Each year, the top competitors spend days doing training runs down the Green River Narrows and analyzing POV footage of their laps as they try to dial in their lines for the annual Green River Race. Unsurprisingly, Pat Keller decided to take his preparation to the next level, providing live narration of his training run from start to finish — while paddling the benchmark Class V North Carolina crucible. Follow Keller, last year’s runner-up and three-time winner of the storied race’s open class, as he shares the insider tips for going fast at the Green Race, as only he can.
Here’s a few highlights from his run:
00:26 – Frankenstein: In this twisty first rapid, Keller recommends taking the straightest line possible so as to maintain your forward speed and not waste energy reaccelerating. Pick your line and be precise, then the speed will come.
01:14 – Pincushion: “Play it like a game of chess.” Plan three moves ahead to minimize correcting and small time errors. Hitting rocks isn’t the end of the world as long as they will keep you on a straight line, moving downstream. Stay dry and drive the boat.
02:08 – Whale Tail: Don’t take your foot off the gas in the flat stretches and maintain good pacing. Paddle hard but make sure your strokes are efficient and your lines are precise.
02:26 – Boof or Consequences: Here Keller opts to take the center line rather than the classic line down the river-right side. Choose the line your most comfortable with and that you believe you can do the best. Making last-minute changes in the middle of your race run is a recipe for trouble.
02:43 – Go Left and Die: Coming out of the rapid, Keller becomes rather negative, saying, “This part just kinda sucks.” This type of mindset will get you in trouble. Later he mixes the message, “Don’t be negative while you’re racing.” Moral of the story: Don’t dwell on small mistakes or past errors and focus on what you need to do. If you think to yourself, Don’t hit that rock, your brain only hears, Hit that rock. Stay focused on where you want to be in each rapid and what you want to do next.
03:05 – Reverse Seven Footer: At this point in the run, you’re really starting to become winded. The best thing you can do is to keep breathing and stay focused on the lines.
03:11 – Zwick’s: Keller makes a small mistake and isn’t able to recover as fast as he would have liked because the lactic acid is building and he’s starting to get tired. These types of errors are quite common in races, especially when you’re in a longer boat that take so much more energy to control and correct. Small mistakes can quickly result in major time errors. The only way to prevent or minimize these errors is to make every stroke count and keep your speed up so you don’t start getting off-line.
03:25 – Chief: “If you miss them, shake it off.” What Keller means by this is that once you miss a line, there’s nothing you can do about it. Just get ready for the next rapid and execute your plan.
03:38 – Gas Pedal/Pencil Sharpener: Look ahead and start setting yourself up for your line before you enter the next rapid. This will allow carry more speed through and out of the rapid.
03:43 – The Notch: This is one of the biggest and most intimidating moves on the race course because it leads directly into Gorilla and a mistake here could be devastating. According to Keller, the key is good stroke placement and patience. You can’t have a good line off Gorilla without a good line through The Notch. Give the move the respect it deserves and you’ll naturally be set-up to style the Monkey.
03:47 – Gorilla: Make the turn through The Notch and line that boat up for the boof off of Gorilla. Make sure you’ve got a stroke in the water when you land so you can drive through the speed trap. Keep the boat straight and avoid backstrokes as you set up for the next slide.
03:56 – Scream Machine: Good strokes and keep the boat dry. Drive and stay in the flow.
04:01 – Nies’ Pieces: It’s crucial to use the curling wave at the entrance to set up your line on the slide. When you’re tired, you don’t have the luxury of expending unnecessary energy on corrections and set-up, which is why it is essential to use the water as much as possible.
04:12 – Power Slide: Keller’s fatigue is starting to show. He was unable to make it straight through the pool below Nies’ and now is having to scramble to get in position for Power Slide. This is a classic example of what makes the Green Race so hard. As the saying goes: “The race is won on the top and lost on the bottom.”
04:31 – Rapid Transit: Get yourself in position to have the optimal bounce off the slide so you carry that speed into your finish sprint. Keller does this by holding the boat in position as he glides down the slide so he is lined up to hammer to the finish.
— Stay tuned for Green Race veteran Aaron Mann’s coverage from this week’s Green Race. Follow C&K on Instagram for the latest updates.
— The story developing for this year’s race (Saturday Nov. 4) is centered on the weather, with recent and forecast rains threatening high levels. Check out the results from last year and see Keller and Green Race stalwart contender Isaac Levinson’s 2015 training run after torrential North Carolina rains boosted flow levels to 25 inches (American Whitewater cites the 100-percent release level between 7-9 inches as 'the standard'), and check out the video from last week of Colin Hunt and crew witnessing the Green at 60 inches, then the highest levels witnessed on the stretch.