BRECKENRIDGE – Quackie has put in countless hours in high-altitude training, hopping over rocks, bobbing and weaving in icy water, lifting weights and drinking high-protein seaweed/swamp malts – a duck’s equivalent to Popeye’s spinach.
His fat percentage has been calculated – “Enough to stay warm but not enough to slow (me) down,” he said. His training regime is up to six hours a day, and he’s working with a coach to foster the winning spirit that will be necessary to walk away with a gold medal.
Quackie is ready to race.
The 15-year-old American Racing Duck will be among thousands that compete in the annual Summit Foundation Rubber Duck Race Saturday, Aug. 31 in the Blue River in Breckenridge.
Ducks that qualified to participate in the race have spent months training in preparation for the race, which Quackie – the hometown favorite – says will be a most difficult race this year.
“This is the universe’s highest duck race,” he said, preening an ultra-light feather on his wing. “That in itself makes it like the Triple Crown, the Super Bowl, the World Series – the Stanley Cup – of duck races. This is the pinnacle.”
The course is more difficult this year because of low water levels – and an increasing number of rubber racers.
“I think there will have to be a few freestylers this year,” Quackie said. “We’re going to have to swim smarter. But I know this river. I’ve seen it in good days, and I’ve seen it in bad days.”
The race route is hard enough.
Thousands of ducks – this year, the Summit Foundation hopes to “adopt” out 15,000 feathered racers – are released into the tranquil waters of the Maggie Pond. But from there, it’s pure mayhem. The race starts when Police Chief Rick Holman shoots his gun.
“That always gets us going – we’re really afraid of Rick,” Quackie said. “He’s tough-looking.”
The ducks then take a monstrous tumble over the Maggie Falls, navigate through mining debris and enter the long, dark culvert under South Park Avenue. From there, they are shot out into a slalom course of rocks – made more challenging this year by the low water flows – and then into the still, deep waters of the Scully Pond. This is where ducks that have worked out – Pilates and rowing are Quackie’s workouts of choice – can get an edge on those that thought the race would be an easy float.
“Here: Feel this,” Quackie said, flexing a wing. “It takes a lot of bulk to get through that pond. And I’ve got it.”
From the Scully Pond, the ducks again must negotiate boulders until, puffing with exhaustion and egged on by thousands on the sidelines, they cross the finish line at the Riverwalk Center.
“Running the Mighty Blue is a little tougher than running Cherry Creek,” Quackie said, rolling his eyes. “You really have to be on top of your game.”
Elbowing, wing-flapping and pecking are not allowed, but it’s inevitable when the river runs yellow with quackers.
Quackie’s game plan is to be among the first to break out of the pack – early and fast is the key, he said.
“It’s a narrow, tough course,” he said. “There are a lot of pockets you can get stuck in.”
Race officials will be positioned in various locations in the river to relocate ducks that have floated astray, so people are encouraged to keep their dogs far from the river’s edge.
“It’s going to be really exciting,” Quackie said, puffing up his yellow chest. “There will be no cruising this year. We’re all going to have to work for every inch.”
Rubber Duck Races
Saturday, Aug. 31
-The Wells Fargo Business Battle begins at 3 p.m., pitting 200 of the world’s elite racing ducks against one another, representing the businesses that adopted them.
-The Great Duck Race begins at 4 p.m.
-A maximum of 200 corporate
ducks, available for $200 apiece, will compete on behalf of companies that adopt them.
-Wells Fargo Bank, Valdoro
Mountain Lodge, Grand Timber
Lodge, Main Street Station-Hyatt
and Breckenridge Ski Resort have challenged other companies to see who which one can “adopt” the most ducks.
– Ducks are available for adoption
for $5, $25 for a “six-quack,” at the post office, rec center and City Market in Breckenridge; Safeway and Wal-Mart in Frisco; City Market in Dillon and the Silverthorne pavilion.
– For more information, contact the Summit Foundation at (970)-453-5970.
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