Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 31, 2012

Jetlag in a Canoe

The dictionary defines jetlag as the temporary disruption of the body’s normal biological rhythms after high-speed air travel through several time zones. I am no stranger to jetlag. In fact, because I travel out of the country every few weeks, I seem to always be in some state of jetlag. Just about the time my body gets back to some state of normalcy, I get back on an airplane and start the process all over again. Among other things, jetlag resets my body clock so that I am awake at, for example, three o’clock in the morning and then feel the urge to go to bed at three or four o’clock in the afternoon. Although I have learned to force my body clock to get back to normal as quickly as possible after returning home from the other side of the planet, it still means I have to push past that feeling of exhaustion in order to readjust to my normal time zone. So, what does all of this have to do with canoeing?

Just before leaving for India a couple of weeks ago, my son Jonathan and I sat down to look at our training schedule for the Texas Water Safari in June, billed as the world’s toughest marathon canoe race. I noticed that Jonathan had scheduled two days of training along the San Marcos River only two days after my return from India. I reminded Jonathan that this would be difficult for me because that is when my jetlag would be at its worst. He told me that this would be the best time to train because I had to learn to how to continue paddling in a state of exhaustion along the 260-mile race course from Central Texas all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. It was hard to argue with his logic so, roughly 36-hours after returning home from India, we packed our gear and headed for the river.

Yesterday, Jonathan took me down the first 16-miles of the race route to get me familiar with the first four of the eight portage points along the 260-mile course. He talked to me about how we would manage these portage points quickly and then we sprung into action to practice getting our canoe around the obstacles. The toughest of the four was getting our canoe around Cummings Dam. I had to jump out of the canoe and run around the dam while Jonathan wrestled the canoe into a position where he could lower it to me. One slip here could mean disaster — a serious fall, a broken bone, or a damaged boat. Once we lowered the boat, then we had to pick it up and scramble across the rocky shore to the water. Jonathan also talked me through how we would navigate certain sections of this part of the course, like Cottonseed Rapids where there is always the possibility of capsizing.

At the end of the day we enjoyed a private lesson from Holly Orr, a multi-Safari veteran and a USCA certified instructor who specializes in racing techniques. This was time well spent. Jonathan and I will spend our second day on the river applying and practicing the things we learned from Holly. We will also return to every portage point to try to improve our time by getting past these obstacles a little quicker. Although jet lag added a layer of exhaustion to my training, it also gave me a better idea of just how hard this race is going to be. In many ways, paddling down the river is a metaphor for the journey each of us are on, a journey filled with challenges that can exhaust and frustrate us as well as those unexpected things hidden beneath the surface that have the potential to capsize us. Good instruction can make a big difference in helping us on our journey. So, now that I have finished writing this post at three o’clock in the morning, I am going to force myself to get a few hours of rest before Jonathan and I head back to the river to apply what we learned from our instructor yesterday.


  1. O,

    I’m so excited for you and for Jonathan as you create many memories! What a great time! Exhausting I’m sure but it’s a true blessing that your son wants to do this with you. You will continue to build your skills, and stamina. Enjoy brother! God is truly awesome and I’m sure you will experience Him in many new ways both in your preparation and your actual race. I look forward to hearing more stories as time goes on.

    • Thanks for your kind words and encouragement, Herschel. Jonathan and I are enjoying our time together. It is a great adventure for us to spend time on the river and to face the challenges along the way together. I appreciate your friendship.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: