Continentals take on the 90-miler canoe race

By Ben Fields ’15, Sirianna Santacrose ’15

For the past two weeks, you may not have realized that scattered across campus, 22 members of the Hamilton community have been waking up daily at 5:30 a.m. to practice for the 30th annual 90-Miler Adirondack Canoe Classic, held last weekend. Also known as the 90-miler, this three-day race begins in Old Forge and ends in Saranac Lake, following many of the routes taken by early settlers and Adirondack guides of the region.

Beginning the Sunday before classes started, students like Courtney Anderson ’15 left campus at 5:50 a.m. in order to arrive at either the Erie Canal where the Hamilton crew team practices or the Delta Lake in Rome by 6:30 a.m. After about an hour of paddling, she, along with other members of her team, would return to campus in time for those who had a 9 a.m. class. Anderson noted that there was “a wide range of skill sets” on the team, including some seniors who had done the 90-miler before as well as those who had been in a canoe only a few times in their lives, such as herself. Senior Isabel Krakoff noted that “training is just about as hard as you think getting ready to paddle 90 miles is.” But that didn’t stop this intrepid batch of Hamilton students; with just two weeks of practice under their belts, they hit the water.

The Hamilton canoe racing team left campus last Friday morning at 5 a.m. and were in the water by 7:30 a.m. 35 miles later, around 3 p.m., members of the six Hamilton boats finished paddling and were ready for some well-deserved rest. Luckily, members of the pit crew were close at hand to assist with helping to carry the boats overland, refilling water bottles and setting up the camps for the night.

Charley Allegar ’14, one of the captains of the canoe race’s 11-person support staff, enjoyed giving the racers encouragement throughout the day while throwing Clif bars, water and Advil their way. Having done the race for the past two years, he humbly said that this year, he wanted to make sure to “give other people the chance to participate.” Even from the sidelines, he found the race to be an exciting and fun experience, as well as a great way to get to know members of the pit crew better.

The race included ten different classes of canoes and kayaks, some racing and others touring, including Hamilton’s eight-person war canoe. Those boats involved in “open touring” were given a head start in order to have time to complete the course as they were in a non-racing category. The 275 boats involved in the event paddled 30 miles on Saturday and 25 miles on Sunday.

At the end of the race, each participant was given a mileage pin to commemorate the cumulative distance they had traveled in the race to date. One man present had been participating in the race since its inception in 1983. Anderson was impressed by the range of ages that took part in the race, noting that, “the average age was probably around mid-40s or 50s.” She lightheartedly added, “at some points, we’d be at a good pace when some 60-year-old men would pass us. They’ve been doing it so long they know how to do it perfectly!”

Director of Outdoor Leadership, Andrew Jillings got his 630-mile pin this year. Jillings, who has held the record for the one-person kayak since 2008, captained Hamilton’s eight-person boat this year. He said of last weekend’s event, “That was the most fun 90 I’ve ever done–it was that much fun with these guys.” He noted that it was especially exciting when on Sunday, there was a stretch of time during which his boat was neck and neck with two other boats, each just six feet away. “For a five-hour race, that really got our adrenaline pumping,” Jillings enthusiastically added. His boat came in second place in its category, losing only to the boat “Dogbreath,” made up of some of the fastest racers in the state.

During the race emotions ranged from ecstatic to morbid on an hourly basis. Krakoff illustrated her feelings during the race, saying, “it does kind of suck. You’re giving 100% exertion for an entire day, nonstop… But it’s simultaneously the greatest, and most fun thing I’ve ever done.” The act of paddling 90 miles in just three days is something few people could even imagine, and it is only natural that Hamilton’s athletes rode the current from elation to depression as they paddled through the Adirondacks.

But by the end of the race, many people could not even believe what they had just accomplished. Anderson remembers being amazed at how quickly the event went by. “At the last carry [on Sunday], they said four miles to go; I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve gone 86 miles already!’” Lindsay Pattison ’16 noted that while “at some points it was hard to bend down, especially in the evening” due to soreness, “I felt so good at the end of it–I didn’t want it to end.” She also loved the team camaraderie that developed during the past two weeks. “When you’re out there,” she said, “you just want everyone to do well. Every time you passed a Hamilton boat you’d cheer for them.” As Krakoff put it, “it’s a solid balance between I hate you and I want to hit you over the head with his without you.”

One of the highlights of the weekend for the participants was the fact that at the end of each day, Byrne Dairy, one of the sponsors of the 90-mile race, provided the best of all sports recovery drinks, chocolate milk, for everyone. The milk acted as an excellent recovery drink for the paddlers, as well as a refreshing treat at the end of a hard day’s work.

All in all, everyone who participated in the 90-miler can say that they have accomplished something not many others can boast to have completed. As Krakoff reflected, “Being able to say that I paddled the full 90 AND came in second in my class this year felt incredible.”

While some suffered tired muscles and blistered hands as a result of the past weekend, many are eager to compete in next year’s race. As David Morgan ’15 and Pattison succinctly agreed, “I’d do it again tomorrow.”


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