Firecracker Race – 9/16/2023

The Mississippi River Water Trail Association hosts the Firecracker Race as a fundraiser for their organization. I had paddled this race before when it was just laps around Ellis Bay and didn’t care for it. This year, they switched to a downriver paddle that I was excited about. Add that to the fact that Danelle is on the board of this organization and needed/wanted to be there to help with it and there was no doubt I’d be there.

I signed up for the race as a solo racer and was looking forward to my first real race in my Epic V7. Along the way, I picked up friends and offered my C4 canoe to Jon Marble and friends for them to race. This made race morning logistics interesting, but not impossible.

Its hard to tell from the photo above, but I have 3 boats. My V7 on the left, Tom Lee’s Stellar on the right (black boat) and my C4 on the trailer behind my car. I won’t bore you with the logistics of how all the boats got to the start line, but it was an action packed morning driving back and forth to Grafton. I made it in time for the safety talk.

Danelle was responsible for making sure people parked in the correct area near the finish under the Clark Bridge in Alton, but she made it up to Grafton in time to get photos of the start. It was a fine start for most of the boats, but there was a 6-person racing boat that flipped only a minute or so after the start. There was a safety boat on hand to make sure they made it to shore to get back in the boat. Apparently those guys really like swimming in the Mississippi, because they flipped at least two more times!

There is Hogan in his V7 warming up before the start.

When the race started, I took off quickly picking my way towards the front of the race. About five minutes into the race, I was solidly in 5th place overall. I could see the 4 boats in front of me. I had hopes of catching one of them and paddled hard. There is virtually no current on this section of the Mississippi river and I was paddling at my 5K race pace. My body felt good, so I kept at it.

Around the five mile mark, I started having bouts of part of my right hand going numb. I would open and close my hand as I paddled doing my best to get additional circulation in the hand and keep it awake. Then right at the 7 mile mark, I just had to stop. Its hard to explain, but my right shoulder just quit working and went to high pain.The left shoulder hurt less, but was bad. I called Danelle and told her things were bad, but I was taking a rest to see what happened. I made it an additional half mile before stopping on an island to rest and call it a race. It was almost two minutes before the boat behind me passed. Below is a selfie on the island after calling Danelle.

I mentioned there was nearly no current, occasionally .5mph showed on the GPS. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to float to the finish and that my body said it was time to quit. I was fortunate that Danelle was able to come pick me up at a ramp about 2 miles from where I stopped. Other than that ramp, I would have to go to the finish to get out of the river easily.

I was in a surprisingly good mood for DNF-ing (DID NOT FINISH) a short solo race. Later, I was able to get some Advil to help with my shoulders. A few days later, my shoulders were fine again. Sounds like I need more training.

Anyway, I went back to the finish line with Danelle and helped the race volunteers record finish times for the other paddlers. It was a great day and I learned that I need to pace myself better if I want to finish races!

Hogan Haake