A little more than halfway through this race, the team has encountered a lot of challenges and most recently viewers have seen them taking on a lot more whitewater in their large voyageur canoe. They have two options, shoot the rapids or portage around them. Each decision comes with its own set of advantages and drawbacks. As an experienced whitewater guide, Matt’s skillset is relied upon heavily in these stretches of the journey. Matt says that it’s actually a really tough situation to be in as you need to approach every rapid with caution, but you also need to keep your overall goal in mind and not overanalyze. He notes that Austin Metheny is also a whitewater pro and together they looked at each rapid individually to work through the problems they may encounter and decide the best course of action to take. When deciding to shoot a rapid, Matt said they had to keep the worst-case scenarios in mind and be aware that things could go wrong in the blink of an eye and potentially put team members in life threatening situations or damage their canoe beyond repair. On the other hand, by pushing through the rapids, they could cover more ground, quicker, which would ultimately help them get to York Factory on time. By portaging, they could avoid risky whitewater situations that presented a danger to the team members as well as their boat, however it would take a lot more time and energy to carry the heavy boat through the rugged terrain which could slow them down and risk their chances of making the 28-day deadline. How do you make those kinds of decisions to push the envelope or err on the side of caution? Matt says that it was a tough line to walk and when they chose the water, he was often really worried, but put on a brave face for the team to give them confidence. Unlike a kayak, navigating your way through rapids in a large canoe isn’t as simple. It’s not a small, nimble, forgiving boat and he says the worst-case scenarios weighed heavily on him.
The body can keep up a pretty intense pace for a while, but without a hefty caloric intake to balance out all of the energy they were exerting each day, energy begins to wane. Matt says that hunger was real. While it was exciting to get to a cache and have food, the supplies were limited and the MRE style food got old really quick, he says. Without some of the experienced anglers on the team catching fish, their food situation would have been even more dire. Going in to “The Brigade”, Matt says he was already on the thin side, and he lost a significant amount of weight throughout the experience. There was no doubt, it was hard on the body. He also talks about the aches and pains after a long day on the boat paddling and says the butt pain was unreal! Laughing, he says that his keister was often so sore that it felt like the bones were going to come straight through the flesh. So, when there were opportunities to minimize the amount of energy it took to complete tasks and give them a moment to relax, those were high points. Matt talks about Vince and the sail he made, “he’s a real craftsman, he’s a genius”. Harnessing the wind, Vince’s hand-made sail made that leg easier.
The show really highlights the team’s trials and difficulties, Matt says, but he notes that overall, they had a lot of fun. Even through the rough portions he talks about the great group of people he was with, the bonds they forged, the laughs they had, and how with time they were able to get to a point where they knew each other well enough they could joke and tease. With each and every contestant that has come on the show to talk to us about their experiences, we’ve talk about personalities. Carly has been very cautious, Kaleb has been very outspoken even if it rubbed people the wrong way, Austin has appeared frustrated by indecision, I’ve joked about Vince’s bagpipes and I’ve teased about Matt’s mothering nature. In a race like this, each person is bound to go through the gamut of their personal emotions and everyone around them has to work through that with them if they want to succeed as a team. Although I tease him about the possibility of annoying his team members now and then with his caution, he is an incredible guy – optimistic, encouraging, a team player and even though it’s hairy out there he is usually smiling. Matt says that from the very beginning he understood the challenge at hand and had his doubts about their success. Looking at maps, figuring out distances, trying to calculate how far you need to travel each day, what kind of pace you need to keep, and how to offset the days that don’t meet those expectations – it seemed like the impossible task, he says. Realizing the need to make the most of every moment, Matt says he often pushed the team telling them to pack the boat faster, encouraging them to put forth all their effort in different situations to keep moving along the way. That kind of intensity may have gotten on the team’s nerves, Matt jokes. Part of this adventure is the fact that there is money on the line at the end. Matt says candidly that he would have done this race for free, he probably even would have paid to go. However, the fact that there is the possibility of money at the end was a factor that made him push just a little harder, and it added more motivation. It doesn’t take away from the beauty of the trip, you can still enjoy the trip for what it is, Matt says. But you can also push yourself to get that money. When asked if he had to do it all again and could only take one team member along, his answer, “Don”, the Navy Seal, a guy who clearly has had a big impact on the team.
If you aren’t already watching, be sure to tune in to "The Brigade: Race to the Hudson”, Mondays at 8:00 pm ET on Outdoor Channel. It’s a really interesting show, a different take on reality, a different kind of competition where it’s all for one, not one against all. It’s extremely physical, highlights some of the most beautiful wild places still left in this world and makes all of the outdoor lovers want to get outside!