Tomorrow is the Ruston Way race down in Tacoma, and I'll be doing it in an OC2 with Zachary. He and I have managed to get into the club OC2 exactly once, for something like an hour, so we're well prepared! Still, it's supposed to be a "fun" race, with the main focus on the chicken long rice lunch afterward.
I gather it's a 10 mile race, done as 4 2.5 mile laps along the Tacoma waterfront. Some folks do it as a relay, swapping paddlers in/out every lap, every other lap, every once in a while. Others do it solo, or as an iron, and still others only do some of the laps. This low-key aspect takes a lot of the pressure off, and I haven't been worrying too much about it, though I know I'll be freaking a bit come tomorrow morning.
After missing several practices in a row due to other commitments, I've managed to make 3 in a row now, and those 3 were quite distinctly different from each other.
Last Saturday in pouring rain, we had 4 in an OC6, and it was a beast of a workout. Not that we did that much mileage or especially hard sets, but the boat never really felt like it was moving well, and with the rain, it all felt like a slog. Afterward I felt beaten down and disheartened. (It didn't help that I went home and then worked on the front steps for 5 hours in the rain, not drinking enough water....)
Then on Tuesday we had another 4-inOC6 paddle, this time w/ Maryanne in 1, me in 2 (eventually moved back to 3 and Maryanne back to 2), Zachary in 4, and DougN steering. This time it felt like we were moving well (for a 4-some). The contrast to the previous Saturday was striking, and it help reinvigorate my enthusiasm. Before practice I'd told M that I thought maybe I would start skipping Thurs. I wasn't feeling excited about getting out on the water (a first) and I just felt like things were dragging in all aspects of my life. Tuesday's paddle helped lift me up a bit, and made me realize that 1) the rain had a huge impact on Saturday's practice (for me) and 2) I've been fighting off something, a virus or similar.
Last night (Thurs) another paddle, this time 5 in the OC6. Jasen in 1, me in 2, Melissa in 3 (we swapped partway through at Doug's request), Jack in 5, and DougN steering. Like Tuesday it felt we were getting moving well, and the boat was well in synch. There's really nothing like that feeling of all hitting together: catch, pull, out, recover.... It actually makes it feel easier, and it moves the canoe much more efficiently. One thing that really felt great about last night is that heading out, I thought the other canoe (sabine-1, janelle-2, rob-3, zachary-4, dougm steering) was stronger and would leave us well behind. But as we paddled to Montlake Cut we were evenly matched, and just being able to keep pace gave me a mental lift. ("Hey, I'm not going to suck quite as much as I expected!")
Then we started the real workout (1-easy/4-hard x 20). And for a bit, the 2 canoes kept about even. We headed toward the point (Hunt's Point?) and north along the west shore to Magnuson Park, and we not only kept up with the other canoe, but we started pulling ahead a bit. Doug asked us to focus on the forward part of our stroke, to focus on pulling hard "up front." That, coupled with a real effort to keep in time, meant that our canoe moved really well, and ultimately was faster than the other one.
For both Tuesday and Thursday the water was nearly flat-calm (Thurs had a slight breeze blowing, but not too bad) and an overcast kept the temperatures up a bit. It was beautiful late-fall paddling weather. Dark early, and mostly a deserted lake left to us.
After practice Doug said that he thought the other boat was "stronger" but that we were faster due to technique/timing. It really made me realize (again) just how important the timing aspect is -- it can make or break a boat. It doesn't matter how strong or powerful you are. If you aren't paddling together you're fighting each other and that means you're going slowly. Ok, it does matter how strong you are, but only after you have the timing thing down. And as I said, being in synch makes the paddling feel easier, so it's easier to put some additional effort into it.
Tomorrow is the first time I'll be racing in anything other than an OC6. Zachary and I will, hopefully, be able to keep up a good pace, and stay in synch. We'll see....