Sunday, January 10, 2010

paddling: fourteen on the right....

How it looked to the birds

Yesterday (Saturday) we had a hard, wonderful paddle:
  • 15 miles
  • 2+ hours
  • In the sun
  • Wow!

It was calm, gray at the beach at Water Way 18. Enough paddlers showed up to fill the 12, and both OC6s. 24 paddlers on a Saturday in January!

My boat had Sabine in #1, me in 2, Kristi in 3, Jocelyn in 4, DougM in 5 and DougN steering. It was a good group, and I knew we were going to work hard, but I was also a bit nervous because DougM said up front that we were all going to swap with the seat in front of us 1/2 through the workout. So I'd be stroking for at least part of the time. The last time I paddled in 1 I actually enjoyed myself, but that wasn't with Sabine right behind me or both Dougs further back, so the pressure was on!

We headed out toward Montlake Cut with Sabine setting a good pace, and as we warmed up the canoe felt good, moving well through the water. Then, coming out on the east side of the cut, the sun slid up out of the low clouds surrounding the lake and light was flashing off the water. Sunshine in January! On Lake Washington! Oh yeah, it was going to be a great morning.

Our workout: 1min off/1mile on. How many?

"We're going to do a bunch of them" DougN said. And laughed his crazy laugh.

So we started, and it didn't take long to reach the 520 bridge. We cruised under it and headed south toward the I-90 bridge. The water was smooth, the sun sharp in my eyes. I loved it! With the misty air in the distance, it felt like photos I've seen of autumn lakes taken from duck blinds, quiet, peaceful, still.

The paddling was hard but oh, it was good. I felt it a bit in my back but did my best to just keep up with Sabine.

Here's one thing I love about paddling in an OC6: it's hard to ease up and slack off when things are going right. When the timing is there and everyone is focused, the boat leaps out from under you with each stroke and it actually feels like you're not working as hard as you are. It also feels like everyone else is working harder than you are, and you just can't quit. When that's happening I get a rush and then paddling hard seems easy. It's almost harder to not paddle hard.

We moved through the sets, the rest minutes passing much too quickly, and I lost track of how many we'd done. How many 1mile-on sections? Who knew? We kept pushing. I squinted happily the sunlight and we made the I-90 bridge, then went under it and turned east to finish our current 1mile-on segment.

Then, at last, a break. "Paddles up!" We stopped. Calm water, with the bridge off to our left, a few cars moving east and west over it. The canoe bobbed quietly. Everyone grabbed water and cooled off and each pair of seats swapped.

Now I was going to be setting the pace. In spite of being a little nervous (I never want to do poorly, especially in front of people I respect) I was almost looking forward to this. My focus would be on keeping a regular pace, with a long reach up front. For the most part I think I managed ok. No one complained at least.

I'd run out of water before we stopped, so I had none on the return paddle, but I didn't miss it too much. Later I felt dehydrated, but at the time I was too busy working on doing as well as I could.

The lake's smoothness was disturbed only by the splashes of water birds and the (very) occasional wake of a distant, passing boat. The foggy areas over land in the distance just made the sunshine on us that much better. When the water is that calm, the canoe can feel easy to move, sliding across the surface in a deceptively smooth motion. At least when everyone is in sync. And the crew we had were awesome, strong and keeping together and it all just felt like it was clicking. We paddled north and across to the west end of the 520 bridge and then back to the cut and home.

By the time we reached the beach again, we'd gone 15 miles and over 2 hours and I was beat, but in the best possible way.

One of the most satisfying aspects of the morning is that our speed kept up (more or less) for the entire workout. Which means our conditioning is improving. (Sabine mentioned that getting to I-90 for a workout used to be the exception, that the team only did it a few times a year, in preparation for big races. Now (when the weather allows) it's more the rule!

What a great way to spend a Saturday morning!

More stats for the stat-obsessed

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