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Local paddlers set for 63rd AuSable Canoe Marathon

July 07, 2010 - If you hope to watch the entire AuSable Canoe Marathon, plan on spending 19 non-stop hours trekking about 120 miles and learning the true meaning of GPS.

And that's just to spectate.

If that sounds rather challenging, consider the mission of area resident Jeff Caryl.

At 57-years-old, Caryl will team up with Fenton resident Mike Taylor, 55, later this month and paddle against more than 90 teams from all over the United States and Canada participate in the 63rd annual AuSable Canoe Marathon will be entered in the marathon. The layman- style run to the river starts at 9 p.m., Saturday, July 24, in Grayling with the teams getting to their first port at Mio Dam around 1 a.m., Sunday.

"You have to pace yourself," said Caryl, a 1970 Holly High School graduate and an avid paddler.

"You're better off starting slowly and saving yourself for the later stages of the race. There's also a lot of freaky things that happen out there. Sometimes there's a Mayfly hatch going on during the race and the flies cover the water and everything. For about seven hours you're in complete darkness— we use a battery-powered light on the boat. Often there are stumps just a few inches below the surface of the water. You just never know what's going to happen around every turn."

The pair will race in an 18-foot-long carbon fiber canoe that weighs about 34 pounds, with paddles weighing less than 10 ounces each. A crew of four "bank runners" will follow the team with food, water, and supplies.

"Toward the end of the race you're in pain—it becomes difficult to work your hands," said Caryl, who said rotator cuff surgery on both his shoulders should not hamper his efforts. "The bank runners will carry plenty of ibuprofen."

Since January, Caryl and Taylor have logged about 250-300 training hours, averaging about 30 to 40 miles per week. The two are training in the Flint River north of I-69 near Irish Road in the Russellville area. The pair also trains in the Huron River near Milford.

Caryl started canoeing in the 1960s with the construction of a racing canoe in the family garage.

"We would race in the Shiawassee River," said Caryl. "And as a kid my family would put our canoe in the AuSable River near Grayling. I moved out of state and was totally out of paddling for a while. When I came back home in the 1990s, Ed Adams and I started paddling again."

Both men have participated in a host of canoe races, and Adams has paddled the AuSable Marathon twice.

"There are paddlers in the state who are just incredible—and are expected to complete the AuSable in about 14 hours," he said. "I'd just like to finish and hope to make it in about 16 hours. There are so many factors to overcome—at times you could get in fog out in one of the ponds you cross. If you're too slow, they disqualify you—we hope there's a full moon that night."

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