Monday, August 31, 2009

aftermath (change-out)

(this is a follow up post to my long post about the race itself)

9/13/09 -- edited to add the above map of the Catalina Crew race. Ours would be fairly close, except we were at it longer.

The race was a lot of fun. And my concerns about actually successfully getting into the canoe from the water ended up being non-issues. I won't say that I was graceful. Watching people like Garrett who can lift themselves up and swing right into the seat makes me realize just how far from that kind of smooth I am, but I was able to get myself in fairly quickly on every change. I used the "leg hook" every time, which involves grabbing the gunnel with both hands and then letting my legs slide back toward the stern of the canoe, then lifting my heel and hooking it over the edge, ending by rolling in and climbing up. It's a valid approach, and it's what I defaulted to after I started having real issues with my ribs. And it worked.

Something I noticed: the change-outs seemed easier in the race than in practice. Maybe there was less time to over-think. Or maybe the practice paid off. No, it definitely paid off.

My ribs ended up not being a problem, which was wonderful. I don't know if it was adrenaline and/or Aleve and/or enough recovery, but I felt I had pretty much full range of motion in my paddling, and little problem getting a full breath. It had been a long time since I was able to paddle w/o feeling like the ribs were impeding me.

My biggest issues during the race were a tightening lower back (over time) and near the end, a painful right rotator cuff. I'm not sure if the shoulder resulted from a bad pull-up on a change-in, or if I was doing something wrong for a bit when my right hand was the high hand on my paddle (when paddling on the left). In any case, I managed to get through with it, and have been icing a lot since, and it's getting better.

One of the nice things about paddling has been that when I do it right, I don't have the shoulder problems that I've come to expect when doing swimming workouts. Which means I can work to exhaustion w/o feeling like I'm doing damage to myself. I discovered pain in the shoulders after some change-out practices, so it could well be that this came from the effort to pull myself up and into the canoe.

The other problem I ended up with was hot-spots on both heels. I knew this was happening, and I even duct taped the bottoms of my heels before the race because I'd felt the issue in seat 3 on Thursday. But the tape fell off during the first change-out.

The bottom of the canoe has sand embedded into the floor. This provides traction for feet (there are no foot rests or brace points in the canoe, and you drive a lot of your effort down through your feet). Unfortunately, there are also pebbles and raised spots in some of the sand, so if I'm paddling for 48 minutes in a seat, my feet rub on those spots. I have hot spots on both heels and on the side of one foot because I started bracing against the outside of my foot when the heel rubbed raw. These spots have now broken open and are prime candidates for infection -- thus, I'm skipping practice today and probably won't make the women's practice tomorrow. I'm treating the spots and hoping that on Thursday I can get back into a boat.

One small disappointment for me, maybe the only disappointment of the race, was that afterward we discovered the rear (and maybe the forward) iako had gotten skewed out, so the front of the ama was further from the canoe than the rear was. The iakos are the arms that attach the ama to the canoe, and they need to be firmly fastened to the canoe (and to the ama).

I'm fairly certain this shifting happened part way into the race and because we did some last minute adjustments for positioning of the ama before we put the canoe into the water. I think the straps slipped and we didn't notice and even though we tightened them down, there was enough slack in them that when they slipped back into place the iako had space to shift.

The reason this disappoints me is that we paddled damn hard, and I'm curious just how we might have done with a properly rigged boat. It's not a huge disappointment, but maybe we would have been within sight of the first SOCC boat? And maybe we wouldn't have had as many of those "what the hell's dragging?" moments during the race? How far behind the Catalina crew would we have ended? I think they finished in about 3:45 and we finished in 3:52. Close, but not as close as I was hoping for.

The race left me exhausted and feeling good about having done it, having been fairly well prepared (I had enough gas in the tank to push for the last shift and keep pushing across the finish line). It also left me feeling good about the people on the team. What cool folks there are paddling for SOCC. I think it's a damn great group. Every time I spend a day racing with SOCC I feel more connected to everyone in the club, and that's cool too. It's been a great experience for me so far, and I hope to continue it for some time.

We've changed....

Long post on the race. For more, see here.

All photos courtesy of Bethany Fong.

This last Saturday was our big change-out race in Lake Washington. ~28 miles of paddling in (it turns out) just under 4 hours. Not too bad, especially given that our canoe had some rigging issues that we discovered after the race. (More on the rigging issues in a later post.)

I was nervous heading into the race, but then I'm always nervous before races. Other folks who'd done change-out races before were telling me they enjoy them more than irons (same 6 paddlers for the entire distance), but I didn't really get that. I do now.

We started well, but without pushing too hard. As Murray (steersman) said, it's a long race and the important part will be 2/3 of the way through. Karisa was in 1, Mike in 2, me in 3, Natty in 4, Malia in 5 and Murray steering. On the escort boat were Janelle, Naomi and Erik. Erik was a last-minute addition to fill out the team, and though he has never paddled with us, he did fine. It's hard to jump into a boat with folks you haven't paddled with before. Also Bethany keeping track of the change-outs and the time. And Diane Yuen, who I'd never met, but is another SOCC team member and did a great job (with Beth) of cheering us on when we were dragging.

We kept pace with our other SOCC boat (the headed-to-Catalina crew) and that felt good too. Out past the dog park point and Sound Garden of Magnuson Park, then angling southeast across the lake to the east end of the 520 bridge.

It was a gray day, threatening a drizzle (it'd been raining the night before), but without any wind. So, no headwind (good) and few boat wakes (good) because the fair-weather boaters stayed home. We felt pretty good crossing toward the bridge, and then it was time for our first change-out, 1/2/3 hopping into the water and replaced by Janelle/Naomi/Erik.

We hopped, swam to the escort boat, and climbed aboard for our first 24 minutes rest. I was feeling good, and having a break was a treat. I quickly drank 1/2 liter of water, ate some baked potatoes and 1/2 a bagel, then pulled on a fleece and watched the canoe keep chugging south.

We followed under the 520 bridge and along the east shore of Lake Washington, trailing the other SOCC canoe as well. Still keeping pace with them. Things were looking good and I was feeling good. A bit cool, but good.

Somewhere north of Mercer Island we did our next change. This was seats 1/4/5 getting out, with Karisa/me/Mike getting in. We hopped out of the escort boat into the water (which felt a tad chilly at this point) and lined up for the approaching canoe. Then the canoe was on us the paddlers were rolling out and we were climbing in. It's something of a blur to me, but we managed it decently, I got my paddle (which was stored in one of Garrett's unpatented paddle baskets) and dug in.

At this point, paddling under I-90 and along the west shore of Mercer Island, our Catalina crew started leaving us behind. It was disappointing, but somewhat to be expected. They're a good, strong crew with lots of experience. Still, I'd been hoping to stay closer to them.

We paddled and I found myself wondering how long this 48 minutes was going to feel. The first 24 went by quickly. The water was smooth and we were pretty much alone with our escort boat. Then the 1/2/3 change came and Natty was climbing in ahead of me. She got hung up and I grabbed her leg and helped her in. I don't think she minded, but it wasn't something I considered for very long. It seemed to me like she wanted to be in, and I was in, so it made sense to help. The next 24 minutes went a little more slowly. My back was starting to tighten up a bit. We seemed to be going slowly. I tried to rotate and reach to stretch my back out, and then it was time for the 1/4/5 change. We hopped out and were swimming for the escort boat again.

24 minutes of recuperation time! Mike had candied ginger and fresh watermelon (separately) and shared both. Very cool, very generous. I drank another 1/2 liter of water and ate more potatos and some peanut butter pretzels. We were heading around the bottom of Mercer Island now.

I don't really remember where we did the next change. Along the eastern shore of the island. I know we got back in along that shore, but I don't know where. I was in seat 3 again, with Mike in 2. Again it felt like we were dragging, and far up ahead I could see the other crew disappearing in the distance. Janelle asked "what's dragging?" At another point Natty asked the same thing, so we all felt it, but other than focusing on timing, it was hard to say what was going wrong.

Another 1/4/5 change after we got under the I-90 bridge and we started feeling like we were moving a bit better. Then 1/2/3 were out and we climbed into the escort boat and rested and watched the other crew, who also seemed to be getting into a good rhythm. The sun was starting to come out and we kept pace with the canoe and caught our breath.

Now we needed to make a decision.

We were cruising along the east side of the lake with the 520 bridge was coming up. 5 minutes until the next 1/4/5 change. Wait until after the bridge? or do it before? And how long would it take to get across the lake and back to Magnuson Park? If it went longer than 48 minutes, did we want to do another change? Or would we tough it out? Bethany and Diane on the escort boat helped us think this through. We opted to do the change before the bridge and if we were more than 12 minutes out from the finish after 48, we'd do one more change.

We did our swap before reaching the bridge and I was back in 4, Mike in 5 and Karisa in 1. We must have done one more swap 24 minutes later, but I don't really remember it. In that one, a 1/2/3 change, Janelle got in 1, Malia in 2 and Natty in 3. At least that's what the change chart says. I have no recollection!

Now it was just a grind across the lake and toward the park. We pulled hard, staying in sync well and feeling like we were moving pretty well. The point got closer and closer and then we were rounding the last buoy off the dog park. 10 minutes more.... 5 minutes more. We all wanted to finish strong, though we were the last boat coming in (or so we thought). I felt like we were paddling harder and going faster than we had been, and then I could see the finish line and our other canoe waiting for us. More paddling, 16 and switch, 16 and switch, and we were over.

I was exhausted, but felt good at having done it, at having finished, at having had the opportunity to paddle with a great group of folks.

It was really great to have the other canoe waiting for us, and we both slowly paddled to shore where we had food and beer and rum punch waiting for us.

One of the things that's happening, as I do more of these races (and more practices as well), is I'm starting to get comfortable in the canoe with particular people. Mike and I have now done several races (The Gorge, which is a blur for reasons explained here, Da Grind, and now SSP) and I like paddling behind him. Rob is another I've paddled with enough to get comfortable with. And Naomi is one of my favorites to paddle behind because when I can model my stroke on hers I feel like I'm paddling better. She's got great technique and is strong too, probably stronger than I am. Most of the others in my canoe for this race were folks I'm not as familiar with, but there were times when we clicked, and boy does that feel great. The canoe jumps under you and it feels easier to paddle when you're cruising well....

Sunday, August 30, 2009

you lookin' at me?

A couple of days ago, as we sat in the car at a red light, K watched a woman walk past and said "That woman look pegnant."

For the record, she did not look pegnant. Or pregnant. She was young and trim and fashionably dressed in a knit dress and knee-high boots, probably heading to the office from her workout at the health club. Which leaves me wondering if perhaps K might have some hidden talent, somewhat like those drug-sniffing dogs. And more important, how can we take advantage of this talent to put M and me in a comfortable position for the rest of our lives pay for K's college?

M tried to explain to K that it isn't necessarily polite to say someone looks pregnant. The problem is that from K's point of view, looking pregnant is all good. She's obsessed with pregnancy. It doesn't help that friends just had twins, the neighbors behind us just had a girl, and two other friends are pregnant. K is at the stage where she regularly tells us that she's "pegnant" and that she's got 2 (or 3 or 5) babies in her tummy. So what's there not to like about looking pegnant?

I don't think she really got it, but at least we know to be on the lookout....

Friday, August 28, 2009


I'm starting to get nervous about Saturday's race. I'm glad I'm not blase about it, but I wish I didn't get quite so butterfly-y. It takes me back to swim meets in high school, when I couldn't talk to anyone, couldn't think about anything except getting the damn races done! I think once I made my dad (who'd flown over from Oahu) sit up high in the bleachers, far away from me. Man, I'm glad I didn't have to hang around with myself when I was a teenager!

In two days we'll do our 26 mile change-out race. There are two SOCC canoes, one with the crew that will be doing Catalina Island in September, and one with a non-Catalina crew. Each has 9 paddlers, with 3 in an escort boat and 6 in the canoe at any time. We swap out in the water, by dropping off the escort boat and lining up (3 paddlers, usually) so the canoe can run up and over us. 3 paddlers in the canoe jump out on the right (non-ama) side, and the 3 in the water climb in on the left, all while the canoe keeps moving ahead. It takes some coordination, and some good steering. The steersperson has to line up the canoe so the in-water paddlers end up between the ama and the canoe and can grab hold of the side and heft themselves up. Meanwhile, the in-canoe paddlers have to make sure they switch sides (if necessary) to keep from paddling on top of the swimmers, and the paddler calling changes may need to pass that job off if they're hopping out. Meanwhile, there are all the "normal" paddling challenges: keeping in sync, working together and working hard to keep going as fast as possible. It's a race, after all, not just an exercise in swapping paddlers on the fly.

Good crews can do change-outs smoothly and with little delay and the whole crew is paddling again in a matter of seconds. And they can do that in rough seas. We won't have anything like Hawaii-rough seas, and except for boat wakes, could have pretty flat conditions, but it'll still be mentally and physically challenging for those of us who haven't done it before.

Most of us will paddle 48 minute stretches, with 24 minute breaks on the escort boat. But that 24 minutes end up being something less because the time includes swimming back to the boat, getting on, and hopping off and lining up ahead of the oncoming canoe. The #1 and #2 paddlers swap out more frequently due to the demands of those seats, and #6 often "irons" the race or taking a quick 12 minute break to water and maybe a bite to eat.

There are all sorts of logistics to consider: what to bring to drink/eat on the escort boat, how much of each, what to wear while resting (fleece?), whether or not to go w/ a hat (hold onto it while jumping out of the canoe!), sunglasses?, water in the canoe for drinking on the fly?

Sabine has created a "change-out chart" that tells us each when we're scheduled to be in/out of the canoe. This guideline is the blueprint, but someone in the escort boat needs to manage the process and in the event that someone gets hurt or needs more rest than they're scheduled for, needs to be ready to ad-lib to accommodate.

Many of us non-1 and 2 paddlers are projected for 162 minutes of paddling, 2 1/2 hours. That's a lot of paddling. We've maybe done that much in practice, but rarely. She's estimating that the entire race will take about 4-4 1/2 hours.

Thinking about it makes me nervous. Typing this makes me nervous. I want to do well, I want to not cause any problems for anyone else, I want to make clean transitions in/out of the boats. I don't want to embarass myself. (That's probably an entirely separate posting for the future -- how my primary motivation as a child was to NOT EMBARRASS MYSELF.)

Practice last night was good. The canoe I was in felt in sync (mostly) and we moved quickly in the water. Our steersman won't be doing the race with us (he's on another team) but the rest of the crew were people who'll be in the boat with me. It gave me a shot of confidence that we were working together well. It also helped that Doug (the steersman) is such a good steersman. He actually had us surfing a couple of boat wakes!

At this point I need to trust to my training up to now (Sabine says we're all ready). It's a great group of paddlers (that makes a huge difference) and I'd like to enjoy it even as I'm hurting from the demands of the race. Deep breath....

Thursday, August 27, 2009

this summer i went swimming...

We took K&L to the park on Saturday because it was sunny and it was Saturday and the wading pool was filled. (It's revealing that the city has a wading-pool-hotline you can call to find out whether or not the parks are filling wading pools each day. If nothing else, it's reflective of the fact that many of our summer days don't crack 65, and that's the cutoff for putting water into the pools.)

The girls loved it, and L continued to demonstrate that she's likely to be our swimmer. K likes being in the water, but she's more cautious and doesn't like her face/ears in the water. L doesn't seem to mind having her ears below the water, and is willing to deal with water in her face.

They both ran and splashed and L took several tumbles face-first into the water without seeming to care much. I heard women across the pool gasp when she went down the first time, but she picked herself up, face streaming water, and laughed in my direction and took off again.

Her normal run is something between a drunken sailor's lurching and a three-legged dog's sideways motion, so put her in the water and things get "interesting" pretty quickly. But she enjoys herself so much that we can't help but enjoy it with her.

M's got plans to get them both into lessons this fall. Both M and I spent a lot of time in the water as kids, and it's something we want for the girls, both for pleasure, and for safety. I'd love to be able to swim with the girls, to take them into the water in Hawaii and to play in pools around here. Some of my favorite kid memories have to do with water: swimming at the Maui Country Club (we weren't members, but went with friends who were), playing Marco Polo and doing flips off the diving board (I think I learned to do those at the Elks Club in Waikiki, another club we didn't belong to but our neighbors did), floating in the pool in Puunene as a small kid, swimming underwater the length of the pool, doing cannonballs and dives and sitting on the bottom.... I learned to swim in rough water off Keanae and got comfortable in surf by going to Baldwin Beach regularly. I want the girls to be comfortable too, and to love it if they're inclined but at least to be able to manage if they find themselves swimming unexpectedly.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

time, time, time...

We've turned some inexplicable corner and the light is beginning to angle with that fall is coming slant. It was a beautiful day on Monday and M and the girls gave me a ride down to the Water Taxi. The light felt different, no longer the summery blast, and for the first time in weeks I found myself pulling out my camera to take some pictures as the boat crossed the bay.

It's not that I don't enjoy the summer light. I especially like the sun, and summer can't have too much of it, as far as I'm concerned. But, for photography and introspection, fall light seems much more conducive.

As I thought more about it, I realized that most summers until now I've been up and out of the house early, catching the first boat of the day. This summer I've shifted my schedule, so I'm missing the early morning summer light (which is more interesting and not as flat as later in the day). Thus, now that it's dark later in the morning, even though I'm on the later boat, I'm beginning to see that interesting (early) light.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I was so much older than...

I'm turning into my mother. Except taller, with less gray hair, and somewhat different body parts. Also, she's 30 years older than me and lives in a different state.

Back when I was a kid of ~16yo and knew a lot more than I do now, I reached a moment when it suddenly dawned on me that maybe mom was, well, a little slow.

A few years earlier, there was a period of maybe a year or so during which the Autobiography of Malcolm X rode around on the floor of the car, underfoot and hard to ignore. You see, mom was reading it.

We're all readers in our family and we all read copious amounts of books. We all quickly learned to take books with us when we went anywhere that might offer some time to read (shopping, the opera, the zoo, swim practice...). So Malcolm X was her "take along" book. When she had time, she'd grab it and read a few pages. It went without saying that if mom was taking that long to read it, the book intrinsically required a serious time investment. I took that on faith. Also, mom was a librarian, and you don't argue about books with a librarian. (We also didn't dog-ear pages to mark our place.)

Then around 16yo, I read the book myself. I found it fascinating, well-written (co-authored by Alex Haley of Roots fame I believe), and compelling. Also a bit sad in that just as he was beginning to shift direction toward a less confrontational approach to change, he was assassinated. But here's the important thing -- it took me, maybe a couple of weeks to finish, max.

Holy slowpoke, batman! I'd just knocked out a book that my mom took 12-16 months to finish. What up, mom?!?

Fast-forward 35 years.

Um, now I know what up: Kids up. Life up.

Thankfully, these days when I crawl into bed I get to read because L has moved into her own crib. And I usually manage to squeeze in roughly 5 minutes of reading before my eyes stop working properly and I can't see anything and the next thing I know someone is snoring and damn it they're waking me up. And it's me snoring. And I never snore!

I'm in the (early) midst of The Harsh Cry of the Heron, the "last" book, the 4th book, of the Otori trilogy. I'd strongly recommend the trilogy, which I've read twice. This current book though is taking me months and is as long as Malcolm X's biography, but with less Nation of Islam. I'm not far enough along to say thumbs up or down on it, but I'm expecting to enjoy it, at least if I remember the beginning by the time I get to the end. It's something that, pre-kids, I would have knocked out in a couple of weeks.

And one more thing, there's a 5th book in the trilogy, a prequel that was written after the other 4. I suppose I'm going to have to read that one as well. It'll give K and L something to blog about in 40 years.

Monday, August 24, 2009

can't you hear the music?

Currently in my listening rotation:

  • Good Mystery - ambeR Rubarth
  • Chronic Town - R.E.M.
  • Wrecking Ball - Emmylou Harris
  • Crocodile Cafe (1999) - Old 97's
  • Nasty Music - The Rolling Stones (1973 tour)
It's actually below average that less than 50% of these are live. I tend toward live, with warts and all, appreciating the reduced production.

Friday, August 21, 2009

folsom prison blues

Because music has always been important to me, I've been hoping the same would be true for my daughters. My father played ukulele and sang, and so did my mother. In high school I spent a lot of moody time out on the beach alone with my guitar (because, of course, no one understood me).

But about my daughters...

The first music I played for K was Dylan's Blood on the Tracks, one of my all-time favorite albums. This was when she was maybe a week or so old and lumped onto my lap while I worked at my computer. I'm not sure it made much of an impression. She's not, for example, begging to hear Idiot Wind with any regularity. (She did get to hear Neko Case sing Buckets of Rain in the pouring rain at a zoo concert, however!)

We sang to K regularly at bed time, and there was a period of over a year when every evening ended with Twinkle Twinkle. This stopped after she did a few swimming classes with M and they sang it while floating on their backs. I think maybe K associated the song with swimming and didn't want it for bedtime any longer because she didn't want to have to float on her back in her crib.

That was around Christmas, so we naturally started singing Jingle Bells to her as a substitute. And continued to do so for another 1 1/2 years. Which is not as odd to do in August as you might think, not if you've been doing it all spring and summer too. And when Christmas comes around again, like it tends to do (starting in August at CostCo), you're in season again.

I also used to play my guitar and ukulele for K at night, and while she seemed to like it ok, she never went crazy for it. She'd smile, put up with it, humor me. Or not. There's little as crushing as having a 1 1/2 yo shake her head and say, earnestly, "No daddy. No." Um.... ok, but I like singing and playing my guitar....

L on the other hand, has taken to music from the start. I don't know what music she first heard, but for the first 9 months or so of her cranky life, the only thing I could do to get her to calm down, especially at night, was to sing I Will to while holding her against my chest. (It's a beautiful song by Paul McCartney from the White Album and worth checking out). I can still sing that and get her to snuggle in and quiet down. We also did Sweet Baby James ("rockabye sweet L J") and You Can Close Your Eyes. But I Will was the go-to tune.

At bedtime we sing her Baa Baa Black Sheep and Jingle Bells (family tradition at this point), and she sings along, something K never did.

When I get my guitar, uke or banjo out, L comes running over to strum the strings. K will too, but it seems more in response to L's excitement/interest than due to intrinsic interest on her part. In short, L responds to music in ways that get my hopes up. Not that it really matters that K doesn't. It's just gravy that L does.

Current favorite tunes for K & L:

  • Folsom Prison Blues
  • Busted, the first 2 tracks from Johnny Cash's Live at Folsom Prison album
  • Jackson (w/ June Carter) is a growing favorite, also from Live at Folsom Prison
  • And John Henry, because it sounds like another train song ("that train song daddy?") -- somehow songs being about trains is important to K
  • No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (L's request, usually)
  • La la la (Bare Naked Ladies)
  • "airplane song," a french tune I don't know the name of that K loves and associates with airplanes though I have no freakin' idea why

Past popular (and still sometimes requested):
  • Yellow Submarine (I've been a success as a parent -- my girls like the Beatles. But can't we branch out a little bit.... Rev0lution? Drive My Car? Yer Blues??)
  • I'm Going Riding in a Car (Elizabeth Mitchell's version)
  • others I'm forgetting at this point.

Because music has been so very important for me, I love that at least one of the girls seems to be taking to it too. Time will tell, I suppose. Until then, we're stuck in Folsom Prison with Johnny, June and the band.

K: "Play that train song again! 'Coming round the bend'"
L: "Comin' round bend!!" "Baby needth thoose!" "Buthted!!"

Things could be much worse. It could be Raffi.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

one paddle, two paddle...

The more I'm paddling, the more I realize how little I know about it.

There are levels of subtlety that I'm only just beginning to understand:
  • how the number 1 needs to adjust stroke rate and length not only for start/turn/chase situations, but also for wave/wake/water condition, while also being as regular and even as possible and without anyone to follow....
  • how number 2 needs to help n1 do this, as well as matching n1's stroke/pace while being on the opposite side (it's not easy, and good paddlers make it seem natural)
  • how n3 and n4 (the "engine room" seats) also need to keep an eye on the water conditions while following the lead of n1/n2
  • how the caller (n3 in our boats) needs to adjust the timing of the switch based on the conditions (if there's a bump coming, or a wake, it might make sense to wait a few extra strokes, or to switch early, and if you're doing change-outs, you want to make sure you've got paddles on the right side so paddlers coming in on the left don't get hit, and how if you're the one changing out, you need to hand off the counting to someone who's not hopping into the water)
  • how n5 needs to help n6 steer in particular situations, and has a large responsibility for watching the ama....if it starts to come up, they're in the best position to see this and react quickly because it's in front of them and the iako is within reach
  • .... n6 has a whole set of responsibilities that are unique to the steersperson....
  • and meanwhile, everyone needs to blend, following the paddlers ahead of them and keeping in sync.... Whew!
We're still training for our change-out race, and we've had some long practices. Last Saturday was about 3 hours and 18 miles, with 3 "climb-into-the-not-moving boat" practices and another 4 while the canoes were in motion. And last Monday we did a number of sets of 3-6-9 minutes with 1 minute of "moving rest" in between. It's exhausting, but in the best possible way. I get back to the beach with little in my tank, but I'm loving the feeling of the canoe moving quickly, of the team working together, and of things starting to gel.

On Monday we only had 5 people in the canoe, and yet the group blended so well that it felt to me that we were moving faster than many of the 6-paddler paddles I've been on. The boat was jumping under us, and everyone seemed to be completely in sync (at times... at other times we felt bogged down, but that's normal too -- it's nearly impossible to keep in sync every second, at least for people at our level). We had 2 more in the OC2, and we rotated into the OC6, and everyone seemed to work together well.

Counterbalancing this hard workout/good tired feeling are my painful ribs. I think they're from clambering into the canoe, and they're slowly getting better (it helped that we didn't do any change-outs on Monday), but today we'll do more changes and I need to figure out a way to get into the canoe without banging them up any more.

I'm sleeping poorly in spite of my physical exhaustion because I can't find any comfortable positions to lie. This can't be the norm for pre-change-out races. I have to believe I'm doing something less-than-optimal. Especially since, once the race is done, assuming my ribs get dinged up during the race, it'll take maybe a month for the pain to subside.....

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

bed's (not) too big without you

This falls into the "should have mentioned this before" category:

Back in June (?) Lila managed to adjust quite easily (relatively easily?) to sleeping in her crib, and since then we've been a 3-bed family. Or a 2-bed, 1-crib family. Not counting 3 dog beds for 1 dog. And other than the dog beds, all the beds are getting regular use by their regular occupants.

There was a 2 week period during which this all seemed remarkable to me, but now I've adjusted and barely remember what it was like to have L in our bed each and every night. There's something frightening and rejuvenating about the human capacity to forgive and forget. Something that was so all-consuming is reduced to barely remembered history.

Or course, now I'm not sleeping well at all due to painful ribs, but at least I'm not keeping L up.

Monday, August 17, 2009

drank like a river

This week's sure sign that we live in the Pacific Northwest:

  • K (3 1/2 yo) knows what a "hydration system" is.
  • L (21 mo) sees a picture of a camel and says "Camel-back."

Friday, August 14, 2009

the (security) envelope? puleeeze!

Yesterday I voted in our upcoming election. This one is a mail-in-only election, so as much as I prefer going to the polls, I had to do it via an absentee ballot. I carefully worked my way through the voter's guide, made my random choices on Port of Seattle candidates (how else does one choose a port commissioner candidate?), picked a non-incumbent protest candidate instead of our mayor, flip-flopped about the county executive race, filled in the various bubbles, folded the ballot and put it into the envelope. I signed the signature line and licked the 2 (!) flap gum strips, then sealed it all up. It's quite a responsibility, this democracy stuff!

Only then did I discover I'd failed to put the ballot in the security envelope before I'd put it into the outside (insecurity?) envelope. Damn!

I went to the elections web site, hoping there were enough idiots like me who did this that there'd be an FAQ about what to do next. Nothing.

I called the "contact us" phone number, expecting the worst (on hold? busy?). A woman answered after 2 rings. Wow!

I explained what I'd done and she laughed and said, "That's ok. Just go ahead and mail it."

Whew! Problem avoided.

But after I hung up, I got to wondering. What the hell is that envelope for? If it's not required, why not make it an "optional security envelope?"

Thursday, August 13, 2009

'scuse me while i break my own heart...

... or at least squash my own chest.

Last night, in the middle of another night of restless sleep, it occurred to me that I've been sleeping poorly because of the intense pain in my ribs. Hmm.... Well, duh!

I bruised them last Thursday during our paddling practice. We're practicing for the 8/29 "change-out race," the Pacific Northwest Outrigger Challenge. Half our team will then go on to do the Catalina Race in September. It's a race I'd love to do. Maybe next year.

In a change-out race, paddlers swap in and out of the canoe on the fly. Each team gets 9 paddlers for their 6-person canoe, and the races tend to be longer. This one is 26 miles, around Mercer Island in Lake Washington. Change-outs are kind of exciting and kind of fun, and (apparently) kind of hard on your body. Especially if you aren't particularly good at the in/out aspect.

Some folks struggle to pull themselves up into the canoe. There's an advantage to having some upper body strength, though I think that's less critical as you improve your technique. The fact that the canoe is moving toward you is something you can use to your benefit. Its motion helps you pull up and over the gunnel. Or it can, if you know how to take advantage of it.

Like anything, the better you are, the less effort you need to put into it. And the easier it looks. Thus, ice skaters and surfers and everyone in between can make very difficult physical tasks seem easy and nearly effortless. I don't have any video of my practice last week but I'm fairly confident I wasn't making it look effortless.

I managed ok. Better than some, and worse than others. It was a coldish day, but the water was warm (warmer than the breezy air) and I was able to get into the canoe. That's the first concern, that you actually get into the canoe. Other options are to miss is completely, or get stuck clinging to the side, dragging in the water and slowing things down a bit.

We're not a hard-core team, so Sabine is pretty cool about it. She says things like "If we have to stop the canoe, we stop it. Or you try again. We pick you up (in the escort boat) and drop you off again for a second try." The serious teams don't consider those options because they practice this a lot, and everyone needs to be good at it, and those options aren't options. Watching teams who are good at change-outs is fun. Like watching good butterfly swimmers. Smooth, easy, effortless.

In any case, I knew after practice that I'd beaten up my body a bit. My shoulder ached, and my ribs on the left side were sore to the touch. That night I took some Aleve and went to bed. And I've been struggling to find comfortable sleeping positions every since.

Practice on Monday was a challenge because though we didn't do any change-out practice (there were only 4 of us), we did paddle, and my sore ribs meant I had trouble even reaching forward on the left side. At points it made me feel nauseous. And I realized just how freakin' painful actual broken ribs must be.

Finally in the last day or so, my chest has begun to feel better. But last night I still couldn't get comfortable on either side, and today we're doing more change-outs. I've got to figure a way to not land on my chest in the canoe.

And, note to self: When you can't find a comfortable sleeping position, you don't sleep well.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

old farts, redux

(this is a followup to a posting that I never made, last summer)

I ride to work on the King County Water Taxi (nee Elliott Bay Water Taxi) and last summer I noticed something disturbing. At uncomfortably regular intervals, old men would come up to me as I stood at the railing decompressing from my day, and want to chat. About the weather, about the captain (they're mostly women who seem fully capable of doing the job, and this particular old fart (OF) wanted to tell me that she didn't know what she was doing. I said she'd been driving me across the bay for several years without incident but it didn't seem to convince him. I finally just walked away from him), about the house they used to have in West Seattle....

I don't mind chatting up an OF now and then, but usually this happened when I was chilling out, clearing the cubical mind-numb from my brain. And then there was the issue of it being the same summer I was turning 50.

50! damn. I started worrying that these guys (who had never seemed to want to talk with me before last summer) were somehow seeing me as a kindred spirit. I was, in their eyes, one of them! But I was, like, 30 years younger than them.

Is there a moment after which you become an OF, even if you're young enough to be the other OF's son? Crap!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

grinded by the light

-- We've ground, and it was good. --

Last Saturday (8/1) was the SOCC big race of the season (SOCC=Seattle Outrigger Canoe Club). Big in that it's the race SOCC sponsors, and it's our fund-raiser. It takes place off Alki Beach, on a 4.5mi "loop" that each canoe does twice.

So, salt water, and in my own backyard. It's got almost too much going for it!

We needed to arrive at the beach at 6.30a for an ~9.30a first race start. That's because we're putting the race on (which means, in part, that Sabine, our president, works her okole off doing stuff I have no clue about). So we got there early and got our canoes rigged and down to the water, got our tents and the officials' tent set up, and then we waited. Other teams arrived, unloaded and rigged and pitched, and then they waited too.

Waited because even though it had been starry beautiful at 6a, by 6.45a the fog rolled in. And it stayed pretty solid until after 11a. There were discussions and delays and reports of 8 foot visibility at the turns and more delays. We ate, tossed footballs, ate, hydrated, talked story....

Until at last it seemed to be clearing somewhat, and the women and co-ed canoes went out to race. As the canoes got into position, the fog backed off and by the time the horn blew for the start, the fog was definitely clearing. My pictures of the second leg of the first lap show little fog left. By the time the canoes were the first lap it was sunny and warm on the beach and on the water.

There's something impressive about seeing 20 canoes all paddling hard toward the same point.

This race has a fun twist -- at the end of the first of 2 laps, one paddler from each canoe has to jump out, run up the beach and around some traffic cones, and then hop back in so the teams can do a second lap. This has the effect of bringing all the canoes in close to shore (good for casual observers) and adds some interest as paddlers slip, fall, splash, swim, stumble, stagger up and back down the beach. It's a hoot for everyone watching, for everyone, in fact, except the poor paddlers that have to do the running.

When you're running, you have to go from paddling (core, legs, back) to out of the canoe (hoping you don't fall on your face in the water) to running up the steep beach, to running back down the beach, to climbing back into the canoe, to paddling hard again. Meanwhile all the other guys in the canoe are grabbing water, paddling easy, catching their breath, waiting for you....

Our women did great, looking strong and paddling well. The water was calm, with the only bumps coming from boat wakes. When they got back, it was our turn.

We climbed into the canoe and headed off to warm up, then positioned ourselves on the outside (left) of the start. Another canoe came and moved in outside of us, but that was the only competition we had for position. The horn sounded, and we were digging, working hard to get the canoe moving.

I like the guys I was paddling with. It feels like a good, strong group. I suspect I'm the weak link in the bunch, but I did my best to hold my own. Mike was in seat 1, Rob in 2, Garrett in 3, me in 4, Jasen in 5 and Mark steering in 6. I trusted them and felt they all knew what they were doing. (Rob was the only paddler who'd shared my Gorge experience.)

Our course was a leg out to the Duwamish Head buoy, then a left-hand turn and back parallel to the beach, heading between the start/finish line buoys. Down to the Alki Lighthouse buoy, another left turn, then back again along the beach to where the run takes place. Repeat, and you're done after 2 laps and 9 miles.

We paddled hard but some of the fastest canoes got out ahead of us quickly. The water felt good, the pace fast but not unmanageable. I was a little jumpy about waves, and at one point a ferry wake came up on our left side (ama side) so I called out "ferry wake" and Garrett said "got it" and then it was past us without a problem. I worried less after that.

By the first turn the canoes had spread out and we were nearly alone. There was one canoe behind us, but we had the turn to ourselves (no jockeying for position or bumping). It was nothing like the turns on the Columbia, where shifting direction put the canoe into dangerous positions relative to waves. Here we did a sweeping turn and then were headed back along the beach toward Alki Lighthouse, following the lead pack.

Ultimately we spent most of the race pretty much by ourselves. The lead canoes were too strong to catch, and the ones trailing us weren't gaining any ground, so we paddled in our own world, cruising along over the salt water in the sun, eventually reaching the buoy off Alki Lighthouse and turning back toward the beach where Jasen would be running.

I was a little nervous about that piece too, because I'd watched a couple of the women/co-ed canoes have an exciting time when they arrived at the beach at the same moment as some rollers from a boat wake. One of those canoes also chose to have their number 6 (steersman) doing the running, which meant the canoe was more or less drifting rudderless and it spun around before going perpendicular to the second canoe that was caught further in on the sand.... it was exciting and a little scary -- there was the threat that the outside boat would "t-bone" into the side of the inside boat, and if a canoe had hulied there right at the beach in a foot of water paddlers caught beneath could have been hurt. Luckily both boats got away ok with some assistance from folks on the beach. I don't think they even touched, though it seemed inevitable at some moments.

We had no excitement, which is good. Jasen was up and out before I even realized it. I turned and tossed Mark his water, put my own drinking tube in my mouth, and then we were paddling again. Except that Jasen was still running on the beach. We noticed this after a moment and had to hold up until he got back to the boat. It seemed like he was gone just a few seconds, but I suspect it felt longer to him. And then we were off on our second lap.

This leg felt harder for some reason, like we weren't moving as well. It's possible we were in a different than the first time, relative to the currents. Then too, I heard Jasen go out a couple of times ("5 out" -- it's what you say when you're not paddling, when you're grabbing a drink or fixing something). Later he said he'd had some trouble getting back in sync after doing the run.

Mostly I think we were just struggling through the middle portion of the race. We rounded the first mark the second time, and headed toward the lighthouse.

The turn gave me a chance to see where we were in relation to other canoes. Pretty much no change. Those ahead of us were staying ahead, and those behind weren't catching us. We paddled west, rounded the turn at the lighthouse, and then dug for home.

There's an interesting dynamic in that number 6 is the captain and the one in charge of how the canoe is going. It's their responsibility to let us know if timing is off, or if we should speed up our stroke rate. But other paddlers are competitive too and periodically we'd call out to push or to paddle hard or to dig. Hopefully Mark didn't care. I haven't paddled enough with him to know whether or not he would.
The last leg went fairly quickly, and I think we were all pushing as hard as we could. I was dry (thirsty) but it was no time for getting a drink, so I paddled, trying for long, strong strokes, and then we were done, across the finish line with "paddles up."

It felt great to complete the race. I was tired but happy, and now I've done a longer race. I'm excited to do more of them and only wish the girls and M had been able to be there to watch. I think K would have gotten a kick out of seeing it (though it's not as immediate as Curious George on TV).

Sunday, August 2, 2009


  • Hearing L in VM screaming "HELLO! HELLO!" in the background, and then, when M finally gave her the phone, whispering "hello"
  • Talking to K and hearing her excitement at getting splashed by the sea lions at the zoo (she got to sit in the "splash zone" with her older cousin!)
  • Watching the fog lifting off a beach full of outrigger canoes
  • Getting out on the water. SALT water!
  • Eating kalua pork and butter mochi (not at the same time!)
  • The chance to get to know some of the other SOCC paddlers better
  • Teamwork and cooperation on the beach
  • Good local grinds (kalua pork! lomi salmon!! butter mochi!!!)
  • Not huli-ing
  • The chance to paddle
  • DaGrind 2009!
  • Hanging L's swing
  • Doing the laundry
  • Washing sippy cups
  • The Foreign Correspondent (Alan Furst)
  • Wilco (The Album)
  • Replacing the front steps