OSCODA — The 72nd AuSable River International Canoe Marathon’s team to beat, Grayling resident Andrew Triebold, 43, and paddling partner Steve Lajoie, 43 Mirabel, Quebec, can add another scratch mark to their winning record, winning their 11th race with a time of 14 hours, 15 minutes and 34 seconds Sunday.
The pair became the race’s most winning-est team during last year’s race, with their 10th win as a team, a win that broke marathon legends Serge Corbin and Jeff Kolka’s record of nine victories as a team.
Finishing the race in second place this year, with a time of 14 hours, 20 minutes and 13 seconds, were the St. Boniface, Quebec team of Guillaume Blais, 33, and Samuel Frigon, 23. Third place finishers Chris Issendorf, 37, Dripping Springs, Texas and Pete Mead, 38, Traverse City, had a finish time of 14 hours, 21 minutes and 18 seconds.
There were 90 teams entered in this year’s race, with nine teams not making the 120 miles to Oscoda from Grayling, many dropping out due to illness.
There was much speculation that this year’s race could possibly have a record finish due to the high level of water on the lower AuSable River, but according to Lajoie the water conditions hampered racers, including his team, as opposed to helping. This was despite their finish nearly two minutes faster than the 2018 race.
He said the race was extremely strenuous this year, and in fact Tribold suffered from post-race illness and could not be interviewed or pose for photographs in his condition, according to race officials.
Lajoie said after finishing the race a racer is typically dizzy and disoriented from the physical stress. He said the team paddled most of the night and could not take advantage of a fast river current that is typically around when water levels are low.
“The water level was like in between, we called it ‘suck water,’ and it feels like it’s always sucking the boat down, so it’s always “paddle, paddle, paddle” all the time,” Lajoie said.
Lajoie said the team managed to gain a lead, by as much as seven minutes ahead of the second place team, and maintain it for the duration of the race. He said there is very little verbal communication in the boat throughout the event, but over the years the pair have learned to anticipate each other’s moves. He said Triebold’s knowledge of the upper AuSable has helped over the years as well.
“We are good at the upper stretch, I think we can turn the corners and boats better than other guys,” he said. “But we have to pace ourselves, and when those guys make a move or attack, we have to counter the attack. And then you recover, and they go back again, so it’s a back and forth thing.”
Ryan Matthews, a race organizer said due to racing regulations, all the boats in the marathon are inspected and have the same specifications to even the playing field, though two teams this year chose traditional ceder strip canoes, used in the 1970s, over modern carbon fiber boats, he said.
Ahead of the race, all the boats are sequestered at the Grayling Middle School in the gymnasium so they can be inspected and have a GPS tracking unit installed, something that has been done for the last five years, Matthews said.
The GPS tracking allows the public to watch live tracking of the race from the Internet, Matthew said.
“It’s been extremely helpful and it’s an excellent safety tool as well because if a team needs help — say they are tipped in the middle of a pond — they can hit their emergency button and it pinpoints the location. There is also a button where they can stop the call. The GPS is excellent for the fans, spectators and feeders because they can follow, roughly, where the teams are at, you can follow the canoes in almost real time,” he said.
Some notable finishes this year included the team of Rich Lauth of Grosse Ile, and Mary Schlimmer of Traverse City, who were the top mixed team, finishing 14th with a time of 15:06:18
Rebecca Davis of Homer and Edith MacHattie of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan were the top womens team, finishing 16th with a time of 15:15:36.
Former East Tawas resident Kyle Stonehouse, now a resident of Grayling, finished 6th place with a time of 14:43:45 with paddling partner Wesley Dean of Columbus, Ohio.
Marathon veteran Jon Webb, Oscoda competed in this year’s race with first-timer Charles Darchen, 26 of Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel, Quebec. Webb, 46, the pair finished the race in 18th place with a time of 15:21:11.
Shawn Spallinger, Oscoda and Carrie Montgomery, Mikado, finished 32nd with a finish time of 16:11:00.
Oscoda paddler Rod Matthews finished 53rd with Greenbush resident L.J. Bourgeois; their time was 16:48:54.
Finishing 72nd were Tawas City residentKeith Wojahn and East Tawas resident Jerry Killingbeck with a finish time of 17:51:37. The pair were one of two teams that opted to race with a vintage cedar strip canoe.
Oscoda resident Peggy English finished 75th, with a time of 18:04:06 with her partner James Miller of Korumburra, Vic, Aus.
Finishing 79th was East Tawas resident Robby Kimsel, with his brother Mickey Kimsel of Bay City. The pair had a finish time of 18:38:30
A full breakdown of finish places and times, as well as split times from the various race checkpoints, and a wealth of other canoe racing information, can be found by visiting ausablecanoemarathon.org.
The marathon is the second leg of canoe racing’s triple crown. The General Clinton Canoe Regattis is Memorial Day in New York’s Susquehanna River, which is followed by the Marathon the last full weekend of July. The La Classique International de Cantos de La Maurice is held on Labor Day in Quebec’s St. Maurice River.