ICF Marathon Classic Series: Tour de Gudenaa Marathon (Denmark)
Being an amateur paddler is great fun. Like many amateur paddlers I like to get my value out of a race. Some amateur paddlers like to quantify that race value with a positive $/km ratio on race entries, a mate of ours explained when answering why he prefers ultramarathon canoe races over sprints. Applying this logic, the Danish ultra-marathon race the Tour de Gudenaa delivers excellent value!
I was fortunate to line up for the 2014 edition which was the first year that the race was run as a single day event over 72km. The races original distance of 120km run in 5 stages was reduced due to paddler feedback. However, this race still attracts paddlers from Czechia, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands and the occasional Australian.
The mass start in the Silkeborg Lake was pitched close to a water fountain which was turned off minutes before the start. Subsequently the metal fountain infrastructure disappeared in the glass of the lake while nerves built for the start gun to go.
This hidden water feature was pointed out to me by a generous local paddler. With this race beta noted, I strategically lined up so that I wasn’t lining my rudder up for an amputation. This water feature caught up several paddlers in the excitement of the start as the rest of us did the show lap around the lake for the land crews before hitting the river proper.
After the first few kilometres the pace settled quickly with many of the K1’s looking for a fast K2 to sit on for the long ride. The Gudena river winds through scenic Danish countryside passing farms, forests and towns which were a nice distraction as the kilometres ticked over while taking your turn in the lead. I was fortunate enough in this section to trade leads with a Czech paddler who didn’t shy from hard work.
Progressing towards the portage at the end of the large Tange Sø lake with its notorious reputation of blowing up fairly abruptly. These tales and likely inflated of previous years crossings told the stories of needing double spray decks and electric pumps in addition to foot pumps to keep the kayaks afloat until the portage on the far side of the lake. Luckily, on this year’s race the chop wasn’t anything to worry about. The knowledge of the portage on the far side of the lake is a welcome relief too as the drink bottles were nearly empty and knowledge of food was attractive.
This portage around the 40km mark was a high and a low, as I chose to run through the portage thinking the other boats I had worked with to this point would go with me. So while chewing down a Snickers I jumped back into the boat and found myself in no mans land for the next long while. The other crews had taken the opportunity to refuel, stretch the legs and wait up for the pack of chasing boats.
The increased flow from the weir below the lake gave me a welcome speed boost but it was definitely not enough to catch the crews ahead who were safely sitting on a pack of K2’s.
In no man’s land after the poor strategic decision, it was head game for the next few hours of paddling. Trying to concentrate on counting lefts and rights to distract myself from the sore butt in the grind to the finish.
If it’s long distance, value and a Scandinavian tour you’re after I can definitely recommend this event.
- Kieran Babich