The Texas Winter 100, or TWO for short, is a one hundred kilometer canoe race on the Lower Colorado River that takes place annually in late January. (www.texaswinter100k.com) The race starts in Austin on Lady Bird Lake underneath the I-35 bridge and ends in Bastrop at Fisherman's Park. There are 2 classes of racers; Adventure Class and Competitive Class.
The TWO is one of the first big canoe races in Texas every year and is the first of 2 annual marathon style canoe races on the Lower Colorado River. On Labor Day weekend, the Colorado River 100, or CR100 for short, picks up in Bastrop where the TWO ends and goes all the way to Columbus..... 100 miles down river.
2017 marks the third year I have participated in the TWO. In 2015 I competed in the Stand Up Paddleboard race that only covers the last 14 miles of the 62 mile course. The water was high that year running at about 4,000 cfs and the temperature was in the 50's all day. There were a lot of fast times that year, as you would expect with high flow rates. The next year was a different story. Flow rates were down around 200 cfs and the temp was a freezing 33 degrees at the start line. It warmed up throughout the day, but the chilly start set the tone for what ended up being a painful day for me and my partner. I was entered in the Competitive Class with a guy I had never met before. We were introduced through a Facebook group 2 days earlier when I was looking for a new partner after my training partner had to bail on me due to an injury. Ten minutes before the starting whistle Ken showed up with a home made 21 foot unlimited racing canoe. To say this thing was tippy would be huge a understatement. The fact that we never tipped over was nothing short of a miracle. The entire day was a non- stop series of challenges, from loosing our rudder less than 6 miles in to frozen fingertips and incredible leg cramps. But despite it all we pulled into Fisherman's Park with a time of 11 hours and 10 minutes smiling from ear to ear.
This year I entered the Adventure Class with my good friend and co-worker at the River Co, Emmett. This was Emmett's fist canoe race and we were paddling an aluminum canoe built in 1976 I inherited from my uncle. This is the same boat in fact that Uncle Tom ran the Safari in at least 3 times over 30 years ago. The flow was a little better this year fluctuating between 250 and 950 cfs at the four LCRA gauges along the course. The temp was better too never getting below about 45 degrees in the morning and warming up to around 60 in the afternoon. We ran the course unassisted this year, only stopping to stretch our legs one time somewhere near the half way point. We packed 2 gallons of water each, bananas, cashews, and an assortment of cliff bars and other salty protein snacks. Maybe not the best nutrition plan, but it was easy and did the trick. We finished in 11 hours and 20 minutes, which was a little slower than last year, but we were in a much slower boat and it was Emmett's first time racing. All in all I was very pleased, and Im pretty sure if there had been an aluminum division we would have been first.
If you're thinking about attempting this race one day here are a few things I would tell you:
1. You CANNOT predict what the flow rate is going to be far in advance, so quit stressing about it. This year we trained on 2,000+ cfs all January and come 3 days before race day it started dropping. The cfs below Longhorn Dam was a little over 200 at start time.
2. Speaking of cfs, the Lower Colorado is almost always navigable even at flow rates below 200. This year we ran into a few sandbars on the upper part of the course but they were short and only had us out of the boat running for a few steps before we were floating again.
3. The Longhorn Dam portage sucks! It's long and the put in is steep and rocky. The good news is it's early in the course and the rules are very lenient. You are welcome to have as much assistance as you want. Smart teams will have at least 2 people waiting to help carry the boat. If you go unassisted like we did don't forget about the extra water weight you will have to haul. It makes a HUGE difference.
4. There is only one other portage. It is short and fairly easy, about 6 miles below Longhorn. After that settle in for a long day of paddling down a wide easy to navigate river.
All and all the TWO is a jewel of a race. It's a fun atmosphere of Texas marathon canoeing veterans and novices looking for a new challenge. The staggered starting times allow the Adventure Class paddlers (who start 2 hours earlier) to get a glimpse of the fast Competitive Class boats down river when they catch up. And at the end of the day if nothing else, you can count on the race organizers to provide a good meal at the finish line.