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Contestant prepares physically and mentally for the Texas Water Safari

June 9, 2011 at 1:09 a.m.

Dale Hildebrandt demonstrates his kayaking skills in the Guadalupe River at Riverside Park just days before he plans to compete in the Texas Water Safari on Saturday.

Water. Cliff bars. Canned soup. Coffee. Flashlights. Pocket knives. Rope. First aid kit. Batteries. Aerial flares.

Gear for a hurricane survival pack or preparations for some other major catastrophe?

No, these items are elements of the gear Dale Hildebrandt, 44, of Victoria, will pack for the Texas Water Safari - a 260-mile canoe race from San Marcos to Seadrift.

Hildebrandt will compete solo in his 12-foot kayak.

"They call it a Tupperware canoe," Hildebrandt said with a chuckle.

This is Hildebrandt's first year to compete in the Texas Water Safari where "only human muscle-powered propulsion of boats will be permitted," according to the Texas Water Safari website. Competitors may not use any sort of motored boat.

Hildebrandt, an operator at Formosa Plastics Corp. in Point Comfort, said the Texas Water Safari has been on his bucket list for several years. This year he finally bought a kayak and began training.

Hildebrandt has trained for the past eight months, making 40-mile rounds from Cuero back to Victoria. That route generally takes him about 10 hours.

The competitors in the Texas Water Safari are not allowed to relay or tag team in any way. If a member of the team drops out before the race is finished, they may not re-join or be replaced.

Only the competitor's team captains are allowed to hand them water or touch their boat. If anyone else so much as touches a competitor's canoe, that competitor would be disqualified.

Hildebrandt's wife Rhonda, 38, will be his team captain, signing him in at the check points and handing him water from the shore.

Competitors will cross eight dams and travel through the night, but Hildebrandt believes his greatest challenge will be the necessary weight of the kayak.

The kayak alone weighs 55 pounds, but with all his gear it will double in weight. Hildebrandt will carry a spare set of paddles, a life vest, a mosquito net and a gel stove.

"But every day it gets lighter," Hildebrandt said. He will start the journey with eight bags of supplies neatly packed in his kayak.

Hildebrandt said the race is a competition of brains rather than brawn.

"Your body can go a lot farther than your mind will tell you it can do," Hildebrandt said.

Hildebrandt is not concerned about hallucination point.

"Will I hallucinate? I don't know," Hildebrandt said. He has read accounts of previous competitors in the Texas Water Safari experiencing hallucinations between Victoria and Bloomington.

"If I start seeing something funky, I'll say it's time to stop," he said.

Hildebrandt has a monitor to track his heart rate to help prevent the hallucinations.

Hildebrandt's goal is to complete the 260 mile race in 72-75 of the 100 hour acceptable time limit.

"I keep telling myself in my mind I will finish," Hildebrandt said. "I guess I won't know 'till the end."



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