Last year he took the FIBArk crown while nearing his 50th birthday. This year wildwater paddler Andy Corra, from Durango, Colorado, set a new world 24 hour record by paddling a whopping 273.5 miles in 24 hours during the Yukon River Quest. While his mark is still awaiting certification by Guinness, it bested the old record of 261 miles set two years ago by Ian Adamson. PL caught up with the downriver don to get his take on the new record…
PL How’d it feel overall?
Corra It went pretty smooth, actually. At three hours I was wondering if I was going to able to make 24, but by hour 12 I knew I had too much into it to quit.
PL What was the worst moment?
Corra Hours 18-21 were the worst – low energy, general fatigue. I was thinking at 18 — only six hours left – then, 6 HOURS, that’s more than I ever paddle!! I was worried my rear end was going to get really painful, but it was never really a problem. By the last four hours my entire ribcage and lats were so sore I kept having to change my upper body position to accommodate the pain. After 24 hours it was a 130-mile motorboat ride to the next take-out, then a six-hour car ride in the back seat of a pick-up. That was by far the most uncomfortable ride I’ve ever taken. Not only had I been awake for 42 hours, but I was more sore in every single muscle than I have ever been. Days later I literally had bruises at the base of my lats, ribs and armpits from tearing up the muscles. That car ride was definitely the worst part of all.
PL When did you realize you might beat the record?
Corra I knew right where I stood the whole time. My GPS was giving me overall averages of 11.5 to 11.9 mph (I had to do better than 10.8 to beat the record). So the whole time I knew was paddling above record pace. It was not until 12 hours that I allowed myself to think I might get it. But, when I was thinking I might, I’d have to tell myself, “Calm down Corra, you have a long way to go.”
PL Did you have to make up for the relatively normal/low river flow somehow?
Corra Low flows of around 69,000 cfs compared to 107,000 when the record was set, certainly meant slower current speeds. Again, I just watched my average speed and kept it above 10.8 mph. I think my years of river reading experience also helped a lot. I think I did a god job of usually finding the fastest current.
PL How’d you train for something like that?
Corra Not a whole lot different than I would for FiBark or any other race. I did the usual interval and sprint workouts, with several more two-hour sessions, and several three-plus hour sessions (which I normally don’t ever do), plus more two-a-day workouts. The longest I ever paddled in training was 4:40 (from the Westwater take-out to Moab). I intended to do a couple of six-hour sessions, and even a day with three 2 1/2 hour sessions, but never got around to it. As an older guy, I’m aware of needing more rest and recovery days. It seems I never had the time/ energy for those longer sessions. In reality, however, I feel I’ve been training for this for the past 30 years. I think those cumulative years of paddling are what made the record paddle possible.
PL Comments on the Epic boat?
Corra Greg Barton, from Epic Kayaks, lent me his personal racing V12, a 21-foot surfski (I own a V10). The V12 was super nice — 22 or so pounds, compared to 35 for my V10 — and a brand new design with great speed and excellent secondary stability. My butt never got sore — a real testament to the comfort of the seat and positioning. I was worried about jumping into a new boat for the attempt, but the V12 felt comfortable and fast right away. I think it’s the most efficient boat I could have used. A big thanks to Greg and Epic.
PL What’d you do afterward…how’d you celebrate?
Corra I wanted to throw my arms up in victory — but they were way too sore. After a couple of days rest I met up with my family — Janet and son ,Wiley, for a vacation in Alaska. None of us had ever been up there. I went for a paddle with Wiley yesterday, and I can say that I’m not yet recovered enough to be able to beat a 7-year-old.
Read More! Blogspot from Jeremy Rodgers!
Just when one thinks you have been dealt an average hand, all variables go in your favor and the impossible happens as the human spirit triumphs against all odds. Not 24 hours after I sent an email out to family and friends on my blog acknowledging the lack of adequate flows for a world record attempt on the 24 distance record, American wildwater paddler Andy Corra, from Durango, Colorado, overtook the current world record of 261 miles by paddling 273.5 miles (awaiting certification by Guinness World Records) in 24 hours. The current official record is held by Aussie American adventure racing legend Ian Adamson. While flows were average at best compared to previous record attempts by others, Andy’s paddling and river reading skills, as well as tolerance of sitting in a kayak for 24 hours, were matched with eerily calm skies and the sheer hunger for what was one man’s first chance to attempt this life long goal.
Andy’s attempt was supported by 2 local guides in a flat skiff motor boat and myself alternating in a 2nd surf ski and time spent on the motor boat handling logistics. His attempt started with a simple touch of the reset button on the 2 GPS tracking devices at 12 noon as he pushed away from the flat bottomed guide boat and pointed the bow of his Epic V12 surf ski downriver. Needless to say, he chose against a long warm-up. What ensued in the next 24 hours was simply poetry in motion. Andy kept his signature form throughout the entire 24 hours and his cadence only slowed in the final 2 hours as fatigue and the intolerance of sitting took its toll on his back and shoulders. The river was swift and approximately 5-16 feet deep. The endless braids were challenging to find primary channels and we as a support crew were busy looking ahead with various means, then relying on Andy’s on the fly water reading skills. With moderate flows this year, Andy simply overcame moderate flows with both his paddling skill combined with excellent weather minus several heavy gale force squalls. The difference in Andy’s attempt and previous attempts by other paddlers seemed to be Andy’s dissection of each channels flow to gain maximum current speed advantage obtained from his years of wildwater racing.
We began below Lake Labarge around noon on Saturday and descended Five Fingers and Rink Rapids earlier than expected. In the wee hours of the arctic dusk around 2am, Andy negotiated the cross currents and exploding waves between the immersed rock towers of Five Fingers Rapids with the cautious focus you’d expect from a 6 time wildwater national champion paddling a 21 foot surf ski through short but worthy class 2-3 rapids. Andy had little to say the entire attempt but did muster the defining phrase, “that was anti climactic”, as he passed through the final rapid.
The rest of the night he remained on task only stopping long enough to urinate and exchange food and hydration systems. He did ultimately hit an expected low in the early hours of the next morning, hours 18-21, with only a slight change in cadence but no change in average speed even with dropping current speed. By hour 21, following a quick layer change, he regained his color and signature cadence for the final leg of this enormous human feat.