Suwannee River Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) Georgia to the Gulf

November 14th, 2016

I originally planned to paddle the Suwannee River from Griffis Fish Camp in Georgia to the Gulf in one long segment, as a race with minimal sleep. I changed my mind after the first night, and decided that rather than miss all the scenery and be exhausted the whole time, that I would break the river up in to 50-70 mile segments, doing a few 2 or maybe 3 day paddles, with full nights camping in between.

Following are my paddle notes from each segment as I complete them, working my way to the Gulf. Also links to photo album of the adventure and videos are below.

LInk to Photo Album of the adventure

Little Shoals on a SUP video

Suwannee River on a SUP. Watch to end and get a laugh :)

SEGMENT 1 Griffis Fish Camp to White Springs

 

First Segment Paddle

My Suwannee River 230 has now become my Suwannee River 65 + 40 + 60 + … = 230 tour instead.
On Sunday and Monday, I stand-up paddleboarded 65 miles from Giffis Fish Camp in Georgia, at the Okefenokee Swamp to White Springs, Florida. I stopped there, deciding I believe I am finished doing the sleep deprivation multi-day type events. The last few times I’ve done cycling or paddling events like this, I find I simply am not enjoying traveling through places at night and missing all the cool stuff there is to see, and being so exhausted I can’t remember the stuff I DO see in the daytime. Actually ‘racing’ the events, on 1-2 hours of sleep doesn’t seem so appealing to me after doing it for so many years. Kind of strange because I love the idea of it, but when I’m out there, I don’t want to get into that go-go-go mode.
Congratulations to Shane Perrin who DID paddle this ultra event in kickass fashion, finishing in 80+ hours, with long days and nights of paddling and minimal sleep. Awesome job Shane! Much respect!
BUT, my current plan going forward, is to slow it down and complete the rest of the River over the next few weeks, in 40-60 mile chunks. Mostly paddling all day, stopping shortly after dark, sleeping, then finishing the segment the next day. Tamara has been super following along and crewing, bringing back fond memories of her and the kids doing the same on many trail runs in the mountains out west. We had a lot of fun with this. I’ll be doing the next 40 miles starting tomorrow morning, from White Springs, FL to Suwannee River State Park.
For the two days I was out there, some pics attached, with notes for each.
Critter Count was very low for my first two days on the river… 1 fox, 2 deer, 2 turtles, ZERO alligators during the day, MANY eyes watching me at night though! AND best of all, in two days and 65 miles ( 72 by my GPS) of paddling, not one single power boat wake :)
I fell off my board 2 times, once when my fin got caught and stopped me cold, I went right over the front of the board. Then once when I was in about a foot of water, on my knees getting some things out of my deck bag, floating sidways, hit a rock and I rolled off the board like a turtle on his back. Either would have made pretty funny vidoes I believe.
Scenery was spectacular and there were SO many times I wanted to stop for photos or to explore an area, I ‘m going to do more of that for the rest of my segments. Water was very low and many places were quite challenging to get through. Tore up my fin and several good gashes in the board, though none broke through into the foam. I paddled the last several miles with my fin partially torn off, though I didn’t know that was what was causing the squirrely handling of the SUP.
At night,it was frustrating because you could not see where the shallow water or rocks were, then a fog started coming up off the water that eventually was so thick I could not see anything and stopped for the night. During that time, there was NO wind and some of the swirls in the water from the current were creating these little fog tornadoes that came up off the water in tall straight columns higher than my head, it was very cool.
Froze to death trying to sleep that night, it was in the 50’s I believe. I have warmer stuff for my night on the river tomorrow night.
So, I won’t do the whole Suwannee River in a single effort, but within the next month or two, I plan to have Stand Up Paddle boarded the entire Suwannee from beginning to end.


Segment 2 White Springs to Suwannee River State Park

 

Segment 2 SUP Suwannee

Segment 2 of my Suwannee River paddle board exploration completed. 42 miles from White Springs to Suwannee River State Park. Since I arrived after park closing I had to carry my board and stuff about a mile out to meet Tamara in the car.
A beautiful, relaxing paddle, after the first 20 miles , the water finally got deep enough that I could paddle without always hitting bottom.
I stopped, backtracked and took pictures many times, a very nice day.
Paddling very strong, I started SUP this summer and feel like I’m finally starting to get better at it.
Critter count… 4 deer (1 in photos)
1 turtle, 1 old man fishing, zero alligators, zero power boats :)
Probably be a week or 2 before I do another section. Wish I didn’t have to go back to work next week or I’d finish this thing up.

William Harper – My Son – 10/23/1997 – 01/05/2016

January 22nd, 2016

Every parents nightmare, and close to three weeks later I still can’t believe I’m living it.

The light of my life was extinguished in the early morning hours of Jan 5. What wouldn’t I give to hold you my son, one more time and tell you I love you William Harper? I love you so much for the 18 years you brought joy to my life, and the hole in my heart will never be filled. You will be missed more than you could ever imagine.

Every parent wants their kids to be happy, to succeed, to do better than they themselves did, to show them things, to teach them how to live, to see them fall in love, live life to the fullest, to be proud of them and to make them proud of themselves.

I am so, so sorry, so brokenheartedly sorry, that I was not able to show you, to somehow convince you, that life is such a special gift for us all, such a joyous, non-stop adventure of sights, sounds, places, people, experiences, pleasure, pain, challenges, failures and victories. Why couldn’t I see the pain you were in, why couldn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you want to tell me?

You were a great kid, smart, talented, fun, and I love you with all my heart. I will never stop treasuring the 18 years you gave me. I’ll never forget all-night Halo video game sessions where we kicked some serious Covenant butt. Or sitting outside listening while you took guitar lessons, I was always SO impressed with the talents you demonstrated, then being so proud when you performed. Being your coach for baseball, going paddling, fishing, riding motorcycles, shooting, jumping on the trampoline and to the rock climbing gym. Lately, us going out for Sushi and a Movie. That was the best.

I’ll treasure every moment, and while at times it will be difficult, I promise you I will never let the sorrow of losing you overwhelm the great joy it was to have had you. You were such a great kid and young man, so much honor and so many great qualities, Wow, what a wonderful man, husband and father you would have been. You really did us all a disservice when you exited early my buddy.

I love you and you your short life had a great purpose. Our family is stronger now with you watching over all of us, I am a better man now, knowing that you are always there with me, and one day, I am going to stop someone from making the mistake that I believe you made. The hole in my heart will never be filled, but the thoughts of your kind, wonderful spirit will never leave me. And some of your great qualities will become a more dominant part of my life.

Maybe I will see you again one day when my time is up. And after I kick your ass for doing this, we can laugh about the old days, the things we did, and you can be proud of how I lived the rest of my life. That will be the best day, but until then, I am going to take care of your Mom and your sisters, and we are going to live a life that you will be happy to watch. We are depending on you to pull guardian angel duty over us during this time, we’ll be depending on you for advice, coaching, protection and inspiration.

Oh… We are proud of you also for helping so many individuals live better lives though your generous donation of organs and tissues, and the $2,000 plus donations that are being made to ‘A Gift for Music’ programs, so kids that didn’t have it as good as you, will have the opportunity to change their lives through music.
http://www.agiftformusic.org/

That’s just the sort of thing your Mom and I would expect from your kind, caring soul Mr. Harper.
I love you forever William Harper.
Dad

William Harper a few Pics

William Harper Life Celebration Page

William Photos

2015 CFITT

December 7th, 2015

My attempted Cross Florida Individual Time Trial ended with an equipment failure, a broken pedal. Was having a great day, though there were other challenges, until this show stopper.

Congratulations to all those that finished and those still pushing toward the gulf. What a great event and super challenge!

I had an interesting day that started good, but stalled early with a rear tire flat just as we exited trails onto the roads, about mile 12. Just a small thorn, but sealant in my wheels was dried up. I should have checked before the ride, no excuse for that. Problem was I’d made last minute decision to lighten my load and only carry one tube, (after all I never have flats, not in the last couple years!) It also meant that now I had a Front wheel with dry sealant and no tube to go in it should it flat. In Osteen I went off course a few miles to buy spare tubes. That removed the stress of knowing I was dead in the water if I flatted in front.

Consider that a bikepacking lesson learned.
In any case, all that cost me time, and ruined any chance of making the ferry, but didn’t dampen spirits and I was having a great ride. Was so happy to get off the pavement and on trails at Lake Beresford.

All was great and I was riding good through Chuck Lennon, though it was slick and tougher on the loaded bike than a pre-ride the week before.
Until one of the final steep inclines my Xpedo Spry platform pedal broke. I didn’t hit anything, it just broke from the torque.
I had to walk the last few inclines to get out of Chuck Lennon, my foot on the center spindle just had nothing to keep from slipping off.
I rolled over to the pavilion to clean up and regroup, John McClure was there nursing a bad knee and regrouping to move on and get closer to the ferry.

I cleaned up, rested, kept looking at the pedal, thinking I should be able to ride, trying it, and realizing at anything other than soft pedaling an easy bike path, it wasn’t going to work. With the slick center spindle and no outer platform with studs, there was nothing to keep my foot planted.
Eventually, I decided it was better to make the call and have my daughter come get me while I was in an easy place to get to and she was an hour away, rather than continue.

Pretty bummed, because I was having fun, riding good in Chuck Lennon, and looking so forward to the 2nd day trails to come. I could have continued and eventually finished, but with much walking and surely some slipping off pedal and falling. No joy in that for me at this stage, I want to ride the course to my ability and not struggle through, limited by equipment failure. I have to learn from the experience, and next year, “I’ll be back”

Also a thanks to Jerry Metz for offering up his que sheet, that was very handy to have right there front and center with mileages. I’ll be using one of those from now on. Found it very helpful.

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My 2014 Strava Story

December 30th, 2014

Dave Harper 2014 Strava Story

2014 Gatorland 5k Adventure Mud Run

October 22nd, 2014

Had a fun time at a first time event, the 2014 Gatorland Adventure Run.

Basically a mud run, obstacle run made all the more fun by doing with the a big group of co-workers.   The event consisted of all off-road running (or dirt /gravel road inside Gatorland perimeter),  various sets of walls, ramps and  tires to climb over, some  to crawl under, a couple dirt mounds to go over and into a mud pit, a rope climb, a pond to swim/rope across, a few ditches to cross, balance beams, tire drag, and climbing up and down some of the Gatorland rappelling towers.

A well run event to benefit Special Olympics and a pretty nice way to spend a Saturday morning.

 

July 20 Orlando Sentinel Article – MR340 Followup Article

August 22nd, 2014

After the postponement of the 2014 MR340 and my decision to transfer my entry to 2015 as I could not make the return trip in August for the makeup date.

 

MR340_Followup_OrlandoSentinel_July18_2014

July 6 Orlando Sentinel Article – MR340

August 22nd, 2014

July 6 – Sunday Paper photo and article of my upcoming 340 mile kayak race.

Missouri River 340 July 6 Newspaper Article

Missouri River 340 July 6 Newspaper Article

 

 

Hammerhead 100 MTB Race — 2013

April 23rd, 2013

My first Mountain Bike race in MANY years, and what a great time I had.   Though my approach these days is much different than back in the day, when I was lined up on the front row, and expecting to finish in the top several riders.    Today for me, this was just  ‘ a group ride with numbers’.  Fun though, and I’ll be doing it and others like it again.

The Hammerhead 100 mile mountain bike race is mostly single track trails on the Santos Trail system at Ocala, FL.  I was using it as a long training ride, working toward my main goal of the year, the Great Floridian Ironman Triathlon in October.   I’ve been having a great time on my Kona Hei Hei mountain bike on these trails for the last couple months, and though I was not really conditioned to ride 100 miles on dirt I thought best case, I could finish in 10 hours, average pace 10mph.      The course is 25 miles long, 4 laps, and I hope to do each lap in about 2:30, and figure I’ll have a little down time.  I also expected this to be very difficult, as my longest training rides have not been anywhere near this long.

To my surprise, I find out race morning that there is a 7 hour cutoff at the end of the 3rd lap, mile 75, for starting the last lap.   So my ‘best case’ of 2:30 loops (and I expected it to be a little more), wasn’t going to work.    That became my new focus of the day, to TRY to be under the 7:00 hour mark at mile 75.

Weather was great, recent rains had the sandy trails in GREAT condition, and off we went.    I was riding good, but realized quickly that I have WAY overinflated my tires.   I was slipping badly on every root or rock, nothing like I was used to.   I don’t know what made me put an extra few pounds of pressure in both tires that morning, too many years of road riding I guess.   Several near falls has me losing confidence in my tires, but I really hated to stop and lose my position on the single track trails this early.

This grew much worse in the Ern n Burn section, which is a pretty rough section with limestone rocks and roots, steep ups and downs and sharp turns.  I had to tip-toe around some of these, but still I didn’t want to stop to  reduce the pressure, and lose so many positions in the line of riders.  I had two minor fall overs in this section due to the rider in front of my stalling out at the top of little inclines, but nothing serious.

First lap finished in 2:04, I was VERY happy with that, I felt great and with the traffic now spread out, I could get in a rhythm and cruise at a little slower pace.   Finally, in the Christmas section (I think), I had enough of slipping all over the place, and stopped to let some air out of my tires.  Learned a few lessons here!   Front tire was fine, but when I started unscrewing the Presta valve on the rear, THE WHOLE VALVE CORE WENT SHOOTING OUT OF THE STEM!  I quickly clamped my finger over the stem to stop the rush of air leaving the tire, ( no, I did not have a pump with me, that won’t happen again!).   Now I’m sitting there on one knee, finger pressed against the open stem, looking for a tiny valve core on the forest floor.  Finally I see it, just out of my reach, as I make the move to get it, my finger slips off the tire thats holding air, and that’s it, my rear tire is flat, and I have no pump.

I start running with my bike to the next aid station/road crossing.    It takes quite a while before riders start coming along, but thankfully, someone finally comes by with a pump in his pack that I can use.   I quickly get it from his pack, pump the tire up to what feels right, and send him on his way.    As soon as I put my weight on my bike, I realized I had not put enough air in the tire.  There was SOME, but it was JUST enough to not have the rim on the ground.   Thank goodness I am running a tubeless setup, but still, it was rolling side to side and I KNEW it was going to come off any moment.  Every bump had the rim hitting the ground.  I had to stand and put my weight over the front tire to unweigh the back, and ride as 3 mph or so, basically walking speed, limping to the aid station.    FINALLY (according to STRAVA, this section of trail was 15 minutes slower than on my other loops), I got to the aid station, a real floor pump, and was able to precisely set my tire pressures.  GOOD TO GO!

I start Ern N Burn section on good tires, and they are performing exactly like I’m used to, I was riding good, passed a few people, and things were flowing great.   Toward the end of that trail, in a fast rolling section I hit a big rock, which knocked my bike into an unmoveable tree, and I go flying.   I landed hard on my hip and shoulder.    Had to sit a minute and survey everything.  Bike seemed ok, knee was bleeding pretty good, but no major damage, back on the bike.   The 2nd half of this loop was uneventful, I was still riding well and felt good.

Final time for 2nd loop was 2:29.   I’d lost 15 minutes to the tire fiasco and a few more laying in the dirt at Ern n Burn, but felt confident I could ride another loop somewhat faster.

Good thing about the next loop, NO time or energy wasted falling down.   I was riding comfortably the first half of the loop, but after making the turn back onto the road at the end of Ern n Burn this time, I could tell my legs were VERY tired… weak.  My gear selection and speed was pretty pathetic on a section of road where I should have been going quite fast.

I felt ok, but I was feeling the fatigue as the rest of the loop wore on.   I still knew I could finish another loop, but I also knew I would be taking my body into that territory where I’m doing more damage than good.

Decision time, I could finish loop 3 under the cutoff and call it a day, feeling good having completed 75 miles with nicely fatigued  but not destroyed, legs.   Legs that would be ready to work out next week, and much stronger in 2 or 3 weeks.   Or I could go out and do one more loop, another 2 and a half hours of riding, and be absolutely exhausted, with it taking me a couple weeks to get back to doing decent workouts.    The Dave of a few years ago would absolutely have gone back out and finished 100 miles  regardless, but the wise old Dave of today rolled into the finish at 6 hours 53 minutes and told the race director he wouldn’t be going out for a last lap.  I’d done the 3rd lap in 2:18.    This wasn’t supposed to be a ‘”Do or die ‘A’ race”, it was supposed to be a great, and a fun,  training day.   That’s exactly what it was.

Best decision I could have made.   Two days later, I’m sore and my legs are tired, but in a good way, the sore you get when you know you’re getting stronger.  I was able to do a nice 3 mile run on Monday and it felt good, I expect the same from an easy spin on the bike today.

GoneRiding.com did a super job on putting this event together.   Thanks to them and all the volunteers.  I’ll certainly be doing many more of their events, likely making them priority race events for me next year.   I’m loving this mountain bike stuff!