Roughly 30 years ago, Buda resident Veronica Sosa watched as her father pushed his body and soul to the limit in what she felt was a “crazy race.”
Her dad was one of a handful of people who competed in the Texas Water Safari canoe race. An event deemed as one of the world’s toughest boat competitions.
“I can remember being five or six years old and following my dad down the river because he was racing in this really crazy race that starts in San Marcos and ends in the Gulf of Mexico,” Sosa said.
Years later, Sosa, along with her partner John Bugge, made it to the end point in Seadrift, Texas, in 55 hours and 29 minutes in their tandem USCA C-2 class canoe. It was good enough for first in their class and 14th overall, a feat that was one of the best among the 250 competitors who tackled the 100-hour trek.
“It’s really tough. The faster you can get out of the river the better you’re going to be. If you’re out there for 90-plus hours you’re going to get worn out,” Sosa said.
Sosa’s interest in racing canoes was piqued when she met some female racers her own age in 2012. It was at that point she started training seriously for the Texas Water Safari. The race means a lot to Sosa, not only because she enjoys challenging herself, but also because it’s something she shares with her father, who had to stop racing when he was diagnosed with diabetes at age 40.
She participated in her first Texas Water Safari race in 2013, but a dramatic turn of events kept her from finishing that year.
At midnight, two miles short of the finish line in the bay before Seadrift, Sosa and her partner flipped out of their canoe and swam for two hours before being rescued.
“It was dramatic and really heartbreaking too,” Sosa said.
In her next race in 2015, Sosa and her partner did not make the cutoff time for one of the checkpoints. It was not until 2016 that Sosa finally finished a race, coming in the top 15 of the standings. In 2017, Sosa finished the race at 29th.
This year, Sosa armed herself with Bugge, who is a legendary canoe maker in San Marcos; Bugge, 67, competed in his 40th Texas Water Safari race.
When asked what drives her to do the race each year, Sosa said it is an emotional question. Part of the drive is pushing herself to challenge her limits, as humans are more capabale than they believe.
“And it’s fun to be able to see just how far you can push yourself, how far can you go to be able to accomplish something that you didn’t think you would be able to accomplish,” Sosa said. “It’s not just a physical challenge but a mental challenge too.”
Sosa says that if she can get through this race, then she knows she can handle whatever life throws at her.
But the event is much more than overcoming mental obstacles. Competitors must also watch out for snakes and alligators, and when they get closer to the ocean, sting ray and sharks.
“My friends like to tease me because I’m afraid of snakes. I hate snakes, but there’s alligators, too,” Sosa said. “My friends always say you need to differentiate between your screams so that we know if it’s a snake, or an alligator, or an alligator gar that jumped up out of the water.”
Despite the danger, Sosa likes the physical and mental challenge of pushing her body to the extreme. A massage therapist by day, when she is not competing in canoe races, Sosa also likes to trail run. In August, Sosa plans to do a 50k (about 31 miles) trail run in Canada called Squamish.
“I love doing things outdoors and I love pushing my body to its physical limits, mental limits, just to see how far you can go. I just think it’s amazing that we can do so much more than we think we can,” Sosa said.