Tuesday, July 31, 2012

7/18 - 7/29 - Paddling and Camping and (too much) beer... a catch up post

What a week (and a half) it's been...  I'm going to summarise as it's been a long and (mosty) restful week away from the world - well, except for the free wi-fi at the campground but I wasn't about to blog from my iphone - there is however something to be said about surfing the internet around a campfire, though also a bit odd.

Long post about paddling from here on out... you've been warned...
July 18th - I got back to Vancouver from Winnipeg today and while I didn't make it to the passport office in time to collect my documentation I did manage to make it to an OC6 practice with VOS who I would be steering at the Gorge Outrigger Races in Stevenson Washington.  It was a fun night and an easy practice.  The weather was beautiful and we had three boats out - two of us were fairly evenly matched and then there were the boys.  Jeannie was steering the other boat and it was fun to be close together, I made her work hard and she in turn managed to keep my on my toes going around the markers because I didn't want to concede any ground to their crew by being sloppy.  We did two laps from the red marker to the sandbarge and back in.  Not too far but fun enough to work on turns.  It was a good night followed up by boat loading in preparation for the gorge.

July 19th - I had every intention of hitting up the early morning crossfit session in Kits and then heading to pick up my passport before getting in the car for 7 long hours on the way to the Gorge.  It did not happen - at least the crossfit part did not.  I was tired.  I could feel it in my body and figured a rest day was better than killing myself.  And so it was.  It also included some very serious cross border shoppign so that counts as a (slight) workout.

July 20th - Thuderstorms greeted us this morning as the rain slowly dripped through the tent I had borrowed from Ashely - no wonder he was so eager to pass it over.  At least I was lucky enough to not have woken up in a puddle like Jeannie.  People started filling up the fairgrounds from all over the paddling world and it was great to catch up with so many faces I haven't seen in a year.  We waited all day for the wind to blow and by about 3pm were rigging the canoes and gearing up for the first downwinder of the week.  I paddled with Ken and Tanja and noticed that Ken W. and Hector were also leaving about the same time so got them to wait up and we were a group of 6 (another paddler named James joined us just as we were leaving the lagoon).  It was the first Home Valley run (leg one of the Wildside Relay) for both Tanja and Hector so we made plans to recollect ourselves a few times on the run.  Ken started behind us as he waited for a straggler so I was in charge of keeping Tanja upright and safe while Ken W. was keeping tabs on Hector (who for the record blew us all away with his surfing abilities).  We stopped at both the red markers on the way down and it was at the second one as I watched Hector grab his water for a drink that I told him to look up before he hit the red can (he had stopped downwind of the marker but the current goes in opposition to the wind which is what actually creates the waves - we literally surf upcurrent).  I had a decent surf run considering I was in Jason's Kaimana - a boat I'd never paddled before.  I felt fairly comfortable in it - lining up waves going to my right before steering a little left, lightening up the ama and dropping in.  It felt solid.

July 21st - Race Day!  Today was the day of the OC6 races.  I was steering a VOS mixed crew that was comprised of 4 women and 2 men (normally it'd be 3/3).  We had a solid start, right up there with the FCRCC top women's crew.  I used to paddle with FCRCC so I would have never dared to get up close and personal with a crew from the same club but I was wearing different colours this time so there was a bit of bumping going on - that being said they were doing the same to other crews - it's just a part of racing especially with everyone so fast on the line.  We had a solid first turn at the top but one of the FCRCC mixed crews didn't give right of way when they should have and instead pushed our tail so we then bumped the crew in front of us - the only way out of the situation was for us to stop paddling until the boat in front cleared then we were on our way "downwind".  The wind wasn't really blowing yet as it was early and the long straight stretch to the second red marker (the turn) was actually a lot of work but our crew stayed solid.  We came up beside the FCRCC second women's crew which was being steered by a (recently) ex-VOS paddler and you could feel the rivalry.  We really wanted to beat them.  We passed them on the downwind leg gaining a lot of distance as we 'phantom' surfed and rocked the bottom turn even as another boat flipped and landed on another boat.  I watched it all unfold in front of us and thankfully had (just) enough time to go wide.  Our "upwind" leg was solid as we used the current to our advantage and came in for the second lap well ahead of FCRCC 2.  I wasn't sure that we had the endurance however to keep it up for another lap.  Once again we had a solid turn at the top of the course and worked well for the most part on the "downwind" leg (it's a two lap course) but I was starting to feel moments where we'd just turn off and it was hard to keep the energy up.  We came around the bottom and final turn in front but couldn't hold off FCRCC 2 to the finish.  It was a bit disappointing in that regard but it was a solid race by the crew and we managed to finish ahead of VOS women's crew which was also comprised of some solid paddlers.  Thanks to Tanya, Candace, Brian, Herb and Anne for a solid race.  Anne - you rocked 5 seat... I know you weren't looking forward to it but it was awesome having you back there to help me out!

VOS Mixed - Herb, Brian, Candace, Me, Tanya, Anne

July 22nd - OC1 race day - I opted out of racing today as I was quite tired from the six-man race and sore from sleeping in a tent.  I also hadn't paddled in an outrigger since January before this week so that also didn't help.  I was happy to relax while others ran around eating breakfast and registering and rigging.  I grabbed coffee while they were on the start line and happily shuttled cars and sat in the sun waiting for them to come into the finish (well delayed but no biggie).

July 23rd - Worst OC1 downwinder ever (for me).  Today we did legs 1 and 2 of the Wildside relay.  I was fine to Home Valley (leg 1 - 5 miles/ 8 km)) and felt okay while we relaxed and snacked on shore for about 30 minutes but struggled on leg 2 (7miles/ 11km).  Somewhere part way through as all the others pulled away from me I checked out mentally.  At the time I thought it was too much for me physically (months away from paddling) but in the last quarter of the run when Steve came back and paddled with me I realized that wasn't it at all.  I had plenty of muscle left to catch waves but what I realized was that I'm not in love with paddling any more, not like I once was.  Don't get me wrong, I still like it, but it's no longer my passion.  I don't yearn for the water in the same way - not in a high intense race way but merely in a day off relaxing way.  This change of attitude really worried me for the upcoming race on the weekend - the Wildside Relay in which it woudn't just be about me but rather also my partner Minnie.  I got the the takeout in Drano (Shane also kindly waited at the opening of the lake) and was fully aware that not only had my passion waned but that I was also fully accepting of it.  I was okay knowing that my interests were elsewhere (hello crossfit!).  There were a few things that were great about the second leg however - the learning I achieved in regards to my paddling mentality, accepting it.  There was also the kindness I felt from Sheila and Gord as they stopped every so often to make sure I was still there and upright, scanning the horizon for my small little figure and letting me gain some distance before they kept up their fun surf leg... and also from Steve, for paddling back upwind to cheer me up, make me feel less alone on the big river and for making me stop and take in my surroundings - it was majestic and I knew it - I just didn't want to be on the canoe any longer.  I was okay though.

July 24th - The wind didn't pick up until late and the boys were gearing up for a downwinder and I was happy to just drive the car to the other end.  I didn't have the urge to paddle after the day before and I was completely confident and content in my decision.  Another rest day.

July 25th - No wind today - rest day for all (except Ashley who was addicted this week).

July 26nd - Redemption.  We did leg 3 of the relay today (6 miles/ 9.5km) - Drano to the Hatchery (through Swell City) and I loved it.  I had a blast.  Partly I think because I just took off while the others grouped up knowing full well that they'd easily catch me and also because I just had fun with it rather than feeling left behind or trying to keep up.  This mentality would definitely help on race day.   I enjoyed the run and the water.  I found a great line just as we exited the lake and turned downwind - the waves took me right along the rockwall and into the straight stretch of river.  I found my line sticking to the Washington side (the gorge splits Washington and Oregon states) and started to head across to the Oregon side seeing all the other outriggers over there when the surfskis (and locals) started passing my on my left which made me keep my line on the Washington side (again, this would help race day).  This also kept me in the back eddy of the river current.  It was a good run, I was the last one in but not by much and I felt good. I knew I wanted to do this leg on the relay.

July 27th - This was an epic downwind day and I was content to stay dry and off a canoe - this is the exact opposite of the old me but alas, life changes.  Rest day.

July 28th - Race Day!!!  I am glad I got in a solid run on Thursday and that Minnie was my awesome partner who not only allowed me to do leg 1 and 3 but eagerly wanted to do legs 2 and 4 (though might have thought otherwise by the end of the day).  The Wildside relay is a 4 leg race down the Columbia River from Stevenson Washington to Bingen, Washington - a distance of approximately 24 miles (approx. 38km).  The race starts at Bob's Beach and the first exchange is at Home Valley (5 miles/ 8km).  The second leg goes from Home Valley to Drano Lake (7 miles/ 11km).  Leg 3 is from Drano Lake to the Hatchery (6 miles/9.5k) and the final leg finishes at Bingen (6 miles/9.5km).  I started the day with no expectations.  There were two other women's OC1 teams and I wasn't sure we could beat both of them - in fact I really didn't think we would - not because Minnie isn't awesome but because the reminder of Monday's downwinder was still relatively fresh in my mind.  I started out the race closer to the Washington side while many others were in the middle - and stronger current.  I was near Shane so figured I had a good spot.  When the horn went off I had flat water - no little bumps at all and I was a little slow off the line however I saw both of the other women I was competing against to my right and left along with Natty who was racing mixed with Ken.  It was then that I reminded myself to forget about racing and to have fun and find the good water.  I just wanted to surf.  I saw Fraser ahead in the
'watermelon' canoe (pink hull with lime green ama) and focused more on him.  I caught everything - I told myself on each bump that I wanted it and then got it.  It felt solid.  Next thing I knew I was on Fraser's tail having closed the 4 boat length lead he got on my from the start.  He caught a wave and pulled ahead then I'd grab my own and catch up.  It was back and forth.  I'd got ahead and was feeling good and was a fraction away from catching a solid ride when my rudder came out of the water and I spun out cursing loudly as Fraser laughed at me.  And that's how it continued.  It seemed much more like playing than racing.  I had fun and I'm pretty sure he did two.  There were even times that we were on the same wave (yup, really big river and we had to ride the same wave).  It was a blast.  I had no idea at this point where the other girls were I just knew I was in front of them and continued to catch everything to keep it that way.  Fraser gained on my just at the last turn into Home Valley and could have pulled away but he backed off a little and cheered me on saying 'Let's do this' as we finished the leg together.  It was great.  I was also excited to surprise Minnie by coming in so quickly - I later found out (around the campfire) that people were yelling at her because she was sitting in the shade not expecting me.  It was a great feeling.

After Minnie took off I drove down to Drano Lake for the next change and my nerves started to build.  I knew Minnie would hold the girls off but knew that I would have to do the same on my next leg.  It was fine to have one good leg but that wasn't enough - my competitive fire was in full force - mostly because I didn't want to let Minnie down (I was doing it for her which was exactly the motivation driving her - it worked).  After the exchange I was halfway through the lake (massive headwind) before  the other two girls passed my heading into the exchange.  It was a good feeling to know we were in front but I didn't want to hold back.  I fully admit I was hurting as I excited the lake - I was tired and sore and now had to surf but I love leg 3 - I feel like I know the water (a little bit at least) and found solid lines connecting some runs.  I knew I was going well and that the girls would have to be exceptional to gain ground on me.  Natty was up ahead in the middle of the river (Ken had passed Minnie on leg 2) and while I wanted to catch her I knew that I had to just focus on my race and not worry about forcing it.  Not long after I started to find some bigger water I saw her head towards the Washington shore and I sensed that she wasn't comfortable out there.  I kept at it having a blast, full of smiles and excitement and eventually passed her.  It wasn't until Swell City that I lost a bit of my mojo as I got into a patch of water where the waves were literally breaking over my head.  They were steep and impossible (for me) to catch and I wallowed a lot.  I knew I just had to stay upright and that the finish wasn't far off and I'd be done for the day.  At one point I did manage to catch one of the steep ones and I felt like I was standing up while on the canoe.  It was a little scary knowing that if I spun out or fell off that I'd like be airborn along with the (borrowed) canoe.  It all worked out though.  Natty passed me in the end as she had the inside/ calmer water but it didn't matter, I'd made some ground and had fun while doing so.  I made the exchange and was done for the day.  It was a great finish to the week for me.  Minnie finished up the hardest leg of the day - it was hot and mostly flat but she was solid and we finished first - the first OC1 women's team to finish all 34 miles - our time was 4 hours 33 minutes and change - 11 minutes in front of the second place team (almost a mile).

1st Place OC1 Women - Me, Minnie

July 29th - The end of the week.  Today was for packing up camp, loading the (smelly) gear in the car and driving back to Vancouver.  Rest day.

No comments:

Post a Comment