SI Vault
Jim Harrison
August 27, 1973
Luc Robillard and Jerry Kellogg wearily pounded through 15 hours of steady pain to win the AuSable Canoe Marathon
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August 27, 1973

A Machine With Two Pistons

Luc Robillard and Jerry Kellogg wearily pounded through 15 hours of steady pain to win the AuSable Canoe Marathon

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Alcona Dam, close after dawn. I stood looking out over the reservoir at the cool mist rising from the water. There were several mallards paddling around, and farther out a single loon whose tremulous cry I had heard while trying to doze in the car in a cloud of mosquitoes.

Cars full of stragglers began to arrive, flushing the mallards. Some of the crowd were very drunk and haggard-looking. I talked to Bill Kahn, a realtor who sponsors Luc and Jerry. A sponsor usually guarantees basic expenses in exchange for having his company's name painted on the canoe. Kahn has had a knack over the years for sponsoring the winner. He was busy glassing the far end of the pond, perhaps two miles distant. Harry Curley approached. Curley has pretty much kept the race going since 1947. He lost his son Gerald, who drowned in 1953 while training for a race in Canada. I asked them if the obvious superiority of Luc and Jerry discouraged the other racers. They said not, that Ralph Sawyer had been on winning teams eight times and that hadn't scared anyone away.

A canoe appeared far down the pond and the flash of paddles seemed ornate with a weak sun glinting off the dawn mist. Luc and Jerry. They hit the bank swerving at full tilt, jumped out, shouldered the canoe and ran down the steep long bank of the dam, the photographer running with them. Luc was grinning crazily and he and the photographer were yelling at each other in French.

"Eh, Luc. Ca va?" ("How's it going?")

"Ca va. Ca va, Guy." ("O.K., Guy.")

"Tu es d�rouill�?" ("Are you hurting?")

"Un peu, un peu." ("A little." He is smiling.)

"Tu veux un coup de rouge?" ("You want some wine?")

"Ce soir, mon vieux." ("Tonight, old boy," he says laughing.)

They are 9� hours into the race and the nut is laughing. At the bottom of the dam Jerry's wife throws in some food and they are off at the same manic pace of the night before.

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