Geez, it’s really rough this time of year!
Just keeping up with the schedule is really a challenge with my rigorous training to get in top form. I mean, I’m one of the originals who’s been at this for nine years now and to be honest with you, it doesn’t get any easier with age. No, it really doesn’t.
You see, the big race is just around the corner and we only get a chance like this once a year, so we’ve gotta make it count.
And, y’know, it’s not just the physical part of the race, it’s the mental part, the strategy.
I mean, I’ve gotten to where I kinda like the physical part of the training, like the back and forth rhythm of the laps, the repetitive wind sprints. Ya gotta build up that endurance if you wanna be among the first across the line. As they say, the path is long, but the rewards are many.
It’s the strength training that’s particularly challenging, especially the weight lifting. But I mean, that’s always been a challenge for folks like us, right? We’re really not cut out for pumping the iron, to tell you the truth.
But the real challenge is working on your strategy. With more than 700 competitors, you’ve really gotta have an edge if ya wanna finish among the first; set yourself apart from the crowd, y’know? I mean, lotsa people think we all look alike, and y’know, I get that, I really do. But believe me, the bottom line is that we are – every one of us – unique in our own special way. With folks like us, all you hafta to do to see our differences is look right below the surface. Y’gotta trust me on that.
The first part of the strategy is – obviously – to secure a sponsor. I mean, In order for any of us to get in the race at all, we’ve gotta have a sponsor. And y’know even though all it takes is a lousy 5 bucks, lotsa people don’t wanna part with their hard-earned spending cabbage. And y’know, I get that, I really do. I mean if they put their money down, investing it in us, and we don’t come out on top, or at least near the top, what’ve they got to show for it, really?
I mean, sure they’ve made a generous donation to a very worthy cause no matter what the outcome of the race. The Upper Sangamon River Conservancy and Mahomet Parks and Rec can both use the money, I can tell you that. I mean, have you seen that old beat up red pickup those guys in the USRC drive around? Sheesh!
But despite that altruism and worthy cause stuff, I can be a realist too, just like anybody else, so let’s face it, most folks are in it for the ROI, plain and simple. Oh, sorry, that’s ‘return on investment’ for those of you that don’t get race language. They just want back more than they put in, right? The lure of easy money, right? It’s always there, right behind the altruism.
But still, getting that 5 bucks outta people can be brutal, man. Trust me on that. So we’re racing for lots of great stuff our sponsors can win, like 500 bucks! That’s a huge ROI right there! Or a new kayak, or coolers or outdoor stuff, or lots of gift cards to local eateries. I mean even 10 or 25 bucks is a pretty decent return in the minds of most folks. So I’ll say to everybody reading this right now: get out there and be a sponsor! I know I desperately need to be sure I have mine. If you don’t get a sponsor, you hafta sit out the race, man, and like I said, you don’t get another chance for another freakin’ year! You don’t want that to happen to any of us, now do you?
So I mean the strategy for race day is mostly mental. You have to understand the importance of river currents, a top position out of the gate, the importance of pace, sizing up the competition and eying the ones to beat. Everybody starts stretching out as soon as we’re in the water – it’s amazing the guys that aren’t in top shape for the race, and it’s obvious right after we start. I mean, if you’re not in top form, what was the point, guys? The key of course is to be out front from the beginning. There’s little chance for recovery once you drop behind, for sure.
But the real strategy comes when it all funnels down to that crowded finish line. If you don’t get yourself into that chute, I mean, it’s all over for ya. And even though there’s 35 or 40 winners in this race, that’s still out of nearly 700 or so of us competitors, so edging out and nudging the others is the key, man. And if you hit that noodle, sure it’ll slow your forward progress a bit, but you can’t let it get to ya. Ya gotta keep working your way down the line and into that chute.
And when it’s all over, if ya do it right, and you were prepared, the thrill of victory as you go flying through the air to the winner’s circle on the shore…man, there’s just no better feeling, I can tell ya that.
Because, we’re rubber ducks (annabilis flexibilis, that is), and this – this is what we do, man. This is what we live for: the thrill of the race! And we only get a shot once a year – from the time we’re dropped off that old iron bridge into the Sangamon River to the first ones down the chute at the finish line, I’m tellin’ ya, it’s non-stop excitement for us!
So please, folks drop whatever you’re doin’ and get out there and sponsor your duck. There’s gonna be a boatload of volunteers out at Mahomet Music Fest to help get you in the race. I mean, I don’t wanna see any of us get left behind this year in that big Rubbermaid garbage pail they keep us in at Mahomet Parks and Rec. That’s the worst thing that can ever happen to us rubber ducks: never even having a chance. And think about it for you, too! I mean how ya gonna win a great prize if ya don’t get in the race, man?
So help us ducks out, help out those folks at the USRC and Mahomet Parks and Rec, and if you get one of us fastest and best, well-trained and top-performing ducks you can win one o’them fabulous prizes too. And if ya get that kayak, maybe we’ll see you on the river soon!
Appeared as Rivers and Roads, Mahomet Citizen, by Scott Hays, August 22, 2019