Reed finishes tough Texas Water Safari
By Alonzo Garza
With Central Texas heat hovering around the 100-degree mark and no sign of rain in sight, only the bravest of participants took to the river for this year’s Texas Water Safari race on Saturday, June 14. Lockhart’s Grady Reed was among them.
Reed, 31, competed in the 2008 TWS race in the Solo Unlimited category and finished
one of the toughest races, under the harshest conditions, with the support of his friend and team captain Warren Burnett, 33, also of Lockhart.
Reed finished fourth in Solo and 27th overall.
“This was the first time I’ve participated in this race and it was incredibly tough this year because of the low water and extreme heat.” Reed said.
The race started with 95 boats and only 53 of them were able to cross the finish line. The fastest time this year was 39:34 and the slowest boat to reach its final destination came in at 97:38. There was no doubt in any of the participants’ minds that the race was tougher than expected. Only 56 percent of the boats starting the race were able to finish.
It takes a special sort of individual to go through mental and physical extremes just to prove that something can be done. Reed, with all his experience and training, found himself at a point where he questioned his own judgment.
“I had been training since January at Town Lake and the San Marcos River,” he said. “The training varied. I generally paddled 25 to 60 miles a day on Saturdays. I did that with a group or all by myself.”
Reed took it upon himself to train without Burnett until he was available. It was to his advantage since the largest part of the race was just Reed paddling alone.
“Warren got to miss out on most of the fun training,” Reed said. “We did get together for a preliminary race that determined starting position. That race was from Cuero to Victoria. He came down for that race, since we were required to have a team captain. It turned out to be a great chance for him to see that he would expect in the Safari race.”
With Burnett trained and Reed raring to go, it was “off to the races.” Boats ranging from single-seat kayaks like the one Reed paddled to huge scull-like six-seater canoes, fought for position at the start of the race.
It was not long before paddlers started to consider their decision to race in one of the hottest summers on record. As if the scorching heat was not enough, the paddlers also had to deal with all the creatures that lurk along the river.
The horrible heat during the day is complemented by chilly nights that at times had some participants on the verge of hypothermia.
“The worst part of the race, for me personally, was Sunday,” Reed said. “I came up to what was called the Cheapside Checkpoint and I was shaking uncontrollably. I just could not stop shaking from the cold, I guess. I pulled on to shore, laid down for 30 minutes until I stopped shaking. That, for me, was low point in the race.”
Reed went on talking about his ordeal with vivid recollection.
“I questioned myself and Warren, Why am I doing this?…That was the only question Burnett could not answer,” Reed said. “After I stopped shaking I got back in the river and paddled another 15 miles before I stopped and slept for three hours.”
With 70 miles to go and only six hours of sleep through the entire race, Reed was truly reaching into a survivor mode for the remainder of the race. The physical part of the race was in great need of some mental “pick-me-up.”
Paddlers have been known to hallucinate once their sleep-deprived bodies begin to give out, but somehow, they make it to the finish line.
Reed’s kayak was one of 53 boats to make it to the Bayfront Pavillion in Seadrift after the grueling 260-mile odyssey that started in San Marcos.
“By far, the best part of the race was finishing,” Reed said. “You reach the last six miles and you can see the end in sight. When you get there and then there’s two miles left to go…I see Warren, my wife, my daughter…that was the best part of the race for me.”
For finishing the Texas Water Safari, Reed earned a highly-coveted patch. That is correct. He and the other brave participants raced for bragging rights and a patch. No prize money is involved. He did it all for a patch and the right to say he has endured the trials and tribulations of the “world’s toughest canoe race.”