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Marathon paddlers ready to battle it out on Lake Lanier
Athletes looking for spot to World Championships
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US Canoe/Kayak Marathon Trials

When: 8:30 a.m. Saturday

Where: Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club, Gainesville

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Marathon paddling is more a matter of survival of the fittest for Macy Dwyer than just water strategy.

As the name would indicate, this event involves handling a long distance, not just a sprint to the finish. And with long-course paddling, and some running in tight quarters between intervals, it sometimes gets physical.

“It’s very brutal,” said Dwyer, who has competed with the LCKC for eight years. “There’s no rules out there on the water.”

Saturday, marathon paddlers from across the country will compete in the U.S. Canoe/Kayak Marathon Trials at the Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club for a spot on the United States National Team at the Marathon World Championships on Sept. 19-20 in Rome, Italy.

Competition ranges from junior events all the way up to the Senior Men’s race.

The distance each paddler travels varies depending on age group. The junior girls have the shortest race at 17.2 kilometers, while the senior men travel the furthest at 30.1 kilometers.

All compete on the same course, says LCKC president Kevin Seitz.

Qualifying for the World Championships is based on a time standard, not simply how a competitor finishes in their classification.

“Hopefully, we’ll have 7-10 athletes here from the LCKC that will meet the time standard for the World Championships,” Seitz said.

The idea of marathon paddling is to navigate the roughly four-kilometer lengths, while also transitioning to a short 150-meter run in portages most efficiently. Paddling takes place on the tower side of the Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club.

With regular changes between paddling to running, and back to paddling, it is similar to the strategy involved in triathlons.

And after going non-stop for about 2 1/2 hours, athletes are wiped out physically at the end.

“It’s extremely exhausting,” said Dwyer, who will compete in a two-person kayak in the Under-23 division. “After going the entire race, then you’re trying to sprint to the finish to win.”

Dwyer has competed in the marathon paddling for three years now. She said that most of the contact between runners happens in the portage from athletes running with boats over their heads and no sense of how close they are to other competitors.

Add to that the heat, and it’s easy to see why tempers can flare when there’s an accident, even if it’s totally unintentional.

“I’ve seen broken paddles and people have lost their rudders,” said Dwyer, who competed in the World Championships each of the past two years. “In Spain (World Championships), I saw a person get hit in the head with the boat.”

With such a long endurance race, conditioning is one of the biggest components to making it through a race. Along with about 18-kilometers of paddling in practice, there’s also running and weightlifting mixed in to cover all the major muscle groups.

Some other names of LCKC athletes competing in the Marathon Team Trials are James Watson, Stanton Collins, Aaron Mullican, Alex McLain, Ben Hefner, Robert Finlayson and John DePalma.

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