Crawford County Avalanche – Change is good? The AuSable River Canoe Marathon made a significant adjustment to the annual race’s time trials last year by moving the course. Time trials – a three-day event slated for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, July 26, 27, and 28 this year – determine starting positions for the AuSable River Canoe Marathon’s run to the river on race night.
The AuSable Marathon, a 120-mile nonstop canoe race from Grayling to Oscoda, will start at 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 29, this year.
The old course for time trials started at Penrod’s, sending teams downstream to a buoy turnaround at the halfway point and having them paddle upstream to finish the loop.
The new course? It starts at Penrod’s, same spot as in previous years, but teams now go upstream first, turn around at the halfway buoy at the Old AuSable Fly Shop, and finish coming downstream. One of the biggest differences is that spectators now have multiple viewing places for the buoy turn, an aspect of the time trials that some paddlers say is the most difficult part of the sprint.
With the old course, the turnaround area was not readily accessible to spectators.
Another difference? The final times. It’s a shorter course now.
Going into the 2016 AuSable River Canoe Marathon time trials, the record for the fastest sprint time was 5:22:17, a mark established by Andrew Triebold and Matthew Rimer in 2006.
In 2016, with the new course, 16 teams posted times better than the existing all-time record. The top team at sprints last year – Mathieu Pellerin and Guillaume Blais – posted a time of 4:47.93, a mark that was 36 seconds faster than the old course’s record. The slowest sprint time last year was 9:14:11.
Is there a key to having a good sprint? What are the biggest challenges associated with time trials?
“Learning how to pole your way upstream. Finding a piece of water locally that is as shallow and has a similar gravelly bottom to practice on takes some driving,” said Michael Schlimmer, a competitor from New York. “Getting a paddle you can push off the bottom with and not break is really helpful.”