When Emile Bensedrine ’23 ran out of water on the first day of a 90-mile marathon canoeing race, there wasn’t much he could do. His only option was to persevere through the grueling motions of maneuvering a four-person canoe across the Adirondack Park in hopes to complete their daily mileage and arrive at the campsite –- all to wake up and do it again for the next two days.
From Sept. 9 to 11, 12 members of the Cornell Outing Club participated in the 39th Adirondack Canoe Classic, colloquially referred to as the 90-miler. The race starts in Old Forge, New York, about three hours east of Ithaca, and finishes at Saranac Lake, New York.
Around 250 boats are entered per year under various groupings, including kayaks, guide boats and paddle boards. The Outing Club entered three four-person canoes into the race.
Throughout the race, rowers would experience extreme discomfort but were forced to push through.
“You have to learn that pain is temporary,” Treasurer of COC Amy Stabell ’23 said. “After a few hours, you’re still paddling, and you continue that motion for so long. Your body tells you no, but you have to tell it yes for three days straight.”
The varying levels of skill and training enhanced the physical and mental challenges racers faced. Over half of the racers had some canoeing experience, but the jump from recreational canoeing to marathon racing was stark.
“With as little training as we had, you just really have to know how to put your head down and grind through it,” said Toby Lidov ’23. “It does test your body’s limits.”
Lidov said that on the first day he had multiple instances where racers in his boat were undergoing sugar crashes, exhaustion, misery and chills.
“I was feeling like I was just going to vomit the entire time,” Lidov said.
The racers also emphasized the natural beauty of Adirondack Park, which is part of a massive zone of mountainous bedrock called the Canadian Shield. On day three, racers appreciated the views of the Saranac Lake system and the surrounding lake houses and islands.
“If it wasn’t a race, you’d stop every five seconds to see something cool,” Stabell said.
Each boat finished after 17 hours, with the fastest of the three finishing at 16 hours and 37 minutes, which was about 44 minutes faster than their boat last year.
“It’s a good measure, because we actually have the same physical boat and the same people in the boat as last year, so we were able to beat ourselves,” Stabell said.
Celebrations were in order when the racers completed their 90 miles, marking the successful completion of their three-day ordeal.
“I got out of my boat and promptly got tackled by those who had finished before us,” Lidov said. “But I looked to my teammates, gave each other a hug, walked onto the shore and ate food. Lots of food.”
COC expressed their appreciation for the organizers who made the outing possible.
“We have a lot of people to thank, everyone who organized the trip and made sure everyone had food,” Stabell said.
Stabell said that one of the most rewarding things about the race was joining a community of over 600 racers.
“It’s an amazing community,” Stabell said. “We just want to keep coming back.”