From staff reports
You could say that the famed AuSable River runs through the veins of Lindy Kellogg, a Cedar resident who works at the Leelanau Conservancy and whose husband, Tom Ulrich, is deputy superintendent at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Her paternal grandfather, Elmer, raced in the first AuSable River Canoe Marathon in 1947. “Grandpa Elmer” grew up together with 16 siblings on the North Branch of the river east of Grayling— dubbed the “holy waters” by northern Michigan fly fishermen.
Her father Jerry raced in the marathon 16 times and won it four times in the 1970s, twice while paddling with Lindy’s uncle Jeff. Her brothers, Mike and Josh, finished the race in 2017, with Lindy and her cousin Kolee Kellogg Jungers (Jeff’s daughter) part of the “feed crew” that follows, feeds and assists the racers through the more than 18-hour race. In 2019, Lindy and Kolee shared a pre-marathon beer and promised each other they would one day paddle it together.
The AuSable River Canoe Marathon, which held its 75th race on July 29, runs from Grayling to Oscoda, a distance of 120 miles, and requires approximately 50,000 paddle strokes. The grueling feat begins at 9 pm with a ¼ or ½-mile foot race to the river. The 75th running of the AuSable attracted a record 110 canoes to the starting line.
This year, Lindy joined the marathon for the first time together with Kolee. Their canoe bore #12—the same number their dads sported when they won the race in 1974 and ’75. The boat also featured the logos of local sponsors including Cherry Republic, Tandem Ciders, Blue Moon Ice Cream, Dana C. Fear Responsive Statements in Cedar, and Dr. Carrie Sports Chiropractic in Leland. (Her brothers Mike, Josh and Jeremy also raced on July 29.) During race week they stayed at the family cabin on the AuSable where her grandfather grew up.
“Once the gun went off at 9 pm, and our run to the river began, the cheers were deafening,” wrote Lindy on Facebook. “From the road to the river, and downstream the excitement and chaos of the start was epic!”
The challenges before them included thick fog that forced them to switch on their GPS for navigation, a near collision with another canoe, a stump field in the river, and sprinting to reach checkpoints with only seconds to spare.
“We approached the spillway, got out and ran up the ramp where they time, and thought we had made it, only to see from the look on our team’s faces that we had not. We missed this time checkpoint by mere moments and could not continue racing,” wrote Lindy. “We were heartbroken and stunned.
“Those seven hours and almost 47 miles went by so quickly. We still felt good, and had many more miles in us.”
After departing the river and catching up on sleep, the AuSable still ran through their veins.