Marc W. McCord, aka "Canoeman", began paddling in Boy Scouts in the late 1950's and early 1960's, then abandoned the sport in the mid-60's until taking it up again in 1975. For several years he paddled flatwater or mild whitewater rivers, but in 1988, he started canoeing Class II to III rivers frequently. His love of whitewater canoeing quickly grew into an obsession that remains to this day.
In 1997, while serving as newsletter editor for Dallas Downriver Club, Marc entered his first canoe race with his younger brother Bill and nephew Will. Marc and Bill entered the race mainly for the pleasure of paddling with Will, who was 9 years old at the time, and had never been on a river in a canoe. This was the second year of the Trinity River Challenge, an annual event that has since grown into a major race drawing 150+ paddlers and 70-100 boats in everything from recreational canoes and kayaks to USCS and ICK racing canoes and kayaks. Will rode along just for the fun of it while Marc and Bill paddled at a leisurely pace with no intention of trying to be competitive. They completed the 11.8 mile race in 2 hours 19 minutes on a good current flowing out of Lake Lewisville. Those were the days when the Trinity River Challenge began just below the dam in Lewisville and ended at McInnish Park in Carrollton, where the race now starts and ends.
In 1999, the three of them entered the "Come and Take It" canoe race in Gonzales, Texas, and event that is part of the annual celebration of the battle that began the fight for Texas Independence from Mexico. The race is about 12 miles on the Guadalupe River from the H5 dam at Lake Wood, a Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority park down to the US Highway 183 bridge below Gonzales Dam. It included two difficult portages around logjams and one tough portage around Gonzales Dam.
Somewhere along the middle of the trip, on a very hot and humid October Saturday, Will (who was paddling in this race as opposed to riding as a passenger) remarked to Bill and Marc that he enjoyed paddling with us, but that he was not sure about racing. He was tired, hot and hungry, and was ready to get off the river. Then, we arrived at the finish line, in a time of 4 hours 38 minutes on slow currents, and were greeted by Head Park Ranger Mark Henneke who presented a plaque for Third Place in the ABS Whitewater Class. With that award, Will was hooked, and Marc and Bill decided that "Team McCord" was to continue in future races.
The following year, Bill had major cancer surgery and was prohibited from being in direct sunlight because of his exposure during radiation treatments. Will and Marc entered the "Come and Take It" race again, paddling our Buffalo ABS whitewater canoe to a first place finish in our class and category. That was it! We were definitely hooked on racing, though we were no match for the much faster and much more experienced marathon racers who regularly enter and do well in the Texas Water Safari and other extreme endurance races. The point is, we were able to hold our own against similarly skilled paddlers, and that made it fun. That race saw us paddling in rain and cooler temperatures, and we finished looking like a couple of drenched puppies.
Marc, who lives in Dallas, continued paddling races and whitewater rivers, logging 768 miles in 2001, on rivers in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri. In October, 2001, Marc and Will again entered the "Come and Take It" race. Bill was still too weak from his cancer surgery to be able to paddle more than a short trip, let alone one where significant exertion was required. Will and Marc managed a Second Place finish in the ABS whitewater class to give us a trifecta for the three Gonzales races we had entered.
In 2000, Marc began Canoeman River Guide Services leading canoe, kayak and raft trips for clients on a commercial basis. He also used that as an excuse to retire from canoe racing except for an occasional entry in the fun and adventurous "Come and Take It" race. Leading trips was a lot less stressful and more financially rewarding, not to mention the fact that it gives him a lot more paddling time on very scenic rivers in the eight states where he takes his clients. Over the past five years Marc has averaged logging over 1,000 miles per year, and is on a record pace to top 1,600 miles in 2007, a personal best year ever.
2007 has been instrumental in rekindling an enjoyment of the pain and suffering encountered in marathon canoe racing. He acted as Team Captain for his good friend and frequent expedition companion Zoltan Mraz in the Buffalo Bayou Regatta, Texas River Marathon, Barrier to Bayfront and Texas Water Safari canoe races. In addition to enjoying the service to his good friend, he was also learning the art of serious marathon paddling because of something that happened the previous November on a trip to the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande. It was here that his friend Larry Rice, a contributing editor to "Canoe and Kayak" Magazine talked Marc into entering the 2008 Texas Water Safari with him for a feature story he is to write for the magazine. Preparing for that race is best done in the company of experienced paddlers who know how to finish that grueling 262.5 mile marathon canoe race in the dead heat of the Texas summer. There are many reasons why the Safari is billed as "The World's Toughest Canoe Race".
In preparation for the Safari, Marc has begun training and will be paddling in numerous races leading up to the Big Show in June, 2008. Included in that group of races will be the 2007 Trinity River Challenge, 2007 Come and Take It, 2008 Buffalo Bayou Regatta, 2008 Texas River Marathon, 2008 Barrier to Bayfront and other canoe races. He will be paddling a solo Wenonah Argosy Tufweave canoe until the Safari, then will paddle an Osagian Techcraft, 17-foot tandem aluminum canoe with Larry Rice in the 2008 Safari. Sixty years old is later than most people begin running the Safari, and Marc is hopeful that he will live over the experience, reaching Seadrift and the finish line in under the 100-hour cut-off time necessary to have a qualified finish and get his patch and plaque for having completed "The World's Toughest Canoe Race".
After that, and assuming he survives the ordeal, he will probably enter the 2008 Trinity River Challenge and Come and Take It races, after which he may again retire from racing in favor of the more relaxing whitewater adventure paddling and commercial guiding. Marc recognizes the absolute need for physical, mental, psychological and emotional training necessary to withstand the rigors of marathon paddling on the body of an "older" paddler, but several Safari veterans are well over 60, and his friend Zoltan just became the oldest solo finisher in the history of that storied race in a time of 68 hours 26 minutes just two weeks before his 68th birthday.
With the capable assistance, advice and training of several veteran racers Marc hopes to gain a new appreciation for the sport of marathon canoe racing. His boat modifications will be done by Richard Steppe, who was the driver of the winning Safari boat in 2005 and 2007, as well as numerous other great races nationwide and in Canada. His Team Captain for the 2008 Safari season will be Dallas Downriver Club President Bryan Jackson, and his assistant TC will be his good friend Dirk Davidek, himself a Safari veteran of two races and two finishes, as well as frequent expedition companion. It is going to be one very interesting year to come!
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