The Green Race is the premiere whitewater kayak extreme race in the world. Thousands of people hike in over steep terrain for over an hour to spectate and world-class paddlers travel long distances to compete. Most of the race takes place in a mile that drops 342 ft so it’s a steep, narrow and technical course. The biggest rapid, Gorilla, is a narrow waterfall that has a burly entrance called The Notch that can flip you or sub you out as you go through right above the main drop. Yeah, very intimidating to most paddlers!
I personally really enjoy paddling the Green, but I haven’t run Gorilla in some years and I have no desire to race over it! So, I have a lot of respect for the men and women who race. This year’s top female is 21 year old Adriene Levknecht, a very talented paddler who lives in Hendersonville, NC and is no stranger to the class V scene. Not only did she win the women’s division, but she also broke the record for the fastest women’s time ever. I enjoy paddling with Adriene and I thought you’d like to hear about how she approaches paddling so I asked her a few questions. Here’s some insight into the life of this talented young paddler.
GAP: How long have you been paddling and hoe did you into the sport?
AL: I have been in kayaks for about 14 years. Growing up in Michigan my parents were both sea kayakers so that got taught to me when I was a child. That spawned into river kayaking when I was around 11.
GAP: Your Mom paddles and she is very supportive of you. How does it feel to have a Mom who paddles? Is it fun?
AL: I love it, I really like going kayaking with her when I can. She is my biggest fan and I am her biggest fan for sure. She just paddled down the Tellico and I love being able to talk to her about kayaking, it is a really big part in both of our lives. She can understand the lingo and I don’t have to dumb anything down for her. I love her more than anything I have ever felt and I know I couldn’t do what I do without her and her support.
GAP: What was your training strategy for the race?
AL: Living with Shane Benedict. He pushed me as much as he could. I spent a lot of time doing flat water on Lake Summit. I did a mix between sprints and somewhere around a 6 minute fast paddle. I also tried to spend a lot of time calming myself down and visualizing myself having fast, clean lines.
GAP: What was your biggest challenge leading up to the race and how did you overcome it?
AL: I never felt like I had any pressure to win but people always have the proverbial “are you going to win the Green Race” question and those are always hard to answer. I tried really hard to not let that get into my head and just make a personal goal for myself and want to succeed in that goal. I really needed to stay calm on the day of the Race because I didn’t want to overshoot anything and crash. Shane did a good job talking me down and kept telling me to stay calm all morning.
GAP: Do you have any pre-paddling rituals?
AL: I try to do the same thing every morning so my body gets used to the feeling. I eat eggs, some bacon, and drink a bunch of coffee. I also drink a Nalgene before I go paddling. I do those things every day including race day. I like to paddle upstream and surf the wave at the end of the Upper Green that my Mom loves to surf, there is no one up there and I can get into my confidence easily up there.
GAP: What were you thinking coming into the Notch?
AL: Probably not to crash in front of 500+ people, that I was confident in my training and my ability to not screw up.
GAP: How did you feel at the finish line? Did you know you had broken the women’s record?
AL: I was super fired up that I had a really good run. I wasn’t sure if I had broken the 5 min range, but I knew I was right on the cusp. I had caught up to Laura during my run which had fired me up. I knew I had broken the record because I timed my run on my watch to know at least around how fast I was.
GAP: Would you like to see more women racing the Green and what would you say to encourage more women to paddle Class V?
AL: I always get fired up about women out on the Green and other Class 5 creeks. I think it is hard for women to really get out of their head prior to a race. It takes a lot of hard work for women to take a hit and get back up again. To women who want to race or paddle class V: stay calm, visualize, and practice as much as possible.
GAP: Anything else you’d like to say to boater chicks?
AL: Find a solid crew to kayak with. Tell them what kind of kayaking you want to do. Don’t feel like you have to run a rapid because other people want you to run it. Don’t rush into big rapids if you don’t want to. Get out there and do what you love to do!
Photo of Adriene running Sunshine after the race courtesy of Shane Benedict at Liquidlogic Kayaks.