Last week, fourteen teams of six participated in the annual Lake Louisa Great Relay Race. They were competing for bragging rights and this much coveted tree stump trophy.
This year marked the 25th anniversary of the race. Founder and organizer Lawrence Irany was honoured with a commemorative paddle painted with the race logo. Lawrence is quick to downplay his role, citing help from others, but Lawrence is the heart and soul of this event. At age 83, he still handles the bulk of the work; he prints posters, places marker buoys in the lake, supplies medals, even sweeps sand off the roads the day before the race, and provides beer and soft drinks for all competitors.
He is rarely seen without a loudspeaker in his hand.
When he's not organizing the race, he's standing on his driveway calling wolves down from the hills. And yes, they come when Lawrence howls.
The idea for the race began more than 25 years ago when Lawrence met with Lake Louisa’s Social Club summer program coordinator. He proposed a relay race around the lake with teams of five, open to all ages - junior teams average fourteen years of age, while senior teams are fifty-plus. “The race wasn’t meant to be easy. It was designed to be a challenge.”
It has always kicked off at the clubhouse with cyclists hurtling 7 km around the lake to the end of Louisa North. Each cyclist passes a numbered wristband to a runner who sprints 4 km through the woods, and a few backyards, to Black Bay Road and the shore. The runner jumps into a canoe with two paddlers and can “flake out, steer or paddle like mad” another 4 km, said Lawrence. Most choose to paddle because the competition, though fun, is also fierce. The canoeists accompany their swimmer for the final ½ km leg from Hope Island to the club wharf, arriving to a cheering crowd on the beach. Last year, kayaks were added to the relay, so now there are teams of six. The largest number of participants was 102 in 2010. Here's a team from 2010 featuring some of our local lads, including my second-cousins-in-law. (It's complicated. They usually just call me Auntie.)
Meticulous records for every team go back to the very first race. The weather has always been fair bar one day when thunder and lightning loomed. Lawrence sent a rescue boat to bring in the last remaining junior teams, but they managed to finish the race on their own before the storm hit. It’s an event that brings out young and old, locals and out-of-towners, and family members who sometimes compete against each other, pitting brother against brother or husband against wife or men against women. Silly uniforms and team names are optional but encouraged. In the early days, no one used racing bicycles, they dusted off standard bikes pulled from the shed. One young girl biked with her dog Zipper running alongside, and when she got a flat, she walked the bike to the finish line. This girl is now in the cottage next door and she competed again this year with her two young daughters cheering her on.
Aside:This is our friend Bruce and his daughter Katherine. They pilot their small plane to the cottage. When Bruce comes and goes, he makes a point of flying over our house so I can run out and wave, and he always tips the wings in return. Even Buddy knows the sound of Bruce's plane and he'll run to the door in anticipation.
Canoeists are swamped, scrapes are bandaged, and stories are swapped and embellished. Many have long traditions of participating in the race, and some who were in this year's race were also there in the beginning!
We salute those hardy souls of Lake Louisa, testing the limits of physical endurance, and to the relay’s tireless organizer, Lawrence Irany. May your enthusiasm inspire others to follow in your footsteps, and the cheers from your loudspeaker echo across the lake for years to come.