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....

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