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Robyn Benincasa Kayaks to Finish Line with a Little Help from Arnicare

by boiron on July 23rd, 2010

We recently heard from Robyn Benincasa, professional adventure racer and full-time firefighter on San Diego’s all-female fire crew. For the last 15 years, Robyn has competed in close to 40 expedition-length events, such as Primal Quest and Eco-Challenge, and won several world championships. She also founded the Project Athena Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to helping women who’ve endured medical setbacks achieve their athletic dreams. Diagnosed with osteoarthritis, Robyn has had both hips replaced with chrome Birmingham hips, and with her body taking a constant pounding, she has begun to incorporate Arnicare into her pain relief regimen.

“I’ve been using the Arnicare Gel and sublingual pellets for the past 2 weeks, two to three times a day, and I think it’s helping my recovery. I’ve been doing plenty of long paddles in preparation for my 460-mile paddling race in the Yukon, and my sense is that I’m not as inflamed or sore as I was expecting. I’ve also been taking ibuprofen pretty regularly in my recovery from 2 hip surgeries, and I’ve been able to cut back on that a bit using the Arnica,” says Robyn.

“My teammate, Florence Debout, swears by it. She is a physical therapist and ultra racer, not to mention a two-time cancer survivor. When she asked me during our 160-mile run across Namibia if I wanted some Arnica, I laughed at her and pulled out my ibuprofen. Now I think she’s on to something!”

Robyn spent this Fourth of July weekend competing in the Yukon River Quest, the longest annual canoe and kayak marathon. It is 460 miles from Whitehorse to Dawson City in Yukon, Canada. Below is her exciting post-race letter to her teammates, sponsors and supporters.

Hello Friends of Team Merrell/Akali and Team Project Athena!

Woo hoo! Team Merrell/Akali’s Carter Johnson, David Kelly and I swept the men’s and women’s solo divisions and the team division in the Yukon River Quest this weekend. What a thrill to see all those orange jerseys at the top of the podium. Made my little heart sing.

The boys were well ahead of me (David was in a 6 man boat with some very cool Texans, with Carter drafting behind in his solo kayak like a madman for 43 hours!) by the time I neared Dawson City, and although I finished in the wee hours of the morning on July 3 (1:43 a.m. to be exact), it was still light outside! That was the main reason I had chosen the Yukon River Quest as my first major solo ultra-endurance kayak race – not a big fan of the dark. I hadn’t seen a soul in about 20 hours when I arrived. Just me and the river. And I got caught in a CRAZY downpour in the final 12 hours, in which I couldn’t even see, with lightening everywhere and the wind threatening to tip me over with every stroke. I didn’t know if it was scarier to stop and freeze or to keep going. So I kept going. Then I was rewarded about 30 minutes later with the most gorgeous double rainbow I have ever seen over my shoulder when I looked back at the black clouds to see if they were following. One end of the rainbow was in the river, the other end in the mountains. Wow. I had to float backwards and stare at it for a minute. So remote and beautiful. Most of the time I felt like this tiny, little orange dot in a huge prehistoric landscape – that sense that this river (a ½ mile wide at this point) was here for millions of years and would be here for a million more when I’m gone. And then a bald eagle launched off the cliff and circled my boat, screeching a warning that I was too close to its nest (or that it wanted me to surrender my Cheetos. Not sure.). That was the highlight reel.

The rest of the 51 hours and 43 minutes I was out there was spent just focusing on moving as fast as I could, while managing drinking, eating, and all bodily pains/functions that needed addressing while inside the tiny cockpit of an Epic 18 Sea Kayak. And listening to books/music on my iPod. And wondering what the heck I had been thinking entering such a long, silly race in a boat I had rented the day before (LUCKILY it was perfect!) and on a course I had never seen. But I’m an adventure racer at heart, so “making it up as you go” is just par for the course.

As I made my way through the course, passing boats one by one, I realized why I felt the need to do this race. Turns out I’m okay at paddling ridiculous distances after all (as I had hoped, but didn’t really know for sure). Even on training that mostly consisted of dry land paddling on a KayakPro ERG inside the fire station the last few months. I was the first chick by 8 hours and the third solo boat overall, out of 25-28 entries (and ninth out of all the boats – including team boats). I couldn’t believe it. Carter was first solo, of course (and second overall – he’s amazing), and set a new course record, and David Kelly’s boat with the Texans was first overall. So a clean sweep for Team Merrell/Akali across all divisions! How sweet is that?

Well, I might be hooked on a new sport, but we shall see. The jury is still out until I no longer have to bring my head to my hands to shampoo. This was one epic adventure. I’m not afraid to tell you that I was pretty scared out there at times. Going solo in this race was definitely one of life’s little challenges/confidence builders.

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