It Builds Character

The craziest thing happened in Austin last weekend. No, it wasn’t ACL, that’s fairly common this time of year.

It rained. Hard. A lot.

So much so that day three of the aforementioned Austin City Limits festival was cancelled for the first time since the festival began in 2002. The National Weather Service said some areas of downtown Austin received 10.6 inches in 12 hours.



While you may be thinking ‘What the hell Katie and Phil, you complain about no big water in Texas, here’s your chance.’ I’m not interested in seeing the Colorado at 56K cfs. Call me what you will.

Instead we enjoyed the rain and humidity from inside.

We also took the opportunity to take a trip to Luling to meet with John Bugge. If you’re reading this and you have run or looked into running the TWS  you’ve heard the name. If not, you should learn it.

John has competed in the Safari 36 times, including once with his 9 year old daughter, won it 6 times, and only has one DNF (did not finish). As with everyone else we’ve approached so far, he had no problem taking two hours out of his Saturday to talk with two strangers looking for some advice.

Everyone’s situation and training is different so I won’t go into details as the advice he gave us might not work for everyone. Instead I’ll share his advice outside the technicalities, stuff learned only after years of doing the race.

Of all the things that can be said about the race, one thing seems constant…it builds character.

One of the biggest themes from our talk with John is that you have to do the best you can with what you’ve got…in the race and in training for that matter. Of course there are ways to be stronger paddlers, finish faster, and have an overall more pleasant experience, but all the other things that come along with it, ‘build character.’


If your paddle breaks, you don’t have an extra, so you grab a 2×4 off the side of the river to continue paddling…it builds character.

If you have to kneel on the bottom of the boat because your butt won’t stop sliding around on the seat…it builds character.

If you try and switch seats, you end up paddling in circles and get mad at each other…it builds character.

We’ve come into this not really knowing anything outside of being able to hold a paddle and some–now seemingly useless–whitewater strokes. We were intimidated and thought we were destined to figure this thing out on our own over the next eight months.

We were wrong.

Just like all the other emails, comments, phone calls and Tweets we’ve received from people willing to share; although he’s the one with a bulls-eye on his back anytime he’s in the race, John welcomed us to the community and pointed us in the right direction to turn for even more advice.

As I mentioned above, I’m not in any place to pass along technical advice given to us so far. Instead, I suggest doing some homework to find out how to contact some of the veteran racers, admit you can’t figure it all out on your own, and ask for help…it builds character.



Share Button

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *