Sunday, July 13, 2008

Great Falls Race 2008: "Grace Under Pressure"

Maggie running Grace Under Pressure, race run

Photo: Jeff Smith

Aptly named, Grace Under Pressure is perhaps the most intimidating of the standard lines on Great Falls. Sitting poised majestically at the top of the Center Lines, "Grace" is both breathtaking and terrifying. Mistakes on this drop can bare dire consequences as the deadly sieved drop of Subway lies below. Nonetheless, good lines will provide one of the best and cleanest boofs around, launching you far into the air and landing softly in the aerated pool below.

I'd run Grace for the first time a few weeks before this year's Great Falls Race. I'd only gotten a few runs in before the level dropped back down. I was surprised to find relative ease in the drop and had a great time. Though it had previously made me quite nervous, I found that I now enjoyed it very much.

Unfortunately as the race approached and the level rose, I found myself with a badly damaged boat and a badly bruised hip. So much so that taking even the most basic strokes was very painful. I couldn't carry my boat, much less paddle anything hard in it. After a week I tried getting out on the Falls but found the entrance rapid to be challenging enough. I was greatly disappointed as I watched everyone taking many fun practice runs from a safe perch above Grace, my now patched up Burn safely carried down below. It was three days before the race.

I registered anyway thinking that there might be some chance I could do it. The night before the race I spent all night visualizing the lines. I thought back to my own good lines and those of others. I must have run Grace in my head a dozen times (i hadn't run it for real in a month).

Arriving at the Falls Saturday morning I was somewhat sleep deprived and very nervous. But I was actually feeling significantly better and with some ibuprofen and a lot of adrenaline I pulled on my race bib. Paddling down to the Flake proved to be far easier than i expected and i felt minimal pain. So I literally decided that I would actually race about 30 minutes before my run. I didn't do a practice run.

Though terribly nervous, I put on with confidence that I could do well. The race start this year was quite interesting in that it was from the cove that is located at the top of the Flake, just a few feet above Grace. There was no warm-up. But there was also no time to get tired and everyone got to launch off Grace with full energy.

I made the quick attainment out of the cove and pealed out, quickly making the move around the overhanging rock and making my way to the lip. I set up with surprisingly good angle and launched a great boof, landing right in the middle of the flow and avoiding getting pushed into the right wall and the dreaded eddy that will kill a race run. What great luck!

I had intended to paddle slowly and cautiously but as I landed I suddenly got quite motivated, quickly realizing I’d aced the race line on Grace, I knew I was set up to do pretty well on the rest.

Maggie's Race Run on Grace Under Pressure

The Center Lines are really quite fun and relatively easy to race in that if you do things well it is mostly a straight shot down. The adrenaline was pumping hard and I wasn’t feeling any pain at this point so I immediately started paddling hard and took off down the Ledges. I didn’t even hesitate as I dropped off the Fingers. Having finally figured out the correct way to run the final drop I had no problems landing and continuing on to the finish. At this point I already felt great about my run.

Heading down the Ledges

Photo : Jim & Monique Hubshman

The Fingers

Photo : Jim & Monique Hubshman

The race finish was also quite interesting in that it required paddling through the flat water in the pool below the Fingers and making ferries across the two streams of current coming out of Subway and Twist and Shout. I had gotten to the bottom of the Falls in approximately 30 seconds and it took once again that time to make it to the finish at the flake of rock next to Horseshoe wave. My final time was 64 seconds, beating my competition by over 10 seconds (it was nice not to just come in first by default of being the only woman). I came in 16th overall out of 23 men and 2 women, accomplishing my single goal for this year: not to come in last again! Not bad for a cripple with two successful runs on Grace and no practice runs! ;-)

There were a lot of great runs and for the most part everyone had good safe lines. Excellent safety was set up which was as always great to see.

Looking forward to more Falls fun and next years race!

Check out more great photos people sent me : Great Falls Race photos

Jim and Monique also have tons of awesome photos of everyone:

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