If you like to get on the water to paddle around, River Bear Racing knows how to make it ultra fun! Lightweight layups, state-of-the-art rudder and bailer systems, comfy life jackets and carbon-fiber paddles DO make a difference. An older paddler exerts less effort to load and pull the boat through the water with the design features of Stellar kayaks, surf skiis, and paddle boards. The competitive racer on the other hand goes really, really fast!
You’re only as good as your gear, right? Absolutely!
Enjoy the new look and feel of River Bear Racing. And tell Steve that Julie sent you, k?
He left before I woke up and long after I was up in the middle of the night baking him cookies for the race. Another strange night it was. I had crashed early in the evening, many hours before my bed time . . . not that there is a usual bed time, that is. I am still up very late about 2 nights per week yet that is a huuuuge improvement from my years as a night owl. But my tummy hurt and I just couldn’t stay asleep. All I could think about was those cookies that I wasn’t able to bake as promised and the risk of my beloved River Bear collapsing in the river the next day. So I got up and started mixing up the ingredients sometime after 2:00 a.m. The story was unveiling vividly in my mind as the scent of baking chocolate chips and Irish butter filled the air . . .
My beloved would be paddling a new-to-him Wenonah J203 carbon-fiber marathon canoe, probably putting him at the back of the more accomplished river rats on Saturday. They all would be pushing their limits in the cold and rainy weather, trying to get back into shape for the upcoming race season. RB would be no different. The only difference is that he would be competing with a sinus infection on top of some chronic breathing issues. The realization of the risks was just enough to drive the mind wild of a kayaking-turned-canoeing “widow.” Yeah, I don’t see him much during the Spring-Summer-Fall racing season so temporary paddling “widow” I become!
Today was especially of concern. If he got a coughing spell when on a remote part of the river, spread out for miles over the course with the other dozen-or-so racers, there’s a good chance that only a real bear in the woods would have heard him struggling. His brown, furry cousin probably would not have minded my beloved’s residual garlic breath as he munched on his serendipitous, soggy lunch feast. But that was not the worst of my worries. More likely another racer in an equally tippy performance kayak would see my beloved slumping forward, splash into the water to save him, and be unable to do much of anything about it. I foresaw in my mind’s eye that probably would be LB, of course.
She in her 4-foot 10-inch frame would jump out of her boat, neither one wearing a life jacket despite the cooler water conditions, and wrestle with RB’s muscular/lifeless body as it flopped into the current of the Tippicanoe River: he almost 70 pounds her senior and her struggling to keep both of them afloat. The river would win and down he would go. She would be traumatized and exhausted from the fight against the swirling water, the soaked mass of a man, the expensive boats and paddles flowing downstream, the desperate feeling of not being able to save him no matter how hard she tried. I could see it all in my mind’s eye, of course, in an instant. I had been in a similar situation myself just 8 years ago during my first encounter with a performance sea kayak on the Allegheny River. I feared for my life!
Back at the boat launch or maybe when she could signal for help, LB would desperately reach out. The fellow racers would leap into action, scouring the shoreline for signs of the man who teased them hours earlier with a craft beer for any seasoned canoeist who could beat him on his maiden voyage that day. They may or may not find him or his gear. The rescue boat would eventually arrive, find and take his body to a local hospital for the fateful pronouncement. The paddlers would stand in a circle at the take-out speechless, none volunteering to call the wife over 100 miles away who had sent along home-baked cookies for the annual meeting afterwards. No one would be brave enough to call her or maybe the Fire Department would at least leave a message?
Do they ever really tell you all of the news anyways that you need to know when you get a dire phone call at a time like this? I would then be in my own racing seat as I made the 2-hour drive to the Lafayette area, wondering if I had the right name of the facility where my RB was being held under refrigeration. Perhaps I would drive from facility to facility searching for my loved one? And what would they tell me when I found him? Would anyone be there to tell me the story of what happened? Would the racers have taken a luscious cookie but gone on home anyways, themselves suffering from the trauma of the friendly competition gone wrong?
And what would I do next? What about the pup at home, the phone calls that needed to be made? I would probably have to stay over a few nights to release my hubby’s body to return to our home town on Monday morning and begin preparations for the worst event of my life: a funeral! I have done this in the past a few times and it is exceedingly and painfully difficult. Oh dear, what would become of my elderly family member out of state for whom I have become a measure of a caregiver? Where would my beloved’s children stay, what would I say when they arrived grieved beyond belief from all over the country and 2 foreign countries? Holy cow. Maybe I would just sink and die myself right then and there rather than deal with it all.
Or maybe not.
Twelve hours and 2 naps later, I heard the side door open. My River Bear was home!!! I was in shock. Where did I just go in my mind and my heart for way too many hours? In what or where have I placed my trust? And why the heck am I so very needy, so weak, such a worry-wart when the Lord has been faithful to lead me through horrible tragedy dozens of times before. Is this mental exercise really helpful at any level? The answer: NOOOOOOOOOO!!!
I have come to realize that there are a couple of coping mechanisms that come with enduring serious illness for many years that don’t work very well at all in a fit brain. One of them is living each day with a sense of impending doom. When virtually every night and every morning for the past 6 years was met with violent convulsive episodes, I lived every day with a sense that bad things were always going to happen. It was just a matter of time before they did. Well guess what? The convulsive episodes don’t happen every night or every morning anymore! I have got to let go of this “stinking thinking” as we used to say in my 12-step group days. Husbands virtually always come home. And if they don’t right way, they usually have an amazing story to tell that makes you fall in love with them even more!
Another coping mechanism that got exercised in writing this story was that of always needing a contingency plan. More recently, every time I would plan to do an activity at home or elsewhere I set up alternatives in my mind of what I would do in case I got sick. I told RB my plans for the day, I had every “rescue remedy” I could think of in a lunch bag with me, and kept running errands until I was exhausted — just in case I was too sick the next few days to leave the house. As you can see from the bit of paddling fiction above, I listed a few of the questions running through my mind but in my head, many more options and scenarios were playing out in my mental tool box. What a colossal waste of physical and emotional energy! While a “scarcity” mindset may work in times of famine or flood, I really don’t need it with me anymore. Me and the Lord will figure out whatever may come my way. Geez!
Of course an obvious failed coping mechanism is last on my list today: a false sense of control. I cannot predict anything that will happen, good or bad, and neither can you. If I truly trusted the Lord with my life in times of tragedy and triumph then I would not need these fantasy games to cope with the fact that I have a REAL MAN who LOVES ADVENTURE no matter if he is sick or well. That makes him who he is! And his passion for life makes him the man in whom I fell in love over 10 years ago. No wimpy dude over here! He pushes the limits to the admiration of his peers and sweat of his competitors because that is just how he is wired. I guess I am still understanding how different we are, how different the Lord wired each of us. It is a beautiful thing really. And, Lord willing, my beloved will always be home at night in pretty darn good shape too, I will add! :J
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
So the next time my man goes out to do that which he is called to do, I will pray for him and for me both! I will not respond with fear but anticipation of some great stories in which I may one day join in, Lord willing, as I get stronger each day. The day is coming soon when I will want to venture myself out into newer, uncharted waters, so-to-speak knowing that my Lord and King is already there, cheering for both me and my River Bear. This could really be a fun summer after all. I often cheer, “Goooooo Steeeeeve” from the side of various rivers when my beloved’s paddle hits the water at the sound of the starting gun. Maybe it’s time for a little, “Gooooooo Julie” too?
Stay tuned. There’s always another story waiting to be told around here for you Gentle Reader. The water awaits! JJ
As the wife of a kayak, now canoe racer, I have been spoiled with the best paddling gear a gal could love. Or want. And it makes her look more “abled” than she could be. Actually, having carbon fiber Epic kayak and outrigger paddles with boats made of kevlar have made it easier for my non-athletic frame to pull those beauties through the water. The overall effect has been to be cool at last!
Want to see them? My River Bear is having a Happy New Year Sale at his company: River Bear Racing. Check it out and drool a bit or contact me for a test drive when you are here in the Midwest. There’s even some paddling life jackets to complete your ensemble!
No, he didn’t die. He just goes away for large swaths of time as soon as the forsythias start their yellow bloom season up north here until the crimson leaves begin to fall into the local waterways. Then he “comes back to life” again when I need him to keep me warm when the snow flies, that’s all. Such is the life of a kayaking widow!
For those of you who have taken a break from reading your cereal box and picked up your beloved’s issue of Canoe News* instead, this one’s for you! You may or may not be a paddler and that is o.k. If you are not a RACER, however, and HE IS then you are invited to join me in this paper support group! We are not alone! (He does eventually come home to sleep and eat, right?) I mean, I understand girlfriend.
So we must stick together, you and me, and figure out alternatives to dreamy picnics in the park with our men. It probably won’t happen. Our guys are either out fulfilling the requirements of their United States Canoe Association (USCA) membership or too tired and sore from the workout the day before to take a walk on the local Prairie Path on a Sunday afternoon. “Would you massage my back?” is more likely heard than, “the moonlight sure is lovely reflected in your hair tonight.” But I digress. Just focus on the other scenic benefits of being married to an athlete if ya know what I mean? J
And try these tips to get past the USCA Nationals in August at least!
Go shopping. Spend wisely and no more than the amount he has invested in paddling gear.
Try a recreational race if you can paddle some; offer to take pictures of the event or help out if you prefer not. Kids can come too if desired. He will love you for taking an interest in his sport.
Leave a note of encouragement in plain view for your man to find as he makes his way out the door on race day before the rooster crows. Add food. Lots of food.
Plan regular events of your own either alone or with like-minded “widows.” There a lot of us out there, left behind from various endeavors requiring testosterone. Pick ones that require lots of estrogen to enjoy.
Eat chocolate and don’t share with anyone.
Look busy when he comes home yet be sure to greet him from upwind.
Surely there are a virtual bevvy of strategies for us land-lovers as I am only getting started here. Actually I was a fan of boating under power when I met my River Bear. What happened? Who knows but her name might be “Stella(r)” or something like that! I would love to hear from you ladies (and possibly widowers?) with your best tips on making the most of the paddling season.
My husband, Steve, loves to write tall tales of his racing adventures here in northern Indiana. There are at least 7 races in the United States Canoe Association circuit here: more if the rivers aren’t too low from a draught, too fast from flooding, or too rough from the winds on Lake Michigan! The paddlers are marathon racers who love to go fast over 9 or more miles in a sea kayak, surf ski, 1-4 person racing canoe, outrigger canoe, downriver kayak, or “unlimited” boat. Things can get dicey at times on and off the water as each sizes up the competition and conditions on race day . . . but they always go home as friends, ready for a re-match on another day.
Here’s a link to the Race Reports at River Bear Racing. Going fast can be a lot of fun for spectators like me too.