Yukon River Quest Preview

460-mile paddle brings Skagway daughter and father closer

Interview by Casey Grove

Skagway’s Jeff Brady, 48, and Annie Dawson Brady, 15, will compete in the mixed canoe class of the 2005 Yukon River Quest beginning June 29. At 460 miles, the paddle from Whitehorse to Dawson City is the longest annual canoe and kayak race in the world.

You guys are the only father and daughter team?

JB: This year. There’s been one before, in 2002, and they did really well, they’re from the Coldfoot, Chandalar lake area. That kind of inspired me, and her actually when I told her about it, to want to enter this year’s race as soon as she got to be 15, which is the miniumum age that you can be in the Yukon River Quest.

Annie, what about that did you think was so cool?

ADB: I guess it inspired me. Made me feel encouraged, I guess. So that I knew that someone else –well I was, how old was I, probably 12?

JB: You were 12, yeah.

ADB: That someone could actually do it that was 15. Because 460 miles, I mean, we just did like, what, 50 miles the other night? That was fun.
(both laughing) It was kind of hard, well, it was good, and then like 5:30 in the morning, I was kind of like...

JB: Falling asleep...

ADB: ‘I’m tired now,’ but yeah, it was cool.

JB: When you’re out there paddling in the middle of the night, you cool down quite a bit, so you have to keep fluids going, keep eating something, to give you enough energy to get through. You’re usually fine as long as you don’t get cold, but man, as soon as the sun comes up about 6:00, it just bakes you. That’s when your energy goes, and you have to get beyond that, that’s going to be the key, I think. The hardest part of the race is getting through the first night and the first day. I think once you make it through that, you can go all the way.

Is it nice being able to eat as much as you want for a race like this?

ADB: I pretty much eat all the time, so, I don’t know. What, I’m supposed to eat bulkier food?

JB: Well, pastas, and we’re just going to carbo load as much as we can.

ADB: Am I allowed to eat cookie dough?

JB: I think so.

ADB: I’m a cookie dough freak! When I’m allowed to eat cookie dough...

JB: As long as you can still chew it, you can eat it. (laughing)

ADB: But yeah, it’s nice to be able to eat as much as you want, well of certain foods obviously, the good foods, but still it’s nice. Food is always good.

JB: You want to have stuff that’s easy to eat, and easy to get to, and easy to gobble up quickly, because you want to be paddling. The top canoe teams will be doing 60 strokes a minute. I’ll be happy with 40. That’ll get us there.

Are you looking forward to getting this thing underway?

JB: Yeah, we’re almost a week out, so we’re still trying to get some more training in to get used to the canoe, and get used to the things that you have to do during the race to be comfortable, make sure your water system’s good and you can get to the food you need. You want to minimize the disorganization, because the better organized your boat is when you do get tired, the better off you’ll be as far as paddling. It’s all about the paddling, you just want to keep paddling.

ADB: It kind of becomes second nature though, after awhile you aren’t even thinking about it. When we were paddling on Marsh Lake, I was just like, every eight [strokes]. I wasn’t even thinking about it. I was in my own little world.

JB: We go every eight strokes and then we switch. And then if we’re in a wind, we switch every four to six. Unlike normal canoeing, you don’t want to rudder, you want to turn the boat if you have to by just paddling on the same side. You want to always keep the paddle in the water.

Annie, what’s your favorite thing about paddling?

ADB: It’s kind of nice because you just get to think. When we were paddling last Saturday, this is another thing I’m really excited about, the sunsets. I love sunsets. It was so cool to see everything and it’s so great because it’s so peaceful. When you’re in the city, especially in Denver (her winter home), it’s just insane, all the time. And Skagway in the summer, is insane. It’s really nice just for once in a while to have peace. Except when the birds start attacking you.
(both laughing)

That’s not so peaceful, huh?

JB: We were on Marsh Lake, and it was the middle of the night, and we go by some beautiful swans, and then some loons, and then we get really close to this marsh. All of a sudden it’s like “The Birds.” All of a sudden, all of these Arctic Terns come out of their nests and basically just swarming us. They didn’t go for our heads, but they reminded us they were there. Yeah, it was wild!

ADB: My aunt Kathy [O’Daniel], not last year on our river trip, but the year before, I remember her looking over at me when we had pulled all of our canoes together and we were rafting and she said something like, “Now just think, in a few months you’re going to be sitting in school and you’re going to think back to this. You’re going to close your eyes and just think of how calm it is. No homework, just hanging out on the river.” It’s kind of nice, whenever I’m on a river, I think of that. How, it’s so peaceful, and it’s just away from everything. It’s a good place to get away, it’s really nice. Months later I’ll be thinking, “God, I wish I was back on the river,” even though the day of, I’m like, “Dad, I don’t want to go today!”

Jeff, how important is it to you to be able to spend this time with your daughter?

JB: It’s the best time. I’ve had her in a canoe since she was six, and every year we do a longer trip. What we’ve done before is mainly family trips, and just relaxing on the rivers. But when we do need to paddle, to get somewhere, to get to a campsite within a decent hour, she’s got a good motor on her. I’ve always known that she could do this.

Anything else you guys want to say?

JB: We’re just thankful for all the encouragement from people in town.

ADB: People are like, “So, you’re doing the race?” and it’s like, “Yeah. I didn’t know everyone knew, but that’s cool!” So, that’s kind of nice, and they’re like, “Good luck!”

JB: We’re going to try to do a couple radio call-ins. AP&T’s letting us have a satellite phone, so we’re going to try and call the radio station from Carmacks (Thursday) and Fort Selkirk or Kirkman Creek (Friday) checkpoints. You can keep track of our progress at the race Website, www.yukonriverquest.com. We’re team number four, we won’t be far from the top.
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The race starts at 12:30 p.m. on June 29 in Whitehorse with a LeMans style start from Main Street down to the river. Watch for Annie Brady’s race journal in the July 8 issue.

Pedaling for Skagway

This year’s Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay on June 25 will feature at least nine Skagway teams.
Sockeye Cycle has both four-person and eight-person teams riding under the “Sockeye Blue Ribbon” banner. The Red Onion is sponsoring an all-female team called “Ho’s for the Klondike,”and another all-female team, “Jewels of the Mile,” will also attack the 148-mile course.
Last year’s eight-person winners, “Blood, Sweat and Gears,” are back for more, and Fairway Market’s “Soft and Supple” are also throwing wheels at the course.
Perhaps the most inventive team name is “Air You Never Breathe Twice.” Thomas Pickerel said the name was an attempt to stay at the top of the standings, which are alphebetized.
Rumor has it, Vicky Moy and Elizabeth Ruff have also organized a four-woman team, and there could be more. Watch for race coverage in the July 8 edition.