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Hamilton College students celebrate the end of the 90-Miler Boat Race at Saranac Lake on Sunday by splashing around on the shore of Flower Lake. (Business Photo – Aaron Cerbone)

LAKE SARANAC – The paddles were high as around 600 paddlers jumped out of their canoes, hugged, roared, laughed and tackled each other out of the boats, celebrating the end of 90 miles of grueling paddling while taking part in the 39th 90 mile race.

On Friday, riders from about 250 canoes, kayaks, guide boats and stand-up paddleboards embarked on the three-day trip on a segment of the 740-mile North Forest Canoe Trail from Old Forge, and came in late on Flower Lake at Saranac Lake on Sunday.

The race is organized by the non-profit organization Northern Forest Canoe Trail, which purchased the race from Paul Smiths residents Brian and Grace McDonnell’s Adirondack Watershed Alliance last year for $90,000.

NFCT executive director Karrie Thomas said it was the nonprofit’s first year without Brian as race director. The “training wheels” were gone, and it took twice as many people to do what the McDonnells did, but she said they “stood on the shoulders of giants”.

“I am forever grateful to the volunteers, staff and Brian McDonnell who continues to pick up the phone and answer my questions. » said Thomas.

Howie Dower of the “Dower Power” team receives a warm welcome at Flower Lake as he reaches the end of the 90-Miler boat race. (Business Photo – Aaron Cerbone)

Northern Forest Canoe Trail communications manager Chris Morris said it was the best attendance at the race in recent years.

Community on the 90-Miler

Paul Smith’s College Canoe Club coach Matt Dougherty said two of the college’s student boats set the fastest times in PSC history.

College students have been racing since the early 1990s and Dougherty has been leading them in competition for six years.

“It changes their perspective on everything, doesn’t it?” said Dougherty. “They think it’s crazy to do it, and then they do it and they’re like, ‘What can’t I do? “”

(Paul Smith’s College students, in no order, Aidan Ripp, Brady Miller, Tenzin Mathes and Dolcie Tanguay make their way to the finish line of the 90-Miler Boat Race on Flower Lake at Saranac Lake on Sunday. Photo by company – Aaron Cerbone)

Even after graduating, alumni come back and make the 90-Miler a lifelong tradition – a kind of college reunion. They come back for the camaraderie, he says.

Mike Trump paddled for college in the race before graduating from Paul Smith’s College in 2002 and 2004, and he’s competed in all 90 miles since then.

“I’m coming back to see all my friends” said Trump.

It was his 18th year, so Trump is set to become a member of the Gold Canoe Club – a designation for dedicated paddlers who have completed the 90 Miler at least 20 times. Realizing that surprised him.

“I do not want to” said Trump.

The 39th 90-Miler Boat Race featured approximately 600 paddlers in approximately 250 boats this weekend. (Business Photo – Aaron Cerbone)

Morris said paddlers come for the community. Spending time racing against each other strengthens friendship, he said.

Thomas said she was impressed by their generosity. On the first day, a few boats turned around and other riders stopped to help them out of the drink.

“You’re compromising your time when you do this, but it’s about community, safety and caring for each other as much as racing,” said Thomas.

A large crowd of hundreds of people gathered on the shore of the lake to welcome the paddlers. Morris said spectators came to see the physical feats.

“Some of these runners are just amazing,” he said. “You watch the pace at which they paddle, and they do it for six or seven hours straight. I think a lot of people come to see it because it’s awesome.

Hamilton College students hug each other as they celebrate the end of the 90-Miler boat race on Flower Lake in Saranac Lake on Sunday. (Business Photo – Aaron Cerbone)

This was not a race for the faint of heart. Frank Redmond was seen lying on his back on the shore after soaking his cap in the cool water.

“It wasn’t as bad as I thought, but I hated it” he said.

His friends Steve Morgan, Chris Kallies and Chester Cohen took him on the three long days of racing, his first 90-Miler. But it was a good kind of misery. Their team name was “Friendship.”

“It’s a question of team friendship. I’ll be back next year,” said Redmond. “I think we’re going to be doing this for years to come.”

Pete McConville stood in the water on the shore and waved a Norwegian flag to welcome his friend, Bjorte Wettland of Norway, to Lake Saranac. McConville, an 18-year-old runner in the 90-Miler himself, said Wettland paddled the race 20 years ago and came back to tackle it again. A conversation about the Enterprise was interrupted when McConville saw Wettland pull up to shore.

Tyler Dezago, center, hugs his “Hell Goose” teammate after reaching the end of the 90-Miler Boat Race at Saranac Lake on Sunday. “Hell Goose” also features paddlers Ryan Hicks-Mccann, Jon McCormack and Matt Smith. (Business Photo – Aaron Cerbone)

“Hey, Björte!” he shouted as he ran with the flag of Bjorte’s nation in celebration.

Double time on the track

Saranac Lake resident Skip Murray was waiting for his sons – the only set of identical twins in the race – to paddle into town.

Peter and Mike Murray live 400 miles apart – in Boston and Baltimore – so they never spend much time together now that they’ve grown up. Murray suggested they run the 90-Miler to spend some quality time together.

“Apparently one of them thought it was 9 miles away,” laughs Murray.

It was a trial by fire. Neither had rowed seriously before. On Thursday, they took a canoe out to Flower Lake for a test drive.

“It was the first time I went canoeing” said Pete. “I have now been four times in a canoe.”

We asked them how they trained.

“We promised not to be hungover the morning of,” said Peter.

Skip said the two enjoyed the race and he enjoyed seeing them every day. He had been their pit crew throughout the race, and he and his wife loved to hear their stories.

“That was pretty awesome, man,” Mike said. “But if you had asked me at the end of Day One, I would have had a different story. … Day One kicked our ass.

“I had never suffered so much in my life” said Peter.

Their muscles were knotting, he said. They had “underestimated” the importance of good paddling techniques to save energy. They were both learning on the track. On the second morning, they woke up and read crash courses in paddling techniques to ease their sore muscles.

The chance to be with the family was as memorable as the race.

They were bonded, even when they weren’t talking.

“I imagined being on the river, chatting, catching up with my brother. Well, it went away pretty quickly when we realized it was really a race,” said Peter. “Mike and I are pretty competitive. We hardly said anything the first day. We just put our heads down and tried to perfect our technique.

When they saw someone in front of them, they said they looked at each other and said, “Let’s go get them.”

They marveled at the beauty of the Adirondacks, Skip said. Mike and Pete said they plan to make the 90-Miler an annual tradition now.

An exhausted Frank Redmond lies on his back on the shore of Flower Lake after reaching the end of the 90-Miler Boat Race at Saranac Lake on Sunday. Redmond said his friends Steve Morgan, Chris Kallies and Chester Cohen dragged him through the three long days of racing with their “Friendship” team and while it was grueling he believes he will be back for more. (Business Photo – Aaron Cerbone)

Pete McConville, left, and Bjorte Wettland pose with the Norwegian flag, Wettland’s home country flag, while standing in the waters of Flower Lake in Saranac Lake, celebrating Wettland’s completion of the boat race 90-Miler Sunday. (Business Photo – Aaron Cerbone)

Students from the Cornell University Outing Club celebrate the end of the 90-Miler Boat Race at Saranac Lake on Sunday by splashing and tackling friends in the cool waters of Flower Lake. (Business Photo – Aaron Cerbone)

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