\u201cGive up?\u201d the woman asked as I headed back to my truck after walking past her a few minutes earlier. I was parked aside Green River Cove Road in Saluda, North Carolina for the Green Race, the well-known kayak race on a section of whitewater called the Green River Narrows. The Narrows include the \u201cGorilla\u201d, a Class V rapid that is the centerpiece of the 23 year-old race.\r\n\r\nI\u2019d walked up to the trailhead, heard that the two-mile hike-in to the race was four miles, and doubled back to see if I could find a water bottle (unlikely) or an old Clif Bar (possible). I found instead three lacrosse balls, Downy wrinkle remover, a tarp, and a dog blanket. I turned back around.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u201cNeed a map?\u201d asked the woman joined now by someone else, her daughter perhaps, who also was interested in the passing stranger and had pulled up a camping chair next to her.\r\n\r\n\u201cSure, I\u2019ll take a map. Thanks.\u201d She hands me a black and white copy of a map with a pink highlight indicating the route to the race.\r\n\r\n\u201cYou up for this? It\u2019s four miles in there. Then you have to come out,\u201d said her daughter. \u201cI went in there the other day and I ended up all over the place.\u201d She shows me another map that highlighted her own recent hike. I was impressed by how well she documented what, to appearances, looked like a wayward drift into delirium.\r\n\r\n\u201cI'm in better shape than I look,\u201d I said.\r\n\r\n\u201cYou look alright,\u201d she said. The flatness to 'alright' suggested that I\u2019d cut bait two miles in.\r\n\r\nWith that, I hiked in, and ultimately joined 1,000 others to watch the Green Race some four and a half miles into the woods. The last part of the trail to get down to the race is an interesting thing. Along with a throng of spectators you snake down a steep hillside grasping rocks, roots and a rope line. By rock climbing standards a modest descent, by spectating standards, a good effort.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAt the bottom, there's immediate payoff. Spectators line the right side of the river and the racing kayaks break up a backdrop of autumn browns and yellows with an abrupt flash of pink or a blue as they plummet through the whitewater. The crowd whoops and hollers and the echo merges and lifts up and out of the gorge as a single roar that temporarily supplants the roar of the river.\r\n\r\nI drift up the sometimes slippery rocks on the river\u2019s right side, ascending a slow half-mile upward to the heart of the race. En route, I step to the side as a stretcher takes out an injured spectator who to appearances is unconscious.\r\n\r\nOnce on a rock perch, I take in the race. It\u2019s my first visit to the Green Race, and to get a better feel for it I talk with a few nearby racers who have completed their afternoon\u2019s runs.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s about my 15th time. I come back every year because not only is this one of the best deep creeks in the whole world, but it\u2019s an amazing group of talented, top-notch whitewater paddlers,\u201d said Clay Wright, 50, of Rock Island, Tennessee. \u201cWe race together and then we hang out together in just an amazing scene.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nWhen prompted as to whether anything stands out about this year\u2019s event, Wright doesn\u2019t hesitate. \u201cI feel like the average age of the race just dropped 10 or 20 years this year. It\u2019s the most amazing thing,\u201d he says with a broad smile. \u201cThere are a lot of racers under 20, and there are a lot of racers under 18 and it\u2019s awesome to see the next generation stepping up and riding the lightning.\u201d\r\n\r\nTo his right is Heidi Walsh, who is visiting the States from her native England and participated in the race for the first time.\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019m on an exchange with the University of Colorado. So I\u2019ve come to America and instead of going to University, I\u2019ve just gone kayaking,\u201d said Walsh, 20. In her travels she\u2019s fallen in with a group of fellow kayakers who encouraged her to attend the race.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u201cThey were like \u2018Why don\u2019t you come? The Green Race is huge.\u2019 I naturally assumed they meant \u2018Why don\u2019t you race?\u2019 not \u2018Why don\u2019t you watch?\u2019 so I bought a bib,\u201d said Walsh. \u201cThe next thing you know they were like, \u2018Oh no, we meant sit on the side and watch.\u2019 So I had to train up and I don\u2019t regret it at all.\u201d\r\n\r\nWalsh sports the remnants of a fresh scrape on her upper lip. \u201cFor me personally, I\u2019ve had a rough time training. I didn\u2019t always have good lines and today the top section was my best run that I\u2019ve done so far here,\u201d she said. \u201cI\u2019m really pleased that when I feel sick with nerves and I\u2019m really scared, I know that I can still bring it.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe Green Race is held annually on the first weekend of November. For the full 2018 results, click here.