Now in its seventh year the North Esk River Race has a reputation for being a fun accessible race with a gruelling twist. Run by Aberdeen University Canoe Club the race has three categories: intermediate, held on a grade 3 section: advanced, mostly grade 3 with one chunky grade 4 called Rocks of Solitude at the end: and the Iron Man. The advanced race course is about a six minute paddle with pool drop rapids. In honesty the race is won and lost on the pools, some of which I am convinced actually flow upstream! The finish line makes the race, you paddle around the corner to see the banks lined with people in the distance. The Rock of Solitude drops into a small and beautiful gorge that forms a natural amphitheatre. The atmosphere stood on the banks watching the racers come down and catching up with friends is infectious.
After the initial races everyone cruises down the rest of the river in groups to enjoy a barbecue at the bottom. Having filled your belly the event organisers then ask who wants to sign up for the ironman. What is the ironman I hear you ask? An utterly stupid but splendid idea. Race the entire river (a 25-30 minute paddle) then run five kilometres back to the top. Honestly this is a serious physical feat. In the advanced race I finished first a few seconds ahead of Phil Mitchell, in the Iron Man he beat me by five minutes. I’m pretty sure that we paddled the rive in pretty much the same time. When I got out of my boat to start running I was struggling to keep a five minutes a kilometre pace. Phil on the other hand ran a sub twenty minute five kilometre just like it was a flat park run! I think I need to work on my running before next year. In the end I came third behind Phil ‘the runner’ Mitchell and Adam Francis of the BUKE team. Beth Morgan cleaned up taking both the women’s advanced race and the Iron Woman title.
Palm came on board this year to support the race. Not wanting to give prizes to paddlers who already have all the gear and sponsorships they need, we decided to sponsor the intermediates. We were stoked to hand over a couple of buoyancy aids to Matthew Wallace and Emily Bowie who took first in the men’s and women’s categories.
With over seventy racers the North Esk Race is great fun even if like this year the water is low and the weather cold. Full race times can be found here. Another cool aspect to the race this year was the river clean up. With a prize for the most rubbish collected from the river. Despite fierce competition Campbell Simpson was the clear winner. He filled an entire RPM with rubbish and got so into collecting trash that he missed his race run. Thanks to AUCC for putting on a great event!