Friday, February 24, 2006


Finally got the boat out of the living room and on the car. I'm all packed and ready to go. Didn't get a very early start, but will arrive in Fla on Wed evening.

I've been so lucky to have so many special people in my life, standing behind me and cheering me on. I have to admit feeling quite a bit pressured to succeed as I don't want to disappoint anyone. I can only try to do my best, much will be out of my control. No one wants to succeed at this more than I.

I really do believe it's not our successes and accomplishments that really make our lives so interesting, it is the journeys we take along the way trying to get there. Through these journeys that I have met such wonderful people.

Thank you Dee, Ron, Raven, Kristen, Jeff, and Sally, my paddling buddies who are so encouraging. Thank you Elizabeth for helping me get physically ready. Thank you Dan, paddling partner and friend who is always there for me. Thanks Jack, a new friend, sending such positive vibes. Thank you Mark for really making this possible (go Krugers). Thanks Myra and David for letting me take the time off. There are so many more I could thank, you know who you are.

A special thanks to my Mon and Dad, they raised me as a traveler, those life's experiences have also made me an adventurer.

But most of all, thanks to my family, Tana, Alan and Paul (known as DancesWithSandyBottom among the WaterTribe group). They have been so incredibly generous, supportive, helpful, patient, and sacrificing in so many ways. Yes they think I'm totally crazy, but they let me be me. I love you guys the most.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Boy did I get Lucky

When I first decided to do the longer WaterTribe Ultimate Challenge, one of the questions at home was "How much is this going to cost us?".

Not expecting anything, I decided to send out some queries about possible product sponsorship. Though athletic, I don't really consider myself an athlete, much less a professional one. But, being a paddler who likes adventure, and who I think sets a good example inspiring others through teaching and example, I thought the Challenge was different enough to provoke interest.

What a great surprise. I received some support through product or service sponsorships from some wonderful companies with excellent products. Please check out my websites sponsor page and read more about my sponsors and the help they have provided. There are links to each sponsor's websites, I really recommend checking out what they have to offer.

Thank-you just doesn't seem enough. Thank-you, Thank-you, Thank-you.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Balanced Movement!!!

A very special thanks to Elizabeth Towe and all the folks at Balanced Movement Studios. I am so lucky to have received hour long personal core and strength training workouts 2-3 days a week with Elizabeth, twice weekly spin classes taught by Elizabeth and with a great group of cyclists, yoga classes with Jamie Powell (who is inspirational), and encouragement and support by all the staff at the studio.

Elizabeth has created a business with a unique and inviting environment. Not your typical gym, but a studio will all the equipment, features, and amenities one would have at a gym, plus many more creative and interesting tricks (equipment aids) of the trade. My weight training workouts were always double duty workouts, strengthening and working my core with each exercise, no matter what the target muscle was, the word "balanced" in the studios name is there for a reason.

The studios philosophy is that movement is the key to living healthier, living happier, and improving your quality of life. With that in mind, she has two goals: to build a movement community, and to make everyone a part of it. Working with clients is about developing a fitness relationship. Although I was already a workout addict, paddling, running, biking, and swimming, I have learned how important the bigger picture of overall strength and support is to my overall level of fitness and specific strength, and how to go about getting and maintaining this.

Towards this end, the studio offers individual personal training, regular classes (spinning, yoga, hooping, Pilate's, laughing mediation, and many other varied and interesting/unusual movement classes) and other specialized workshops. They also share space and consult with Balanced Movement Physical Therapy making for a total and complete health environment.

Today was my last sponsored session. I can't say enough about the benefits I have received having had this opportunity, not to mention the friendships I have made. After my race, I will continue to be a regular face at the studio. I encourage all to check out their website, there is something fun and interesting for everyone, all towards the goal of living a healthy and happy life.

After our session this morning, Elizabeth gave me a gift of the much desired and sought after Balanced Movement Studios t-shirt, and a card that had the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, 'Do one thing everyday that scares you'. I am about to do just that, thanks Elizabeth!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Best

One of the best kayaking blogs and websites around belongs to Marek Uliasz, Mountain Wayfarer. It is informative and entertaining. A day rarely goes by when I don't check his fit2padl blog or his Wafarer blog. He updates his blogs fairly regularly. His photos and videos are top quality. He was the inspiration for my creating a blog as I prepare for the Ultimate Challenge, though I don't pretend for a minute that mine is in the same class.

Marek is a paddler, racer, and excellent photographer (a scientist, he also has a real job). As a WaterTribe alum, Marek has completed an Everglades Challenge, and will attempt the Ultimate Challenge this year, I expect we'll see lots of photos and video of this in the future. His website contains an excellent video he put together on the 2004 Watertribe Everglades Challenge. The pictures and music provides a real feel for the experience of a challenge. There are also many other stories and photo albums related to paddling and racing.

His newest entry on his Wayfarer Blog discusses this photo. Oh great, another thing for me to worry about!

Mark Wayfarer's Web address on your favorites list, it's well worth it.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Brrrrr Cold

I had planned today to be my last long training day on the water, 10-12 hrs; I quit at 4. It was so windy and cold, and then it started freezing rain and snowing. Normally I'd love a chance to paddle in the snow, but with the wind in my face ......

Here I am having returned home. Hard to see the snow, but it's really coming down. Yes that is snow in my hair, but, training for this race has also turned me a bit grey.

I'll likely not do another long paddle before the race, just a few 4 hr trips. Tomorrow they're calling for 30 degree temps all day, not sure I'll do much biking either. Oh well, I've still got lots of stuff at home to do to get ready.

I haven't really done as many long days as I had originally planned, guess it'll just hurt more in the beginning :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Weather Issues and Safety Gear

Weather is always an issue in WaterTribe Events. The first 2 years of the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge, 2001 and 2002, weather certainly had a huge effect on the number of finishers, with only 37% and 20% finishing. Among the racers these first years were ManitouCruiser in 2001 and 2002, and ThereAndBackAgain in 2001, both of whom will be Challengers in the Ultimate Florida Challenge with me. Many have speculated that the higher percentage of finishers seen since, are a combination of better weather, preparedness, and training. Certainly the Watertribe Discussion Forum and the WaterTribe Magazine provide a wealth of information to help one prepare for a Challenge.

I found a link to a 5 part article written in 2001 in the St Petersburg Times by then Times Outdoor Editor Terry Tomlin, who participated in the first Challenge with paddling partner Jon Willis. The articles are a fun read. That first years Challenge began with 25-knot winds and 5-foot seas in Tampa Bay. Only 14 of the 27 starting boats even made it to the first checkpoint at 72 miles. (Note: the links often start with lots of blank space so you have to page down to get to each article).

Weather will always be an issue to some degree. It is expected during any week long event that weather will turn at some point. During my 2004 and 2005 Everglades Challenges we experienced weather that ranged from beautiful sunny warm days, to nights at freezing temperatures, fog with little to no visibility, windy days and nights with small craft warnings, and, days and nights with pouring rain.

The WaterTribe's infamous "Warning Page" mentions weather issues, along with the many other dangers of the race, and there are safety rules and equipment requirements to address these.


And speaking of safety equipment. I am very pleased to have been offered a loan from McMurdo Ltd, of their McMurdo® Fastfind Plus 406 MHz Personal Locator Beacon for use in my Ultimate Challenge.

The Fastfind Plus is a revolutionary hand-held Personal Locator Beacon that features a built-in GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver combined with a 406 MHz transmitter and 121.5 MHz homing signal. It is ideal for alerting the rescue services of an emergency during maritime, light aircraft and outdoor pursuits (where licensing allows).

I finally have all my gear for the Challenge. Now if only the weather will cooperate, we can really have some fun.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Kruger and Me

Late last year I submitted an article to the WaterTribe Magazine titled "I've been Krugerized: My Introduction to the Kruger Dreamcatcher". The article describes my first impressions upon paddling a Kruger canoe and in using a single blade. This from the perspective of a high performance sea kayak paddler. The article is also a trip report on the week long 180 mile expedition in Lake Michigan that I did as my introduction to the boat.

Obviously with the WaterTribe Challenges upon us, my timing was pretty bad. The article will be published later this Spring. Below are excerpted paragraphs from the introduction and ending sections of the article, just a teaser, you'll really have to read the full article to appreciate how I have become "Krugarized".

When I arrived in Tampa Bay for my first WaterTribe Everglades Challenge (March 2004), I was an admitted sea kayak snob. You know the type, "you’re not a real sea kayaker unless your boat is longer than 16 ft, British, fiberglass, skeged, and you aspire to climb the BCU star system in paddling". I had read a recommendation from Chief (head of Watertribe) to use kayaks with rudders in the Challenges; I figured I'd show him, if you really know how to sea kayak you don't need a rudder. ...

...I had finished my Challenge with a new perspective and regard for different boaters and boat types. All of us finishing this challenge had accomplished an incredible feat in small boat expeditioning that certainly didn't require a "real sea kayak", and in fact "real sea kayaks" were not necessarily the boats that excelled. Most surprising, at the end of the challenge, I found myself wanting to try out and paddle one of the Krugers. I had finished the challenge having spent 8 days being cold and wet, exhausted, sore, blistered, and chaffed. I even had to sleep (sitting up) in my boat one night. Looking around, I noticed that those paddling Krugers were talking about being comfortable and dry, and fairly pain free after 300 miles...

...Mark Przedwojewski (Watertribe member ManitouCruiser), met and began learning about canoe expedition from the famous Verlen Kruger in 1995. Mark bought his first Kruger that year, and subsequently began building Kruger Canoes nder Verlen's tutelage. In 2003, Verlen offered Mark the opportunity to purchase the company as he retired. See for more information on Mark, the Kruger boats, and Verlen. These days, Mark is dedicated to continuing Verlen's work and to making a little part of Verlen's legacy accessible to paddlers...

...Mark had generously offered to loan me his Dreamcatcher, a sea kayak-like Kruger canoe to use in the WaterTribe Ultimate Florida Challenge (UFC), a 1200-mile circumnavigation of Florida including a 40-mile portage, March 4 - April 3, 2006. Mark knew I had wanted to try and do this larger race and that I had concerns about attempting it in my own sea kayak. The offer was a wonderful surprise (not unlike Mark himself), and one I couldn’t refuse. Mark will also be participating in this challenge in a Kruger Sea Wind. Mark has always had a good showing in WaterTribe Challenges, and, has the current distinction of having earned more WaterTribe shark and alligator teeth, (the award received after a successful completion of a WaterTribe Challenge) than any other WaterTribe member...

...That Friday in Irons, I met the Dreamcatcher. She has a “Lake Michigan” blue deck with a white hull. It was immediately obvious that she had weathered thousands of miles. She is Dreamcatcher #2 in a very small current fleet of 20 worldwide. Built in 1993, she's lived her whole life outdoors, and has lost all her original shine and luster. Like me, she is a bit rough around the edges and has been around the block a few times. But she’s built strong, and also like me, has many more trips left. She and I will get along just fine in the UFC...

...The Kruger canoes look different to a sea kayaker and the Dreamcatcher even more so. The boats are advertised as the “ultimate tripping canoes”, designed for comfort, efficiency, and seaworthiness. The Dreamcatcher, looking sort-of like a very big sea kayak, is not a high-performance yak. She is considered a traveler, designed for the comfort and stability that would be enjoyed on long distance trips, though many use their Krugers for short day trips. She is not a surfer, nor a play boat, though surf landings and launchings
are often required of her. She doesn't have the extreme maneuverability one would want playing in rock gardens, though her layers of Kevlar make her strong and sturdy in a rocky environment. Through Verlen, and now Mark, her reputation is for long distance expedition travel on water, just what I love the most...

...I had a thousand questions for Mark regarding the performance of the Dreamcatcher (and Kruger’s in general), all of course related to my sea kayaking background. Can she be rolled? How does she handle in surf? How do you brace into waves when broached? How maneuverable is she without the rudder? What about rescues with no front bulkhead? How dry is the back hatch? How will I carry her around getting on and off the beach? Can I use a double bladed paddle? What is faster, single or double blade? Mark patiently tried to answer my questions based on his knowledge and experiences and on Verlen’s and others reported experiences. But he agreed that in the end, I would just have to take her through some paces and see for myself, and, he would be very interested to hear of my results. His confidence in these boats is unwavering, and I could tell he expected I’d feel nothing less...

...Since returning home, the Dreamcatcher and I have paddled many miles weekly on the lake and have taken a few weekend beach trips. I've not missed paddling my Explorer at all, and have retired it for the season at least until after the challenge. I now think of the Explorer as my play kayak, rather than my expedition kayak. I've also not been much interested in using the GP or any double bladed paddle. Zaveral Racing Equipment has sponsored me in the UC by providing an 8oz bent shaft carbon fiber distance canoe paddle. I find it so much easier on my joints, and enjoy the rest provided by alternating sides. I will need to do some training with a double blade paddle for the UC, as it will be necessary in a rescue situation, and possibly for added stability in rougher water and surf landings. But the single blade has now become my primary paddle...

...I've found myself completely surprised at how much I enjoy and love paddling this boat, though I still don't quite know what to call it, a canoe or a kayak. It doesn't really look like a canoe, and you don't kneel in it. It's rather large for a sea kayak, does not quite maneuver
like a sea kayak, and has so much buoyancy it sort of bobs on top of the water, yet it does look more kayak than canoe. That I paddle it with a canoe paddle makes it difficult for me to call it a kayak, though certainly there is a tradition even in more traditional Inuit kayaking cultures of using a single blade paddle with kayaks. Needing to classify what I do, and not really able to
classify the boat to my liking, I've taken to just saying "I'm a paddler".

Six months later, I still love paddling this boat, and believe it truly is the perfect boat for me to attempt this huge Challenge in. But more than that, I intend to eventually own a Kruger Canoe for all my future trips and expeditions. I can't imagine doing one in anything else now.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

My Newest Favorite Quote

"Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in
a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways
totally worn out shouting "Holy sh#t, what a ride !"

Monday, February 06, 2006

Friends in Need, Friends Indeed

Dan Colodney, known to most of the p-net crowd by the moniker “liv2padl”, can take a lot of credit for where I am in terms of my paddling confidence and skills, and most certainly in my love and interest in expedition paddling. If not for Dan, I don’t think WaterTribe would be part of my life. I met Dan in early 2002, we were both teaching sea kayaking for Rock Rest Adventures. We hadn’t worked together, but had started email communication with a plan to paddle together.

A very active paddler, and always looking for serious paddling partners, Dan invited me to his neck of the woods for a weekend of paddling. We spent that first long day on the water ending with a 3 mile crossing of the Alligator River into 15+ mph headwinds. When we got to our take out, we were both exhausted, but, smiling, laughing, and feeling totally exhilarated. We both knew this was the beginning of a long time paddling friendship. It wasn’t long before Dan and Ellen’s guest room was named “Dawn’s room”.

Dan has spent much of his lifetime paddling solo expedition canoe trips in the remote regions of the Northwest Territories of Canada. He is also a skilled sea kayak navigator and expeditioner, and had even completed a solo trip to the West Coast of Newfoundland in 1984, many years before sea kayaking and sea kayak expedition became the popular sport it is today. Having paddled many kayak expedition trips, Dan always wanted to return to NF, and an article in SeaKayaker Magazine about a trip on the Southwest remote coast had him planning a return about the time that we met.

When I started paddling with Dan, I was already a good paddler, but I lacked the confidence for a long distance ocean going trip, had no navigational skills, and was not that comfortable in surf and bigger water conditions. Dan had already decided that I would be his partner for this new NF expedition, and patiently started working with me to develop the confidence and experience I would need for an ocean going expedition. He and I, and another new friend John, started training and planning for our future month long trip. Our training was not without it’s own adventures. Remember the story about "the incredible journey of the little red kayak" that took a trip from the coast of North Carolina to the coast of France, yup, that was Dan, and I.

We completed our expedition in the summer of 2003, one of the great highlights of my life. I returned a different person and paddler. More skilled, certainly more confident, and ready to take on many more challenges. It was that experience with Dan that began my pursuit for more expedition paddling, and particularly the WaterTribe Challenges. My first Everglades Challenge was completed in March 2004 (see my article, "So Much Adventure...").

Dan had planned to do the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge 2005 with me, but, it was time for some much needed shoulder repair surgery (when he plays, he plays hard). He is still recovering from what turned out to be a very difficult and complicated surgery. But his Docs and physical therapists are confident he will be back on the water soon. These days, we are planning our 2008 return trip to NF, and Dan is helping me train for the WaterTribe Ultimate Challenge.

This past Sunday I went to visit my friend Dan, and together we again set off on a new and different type of adventure; a slow boat towing bike ride on the nice flat country roads near Edenton and around Chowan County. We called this expedition "Eau de Barnyard" (see the pigs wallowing in the background).

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Sailing, Sailing, over the .......

What a great week. I finally managed to relax about the Challenge. Rather than continuing to feel overwhelmed, I am now getting really excited about it. Only three weeks left till I leave for Florida.

Saturday was one of my longer solo training days on the lake, 10 hours. Luckily it was unusually warm at 62 degrees, because it was pouring rain all morning, and winds 15-20 mph, with stronger gusts all day.

I didn't get in as much paddling as I had intended, not with that wind, instead, with my new Pacific Action Sail, I was screaming.

At one point my GPS read 7.2 mph, WOW. I'm continually amazed at how well this sail works. Not just downwind, but I was able to get a fairly good angle reaching upwind as well, and that had me going 4 mph. Of course I think the stability of the Kruger Dreamcatcher really helps when your sailing cross wind.