C-1 competitors to race from Grayling to Burton’s Landing
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The Spike’s Challenge weekend of canoe racing will include a C-1 event – a race from Grayling to Burton’s Landing in one-person canoes – on Saturday evening. This year’s C-1 race will be the 26th in the event’s history.
Spike’s Keg ‘O’ Nails, a Grayling restaurant and tavern, started the Spike’s Challenge C-2 race in 1991 as a shorter daytime version of the AuSable River Canoe Marathon. The Marathon, a 120-mile race from Grayling to Oscoda, has been in existence since 1947. Spike’s Challenge organizers added the C-1 race in 1993, creating a weekend of canoe racing with events on both Saturday and Sunday.
The C-1 event’s field can be a diverse group. It usually features several AuSable River Canoe Marathon competitors plus a variety of other paddlers. Experienced canoe racers consider the Spike’s Challenge to be one of the premier C-1 events in the state of Michigan.
Paddlers and organizers cite the distance, the competition, and the course as reasons for the race’s popularity.
“The C-1 race is popular because it is a short race and it is in the evening so it is not as hot as some other C-1 races in the MCRA circuit. A lot of locals that do not do the circuit race this race because they like the hometown advantage and to support our sponsor,” said Cheryl Lucey, one of the organizers for the Spike’s Challenge.
The 2018 Spike’s Challenge C-1 race will start at 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 21. The race begins at Joe Wakeley’s house, which is next to Borchers AuSable Canoeing. The race ends at Burton’s Landing.
Most competitors reach the finish line in 40 to 70 minutes.
For the start, paddlers line up on both sides of the river in groups and leave in different heats. Starting positions are determined by random draw. The start can be a challenge with all of the canoes converging in the center of the river during the beginning of each heat.
“Getting past Penrod’s cleanly is the biggest challenge. All it takes is someone to lose control on the wakes and flip you and your race takes a big hit. This is a short race and once you have trouble it is hard to make up time and get back to where you were,” Lucey said.
Last year’s C-1 race featured 55 competitors, a rebound from 2016 when the event had 45 paddlers, a lower-than-usual total. The 2017 C-1 event represented the 25th anniversary of the race.
“Last year was our 25th year for the Spike’s Challenge and we had a great turnout. We are expecting to have about the same number of participants,” Lucey said.
The Spike’s Challenge had 63 competitors in 2015 (third most in the event’s history). In 2014, 64 paddlers – a tie for the race’s all-time record in participation – competed in the C-1 race. The 2013 C-1 event had 54 competitors. In 2012, 64 paddlers – a record field – raced in the event.
Spike’s Challenge weekend also includes a C-2 (two-person canoe) race. The Spike’s Challenge C-2 sprints for starting position are scheduled for 9 a.m. on Saturday, July 21. The sprints start and end at the city park near the pedestrian bridge. The C-2 race features a running start with teams carrying their canoes to the river, and starting positions for the run are determined by the sprint competition.
The C-2 race starts at 9 a.m. on Sunday, July 22, at the Old AuSable Fly Shop in Grayling. It ends at McMasters Bridge between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.