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Avon Descent Recap 2018

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

Thanks everyone for your messages!

I SURVIVED. Essay to follow. Don't feel obliged to read.

Have just been too physically spent to update you all. Have pulled up more physically drained from 80 km of paddling over 2 days than from running 80 km in one day? Reflecting on WHY that might be and I think it is two things.

  1. The water was Cold, and I spent a LOT of time in it on Day 2. Each time I got out of the water I was shivering. So my body was working hard to keep me warm.

  2. Day two First stage was 19 km of Intense rapids and so the ADRENALIN was surging for at least 2 hours. I think I was in a little SHOCK after that stage because I was giggling hysterically. That seems to be my indicator of Shock.

At one point my paddle was wedged between two trees, I was holding onto it for dear life because if you lose your paddle you are stuffed. I was holding onto my boat and being pulled in two directions. Took me several minutes to figure out a best-case scenario outcome. I opted to let the boat go, submerge myself to free my paddle with my spare hand. That worked.... and the boat and I ended up in a deep swirling whirlpool. The problem was, the boat was swirling at the same pace as me around the circle. I spent several exhausting minutes thinking about whether to slow down to catch the boat or speed up to catch the boat. I opted to Slow myself down and eventually the boat came to me. I crawled back in and decided that staying in the boat was a much better option than falling out.

I took a few minutes rest, told myself "that was the worst that was going to happen and I survived it" and then launched myself back into the surging river. I saw many people opting for the "less scary route" but spending so much time disentangling themselves from trees. I figured out that for me, the best approach was to stay in the main flow, come hell or high water and just bounce down, through and off the rocks because eventually, the river would spit you out somewhere a little gentler so I could get back in my boat. Such a RAPID learning curve and by the end of that hour I was sticking some SWEET lines and LOVING IT SICK.

A team of two was definitely the way to go. I have a new appreciation for the fitness level of those solo guys n gals who do it solo. Sitting in a boat paddling looks so much easier than running. The difference is the mental focus required to navigate that water, it adds an element of mental fatigue which I do not experience with running. The final leg was just a 15 km Bash with a slight headwind and tidal inflow which dragged. My left shoulder was letting me know that I had overcooked it, so I developed a new paddling style that involved palm up paddle grip, instead of palm down. Worked the opposite rotator cuff muscles so I could finish without creating long-lasting damage to my shoulder tendons. Knowledge is power.

That final stage gave me plenty of time to reflect on what the river had taught me.

1. Go WITH the flow - Don't paddle upstream. Always choose the path of least resistance.

2. Focus on where you WANT to end up, NOT on what you are trying to AVOID

3. Paths that LOOK SCARY can be LESS damaging in the end

4. When you are spinning and tumbling and gasping for air and feeling completely out of control, Know that a quieter, calmer, more peaceful time is to follow.

So many people to thank and I will do so privately. Amazing Team Mate and Amazing Support Crew. We made a SUPERB team. Plenty of laughs camping in the cold, rainy, muddy paddock and plenty of new friends made.

This is a little idea of what it is like, but I will say the water level this year was MUCH MUCH higher than this video shows. It was an out of control, FAST moving BEAST in some sections.

Now to rest. Thank you for your support everyone. I hope you feel inspired to take on your own outdoor adventure soon!

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