Forty seconds before round two, and I’m lying on my back trying to breathe. Pain all through me. Deep breath. Let it go. I won’t be able to lift my shoulder tomorrow, it won’t heal for over a year, but now it pulses, alive, and I feel the air vibrating around me, the stadium shaking with chants, in Mandarin, not for me.
The river starts as nothing, just a trickle of snowmelt in the high Rockies, the wet drops of a winter’s precipitation falling off of lichen-covered rocks, streaking cliffs in dark zebra stripes of moisture. But it grows bigger quickly. The tributaries, both large and small, feed the monster, until the drops all flow together under the same name: The Colorado.
Floating downstream on the Colorado River between the red limestone walls of Marble Canyon on a makeshift raft, John Mattson spots a big drop. The rushing waves of Badger Creek Rapid are ahead. He and his friends scout the rapid for a clean entry.