Safety a big part of Gap 2 Gap race - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Safety a big part of Gap 2 Gap race

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TERRACE HEIGHTS--The 26th annual Gap 2 Gap race took place in Yakima Saturday, with more than 200 people biking, kayaking and running through parts of Yakima and Terrace Heights.

With so many concerned about cutting seconds off their time, there's plenty of opportunity for bike wipeouts and flipped kayaks, so it's up to the Yakima County Sheriff's Office to keep competitors safe.

Paul Goebel hasn't competed in an event like Gap 2 Gap in years.  That didn't stop him from finishing the whole thing--by himself--in just over four hours.

With all he put his body through on Saturday morning, he's glad Yakima Sheriff's deputies and firefighters had his back.

"Muscles can get [tired] especially when you got the early bike ride," Goebel, who lives in Ellensburg, said.  "Then you got another bike ride later; getting those muscles to kick back in again after that kayak trip can be challenging."

Sgt. Judd Towell's biggest worry is also the kayaking portion of the race, but for different reasons.

"You can fall down on the ground on a bike and hurt yourself or trip running but when you fall down in the water, you don't breathe," Towell said.  "So, you have to have people there to rescue you."

In 2008, 22 boats capsized.  Last year the kayaking leg was canceled altogether because the Yakima River was so high.

This year swift water rescuers had to pull four teams out of the water, ensuring that a quick swim was only a delay, and not a tragedy.

"They [rescue crews] were everywhere there could've been a problem," Goebel said.  "It was really nice to see them there.  Even if you didn't feel like there was much risk, they were there regardless."

Reserve deputies also patrolled the roads, keeping riders safe and traffic moving.

The other big challenge with an event like Gap 2 Gap on a hot day like Saturday is keeping everyone hydrated.  Organizers had that covered with water stations all around the course.

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