Students canoe 160-mile Campus to Coast race
For some, canoeing is no easy task. But for members of the MSU Outdoors Club, it's a welcome challenge. During April 21 through April 23, more than 120 paddlers quested on a long paddle adventure across Michigan for
Usually the paddlers begin their race near campus at Wonch Park in Okemos, however this year they started at Potter Park Zoo, because of the Red Cedar River floods. They finished at Grand Haven State Park near the shore of Lake Michigan.
Adventurers paddle 160 miles, with seven different portages and a 57-hour time limit. front runners finished between 24 and 32 hours and 87 out of 120 racers finished. The average race success for Campus to Coast is about 50 percent.
Racers are organized into teams, usually made up of two to four members, including three different major divisions: collegiate, open expedition style and open river runner style.
Dale Waldo, an active paddler, currently holds the collegiate course record for 2016 with 26 hours and 17 minutes. He participated in this year's race with three other members and said the high water levels made the water faster and created an opportunity to get done sooner. Also, the change to the start location was an adjustment.
“The start location changed this year ... so that will change the race a lot, too,” Waldo said. “Cutting off the Red Cedar whole part of the river ... just means we don’t have to deal with all the tight turns.”
Anthropology junior Monica Williamson said it's unusual for everyone to make the 160-mile adventure to Grand Haven.
"Not everybody makes it, which is a common misconception about the race — that you have to be an extreme paddler to be able to do it,” Williamson said. “Some collegiate level racers are just paddling for the first time even, so really it's just a matter of getting in the canoe and going as far as you can.”
Volunteers are stationed at check-in spots as people pass along on their journey, recording times and making sure everyone is OK. This year, Williamson volunteered at two different portages to help ensure racers were conscious, didn't have hypothermia and that nobody had fallen in the water.
Dan Durbin, vice president of MSU Outdoors Club and overseer for Campus to Coast, said he paddled last year's Campus to Coast event in a 1982 boat he repaired himself.
"In the course of planning this event, I’ve added quite a bit of mileage onto the race course ... but this year's race course is actually a bit shorter because the floods in the Red Cedar,” he said.
There's an element to the race that most people don’t always understand, and that’s the mental strain it creates on the racers.
“The thing about the race that a lot of people don't understand — yes it's physically demanding — but it's much more of a mental strain,” Durbin said. “If you prepare properly and practice good technique, the race is not as difficult as people make it out to be. It's how you handle issues along the way.”