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NICOLAS DID THE DORDOGNE INTÉGRALE IN AN INFLATABLE KAYAK

Nicolas has been canoeing and kayaking since he was only 10 years old, but when ITIWIT challenged him to complete the Dordogne Intégrale, a 130-km paddle, he knew he was in for a real challenge! 

dordogne-integrale-inflatable-kayak

In the summer of 2017, when I was taking part in the ITIWIT ambassadors days in Hendaye, we had the great idea of entering the “Dordogne Intégrale”. But I had no idea just what the “Dordogne Intégrale” was. As it turns out, it's an extreme, long-distance race for canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddles that covers 130 km. Wow! And I was a rookie. 

 

start-of-the-race

The adventure started when I met the ITIWIT team on the camping site in Argentat on the day before the race.

6.00am, and it was still dark. But a multitude of boats were already waiting on the water. I joined the queue to launch. I started chatting with my neighbour. He was intrigued by my boat, the brand new fully-inflatable X500 touring kayak from Itiwit. He joked, “If there is a sprint finish, I’ll win by puncturing your kayak”. No problem. I will leave him standing in the last few metres thanks to the performance of my mount. He laughs at my response. It’s a cool event, and that’s a good thing. The tone is set!

I climb aboard and make my way to the starting line. I am in the 4th or 5th line, and I know that this kind of mass start can be very tricky. And we’re off! The first incident happened after just a few metres. In the mayhem at the start, someone fell into the water. A few more unlucky competitors took a dip in the first 30 km, which were technically difficult, featuring a succession of rapids.~ 

But I got through the first 30 km without a hitch, feeling quite chuffed with my navigating skills. I took care to drink and eat enough right from the start, and throughout the race, to avoid feeling famished.

~I really enjoyed myself between the 30th and the 70th kilometres. My kayak was gliding across the water superbly. I also saved energy by tucking into my competitors’ slipstreams. I overtook a lot of other boats, including some members of the ITIWIT team. Each time we exchange a few words of encouragement.

At the 70th kilometre, things got more complicated when a headwind (my worst enemy) blew up and it started raining. It was really tough. I was all alone, with one group ahead of me that I couldn’t catch, and another group a long way behind me. I shortened the length of my paddle to up the paddling rate and make better progress into the gusts of wind. One of the advantages of the new fibre and carbon paddle is that it can be separated and the length can be adjusted. You can even adjust the angle of the blades to match your style. It’s great!~ 

dordogne-integrale-inflatable-kayak
dordogne-integrale-inflatable-kayak

My body started to feel the strain. I was worried about cramp, so I regularly stretched my legs inside the kayak by extending them beyond the footrest. The blisters on my hands were close to bursting and leaving my flesh exposed. I also had a few burns on my body caused by the friction of my spraydeck and my buoyancy aid. Thankfully, the landscapes were breathtaking, so I drew as much positive energy as possible from my contemplation of nature to get through this bad patch.

Strangely enough, my second wind came at the 100-km mark. Now I knew that I would finish the race and my second wind enabled me to catch up with a group of three boats. I overtook a few more, always taking care to save energy by using their slipstream and keep up my pace.

Then, I finally reached the final kilometres. My emotions got the better of me: I’m going to make it! I felt confused, I thought of my grandparents who live nearby, of my family and of my friends. I felt enough pride welling up inside me to even accelerate as I approached the finishing line. I am so happy to have done it!!! A fantastic race with the ITIWIT kayak!~ 

12:22: TIME~130: DISTANCE IN KM~3 : NUMBER OF DEPARTMENTS CROSSED~520: PARTICIPANTS~1: ITIWIT X500 INFLATABLE TOURING KAYAK

dordogne-integrale-finish-line

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