South Bend paddler, colleague race kayak 120 miles through night and beat record

South Bend paddler, colleague race kayak 120 miles through night and beat record

The terrorizing was crude toward the beginning. Hauling a kayak at their sides, Matt Meersman of South Bend and colleague Jorden Wakeley ran down a square or a greater amount of Grayling, Mich., driving a furious bunch of 83 groups of two that Meersman compares to a “running of the bulls.”

In his multiple times before in the AuSable River Canoe Marathon, Meersman has stumbled here. Not this time. Fortunate to be in front of the jumbled people on July 24, the pair dropped their light dashing boat — a 18½-footer made of carbon fiber and Kevlar — over a 3-foot substantial edge into the stream. Furthermore, rowed.

Many observers cheered from the verdant banks, insane over a northern Michigan display that has run every year since 1947 (with the exception of 1969 and 2020).

It was 9 p.m. Racers would paddle through the dull of night, through 120 miles of meteorites, fishing herons and swimming beavers. Through a speed of 70 strokes each moment with their 8-ounce paddles. Through a power and generally liquid eating regimen that unleashed ruin on stomachs, making a few racers upchuck.

Meersman and Wakeley, who lives in Grayling, wouldn’t simply dominate the race, which neither had at any point done. Their season of 13 hours, 54 minutes and 9 seconds, would break the record — by four minutes — as they arrived at Oscoda, barely short of Lake Huron.

Up there, “They are authentic heroes,” says individual South Bend paddler Kelly Harrington, who served on Meersman’s help group. She spied standards at service stations with the natural expression: “Hup the entire evening.” Paddlers call out “hup” to switch sides rowing.

Jorden Wakeley of Grayling, Mich., left, and Matt Meersman of South Bend present with prizes subsequent to winning the AuSable River Canoe Marathon in late July. Meersman lost his shoe and shirt during the furor of the race.

Meersman calls it “the most lofty kayak race on the planet,” and it surely best the numerous long distance race kayak races that are so well known in northern Michigan and Canada. Here, it’s an obscure, a lack of clarity. In any case, us local people acquire an impression at whatever point we see Meersman train in his dashing kayak on the St. Joseph River between the South Bend and Mishawaka dams, taking off from Joe Kernan Park, which is across the water from his home.

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Anglers playfully ask the number of laps he’s doing. Ordinarily it’s one to two circles between the dams. A couple of times each year, he goes much more. He’ll draft behind the group boats of South Bend Community Rowing, where Harrington columns, since they dispatch from a similar park.

He does about 85% of his preparation on this stretch of waterway, as long as its hotter than 20 degrees and the stream is liberated from ice. One time per year, he paddles 56 miles from home to Lake Michigan since, he says, “I love doing it.” That incorporates portaging around dams. All things considered, in the AuSable long distance race, groups need to portage around six dams.

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Meersman, who’s 44, rowed as a kid and afterward in school with his better half, Danielle, who was his AuSable help group supervisor. He discovered his direction into kayak dashing through little, accommodating gatherings of racers like the Indiana division of the U.S. Kayak Association and the greater Michigan Canoe Racing Association. He, Harrington, Ted Beatty of South Bend and the late rowing advocate Patrick Sawyer would prepare together.

“It requires some investment to condition yourself to the point that it resembles going for a stroll,” Meersman says.

He presently wears a heart screen and uses an application that directs stretches where he intermittently kicks up the speed, pushing his heart to higher limits.

Needing another AuSable accomplice, he met Wakeley in January in Grayling at the Northbound Outfitters store where Wakeley works, a fruitful racer of off-road bicycles and nordic skis who’d done a couple of the long distance races. Meersman welcomed him to his yearly spring preparing in Florida, and the two matched up in a smooth, 30-pound boat, embellished with one of their key supporters, South Bend’s Crooked Ewe Brewery and Ale House, which assists with race charges and sells “Canewe Crew” T-shirts with their names and boat number: 63.

The pair promptly won two Midwestern kayak races in the spring, Meersman says, adding, “We killed it.” But, in two races on little pieces of the AuSable course in July, they lost to a similar group, constraining them to face Meersman’s guiding errors, Wakeley’s annoyance, and their aggregate shortcoming in runs and their solidarity in perseverance.

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At the long distance race, a similar group turned into their adversary in the primary 90 minutes. Each time Meersman and Wakeley attempted to pass, the other group moved to impede them. It was acceptable running by the more youthful group — one that permitted Meersman and his accomplice to save energy by following intently behind — in any case, he adds, “We were sure they couldn’t support that for 14 hours.”

Thus, he and Wakeley trusted that the other group will make a refueling break and “put the sledge down.” They snatched and saved the lead for the remainder of the race, beating them by 13 minutes.

As fans watch from an extension, support team individuals swim into the water to drop off sustenance to racers on the AuSable River Canoe Marathon in late July.

A bicycle light at the front of the boat lit the way. A small bunch of times, they stopped as Meersman’s and Wakeley’s person “feeder” groups would hand off sustenance. Only a couple of their aides swam into the boat traffic. Meersman swallowed electrolyte-filled beverages and little contains of an energy blend whipped “like hotcake hitter.” Only that. He likewise benefited from cheers from Danielle and Meersman’s mother, Betty Morris, and his sister, Sarah Hickle, who were among groups who drove from one designated spot to another, including the dams, where observers swarmed to watch.

“We were continually moving; it was exceptionally serious,” Harrington says, her first time helping in the group. She’s done 16-mile kayak races and 24-hour runs yet fantasies about doing this long distance race, as well.

Backing group individuals bring sustenance and splash sun block (extreme left) as Matt Meersman of South Bend, left, and Jorden Wakeley of Grayling, Mich., make a stop on the AuSable River Canoe Marathon in late July.

Toward the completion, she reviews, racers looked pale and gaunt, with lines along their eyes.

Meersman hummed with adrenaline, however a “insane stomach distress” kept him from really resting during his typical long rest that evening and from snarfing up large number of calories at the honors supper. He’d done everything he could to prepare his stomach. For a fact, he’d figured out how to switch three days in advance from his standard thing, high-fiber, entire food diet to no fiber. Fiber sets aside more effort to assimilate than his occupied, speedy jerk muscles would permit.

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Meersman says the stream’s high, quick level, on account of downpour prior in the day, empowered him and Wakeley to break the race record. However, he adds, the conditions were no more excellent than when the record had been set in 1994.

He has a small bunch more races this year, however none as long or striking as this. His finale will be the eighteenth yearly St. Joe River Races on Sept. 25 at South Bend’s Veterans Park (3 to 7 miles of rowing and 5K runs), coordinated by the charitable Friends of the St. Joe River, where he’s leader. This energy for water fits well with his normal everyday employment as overseer of the St. Joe River Basin Commission, which the state made to mind and further develop wellbeing of the watershed. We will see him again in the WNIT Public Television narrative film about the St. Joe River that will make a big appearance Aug. 28 and air on Sept. 9.

None of that will coordinate with the end goal embrace with his better half, whose new birthday night he needed to skip for a race meeting and who’d took care of him through the race, he says: “I was unable to keep down the tears.”

Matt Meersman of South Bend commends minutes subsequent to winning the AuSable River Canoe Marathon with his mom, Betty Morris, left, his significant other, Danielle, and his sister, Sarah Hickle.

On the path

• Tippecanoe and Bicycles Too: Bike the Panhandle Pathway and streets Saturday to help the path with alternatives of 12, 28, 44, 60 or 100 miles, in addition to rest stops. Register at 6:30 a.m. Start at 7 a.m. at Main and Logan roads in Winamac. Cost is $30. Visit

• Potato bicycle or climb: Hoosier Hikers will have a Volkssport occasion Saturday where you either climb a 5K or 10K on earth trails or bicycle 11K on cleared path at Potato Creek State Park in North Liberty. Sign in the middle of 8 a.m. also, 1 p.m. at the nature community and wrap up by 4 p.m. It’s free except if you need an award or credit. Connection to subtleties/enlistment in this section on the web.

More:Volkssport climb occasion

More:Volkssport bicycle occasion

• Running Wild: Do this 5K run/stroll face to face Aug. 21 at St. Patrick’s County Park in South Bend or for all intents and purposes to help the St. Joseph County Parks. Or then again attempt the 3K Wacky Scavenger Hunt Walk. The 5K expenses $20-$17. The 3K expenses $15 or $35 for 3-4 members of all ages. Pre-bundled tidbits and refreshments will be given get-togethers race. Shirts can be purchased for $14-$11 by Aug. 12. Register at Volunteer at 574-654-3155.

Follow Outdoor Adventures writer Joseph Dits on Facebook at SBTOutdoorAdventures. Reach him at 574-235-6158 or

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