I really need to start writing these right after the race.  I’d love to say I’m just spreading out the Safari enjoyment throughout the year, but the truth is that once Safari is over reality rears its head and it doesn't get done.  So here we are 10 months later and I’m pushing my tired brain to even remember what happened last year but the work I 'should' be doing is too overwhelming so I'm procrastinating but working on this instead.  So here goes.  Any inaccuracies, errors or omissions can be blamed on the fact that I’m a tired mom/architect/wife/etc and I just need a nap. 

2017 was on track to be a repeat of 2016. Nathan and Brian were back in the boat together for the second year in a row and Nathans’s dad and I were going to TC for them again.  Until our paddling family made me an offer I couldn't refuse.

I know I’ve said this before, but I love the paddling community.  They are some of the most humble, kind, loyal, strong, tough and determined people I have known.  Don’t get me wrong, there is the fair share of drama and a black sheep or two, but they have become our family here in Texas and mean more to me than I can ever put into words. In particular some of the women - they make me stronger, challenge me, encourage me, tell me to suck it up when necessary and most importantly just let me be me. 

So when Virginia and Shannon asked if I would TC for them I had to say yes.  So y’all don’t think I just bailed on Brian and Nathan, my husband was still in the VERY capable hands of his father who has been his TC since his very first Safari. This was Safari number seven for Nathan and something similar for Brian so they weren’t novices. Nathan was fully sportive. Well, he was until the TWS reached out because I was registered as a TC for both teams and they wanted to charge us to change out my spot TCin’g for the boys with Nathans mom who was replacing me. I’m pretty sure Nathan replied to that email with something along the lines of ‘since Virginia stole our TC she can pay the change fee.’  But otherwise he was fully supportive.

That wouldn’t be the last change though.  Originally Kaitlin and I were going to TC for Virginia and Shannon. Then Kaitlin decided to jump in the boat and Kaitlin’s mom jumped in as the second TC. I was a tad nervous about TCing with Kaitlin’s mom just because I hadn’t ever met her before but everyone I talked to loved her. And they were all right. Kathi and Darryl were great. They were laid back and so much fun to hang out with. Since none of my family is here in Texas, if I could adopt them as my Texas parents I would!  Well, if they would have me.      

The only slight hesitation was the fact that I wouldn’t get to see Nathan throughout the race.  I have been there for every race and wasn’t sure how it would feel to not be there.  We thought Nathan and Brian would be pretty closely matched to the girls and so I figured I would be able to see them at a handful of stops.  Well, as it turned out, they were more evenly matched than we thought.  For pretty much the entire race, the two boats were within a 10-15 minutes of each other and there was only one stop (Victoria City Park) where we missed Nathan and Brian.  Otherwise we saw them every step of the way through to the wooden bridge.  So much so that it stressed me out a little.  Don’t ask a girl who she wants to win when it comes to her team or her husband. ;) 



So let’s get to the race. I actually think the few hours before the race are the worst all season.  You are ready to race. No more training. No more prep. But you probably couldn’t sleep much even though you knew you needed it and have been up and are ready to just get in the boat and get going.  There was a little bit of anxiety and nerves that morning but I think once everyone was in the boat and warming up their game faces were on and they were ready to go.

For the most part, the race was relatively uneventful – if the TWS can be uneventful. There were no major issues. There were no hallucinations or even log jams that would keep everyone at salt water barrier guessing who would show up when.  And I had a boat full of pros.  Even though this was Shannon’s first safari she wasn’t a stranger to ultra-marathon sports. And she was in the boat with the Women’s record holders.  While things were going smoothly in the boat (or they put on a good face at stops) they were going smoothly on the banks as well.  That was until sometime on day two. We were driving Chris and Shannon’s truck that had been stolen weeks before and was still missing the control panel.  It didn't seem like a big deal at first and barely noticed.  Day one was so busy and fast and Kathi and I just kept chatting. But come day two when the stops are further apart and you’ve been talking for a day straight you need some music. You might think I'm being over dramatic but you haven't heard me sing and if you had you would understand the importance of a radio.


Kathi and I would rotate who we handed off to so that we could rotate checking on each of them and trying to assess how they were doing.  Quite paddlers make TC’s nervous.  Sometimes it’s just that they are calm and waiting for the TC to do what they need to do during a stop, but it can also be a sign of issues coming (exhaustion, pain, nutrition or hydration issues.)  Despite some concerns at times they kept cruising.  I did later hear that at one point Kaitlin was having issues drinking her spiz and had run out of solid food.  Around that same time the other boat they were close to – Tim Curry, Michael Vandeveer and Zach Peltier were paddling next to them eating snickers and tossing chips they didn’t want into the river.  The guys should be glad it was Kaitlin that was struggling.  If it had been Shannon or Virginia unable to drink spiz and needing solid food while they guy were snacking away and tossing out food I would have feared for their lives.  Their boat might have showed up at the next checkpoint missing a paddler.   


The only difficult moment during the race was Sunday afternoon.  The girls had just left a stop and the boys were just behind so we hung around to see them.  They hadn't listed this location as a stop so his mom and dad weren't there. All they wanted were ice socks and I couldn't give them anything. It killed me knowing how hot it was and how much they wanted ice socks. But they survived and got ice socks at the next stop. But it was a good lesson for novice and experienced TC's - regardless of the list of stops your team gives you, if you have a chance to see them on the river do it and even if they aren't expecting food have an ice sock and a water bottle ready just in case. The one time they need it they will be so grateful you were there.

The only time I got yelled at was at the Pump house.  At Victoria City Park, Shannon asked for Aleve.  Her back was hurting and she had been taking Advil and was worried about taking too much and asked for Aleve.  So we rounded some up Aleve and headed to the pump house to hand it off.  (This was the only stop we missed Nathan and Brian since we head out right after the girls left.) When I tossed her the bag I mistakenly said “here is your Advil.”  Shannon responds with a frustrated “but I wanted Aleve!” The tone in her voice was somewhere between 'I'm going to %$#^%$ kill you' and on the verge of tears thinking how far she would have to go before another chance of getting meds. I had to yell back that it was actually Aleve. I think she forgave me before we got to the next stop. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation may have gotten to us as well – we still got done what needed to be done, but maybe don’t trust what a TC says come day two. 

Because these girls are tough as nails, the kept on cranking and they paddled up to the steps early Monday morning and they were done.  44 hours, 20 minutes in 7th place!  I walked down the steps to congratulate them and just about that time they flipped the boat.  They had the skirt on and Virginia and Kaitlin were able to get out.  However, Shannon was secured a little too well in the skirt and couldn’t get out of the boat. I had flashbacks of a few years before when Nathan got so frustrated with the skirt he tied it to his life jacket so it wouldn’t fall down but then got stuck when we flipped.  I was able to grab Shannon and hold her up out of the water while we got her unfastened. We got her out of the boat, up the steps and the girls were done. Pictures were taken, post Safari supplies (they need home baked food to eat when they wake up starving whenever it is they wake up again) were handed out and I was off the clock.


But I wasn’t quite done.  Once we got the girls taken care of, I pulled up the spot tracker for the guys and it showed them on the sea wall but I couldn’t see anything.  The three man guys boat had come in in 8th place and I also knew Shawn Boyette was in the bay so they were racing him for 9th.  I started walking down the wall but they were further away than I thought.  First I just saw Brian walking on the wall towing the boat.  But I didn’t see Nathan.  ‘Where’s Nathan’ I yell.  Brian responds with ‘I lost Nathan.’  (perfect spot for an eye roll emoji) For a split second I’m legitimately concerned Brian left him somewhere. I’m sleep deprived.  Brian is also sleep deprived and physically exhausted so anything is possible in my head.  Eventually I see Nathan is walking on the wall just waaaaay back there.  Both Brian and Nathan were pretty spent but Nathan was moving slower than I liked.  I tried to show him Shawn’s bow light in the bay and that he needed to pick up the pace.  He tried to tell me it wasn’t a boat and it was a crab trap. I haven’t seen many crab traps with lights that move but after a couple rounds of that argument I said ‘fine, it’s a crab trap, JUST KEEP WALKING.’ Nathan could argue with me all he wanted about what that light was as long as he kept walking. And I of course retain the right to yell at him and order him around if it is for his own benifit.  He kept walking and 37 minutes after the girls finished, Nathan and Brian finished in 9th place in 44:57.   



We all know the saying ‘it takes a village.’  And I want to make sure to thank that village.

Karen Stewart: my mother had our kids during the entire race.  She is in her 70’s and she carted the kids around from stop to stop, in and out of hotels, and swimsuits, made stops for ice cream and woke them up to put them in the car and bring them to the finish in the ridiculously early hours of Monday morning to see daddy finish.  I couldn’t have TC’d the girls if she hadn’t taken care of our kids. And even though there are pictures out there of Parker running around naked at Fentress we'd have you back anytime! Thank you mom! 

Dwight and Ernestine Tart: while Nathans dad is an old pro (and has the scars to prove it - think open wounds and the green slime from Zedler), this was Nathan’s mom’s first time as TC. To say she was out of her comfort zone would be an understatement.  But she handled it like a champ and took on new challenges including some that I am pretty sure flat out scared her. But she did it!

Jiral Family: Darryl, Kathi and Landen - thank you for treating me like family.  Nothing scares an introvert like having to spend 24/7 with complete strangers but y'all made it so much fun and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Even after seven years I still feel like a newbie in the safari community so introducing the Jiral family to a new spot on the river was kind of fun.


Parker! No good story to go with this pic but he is just too cute to not include!

'till next year.....well....it's May so see you all in a few weeks.  Happy paddling.




(Kate Tart Photography) https://www.katetart.com/blog/2023/5/2017tws Thu, 11 May 2023 23:00:00 GMT
2016 TWS Race Report https://www.katetart.com/blog/2023/5/2016-tws-race-report The 2016 TWS was fairly uneventful – which was a good thing.  So what is there to tell?  Well, this was Nathan’s 6th TWS and I have done a race report every year for the last several races so I feel like I need to record this race as well.  So here goes. 

Nathan and Brian raced really well.  So well in fact and the race went so smoothly that most of the excitement happened before we ever got to race day so let me back up.  By the time we get to May the training runs are starting to wear on the support crew (in other words, me and the kids).  So one weekend Nathan and Brian were paddling from City Park to Luling 90.  The kids and I needed to get out of the house so I told Nathan and Brian that we would meet them at Luling 90 when they were done.  The kids could play in the river while we waited and we could all grab something to eat when they were done.  Of course this would turn out to be the one time I got an estimate of when they were starting instead of an actual text noting the time when they put in.  So I guessed when they should arrive and we got there about a ½ hour early and played.  And played.  And played.  Other boats came in.  No sign of the boys.  An hour after I thought they should have been there and no report from any of the other boats of having seen them I packed up and went to investigate.  I drove up to Fentress to see if maybe something happened and they had to pull out early.  No sign of them.  I drove to Zeddler in case they had decided to keep going.  Nope.  I went back to Luling 90.  By this time the kids were about at their breaking point and I hadn’t packed food for dinner and the kids were getting ‘hangry.’  I left a note on Nathan’s car (along with the taco’s I had picked up for him earlier) that we were headed home.  Not 3 minutes down the road I got a call that they had finished.  I turned around and headed back.  The kids at this point were starting to worry why Daddy wasn’t there so they were really glad to see them.  Then I got the story….

(As told re-told to me by Nathan)

They were coming around the last real turn before 90 and a tree had fallen blocking the left side of the river.  There was another log in the river and there was just enough room to get through…if they had made that decision early enough.  Instead they decided to try to bunny hop the tree.  When they hit the tree it threw Brian out of the bow and over the log.  Then the boat started to get sucked under the log.  Nathan jumped out of the boat, on top of the log, just as the boat is swept under the tree.  Nathan is straddling the log and inches his way to the boat.  He kick’s the stern to pop it out the other side.  At this point Brian does a Simone Biles back flip onto the boat to kick it up under another log so it doesn’t get wrapped around the tree he is holding onto.  It works, the boat pops out and is now drifting down stream.  Brian swims up to the boat, gets it over to the bank and flips it over.  No paddles.  They see one paddle, caught up in the pipes.  When they pulled the boat out to try to get over to the other paddle they find a double blade.  They paddle downstream, turned around and then paddled back upstream (with one double blade and one single blade) to look for the other paddles. They find one paddle stuck in a jam so they beach the boat and swim over to the jamb to fetch one more paddle.  The last paddle is stuck on a right hand sweeper that seems impossible to get with how fast the water is running. So Brian walked back upstream about 300 yards, puts a life jacket on and floats down to it refusing to lose the paddle.  He proceeds to climb over and under and through the jamb and pops out the other side (with the paddle).  Nathan gets in the boat, goes to pick up Brian and they continue on their way to Luling 90.  All of that took about an hour.  All said and done though the only real damage was the rudder where Nathan kicked it.  All paddles were recovered and the boys were fine.  Tired, but fine.

That’s enough excitement for one training season right?  Almost destroyed a boat and lost multiple paddles?  Apparently not.  We had another year of lots of pre-race rain and flooding and another race postponement.  Well Nathan and Brian wanted to get some miles in but couldn’t get on the San Marcos to train.  Town Lake was closed and they were tired of running the lower Guadalupe in high water.  So they loaded up the Aluminum and head to go paddle the Blanco.  However, after years of safari training we know the river levels of the San Marcos, Guadalupe and Colorado rivers, but, (and this is a big but), we haven’t ever paddled the Blanco and weren’t sure what levels were appropriate or what stretch could or should be paddled.  But they knew you can only run it in high water and with all the rain it had to be high water right?   

(Again, as re-told to me by Nathan)

They met up with Jack to see if the rudder is fixed from the previous incident.  Jack tells them that the Blanco has some of the best white water in Texas when it is up.  So of course Nathan and Brian think this is a great idea.  Nathan had heard horror stories of the land owners around the river so after going back and forth on where to leave the car at the top they pick a spot and hope it’s still there when they get back. In the first 200 yards they go through what they thought was a class 4 rapid.  (Yep, this was a good idea.)  They got some water in the boat so    they pull over and dump.  Regroup and are ready to go.  What followed is blind rapid after blind rapid after blind rapid of just going in and either bouncing off of rocks or barely missing them.  After about 20 of those they drop into one and it flips them both out of the boat and the boat heads into the heart of the rapid perpendicular to the river and just rolling.  The good news is they held on their paddles so they swim to the bank and it’s off to the races.  They watched the boat pop out on the other side so it made it through the rapids and was floating down river.  They start running down the bank to catch the boat and about 2-300 yards downstream Nathan manages to get ahead of the boat just as it is rounding a corner heading into another rapid.  He jumps in and grabs the boat.  Boat is back in possession and swam it to the opposite bank.  Fortunately the boat only had minor damage.  Both bulkheads had popped out of the water.  No holes and everything was intact.  So off they go.  They make it to the narrows and are portaging left.  After a small “discussion” with the land owner the see another boat being drug ahead of them.  Low and behold, it’s Molly and Amy.  After portaging both boats down into the narrows which was like an assembly line of lowering boats down ledges they got to spend a few minutes admiring the beauty of the river.  One more death rapid before they were home free.  Amy and Molly were smart enough to “let” the boys go first.  It was another blind rapid and as they were dropping in there was a massive boulder directly in the exit and a standing wave that looked like a tsunami.  Nathan made a split decision to jump out of the stern and grab the boat to stop it from going down the rapid.  Then Brian jumped out and they carefully get the boat out and portaged right.  The girls watch (or maybe just listen to the ‘oh s$#@t’ commentary ahead of them) and decide to not even attempt running it and they also portage. After that they made it to the take out without any more major incidents.  One more training run in the books and one more boat to take to get fixed.   

Anything other training stories?  Well, they also seemed to have an issue with Cottonseed.  Or maybe Cottonseed had an issue with them.  We also put our TC’s in training to work on a few runs.  Nathan and Brian were doing a training run from City Park to Luling 90 and wanted a handoff at Fentress.  So the kids and I headed down to Fentress Leisure Camp.  We set up a picnic, played in the river and the kids helps get the jugs ready.  About the time we thought they would be there we ventured back down to the water and hung out only to have them pull in and tell me they were done for the day. I’m not sure I ever got the full story and I think that’s the only training run the cut short but this training season definitely had it’s drama. 


Race Day


So we finally make it to the race.  Dwight and I were TC’s again.  My mother flew in to help take care of the kids but they were following along as well.  As for Nathan and Brian, everything went pretty smoothly.  They were cranking and ticking off the checkpoints pretty quickly.  The oddity this year was the rain on Saturday. It kept the temperatures down but also made things even wetter and muddier than usual (if that is actually possible).  When we got to Palmetto the crews from the first two boats were pulling out so it was pretty empty.  Then it started raining.  We all huddled under the tree canopy because we still had maybe an hour before they arrived.  I’m usually drenched in sweat about now.  Never occurred to me to pack an umbrella.  The rain came and went and had stopped by the time they came through.

Nathan and Brian kept pushing through the night but the rain came back the next morning.  When we got to Victoria City Park the place was covered in mud.  The flooding had deposited several inches of mud on the boat ramp and hillside.  They were running neck and neck with the 4 man boat (running in 3rd and 4th place) so we all went down to the boat ramp when we thought they would be coming through.  Right when the 4 man came in it let loose. (video here) A downpour of water and all that mud on the boat ramp started sliding down.  We tried to help round up the jugs and trash from the other boat because everything was just getting washed back into the river.  Even our crate and cooler were sliding down.  (I heard later someone found a shovel and scraped the mud off the boat ramp making it easier for later teams.  A shovel might be on next year’s TC packing list.)  The rain stopped just as we saw the boys come around the corner so we got to do the handoff without any issue.  But the damage had been done.  We were soaking wet and everything was a muddy mess.  We were standing in at least 6 inches of mud and it was just caked on us, our gear, and our shoes.  The best part was that Nathan asked for a peanut butter sandwich. We didn’t have one made but I knew I had enough time to get one made and meet him at the Pumphouse.  So I left Dwight to clean up the muddy mess of jugs and ice socks and gear (Thank you Dwight!) and I made a sandwich, hopped in my car and headed to get to the Pumphouse.  My shoes and feet had so much mud on them there wasn’t a chance I was going to be able to clean them so I took off and set them in the back of the car and drove to the pump house.  Once there I got out and managed to get my shoes back on and hoofed it over to the stairs passing well-dressed people headed to Sunday brunch while I’m soaking wet and covered in mud and looking like I’m wearing clogs made of mud.  One kid asked her mom why I was running and I could here her pause and struggle to find an answers.  I got down to the floating dock with time to spare which luckily gave me time to try to clean all the mud off.  The 4 man boat came by first. The boys came by a few minutes later, I tossed the sandwich to them as they paddled by and they were off.   

From the Pumphouse we headed to Victoria 59 just to see them (no handoff) and from there we headed to Dupont and set up.  The kids got their chairs out, we pulled out snacks and settled in.  We had a few hours before they got there and while Dupont, as a handoff, may be one of if not the worst, it’s one of the nicer checkpoints to spectate and wait.  There was a nice breeze, plenty of shade, tons of fake animals for the kids to hut for and find and just a relaxing place to hang out.  My mother brought lots of peanuts with her from Georgia that we boiled before the race.  A favorite of those of us raised in Georgia.  So I sat at Dupont and shelled a bag of cold, salty boiled peanuts to give to Nathan at the next checkpoint.  For probably an hour I shelled peanuts, the kids ate cookies and looked for snakes. 

Once again they were neck and neck with the 4 man so we were all down in the mud waiting for the boats.  The 4 man came in first.  Dwight and I were standing near the stern of the boat and offered to take some of the jugs/trash they were tossing out of the boat.  After all, we are knee deep in mud and can’t really go anywhere so we might as well help out.  Note to racers – we know this is a race.  However, once y’all are through the checkpoint or handoff the TC’s aren’t racing each other.  And especially at places like Dupont where it takes an act of god to be able to move through that mud to pick up all the jugs and bottles and ice socks strewn across the bank we help each other out.  So if another TC offers to take your trash and help out our TC.  Let them. ;) 

The boys were a little quiet coming into Dupont and for a second I was starting to worry a little but then while we were changing out jugs Nathan saw Shannon up on the banks and I hear a big “Hey Girl.  What’s up?”  Yep, he was fine.  They just knew the calmer they were the faster we could work.  And just like that they were out of Dupont and on the way to the log jams.  The sun was starting to set and we had hoped they would get through the cut before dark and it looked like they would but the jambs and cut can make or break races.  I headed to salt water barrier to wait.  They were in the home stretch. But we all know between Dupont and the sea wall anything can happen.    

TC's in training.

They came through SWB a few minutes behind the 4 man but still close on their heels.  However, Nathan was looking tired.  They unloaded all of their excess weight at the barrier, took some bread and Gatorade and headed to wooden bridge.  When they got to wooden bridge the 4 man boat was there trying to get on their skirt.  Sometimes the best part of the race is just listening to what is going on. I love Amy and she can be entertaining especially towards the end of the race.  Remember, at this point it’s dark, they have been paddling for 35ish hours, are physically and mentally tired and probably not functioning at peak mental capacity.  I think they missed the first snap and so when they got to the stern the skirt was off and not fitting correctly. At first they thought it was the wrong skirt for the boat and then maybe it was on backwards.  Eventually they got it fixed but listening to the entire thing play out had me cracking up.  It probably killed their TC’s because they can’t help but just had to watch all this play out.  In the meantime, the boys were able to come into wooden bridge, get their skirt on and get back in the water ahead of the 4 man.  At this point they were running in 3rd place.  No telling what would happen in the bay but they had a good shot at third.  The 4 man was out just a few minutes after then hot on their tails.  So we headed to the Seadrift to sit and wait.  But at this point there is too much excitement to really wait.  We were looking at a finish before midnight so my mom had loaded the kids into the car from the hotel and they were sleeping in the car.  We moved them to a blanket at the sea wall.  Parker asked if it was time to get on the airplane because that is the only time he gets woken up in the middle of the night is to head to the airport.  They went back to sleep and we watched the spot trackers.  It was neck and neck.  Then the boy’s spot tracker showed them stopped or barely moving as they were crossing the barge canal.  If I hadn’t been sleep deprived as well, that combined with the fact that I couldn’t see their bow light anymore would have told me they had flipped.  But they got going again pretty quickly.  I drove down to the end of the wall to cheer them on.  The 4 man still hadn’t come in so they still had a chance at 3rd.  They were giving it all they had.  They were paddling along the wall when the 4 man came in at an angle and finished in 3rd.  Less than a minute later (45 seconds I think) Nathan and Brian crossed the finish for 4th place.  39 hours and it had come down to 45 seconds.  It was a pretty incredible race. As a TC, they had a clean race.  As a wife, Nathan had put so much work into training for this race that I couldn’t have been more proud.     

(Kate Tart Photography) https://www.katetart.com/blog/2023/5/2016-tws-race-report Thu, 11 May 2023 15:19:06 GMT
2015 TWS - Part 2: The life of a TC (and the badass women of paddling) https://www.katetart.com/blog/2023/5/2015TWS_Part2 2015 TWS Race Report Part 2: The life of a TC (and the badass women of paddling)


I wrote this shortly after the safari last year but never got around to posting it.  Then I realized there were two stories here.  That of Tres Leches (Boat 3) through the eyes of their team captain (Part1), and then my experience of being a team captain. Here is part 2.

Although I have been on the banks (or in the boat) each year Nathan has raced, 2015 was my first year as TC.  His novice year I was all set to TC when I got pregnant with Kennedy and would have been 6+ months pregnant during the race.  So Nathan’s dad, Dwight, took over and has come back each year despite exhaustion and injury. This year was the first year since there could be two TC’s (that I wasn’t paddling) so I joined Dwight. 

I had a blast and got introduced to an entirely different side of the TWS. Not only did I gain a new appreciation for all TC’s but I also got a deeper dive into the paddling community.  Here’s the thing.  I am a classic introvert.  Married to a classic extravert.  So for years it was so much easier to just let him get to know everyone.  When you are in the boat you meet people, you see them at the put in and take outs, chat when you pass each other on the river.  But the people you really get to know are those in the boat with you.  And I already knew Nathan. ;)  That story has already been told.  However, with no kids (they stayed at the house with Grandma), no Nathan, and lots of time hanging out on the banks it was time for me to open up. 

Ok, on to the race.  Cottonseed was our first stop.  I found a spot on a rock on the banks and started chatting with the guy next to me.  Turned out he was part of a production crew for Yeti filming a couple of boats.  I didn't know it then, but I would be seeing a lot more of those guys.  After Cottonseed, the spectating was over, and it was time to get to work.  

Let me quickly sum up the actions of a TC.  Prep: mix jugs and bottles with water or spiz or whatever concoction the racers are eating/drinking, prep ice socks, and prep any other food they may want.  Do your best to estimate what time your team will arrive.  Make sure you get down to the river early because the cardinal sin of a TC is to be late and your team have to wait on you (or leave and keep going without the water/ice/food they need.) Go down to the banks and wait. Wait. Wait. When your team comes through, get all the new jugs and food into the boat as quickly and smoothly as possible.  Once they pull out pick up all the jugs, bottles and old ice socks that are strewn all over the banks.  Head back to the truck and get everything cleaned up.  Pack up and head to the next stop (likely with a stop for more ice and water along the way.)  Repeat.  Over and over and over.  Sleep deprivation, injuries, exhaustion and a layer of grime/mud/bug spray/sunscreen isn't just for the racers.  It applies to the TC's as well.  And to all the racers who's TC's take such good care of them they don't have to get out of the boat at Dupont and into the mystery muck, thank your TC.  We risk the random rashes, bacteria and unknown animals nibbling at our legs so you don't have to. And that muck must have a layer of glue in it, because it says with you for days. You are welcome. ;)   Now on to the fun stuff.

Our first handoff was Staples and this is where this years’ experience started to differ from others.  The boys were at the front of the pack, meaning so were we in regards to TC's and spectators.  When we got to Staples we pulled right up to the Spencer’s house and parked. That definitely beat having to park a ways down the road and lug everything like past years. At Palmetto we would get lucky again.  I could get used to traveling with the front of the pack (no pressure Nathan). This may sound trivial but after years of following the race, it’s really pretty nice. Although it doesn’t leave you with much downtime between the prep, cleanup, and travel time between handoffs and little to no time for sleep.

Once day one starts drawing to a close boats have settled into their grove and have spread out and you will find the boats (and therefore TC's) that are on pace with your boat.  Be nice to them, you will be spending a lot of time with them. Throughout the race, the boys were close to 283, the Martindale Mamacitas (Virginia and Katlin) and the Cowboys. And remember that Yeti film crew from Cottonseed?  Turns out they were following the girls and the Cowboys so we got to spend a lot of time with them as well.  Both boats came through Victoria 59 right after the boys. What the video doesn't show is the hilarity of this situation.  While it does show TC's in tutu's and a film crew hovering.  It doesn’t show the chest high weeds you have to climb through to get to the muddy bank that you have to then lower yourself down by rope to get to the water. And it doesn’t capture the fact that we are all hanging out in the mud under a bridge in 100 degree heat because we want to be there. That’s the safari. Be careful, the madness is addicting.

The other advantage of being a TC was that I was introduced to more of the women in this community.  Let me preface this by saying that I knew the women of Safari were badasses before this, but being a TC just reinforced that.  On any given year they might show up as a rockstar TC, a tough as nails solo paddler, or as a wife juggling taking care of kids while also taking care of paddlers (who can act like children come day two or three).  There are too many stories to tell and some of what happens on the river stays on the river. So I will leave you with one story that is just a quick snapshot in time but is a prime example of just how much heart, dedication, determination and grit these women have and why I want my kids to grow up in this 'village.'  Not just for Kennedy to grow up seeing what strong, confident, independent, badass women look like and to learn from them, but also for Parker to see the men that support and encourage those women. 

Ok, so here's the story.  When we pulled up to wooden bridge, Virginia and Kaitlin were getting their skirt on and prepped to cross the bay.  The boat was pulled up on ground so they could get everything on and the boat was right next to a fire ant bed (keep in mind it’s somewhere around midnight give or take and pitch black other than the light from the few headlamps).  Shannon and Virginia were getting the brunt of the fire ants yet neither of them were stopping what they were doing.  The goal was to get Virginia and Kaitlin back in the boat and across the bay and fire ants be dammed.  It wasn’t until the girls were back in the boat and on their way that Shannon turned to her legs.  Minutes later as she was sitting on the back of a truck, her feet covered in ice, the bites were all swelling up. If I recall correctly, she ended up with 100+ fire ant bites.  (And if urban legend is correct, Virginia just left the fire ants and paddled across the bay when them on her legs in their hunt for the women’s record – which they got by the way! #badassmamacitas)  So if you are ever looking for badass women, just look for the women in the boats and on the banks of the TWS.  They are humble, they don’t brag, they just show up, do their thing and let their work speak for itself.  But they are pretty easy to spot if you just keep your eyes open. 

Just a few more days until this year’s race.  See you on the river.

(Kate Tart Photography) https://www.katetart.com/blog/2023/5/2015TWS_Part2 Wed, 10 May 2023 23:00:00 GMT
2015 TWS Race Report: Through the eyes of a team captain https://www.katetart.com/blog/2023/5/2015TWS_Part1  wrote this shortly after the safari last year but never got around to posting it.  Then I realized there were two stories here.  That of Tres Leches (Boat 3) through the eyes of their team captain, and then my experience of being a team captain. So here is part 1. (Part 2 is here)

Tres Leches: Nathan Tart, Ben Horsey and Garrett Jones

Team Captains: Dwight Tart and Kate Tart

By the time we got to race day, everyone was ready.  A long training season was lengthened by flooding and more flooding.  When we planned our summer vacation (a week in North Carolina at Nathan’s parents’ house) we didn’t really plan for the possibility of the race being postponed multiple times.  That week was supposed to be after the race.  But two postponements later, and we were flying home from vacation the Wednesday before the race.  On top of having been lazy and lounging on the beach for a week, Nathan wasn't feeling well and went to the doctor on Thursday.  They thought it was possible he had strep (faintest line she had ever seen) but loaded him up on antibiotics and drugs to try to get him better before the race. Not exactly the note you want to start the safari on but what can you do?  Nathan's parents then flew in Thursday so his dad could TC and his mom could keep the kids for us.  Friday was chaotic.  I had to work that morning and all the guys were all anxious to get to San Marcos so they drove down early.  I eventually made it out of Austin and got to San Marcos in time to catch the end of the pre-race meeting.  We grabbed dinner, did some final prep work and everyone headed to bed.  

Race day:  The guys had a good prelim race and combined with all the boat changes due to the two postponements they were starting out front.  We got them into the water to warm up and headed down to Saltgrass to watch the portage at the end of Aquarina Springs.  There is an odd calm (if you aren’t racing) in the morning.  All your prep work is done, racers are just making final tweaks to the boat and it’s typically a few hours before you have a handoff.  It’s really the only time you get to just spectate.  Since we didn’t have a handoff until Staples so after the start we stopped by cottonseed.  As soon as the guys came through the rapids (cleanly!) we headed to staples.

My dad, who had never seen a safari before, flew into Austin that morning and made it down in time to see them come through Staples. The boys showed up in 5th, just seconds ahead of the 6th and 7th place boats (Cinco de Chango/283 and the Cowboys). When they boys came through they split us, I was on the bank side and Dwight was towards the river.  We were finishing the handoff as 283 came though.  I almost got tangled up with 283 as I was backing up out of the river and 283 came in before Dwight was able to get out of the water.  And then so did the Cowboys.  So Dwight ended up hanging out/swimming in the river until all the boats cleared out.  My dad was hanging out up on the all watching and took the video (blame him for the vertical framing). While you can't truly explain this race to someone and you can't experience it is just 10 minutes, this turned out to be a pretty entertaining introduction to day one of the Safari for my dad.    

The day proceeded like clockwork.  Fentress.  Luling 90.  At Luling 90 they were in 7th place, just 5 minutes behind 283 and 4 minutes behind the Cowboys.  The guys kept on trucking. While we were at Zeddler, Michele Horsey called and said she had some stuff for the guys.  Something about guacamole?  Nathan started racing when racers had to carry all their food in the boat and he lived off of 98% Spiz for the entire race.  Even when we raced after the rule change, we had a few snacks but were still 90% Spiz.  So when Michele showed up and started making guacamole that Garrett had requested I had to laugh.  It was just avocado, salt and lime juice but I still felt like I should offer them a margarita and chips to go with it when they came through. 

After Zeddler, the heat of the day was receding and we were on to Palmetto.  Boat 150 had already come through by the time we go to Palmetto but we were there to see everyone else come through.  The river level was less than ideal.  It was high enough that it was flowing over the center of the bridge and lighter, skilled boats could just go over the bridge.  But the bridge has a big pipe along the upstream side and the concrete edge raises up and down so there are small openings where a boat can come through but they better choose wisely. On the flip side, it was low enough that on the side of the bridge you could also get swept under the bridge.  Tommy Yonley and then Jonathan and Max came through after 5pm.  They both gingerly glided over the center of bridge.  Not long after Riverfitness came through and they had a different approach.  They were full steam ahead and I’m not sure if it was because their boat was bigger and heavier or if they just weren’t dead center on the bridge but they rammed the bridge and came to a dead stop.  Palmetto can be pretty noisy but when Riverfitness hit, there was a collective gasp and dead silence for a few seconds.  Pretty quickly the current caught the end of the boat and started swinging it around. They were able to jump out and get the boat up on the bridge, made their handoff and were on their way.  There was a nice gash in the bow of the boat and of course we all started wondering what that was going to do to their race and just how much damaged was done.  283 was next to come in and they portaged on river right lifting the boat up onto the bridge.  However, once the boat was up, Pete Binion who was at the back started getting pulled under the bridge.  One of his teammates tried to pull him up but he was getting pulled under as well.  Given the debris in the river from all the floods and the force of the current, there was no guarantee if someone went under the bridge they would come out on the other side.  It was entirely possible they would get stuck in debris under the bridge. Luckily, someone on the bridge was on their game and was able to pull him up.  So, 5 boats through this checkpoint and already one damaged and another almost lost a paddler under the bridge, and it wasn’t even dark yet.  Just 2 minutes later Tres Leches came through.  Having watched the previous boats, Dwight and I were overly clear in what we wanted them to do in regards to portaging.  We weren’t taking any chances.  They got river right, lifted the boat onto the bridge and everything went smoothly.  They were neck and neck with the Cowboys and pulled out of Palmetto at 5:50pm in 6th place. 

Our next stop was Gonzales.  The plan was for them to portage on river left around the damn. We got everything ready and then took a seat on the upstream side of the dam to wait and watch.  On the grass there was one lone guy sitting in a chair.  While I am the classic definition of an introvert, Dwight can strike up a conversation with anyone, and he did.  It turns out the guy lived in Gonzales and had just gotten off work and wanted to come down and watch some boats come through.  He had done the race maybe 20 years prior and every year he comes down to cheer on the boats as they come through. While we were waiting the sun set, a few other spectators showed up and we waited.  The boats are starting to get more spread out at this point and settling into a grove.  We were there in time to see 150 come through a little after 8:00 I think and the others trickle through slowly.  The boys showed up a little before 10:00.  They were on a great pace. (If you want to see, or more accurately, not see, what it's like paddling through the night there is some video from Gonzo here.)

With boats portgaging on both sides of the river and it getting dark it was hard to tell exactly what place they were in but we had to drive down to the gravel bar to check them in at the checkpoint after they came through and on the board they were 5th, just 1 minute ahead of 283 and 6 minutes ahead of the Cowboys.  The boys were still cruising at a pretty fast pace so we didn’t have much downtime. We refilled on ice and water and we were off to Hocheim.  We parked and both tried to sleep a little in the truck but I don’t think either of us really got any sleep.  Sometime after 1, we got up and started getting everything ready.  By the time you reach Hocheim the San Marcos River, its clear water and pleasant banks, are a distant memory.  Hocheim is a muddy, rocky steep bank with a rope that you have to use to climb up and down.  When we got there Mollie Binion and her other TC were getting their stuff down the hill to the river.  We followed suit.  The boys had been neck and neck with 283 the last time we saw either boat. While the boats do have spot trackers, they update about every 20 minutes and don’t all update at the same time so you can’t always tell who is in the lead.  So there we sat in the early hours of the morning on the muddy banks just staring up river waiting to see a light.  At some point during the last stretch 283 had passed the boys again and came through at 3:01 am.  Our boys came through at 3:05 am still in 6th place. The previous year Dwight had found an additional access point between Hocheim and Cheapside.  However, this time around it was dark it took a little leg work to find the place again. While we were waiting, I was finally able to get about 30 minutes sleep in the truck and when I woke up I was refreshed and ready to go.  We saw 283 come through and shortly after the boys came through.  We did a handoff and then headed to Cheapside.  Cheapside has always been mid-day to afternoon and for whatever reason there is no breeze and it is just hot. One would think that since it is up on a bluff there would be some reprieve but not really.  Luckily this time, we were still in the early morning hours.  This time I prepped everything and Dwight was able to get a little sleep.  The boys came through at 6:53 am, still in 6th place just behind 283 and just ahead of the Cowboys. 

The heat of day 2 came and the guys kept cruising checking off Cuero 236 at 8:51am.  However, they left Cuero without taking all of their jugs.  We didn’t get all the new jugs with their water in the boat before they took off.  As the temps were going to start rising we didn’t want them going that long without water so we headed to the RV park.  We weren’t scheduled to meet them there but were hoping to catch them and get the jugs to them.  The silver lining in this was that they got ice socks at an extra stop they hadn’t been planning on.

They kept knocking off the stops.  Thomaston. Nursery. Victoria.  When they pulled into Victoria Nathan got out of the boat and laid down in the water.  It was clear he was worn out.  Typically, Nathan doesn’t stop until he gets to Seadrift.  Stops are fast and minimal time in the water.  It was clear that he was fatigued.  In hind sight this was probably the beginning of his issues.  They pulled out of Victoria at 2:42 pm in 6th place.

We saw them again at Victoria 59.  But there is so much debris in front of the boat ramp it’s next to impossible to get out to them and I climbed out as far as I could sinking into the debris and much and we just threw jugs and ice socks back and forth.  On to Dupont. 

283 came through Dupont at 7:02 pm and the boys were 37 minutes behind leaving Dupont still in 6th place at 7:39 pm.  They were 24 minutes ahead of the girls in 7th place.  Late in day two their spot tracker stopped working.  Most of the race it wouldn't have mattered much because they were pretty consistently in their speed and split between them and the boat ahead of them.  At DuPont we told them to turn their spot on but they said the batteries were dead.  We could get them a new one at salt water barrier but that meant they were heading into alligator lake at dark without a working spot tracker so we would have no idea where they were. 

The sun went down as we headed to saltwater barrier.  We had a guess, but especially without a spot tracker, we really had no idea when we might see them.  The girls were the first to come through Saltwater barrier at 11:01pm having passed both the boys and 283.  The boys came through saltwater barrier in 7th place at 11:36pm..  But when they showed up Nathan was sick.  Really sick.  He couldn't hold anything down.  We got the spot tracker switched out, gave them food and a coke and sent them on their way.  There wasn’t any more we could do for them and the only real fix is reaching Seadrift.  We would see them at wooden bridge just a few miles downriver (and the last stop before the bay) and see how Nathan was feeling.  When they got to wooden bridge things had gone further downhill.  Nathan no longer had a shirt on and now had on his life jacket.  Apparently he had decided it was the smell of his shirt that was making him nauseous so he took it off.  Then he laid down in the boat, fell asleep and then rolled out of the boat and flipped it.  That was when they had him put on a life jacket and somewhere in the Guadalupe between saltwater barrier and wooden bridge lies the blue safari shirt.  I'm pretty sure this was safari #3 for that shirt so it was probably time to be retired anyway.  

When they got to wooden bridge we went ahead and told them to get out and we wanted to talk. We needed to assess Nathan.  That and they said their plan was for Nathan to sit on top of the skirt as they crossed the bay. (Or maybe lay on top?). Either way, if Nathan wasn't strong enough to sit up in the boat we weren't going to let them cross the bay, especially in the middle of the night.  So we made them rest.

Nathan wrapped up in their emergency blanket and I tried to sit in front of him to block the wind to help him stay warm.  But the wind kept the Mosquitoes off so I ended up swatting Mosquitoes off of him while he rested. (TC Job description fine print: Be prepared to use your body as a wind block while swatting mosquitoes off a lump without hitting that lump and waking him up.)  After about an hour he was ready to try eating. After a piece of bread and half a bottle of Gatorade he was getting some strength back.  He started getting feisty and upset that we wouldn't let him go yet, so I knew he was feeling better.  There was one boat that followed them into wooden bridge and had since left but no one else came through. So despite they two hour wait, they didn’t lose much ground.  About two hours after they arrived at wooden bridge they headed out (in 9th place I think).  And the rest was out of our hands.  


Sitting in Seadrift has a similar feeling to the start.  The race isn’t over but your job as the TC is (or so I thought).  All you can do at this point is sit and wait. So I sat staring towards the point and just watching their spot tracker.  It starts to get light and it looks like they are on track to get to Seadrift about 6:30 am and would be neck and neck for 8th place.  After losing two hours at wooden bridge, it would have still been a great finish.  They are just feet from fosters point and crossing the barge canal.  And then the spot tracker updated. And my heart sunk. They had turned and gone the other direction.  I was hoping there was just some glitch in the spot but it updated again and they were still headed away from the finish line.  This was the hardest part for me both as TC and as a wife.  I knew how tired and worn down they were.  They had worked so hard for a top finish and as they paddled the wrong direction other boats kept coming in.  It crushed me.  Eventually once the sun was up they got oriented, turned back towards Seadrift and made the final push to the finish line.  By the time we could see them, they had crossed the barge canal and were walking across the bay.  They were a rough looking crew.  Ben couldn't manage to sit up in the boat and Nathan, we would find out a few hours later, was severely dehydrated and his kidneys were shutting down and only functioning at 50%.  That final walk was a slow one.  They crossed the finish at 7:41 am in 12th place overall.  

I think we spent maybe 30 minutes at the finish taking pictures and letting Nathan lay down before we loaded him up to take him into Victoria to the ER.  When we got to the ER I filled out a triage form with his name and the reason we were there.  After I put the form through the mailbox in the wall a nurse walks out and says “I was just reading about you.”  Nathan looked at me with a confused face and it took me a minute in my sleep deprived state to remember that there was a reporter at Victoria City Park that talked to Dwight and myself and had taken some pictures.  When we walked into the triage room they pulled out the newspaper.  They also said they had been talking about the fact that they hadn’t had Safari races come in ‘yet.’ Guess that is just another Safari tradition. 


They put four IV's into him and wanted to keep going but Nathan didn't want to be admitted and checked himself out with the agreement that I got to micromanage how much he was drinking until we got back to Austin and he could check in with his doctor.  I knew he was feeling better though when he sent me out for chick-Fil-a (while he got IV’s and a nap).  

When we got to our hotel, Nathan wanted to shower and set our alarm for 2 hours later to get dinner and go back down to the sea wall.  After all, he slept driving to Victoria, slept while getting his IV's and slept on the way to our hotel in Port Lavaca so he was starting to feel rested.  Meanwhile, it's 3pm on Monday and remember that 30 minutes of sleep I got on night one?  That is all I have slept since waking up Saturday morning but now I get to sleep.  Even if just 2 hours.  I set our alarm for 5pm. We awoke with a vengeance at 8pm.  Apparently in my sleep deprived state I set it for 5am instead of pm (I blame sleep deprivation, Nathan argued it was intentional) and we just slept.  We grabbed dinner and headed back to the sea wall.  Other than micromanaging my husbands fluid intake, which I know he just loved, I was finally off duty as TC and could relax and just hang out.  Safari 2015 was a wrap.


(Kate Tart Photography) Race Report Texas Water Safari TWS https://www.katetart.com/blog/2023/5/2015TWS_Part1 Tue, 09 May 2023 23:00:00 GMT
2014 TWS Race Report (Double Dawg) https://www.katetart.com/blog/2023/5/2014-tws-race-report-double-dawg

This race was a family affair on all levels. First I have to say a huge thank you to our entire family that helped us get to the finish line.  From coming to Austin just to take care of the kids so we could get in training runs or check out log jambs, to following us along during the race and surviving injury and exhaustion to make sure we made it to the finish, we couldn’t have done it without you.  Y’all were amazingly supportive and we will always be grateful.

And a special thank you to our Team Captains, Dwight (Nathan’s dad) and Steven (Nathan’s brother-in-law). They meet us at each checkpoint and stop that they can find to provide us with water, ice, food, ice socks and encouragement.  They were sleep deprived, dealing with the heat, climbing down muddy slippery river banks to get to us and they have the battle scars to prove it.


The race….
Aside from Nathan losing his sunglasses 5 minutes into the race, day one went like clockwork.  We felt great, had a steady pace and were clicking off checkpoints one at a time.  We made it through most of the portages and rapids without incident.  Nathan did have to bail at Cottonseed to avoid hitting a 4 man boat that was stopped in front of us.  But overall we couldn’t have asked for a better day one.  We even made it to Palmetto about a half an hour ahead of our goal giving us a little extra daylight.



As it got dark we noticed a bright light ahead of us.  We might have some company for the night for which I was grateful.  We slowly caught up with Chris Stevenson.  Not only did having someone to talk to made the hours pass but he freely shared his knowledge of the logjams ahead and thoughts on crossing the bay.  When we reached the first small logjam Don and Rebecca Zeek were exiting the logjam just ahead of us and for the next few hours the three of us all paddled together.  Then we hit the big logjam that required us to portage around it.  It is hard to describe just what these logjams are like but imagine mud the consistency of peanut butter that you sink into and just stick, steep banks, barb wire and then steep banks back down the other side.  This turned out to be where we lost one of our hatch covers (the third since we started training, for some reason we couldn’t keep them on the boat.)  It had actually become our thing so much so that when Megan Yeager passed the logjam later that night and saw it, she knew it had to be ours.

At the Gonzales Dam we all split.  Chris went river left, we went river right down the rocks.  At the gravel bar we stopped to get food and water and I laid down in the river to relax my muscles.  It was about 1:00 am.  That was a mistake I won’t make again.  I never did warm back up.  While the fact that we weren’t dealing with 100 degree plus temperatures during the day was nice it also meant it was cooler at night.  I had decided against bringing a jacket (although I had been advised to) and I was shivering and teeth chattering.  By about 2:30 I was worthless to Nathan so we switched, and I got in the front of the boat to lay down and try to sleep/warm up.  Nathan got in the back and kept paddling.  It took me about 45 minutes to stop shivering and then I got about 45 minutes of sleep.  When I woke up about 4 am I was a new woman.  Which was a good thing since day 2 is a beast.


From the gravel bar to Hochheim is 37 miles.  The longest stretch between checkpoints.  Our goal was to average about 5mph the entire race so you can do the math.  It’s a long night.  Following that is 25 miles from Hocheim to Cheapside in the heat of the day.  I don’t know what is about that stretch but there is no wind and no shade.  It is just long and hot.  Nathan and I broke it up by saying that every hour we allowed ourselves a 2 minute break to get out of the boat and get in the water to cool off.  We had also given our TC’s a challenge to find a spot during that stretch to give us ice socks.  We had just hit an hour mark and were looking for a good spot to get out when Nathan told me we had ice socks.  Down the river we could see Dwight and Steve waiving at us from someone’s dock.  Up on the deck above the dock was the owner and his dog just chilling and having a beer.  Those ice socks, and our discussion wondering how in the world they found that guy and talked their way onto his property kept us distracted for a few hours.

We were making pretty good time on day two and knew there were some rapids around Nursery.  The problem was we couldn’t remember exactly where and there was a chance we could still hit those during daylight hours so we kept pushing to get through Thomaston and the rapids before dark.  By some miracle we made it and we were glad we did.  There was more water in the river than the last time we ran that stretch and in the dark I’m not sure if we would have made it through those without flipping.

As we headed into Victoria we were trying to avoid a sweeper and a large log that we could see, when another log just below the surface that we didn’t see flipped us and swamped the boat.  We were both tired and Nathan was dealing with some pain in his rib and my shoulder was struggling.  After that we were also frustrated and wet.  Unlike night one, Nathan was now worried that if he tried to paddle while I slept we could flip again and getting thrown out of the boat while sleeping could be dangerous.  So we pulled up, ate some food and slept for almost 2 hours at Victoria.  When we pulled into Victoria we were in 21st place and the 3rd mixed tandem unlimited.  That would not be the case when we pulled out.

Just before 4am we headed out from Victoria.  Holly Orr headed out with us and I can’t explain how much it helps to have someone to talk to and take your mind off of the fatigue and pain.  I may have even paid a little more attention to my form and stroke knowing Holly was watching.  Holly gave me my first paddling lesson about a year ago. She was going for her 10th Safari finish and trying to beat her own C1 record.  (C1 is considered the hardest boat, solo, no rudder.)  She accomplished both.  We also met up with Joe and Libby Geisinger.  This was days before Libby’s 18th birthday and this was how she wanted to celebrate. How cool is that? We had paddled some with Joe and Libby on day one and she is amazing in the stern of the C2.  The 3 of us paddled together while the sun came up and the heat came out.  By the time we hit Dupont though I was fading.  My shoulder was burning and at Dupont, Joe, Libby and Holly headed out as we slowed down.

We made it through the railroad logjam and the cut and we finally caught sight of saltwater barrier. I could have screamed for joy.  Without an ice pack my shoulder felt like I was being poked with a branding iron but not paddling didn’t get me any closer to the finish and it wasn’t fair to Nathan for him to pull me down the river so I kept putting my paddle in the water.  How much power was behind that paddle is up for debate.

We stopped at saltwater barrier to ice my back and once that was numb we got fresh ice packs and headed out.  When we got to Tivoli bridge my brother who had flown in from Atlanta was there waiting for us.  We stopped at wooden bridge, said hi to the resident alligator and took on some food and water.


We hit the bay about 5:45pm.   Our goal was to get across the bay and follow the shoreline to Seadrift.  The wind and waves were definitely a challenge but we made it across the bay in about an hour and were getting close to the other shoreline when we turned and flipped.  We walked the boat over to the shoreline.  At this point it is deceptive how far you have to go.  We walked the boat for about half an hour until we decided we were never going to make it at that speed so we got back in the boat and paddled and paddled and paddled.  We finally reached the point of the barge canal just before 9:00pm and the sun setting.  I was exhausted and can’t being to explain how ready I was to be at the finish.  I knew my kids were there waiting for me and our family had been cheering us on for days.  But it was now dark and we had not yet crossed the barge canal.  That is the one stretch of the bay that is too deep to walk.  Given how tippy we were in that boat and how rough the bay was I had lost confidence that we could make it without flipping and I wasn’t up for trying to swim in that choppy water pulling a boat.  So we sat.  We talked through our options and decided to try to wait it out until light.  But the reality of trying to set up camp ended up being a worse reality.  We were wet, it was windy and the island is full of briars.  While we kept debating our options we could see lights on the other side.  Turns out that my brother was up on the bluff playing with the headlights and driving in circles trying to get us to push on.

The final push that we needed turned out to be Mollie Binion.  She paddled by just as we were thinking about crossing.  She reminded us that the area of the barge canal that is dredged is pretty narrow so we only have a short way to go to cross it and then we can walk it in if we flip.  That one encounter may have only been a tiny part of Mollie’s race, but it was the encouragement and confidence I needed to push on.  Mollie headed across ahead of us.  We had to wait for a barge to come through but we headed across some time after 10:00.  Both of us paddled on the same side the entire time just trying not to flip and we finally made it across.  Once we got to the marsh on the other side we got out and walked it the rest of the way in.  We finally crossed the finish line at 11:42pm.


Waiting was our entire family.  Parker was sound asleep in the stroller.  Kennedy had been sleeping on a makeshift pallet and woke up for us to come in. In the end we finished in 30th place in 62:42.  We were 4th mixed tandem unlimited.  Given that the three mixed boats that finished ahead of us have a total combined 70 (yes 70!) TWS finishes, including a couple overall wins and the woman who holds the record for the youngest womens solo finisher, we felt pretty good about our finish.


The race itself was just the culmination of all of our training but I can’t imagine having done any of it with a better coach or partner.

(Kate Tart Photography) Race Report Texas Water Safari TWS https://www.katetart.com/blog/2023/5/2014-tws-race-report-double-dawg Sun, 07 May 2023 23:00:00 GMT