Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 2, 2011

My Next River Challenge

As a fifty-five year old guy who loves adventuring, I participated in my first canoe race less than a month ago. My son Jonathan invited me to join him for the Neches River Wilderness Canoe Race — a twenty-two mile course along the obstacle-ridden Neches River. I embraced the opportunity with enthusiasm and hardly slept the night before because of excitement. Jonathan and I finished the race in 5 hours and 42 minutes, placing 25th out of 59 participants. Although the heat was as intense as the course, we had a blast. The best part for me was sharing the adventure with Jonathan.

While on the Neches River, Jonathan invited me to join him on the next river challenge — the Colorado River 100 on Labor Day weekend. This one-hundred mile marathon canoe race starts in Bastrop, Texas and winds its way southeastward toward the finish line at Columbus, Texas. I agreed and later read about the race on the Colorado River 100 website: “Paddlers will have to endure Texas heat, night travel, fatigue, river critters and the elements in order to complete this challenge within 32 hours.” Yikes! This race is part of Jonathan’s strategy to get me ready to join him on the Texas Water Safari next summer, billed as the world’s toughest canoe race at two-hundred sixty miles.

Over the past few weeks Jonathan and I have exercised and also looked at ways to streamline and lighten what we are required to carry with us in the canoe. In addition to things like an extra paddle, personal flotation devices and other stuff, we also have to carry water and high-calorie snacks to sustain us between check-points. At my current weight I estimate that I will burn in the neighborhood of 15,000+ calories over a twenty-five hour period (if I actually live through this ordeal). So, we want to be sure that we stay hydrated and that we keep up our strength with snacks that will re-energize us. I know that this race will be a challenge for me because I have yet to paddle a canoe for twenty-five or more hours. But, I am determined to do everything I can to keep up my energy level so that we can finish the race within the specified period.

This race has caused me to think a lot about the energy I will have to expend in order to successfully finish the course. While flying back to Houston from Nicaragua on Wednesday, I read something in “Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity,” Mark Batterson’s latest book, that got me to thinking about the energy required to successfully “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).

Sin is a waste of energy. Plain and simple. It’s wasting energy on things you can’t have and control. And it’s actually a double waste. After you waste your energy on things like lust and pride and anger, then you have to waste even more energy on things like guilt and shame and regret. Nothing is more de-energizing than sin. But by the same token, nothing is more reenergizing than obedience. It’s pure energy.

Batterson is right. While I am looking forward to the next river challenge with Jonathan, I am also committed to maintaining my focus while running the daily race. Just as Jonathan and I work to lighten the load in our canoe, each of us must “lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us” (Heb. 12:1). Something to think about! I’ll post again about the Colorado River 100 in a few days. Our start time is 7:10 AM on Saturday, September 3. Prayers appreciated!


  1. Pastor Omar,

    We will definitely be praying for you; that is quite a challenge. You are so blessed to be doing this with your son – ENJOY!

    Dick and I would also appreciate your prayers as we leave for the trip to Israel next Wednesday. Please pray for safety, but also for endurance 🙂 and for open hearts and minds to learn and absorb all we can.

    We also will be praying for your trip to Cambodia. We are excited for Kara to have that opportunity and I know she will be a blessing to the children there, as they will be to her. God bless you all.

    Marcia Frith

    • Thanks, Marcia. I appreciate your prayers for me and Jonathan. Thanks also fo praying for our upcoming Cambodia trip. So glad that Kara is going and leading our VBS initiative in Poipet. I will indeed pray for you and Dick as you tour Israel. You will love the experience. Enjoy.

  2. I’m committed to pray for you both. Can’t wait to see how it turns out. Seeing your joy at spending time with Jonathan reminds me of how God must feel when we spend intimate time with Him. Delightful!

    • Thanks, Mary Kay. Looking forward to a great time with Jonathan on the river.

  3. I notice you got some Sports creme O, you might need More of that when you finish! 🙂

    • I think you are absolutely right, Gene. 😉

  4. O,

    Congrats! Y’all made it! I am so excited for you and praying for you. How cool is it that your son wants to spend that time with you. You are an awesome man and a great friend. Congrats to both you and Jonathan! Have a great rest, nap, sleep or whatever you do after being in a canoe for that long. You inspire me! Never stop going beyond!

    • H…

      Thanks for your kind words. Jonathan and I had an amazing time together on the Colorado River. Paddling a canoe for 100 miles is the hardest physical challenge I have ever faced. As soon as I get some rest I will post an update. Thanks for your friendship.


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