Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | August 4, 2012

An Unexpected Finish

Ok, I was wrong. Despite having completed the 260-mile Texas Water Safari in June, competing in the 22-mile Neches River Wilderness Canoe Race today was still tough. What was I thinking? I was definitely reminded again today why they call this race the toughest “little” canoe race in the Republic of Texas. Just try to imagine what it would be like to be trapped in a pin-ball game for several hours and you will have some idea of what this race is like. The 22-mile race course is littered with fallen trees, submerged logs, and enough spider webs to fill a haunted mansion. Contestants have to navigate what seem like impassable obstacles along the way. Once again, I reached the finish line with a fair share of cuts and scratches and completely baked in the East Texas heat. But, I loved every minute of it.

My son Jonathan and I set a goal to beat our finish time from last year’s race and to finish in as close to 5 hours as possible. When they called for those competing in the Adventure Tandem Division to get in the water we lined up with all of the other boats. And as soon as the starting signal was given we started paddling and never looked back. Fortunately, we were able to reach some of the obstacles before they jammed up with boats. This immediately gave us a really great advantage. I will say that I did feel better prepared for this race because of all the conditioning from races and training runs that Jonathan and I did over the past year. The theme of this race for us was “keep paddling” — which is exactly what we did. Although we did not stop, our GPS recorded that we had 6-minutes of stop time because of how slow we had to go in order to navigate around some of the toughest obstacles on the river.

The best part about the whole experience was reaching the finish line. That’s when Jonathan and I learned that we had finished first in our division. The second place boat arrived about a half-hour later and the third place finisher almost an hour later. Wow! While we wanted to better our time, it really did not cross our minds that we might actually place in our division much less come in first. We both were excited and could not stop smiling. What a blessing! But, as with every race we have done together over the past year, the biggest blessing was getting to spend time together. Jonathan and I enjoyed good conversation along the way and faced and solved every challenge together. That’s something that is hard to beat!

Jonathan could not contain his excitement when our names were announced.

Receiving our awards for finishing first in the Adventure Tandem Division.

It was still hard to believe that we actually placed!

Our friend John Crowe and his son Justin competed for the first time this year.

The race route as recorded by our Spot Tracker.


  1. Congrats Jonathan and Omar. I think you guys deserve a big steak from Taste of Texas…well at least Omar. That REALLY is fantastic that you finished first! By the way, all the Works minus Joe were in Palestine early this morning too. We picked up the girls from a week at Pine Cove.

    • Thanks, Jeff. I will be speaking about the Texas Water Safari at Taste of Texas on Sunday.

  2. Way to go, Omar and Jonathan!!! Congratulations!!

    • Thanks, Rhonda. Great to have another race behind us.

  3. Sooo awesome!!! Way to go!!!!

    • Thanks, Kristin. Enjoyed spending time with the Crowe family at the race.

  4. Congrats! That is awesome! It’s getting you ready to be in charge of Rec in Cambodia! 🙂

    • Yikes! It might be easier for me to do this race again than to try to lead rec in Cambodia!

  5. Its nice to see your effort and result.

    • Thank you, Veronica. Our day at the canoe race was a very good day. Please give my regards to the staff at The Comforter’s Center there in Kampala. I love and appreciate the good work that you all do to stand for life.

  6. The value of creating a memory with your son? ….priceless

  7. Fantastic … Congratulations! Your achievement with your son is truly great, and so very well deserved.

    I want to nominate you as Best Family Man as well. Being able to spend time and participate in everyone of your family’s lives is remarkable. It is one thing to ‘love’ them, it is another to be such a part of who and what they are!
    What makes your Go Beyond blogs so enjoyable is the passion you exude in every part of your life, without losing your humanity, humility and honesty.
    I love your writing, and personally receive great encouragement and passion for my own life.
    Thank you my friend.

    • Thanks so much for your very kind and encouraging words, Jackie. I appreciate your friendship and blog readership.

  8. WOW! Congrats to you and Jonathan! That is one cool accomplishment!

  9. I love reading the adventures you are having with Jonathan and of course all of the other adventures you undertake. You are an inspiration to all parents that the time we spend getting to know our children is a great blessing. Thanks so much for sharing your heart and passion with us. Much Love
    Auntie J

  10. Way to go Pastor O and Jonathan!!! Congrats!
    Good to see John & Justin Crowe there too!

    • Thanks, Jim. It was good to share this experience with John and Justin. I enjoyed watching them come into the finish line.

  11. Congrats, Father and Son! What a feat for the two of you! Proud of you.

    • Thanks, Cynthia. Looking forward to our next race on Labor Day weekend.

  12. Way to represent, Omar! Is there anything that you cannot do?

    • Thanks, Gil. It was a tough but fun race.

  13. Hello! I really enjoy your posts! You continue to inspire me through these authentic, heartfelt posts.

    I have nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Kindly see this link:

    Thanks! 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Rifat. I appreciate the nomination and the encouragement. I have a blog already scheduled to automatically post tomorrow (Thursday) but will write a blog on the Very Inspiring Blogger Award to post on Friday and link back to your blog. Thanks again!

      • You’re very welcome. Seriously, your blog gives me faith in humanity and helps me to be optimistic about the world. All the best! 🙂

      • Thanks for your kind words. Blessings.

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