Shane Perrin says he was just planning "to do the Everglades Challenge and a few local races" this year. But then the 37-year-old endurance paddler from St. Louis, who is the first person to attempt the Florida race, the Missouri American Water MR 340, La Ruta Maya and the Texas Water Safari, got some new motivation from an unexpected source. He lost his board sponsor, which is a disaster for an athlete who combines his sporting endeavors with a main job and needs a custom SUP to keep breaking new ground without breaking the bank.
So, Perrin decided to take on yet another challenge nobody else has tried in an attempt to get another board sponsor. The 'Iron Athlete' expedition ended up being abbreviated from the targeted 640 miles due to logistical problems, but was still a bear: 85 miles in New York (the 100 Mile Paddle, which was cut short), the 2013 MR 340, 100 miles of land paddling and a 15-mile cool down back on the Missouri River – 535 miles all told. As it turned out, Perrin signed on with Glide before the race, and then, as is typical of his can-do style, did the expedition anyway even though he'd already inked the sponsorship.
We caught up with Perrin the day after he'd finished the expedition, which took 10 days including driving time. —Phil White
SUP mag: How did Iron Athlete compare with your previous races and expeditions?
Perrin: This one pushed me way beyond what I usually do. It was a little bit disappointing to cut it short because of bad weather in New York, and the fact that my ground crew had to be back at work before I was done with the final paddle. But, as we sat there and watched the sunset on that last day with a beer, I told them I was more than satisfied by what we achieved.
SUP mag: Why did you add land paddling into this expedition?
Perrin: I was land paddling with a traditional surf/snowboard stance type board for quite a while but while that's great exercise, the positioning is quite a bit different from SUP. Then when I got introduced to Billy Lush land paddling boards the sub stance seemed a lot more natural and I really started getting into it. It's really given my training a boost. For Iron Athlete I thought I'd add it in for fun. At least it was fun until I got a huge pus pocket on my right foot that I had to cut, drain and cover in duct tape.
SUP mag: What other elements of Iron Athlete presented new challenges?
Perrin: Just sleep deprivation. I never sleep for very long during my endurance races, but getting just 12 hours total in 10 days was going a little too far. On the first night my crew and I drove through the night and made it to Michigan at 3 a.m. to pick up my custom board From Matt Campbell at Black Box Surf. I didn't get much rest in the back of the Subaru before we had to be back on the road. Then, after the New York paddle, which was hard because of the nasty headwinds and chop, we again drove through the night to make it back to the Midwest for the start of the MR 340. Then, after the race my left ankle was so swollen that I was hobbling around all the next day and had to delay the land paddle. I also had a 101 degree fever that day, probably just from pushing my body too far on no sleep.
SUP mag: Did you do anything different with your gear or nutrition this time?
Perrin: Well, there was the new board, which was a collaboration between Glide and Matt Campbell at Black Box. I used my go-to paddle, the bent shaft Werner Grand Prix, which is so fast, light and efficient. A big change was my footwear, which has always been a trouble spot. This time I used Keen gorge boots and the extra padding really helped save my feet. They also dry quickly. On the nutrition side, I've refined my approach in the past few years. I snacked on bananas and beef jerky, and drank Spiz, a complete powder nutrition, every hour, on the hour; just stuff that's clean and easy to digest.
Perrin: It was great. Alex [Linnell] paddled the entire Mississippi in 2011 and he's a tough guy. I shook hands with John [Straub] at the start and we talked a bit. I looked for Alex and he was further over. I waved and he waved back, but then it was on – he was right with me from the beginning. When we got into checkpoint one at the 50-mile mark he was only 25 minutes behind, so I knew I wasn't going to be out there by myself this year. He went right through the second checkpoint, so I was still pushing my pace, but then I didn't get an update on him at Miami for the third checkpoint. I heard later that he didn't finish. It's a shame because we had a good race going. I hope he comes back next year. He's young and strong, and he can definitely win the MR 340. John's a really nice guy, too. He had a great time and achieved his goal of finishing.
SUP mag: What's next on your calendar?
Perrin: I'm going to do a 180-mile expedition with my Glide teammate Nathan Woods. Almost 10 years ago to the day he had an awful accident and lost part of one leg. After I had him on my Stoke Radio show and he told me about this paddle I told him, "I'm coming with you!" Me and my crew are also going to film him.
I'm also going to participate in the 24-hour Paddle for the Planet. My friend, Leslie Kolovich, put me in touch with Bob Purdy, who's organizing it. He has paddled every day since 2011 and is a great example of 'being the change.' That's inspiring. It's going to be a fun event – more of a leisurely pace than the MR 340 and my other races. Then there's the Cumberland 101 down in Kentucky. On the land paddling side, I'm going to attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the most miles covered in 24 and 48 hours. My goal is 250 miles in 48 hours. Not sure on the exact location, but I’m looking into somewhere in Tennessee where the Billy Lush crew is. For next year, I'm researching logistics for a 1,000-mile nonstop race.