Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rio Grande Mothers Day Race


The Pilar Race Course stretch of the Rio Grande is named for a historic race that has occurred there every Mothers Day since the late 1950's. It is also the one single stretch of River that I know more intimately than any other in the world. Having grown up running it, watched it change over the years, and beginning my guiding career there in 1999, I have spent more miles and more hours there than any other stretch of water and it so very dear to my heart.

The Mothers Day races were very much a part of my childhood. I mean, not that we went every year, or even very often. We really only went to watch them once or maybe twice, but they were prevalent in my young impressionable mind. I remember being in awe of the fact that a big kayak race happened every year on Mothers Day, though was always somewhat confused as to why Mothers Day? I still couldn't tell you why, other then that was the day they picked to do the first one over half a century ago and the tradition carried on.

Part of a 1969 Los Alamos Magazine article about the Rio Grande Mothers Day Races

In it's hay day of the 1960's, it's estimated that up to 2,000 spectators came to leapfrog down the highway & watch the races. Still quite the event through the '80's and '90's... it kind of lost momentum in the early 2000's. After 30 years of hosting it, the Adobe Whitewater Club passed the torch on to NMROA- the New Mexico River Outfitter Association, in 2008. My friends and colleagues in the Northern New Mexico Rafting Industry have done a fantastic job of breathing new life into a dying tradition. Not only have the races come back full force, but with a whole new vamp! The Mothers Day Race has become a full fledged Whitewater Festival that I joyously watch grow every year! Demos, classes, seminars & games, there are also now down river raft, kayak and SUP races, slalom kayak, C1 and SUP races, a kayak rodeo, and this year... the first annual Mom/kid race! I don't know why no one though of this before, I am just over joyously giddy that it is now a part of the legacy too!

The raft race finish line 2013
The NMROA bumper sticker!

As a Mom... as a River Mom... this brings me indescribable Joy! As a River Mom who's childhood heart hold a part of the Historic Mothers Day Races, who grew up with this legend... I am moved to tears in humble awe of now being a part of this revitalized tradition, engaging in it with my own daughter. At five years old, Charlotte (and I) competed in the First Annual Rio Grande Mothers Day Mom/Kid Race!

We came in 2nd too! Charlotte, who was not overly enthusiastic about paddling in the beginning of the race, soon got really into it and paddled quite well (for the most part.) Even when we got to the one rapid on our race stretch, Charlotte said "I'm not going to paddle in the rapid, I'm just going to hold on." To which I replied that I though that was a really good idea. However, upon entering the rapid, Charlotte did no such thing, but rather paddled even harder! You GO Girl! Surprised the heck out of me! (OK, and thrilled me to no end as well.) We paddled our little bums off to beat the 3rd place winners, who were on a SUP board.  The first place winners Sarah and 10 year old Hanna Van Gilder were in a Jackson Dynamic Duo Kayak, which no IK will ever compete with... those girls were in a class of their own! But Cheryle and 9 year old Tanner Richmond (of CKS) were stiff competition on their SUP board!
1st place Winners Sara & 10 year old Hanna

2nd place winners Elisha & 5 year old Charlotte

3rd place winners Cheryl and 9 year old Tanner

Much fun was had by all, and beautiful friendships were forged. I was actually quite surprised (and thrilled) by the large turn out of Mom/Kid teams who showed up to compete, it was a smashing success and I am already looking forward to next years race. My only wish for next year is that either I can get my brother to come out so he and our Mom can race, or that they make a 3 person team category, so that moms can paddle with two kids, OR so that three generations of Moms/kids can be a team. Really, as much fun as Charlotte and I had, I really think the only thing that could top is would be Grandma/Mom/Kid team!!!
Grandma/Mom/Kid team enjoying a racecourse float in May of 2012