When this year’s Texas Water Safari starts Saturday, you’ll see a variety of athletes competing.

The young guns will be there, eager to put their stamp on an event that’s called the “The World’s Toughest Canoe Race.”

Older athletes, honed by years of experience and knowledge, will join the young guns on the multihundred-mile race across swift and sometimes dangerous waters.

Friends and families will join together as a team, some without any intention of winning but with the goal of joining the elite group of finishers and earning the coveted Texas Water Safari finisher’s patch, according to the Water Safari’s website.

We applaud whichever type of athlete joins this race, whether they compete solo or as part of a team.

It will take perseverance, determination, luck, skill, endurance and much more for these athletes to finish.

Just what is the Texas Water Safari? For those new to it, the race is a 260-mile boat/canoe race that starts at 9 a.m. in Spring Lake in San Marcos and follows the San Marcos river south until it meets the Guadalupe River just outside of Gonzales and finishes in Seadrift.

The top finishers – the lucky few – will complete the race sometime Sunday, logging about 30-plus hours of torture. The last boat has to finish the race in an insane 100 hours, which is noon Wednesday.

In truck driving lore, a pervasive myth outlines a story about a black dog. Drivers who are extremely tired start seeing hallucinations of things that aren’t there, like a black dog in the road. The black dog is considered an omen.

In an extreme race like the Texas Water Safari, which tests the limits of humans’ mental and physical abilities, the myths are quite strong as well. Some boaters will tell you that at night, the trees take on strange shapes like buildings or dancing bands. Others will tell you that they swear people who aren’t really there appear on the banks of the river. One racer once told us he enjoyed his visions, which included 40-foot tall cartoon characters that talked to him in vivid color and also conversations with black cats on the gravel bars and in the middle of the river.

We will have extensive coverage the next week of the race, which you can follow both in print and online. You’ll read great human interest stories on why these men and women choose to do this race, how they endure it and much more.

We also encourage you to get out to one of the many checkpoints and cheer these athletes on. There are checkpoints near Cuero, one at the boat ramp at Riverside Park and, of course, at the finish line in Seadrift.

The athletes deserve it, whether it’s the first boat across the finish line or the last one – about 100 hours after the race starts.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

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