I am back where I started my journey into the world of marathon canoe racing. One year ago, my son Jonathan and I competed in the Neches River Wilderness Canoe Race, billed as the toughest “little” canoe race in the Republic of Texas. Jonathan entered us in this 22-mile race as the first step in his year-long plan to get me ready to compete with him in the Texas Water Safari, the world’s toughest canoe race. When we reached the finish line of this obstacle-ridden race on the Neches River, I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment. This little race gave me my first inkling of an idea of what to expect on the much longer and much tougher 260-mile Texas Water Safari.
Jonathan turned up the heat a month later when he had me join him for the Colorado River 100 — a challenging endurance race down one-hundred miles of the slow-moving Colorado River. Little by little throughout the year, Jonathan pushed me to work a little harder and go a little farther. All of the shorter races and training runs that we did together paid off for us on the Texas Water Safari. If there is one thing I am certain of after completing five races with Jonathan, it is the understanding that we can push past pain and discomfort one paddle stroke at a time and that perseverance pays off.
Before Jonathan arrived from the Dallas area to meet us in Palestine today, Cheryl and Gina and I drove from the city of Palestine toward Lake Palestine where the race will start tomorrow. On the way there I saw the most random sign along the way. Someone had written the words “Keep Going” on a white sign and placed that sign along the side of the road. I have no idea for whom the sign was intended but could not help but nod in agreement with its message. It’s easy to grow weary or discouraged along our journey and to harbor thoughts of giving in, giving up, or getting out. Those are the times we need to keep going — to keep putting our paddle into the water and to continue making progress one stroke at a time. If we persevere, we will make it past the junk and stuff that can discourage us along the way.
So, I am back where I started. And I am more excited than ever to get back on the water with Jonathan. One year later, the 22-mile race on the Neches does not seem nearly as intimidating or daunting as it did when I started my journey into the world of marathon canoe racing. I am richer for the lessons I have learned by paddling down Texas rivers with Jonathan over the past year. And I am more determined than ever to keep going!