Ultimate River winners defend their titles on Gore Creek
VAIL — History repeated itself at the GoPro Mountain Games Ultimate River Challenge on Saturday, except that history was moving much faster this year.
Last year’s winners, Brent Redden and Jenny Macarthur, repeated as victors again this year in the Ultimate River Challenge, which combines downriver sprint times in kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and whitewater rafting to determine a winner. Macarthur said while the back-to-back-to-back races make for a long and exhausting day on Gore Creek, this year the fast water made things a little easier. Early Saturday morning, Gore Creek hit flows of 1,700 cubic feet per second, about double the usual competition rate.
“It created a little bit faster times, a little bit less effort on our part,” she said. “But it required us to read the water even more accurately so we would not hit the biggest wave trains and stay in the fast water.”
Macarthur said in competitions such as the Ultimate River Challenge, if you’re not almost vomiting upon finishing, then you didn’t push yourself hard enough. Redden agreed.
“It’s all about leaving it all out on the river,” he said.
Mental, physical strength
Redden has been training with local paddling legend John Mark Seelig at the Goat Training center in Edwards. He said the dry land workouts were what enabled him to come out on top on Saturday.
“The rivers only started running a couple of weeks ago,” said Redden, an Eagle County local. “So for me to prepare on the river, it doesn’t make sense.”
When he does get on the river, Redden looks for the safe line.
“If you’re falling in the river you’re not going to be winning races,” he said.
Redden knows from experience. He took a nasty fall in the icy waters of the Colorado River during a New Year’s Day polar bear club-style boaters’ expedition on his stand-up paddleboard.
“Whenever I get on the river, I just try to have a nice clean run,” he said. “Any time you’re clean in the river, you’re usually going to have a really fast run.”
Macarthur’s strongest whitewater discipline is the stand-up paddleboard. She said getting a read on the river during the kayak section helped her to stay on her feet during that particular stage of the competition on Saturday.
“It made me even faster on my stand-up paddle leg,” she said. I had a really clean run and it was really fun.”
Olivia Snider contributed reporting on this story.
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