Monday, January 30, 2006

Attitude, Out with the Bad and In with the Good

The past week was a really hard one for me, mentally. All the chart and navigation planning had me feeling totally overwhelmed. I also felt really tired from all the training and planning. And I'm worrying a bit about my right wrist which is still occasionally giving me trouble, not a good thing starting a 1200 mile race with a slight tendinitis. In fact all week I tried to find excuses not to work out, finally on Sunday I was successful, no biking, no paddling, nothing physical, and, no guilts. It was probably just what my body and mind needed.

I spent the day in the garage working on the boat's outfitting a bit, but it was more of a family day. My husband was helping me, while my son (who had come home from college for the weekend) was working on his sailboat. Later that evening, my daughter and I drove him back to school.

Photo: Alan and friend Kevin sailing in regatta at Key Largo Jan'06. I tried for years to get my kids into paddling, but both prefer sailing, and a lot more speed than I do.

So that week is over. Now a new week is beginning, it's time to get back in the right frame of mind. Last week was the first time I let negative thoughts enter my mind about this Challenge. There is no place for that. Today I start the week reminding myself why I'm doing this. Why? I love the personal challenge, I love paddling, I love long distance endurance paddling, I love camping, I love the WaterTribe spirit, it's FUN. So I begin this week with positive sayings and attitude. Some of my favorites which work for me: "thinking makes it so", "why not", and, "just do it". These will be my mantra for the week.

After posting this blog entry, I received an email from my friend Kristen with two quotes for me, I liked them so much I had to add them here. First from Audrey Southerland (a solo woman paddler, adventurer, and explorer who does it her way, in an inflatable): "Inspiration without nuts and bolts practicality and bit-by-bit efficiency is futile. The other from Chris Duff (kayaker, adventurer, and explorer): "Never put your body where your mind hasn't been first." All so very appropriate.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Enormous Challenges

As time passes and the Challenge gets closer (starts March 4th), I occasionally find myself becoming overwhelmed by the immensity of what I'm about to embark on. I live it in my dreams every night. My free time is spent on little beyond training and planning. It is starting to consume my life, mentally and physically. I'm excited, anxious, and, scared.

I look to Renalta Chlumska and her incredible "Around America Adventure", a circumnavigation of the lower 48 states, for inspiration. She is a woman who is living my dreams. I try to ignore the fact that at 33 she is younger then my 53 years, and that her adventure has a support crew helping her, including a new support boat that will follow her around Florida. Her schedule is also a bit envious. She is not in a race, she can average 20-30 mile days, enjoy the scenery and the people she meets, and still stay on schedule. But, she is paddling 11,000 miles, not the 1,200 I'll be doing. She is an inspiration to me.

I have found it very exciting following her progress on the location map on her website. She is now in Florida, and is just passing Tampa Bay where my Challenge will begin. Looking at her schedule, I estimate she has planned 37 days to get from Tampa Bay to the Georgia border, this I must do in 21 days.

Very different in mileage and timing, never the less, both our adventures are considered by most to be extreme enormous challenges. Both are personal challenges, we do them for ourselves. Different, and personal. They are really no more important than anyone's personal challenges, 12000, 1200 or even just 12 miles. Do it, even the trying will be worth it.

Photo: On Florida Bay during WaterTribe Everglades Challenge 2005, my last paddling challenge.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Spotlight on AlaskanSeaHorse

The real benefit of doing a WaterTribe Challenge, is in meeting and getting to know the "WaterTribers". I find it difficult to put into words a good description of this group of adventure racers, though certainly most of the adjectives one would use in portraying a specialized group of athletes would apply. But the word "colorful" also comes to mind. And so does AlaskanSeaHorse.

If you follow WaterTribe or have read my article on the 2004 Everglades Challenge, you will have heard about AlaskanSeaHorse (Gregg Berman). ASH had borrowed a kayak and paddle for the 2004 EC that was not a good fit for him. TurtleWoman (my adhoc partner) and I hooked up with him at Flamingo where he was nursing his wounds (horrible hands and butt blisters) and taking himself out of the race. With only the 37 mile crossing of Florida Bay left, I promised him a nice easy slow paddle to the finish if he came with us. Read the article if you want to know what really happened. He has since forgiven me, and even thanked me as we did finish the Challenge. Photo: AlaskanSeaHorse, SandyBottom, TurtleWoman arriving at the finish in Key Largo.

Our experiences forged a friendship that we have kept over the past 2 years. At the start of EC2005, I gave ASH a tube of Hydropel, the best thing for preventing blisters. We met again on the course in the Everglades on WhiteWater Bay. By that time we became a large group of 6 (RescueRandy, ArcticDoc, RubberDucky, BilgePump, and myself) all having a great time, and finishing together.

I was thrilled when I heard ASH was also planning to do the Ultimate Challenge. Knowing the participants who will be out there, will make the challenge seem less lonely, with only 10 Challengers, this will be a real solo event . Throughout the year, through email, ASH and I have shared tips, and continually offered encouragement and support. He has a small group of friends that get occasional trip reports from him, and I am pleased to be included, as his adventures in the 'big surf' are awe inspiring, and motivating. Photo: ASH, Sunset in the Everglades, EC '05.

Let me tell you a little about Gregg.

Gregg started paddling just over 13 years ago, when for the first time in a kayak, he took at trip with the Sierra Club in the Florida Keys. Not long after that trip he purchased his first boat and paddle. He continued doing Sierra Club trips and eventually became a Sierra Club guide for a wide variety of trips including cycling, caving and setting up his own multi day paddling adventures. This led to a realization that guiding would be a good way to make a living while exploring the planet. Guiding led to the need for advanced first-aid, he then went on to acquire an EMT certification, then paramedic and eventually his nursing certification. He now alternates between a career in nursing and one of guiding and instructing kayaking.

Gregg has guided and taught for numerous kayak companies on both coasts of Florida including multi day trips in the Everglades and Florida keys. He then spent 2 seasons guiding on Lake Superior off the coasts of Canada, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, and another couple of seasons in Alaska. In Alaska he guided 4 - 7 day trips in Prince William Sound, paddling among house size and larger ice bergs at the face of glaciers, had close up encounters with orcas and humpbacks, sea lions, sea otters, and a myriad list of other creatures from multicolored sea stars to majestic Bald eagles.

The second season in Alaska, Gregg completed a 3 month solo trip paddling from Skagway Alaska at the top of the inside passage to Prince Rupert, Canada. Early on in the trip, he got caught in a gale and found himself shore bound sitting out the storm for four days. It was this experience that turned the trip around, teaching him to slow down and enjoy what what was around him, allowing him to really enjoy the scenery, meet the people along the route, providing a more worldly experience.

While in nursing school Gregg spent a summer guiding tours to see the grey whales in Trinidad Bay in Northern California, and to explore the sea caves along the Mendocino coast. He's been back in Northern California for the past 18 months, now living in Half Moon Bay. He divides his time between teaching for California Canoe and Kayak and working as an RN in the local hospitals emergency room. He's in a small seaside town just 20 minutes south of San Francisco. Yet despite the proximity of such a large and culturally diverse city to the north, to the south it is still a wild and undeveloped coastline. Half Moon Bay is also home to the famous big seas adventure group the Tsunami Rangers. They play at the juncture of land and sea in sea states that drive most others off the water. Gregg has been fortunate enough to be able to learn and play with these "extremists" and even live on the beach side property belonging to Michael Powers, one of the Rangers. Half Moon Bay is also home to Mavericks, one of the most famous big wave surf spots, known for wave heights of 30 - 40 feet, when conditions are right. Gregg can often be found there surfing more manageable 6 to 10 foot waves with friends, however, I have read some of his trip reports and know that he is clearly exploring some of the bigger stuff.

What's the latest. He can be seen in print adds for Innova kayaks in Paddler Magazine, and on thier website, photo on right.

Gregg will be one of 10 Challengers in the WaterTribe Ultimate Florida Challenge (UC). He is sponsored by Current Designs and will be paddling a Stratus that they have given him for the race.

All 10 of us are previous Everglades Challenge finishers. Many of us were even at the awards ceremony in Key Largo last March when AlaskanSeaHorse made 2 statements. First, he was planing to return in 2006 to win the EC. Second, he spent that day walking around shirtless and in tights :)

This was all before the UC was even announced. I don't know if his plan has changed, but I'm hoping he's focusing on the bigger challenge, as this will be the once in a lifetime opportunity for extreme challenge and adventure.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Rescues and Friends

Went to the lake yesterday with my friend and regular paddling partner Dee Lutz for some rescue practice. We are planning a 3 day kayak camping trip on the outer banks (NC) where I can get in some rough water training, working on inlet crossings, surf landing and launches, and navigation skills. And we we will be able to get in lots of miles on the Atlantic Ocean. Dee and I often plan rescue and rolling practice prior to doing a trip, as this is a very important part of safety in sea kayaking.

I first met Dee about 6 years ago, she was a student in one of my beginner kayaking classes. Since that first class, she has taught me as much about sea kayaking as I have her. Together over the years we have paddled week long expedition style paddles on the coast, many weekend trips, lots of surf trips (short and long boats), and, we both continue taking more advanced classes together.
Photo: Dee and I during a weekend workshop with Nigel Foster.

Last year, we both reached one of our goals in earning our BCU 4* certification. Dee is one of a very few number of paddlers who I feel completely safe with, surfing and paddling in conditions.

Photo: Dawn launching on the beach in Wilmington, NC, Dee in background.

Our rescue session on the lake yesterday included assisted rescues with me in the Kruger Dreamcatcher, as preparation for our trip. And as we've done before, by working out different scenarios, we got rescues down to less than a minute. Then Dee helped me work out various self rescue options in the Dreamcather. An excellent roller, I then spotted Dee as she practiced various rolls in her NDK Explorer.

Sometime in February, we will hit the lake again and work on rescues with the boat packed as planned for the WaterTribe Ultimate Challenge. It is this preparation and practicing of skills that will help me with confidence and safety during the challenge.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Chafing and Blisters, What to do?

Those of us participating in any of the WaterTribe Challenges this March will be faced with lots of physical (and mental) challenges. Paddling 40+ miles a day, every day, for a week if your doing the Everglades Challenge, or for 4 weeks if the Ultimate Florida Challenge, will require a good system for body maintenance and personal hygiene to help prevent chafing, blisters, dishpan hands and feet, heat rash, diaper rash, etc..., all which could put you out of the Challenge very quickly if infection sets in.

The past 2 Everglades Challenges I found that Hydropel Sports Ointment works for most of these problems. Hydropel provides a protective barrier that eliminates friction between your body and your clothes, shoes, or kayak/canoe that physical activity can create.

Hydropel will:

  • Prevent the blisters friction can cause
  • Provide a natural barrier to harmful irritants including and especially urine
  • Protects wherever skin is at risk from irritation or blisters--feet, underarms, thighs, chest, bottoms
  • Safely protects against diaper rash
  • Is waterproof, long lasting and hypoallergenic

Your feet and hands (even your butt) are often wet for long periods of time, Hydropel, as the name implies, repels water, it beads right up, helping to prevent dishpan hands and feet, and resulting cracking skin.

Using Hydropel on your hands does require a little getting used to, as it leaves your hands a little slippery, sort of like how your hands feel on your paddle after picking up some of your bodies natural oils after you've wiped your forehead. One tube is more than enough for a full week, I found myself applying a pea sized amount to my hands every few hours.

A google search will find places you can order it from, including, an adventure racing internet store.

Other miscellaneous things that have worked for me to help with blisters and chafing:

  • Talcum powder to easily rub away sand and salt grit before changing or getting in your sleeping bag.
  • Body Glide under the arms during paddling for chafing from your shirt or PFD
  • Wearing socks that wick under my paddling shoes (helps with chafing and blisters too)
  • Changing into sandals that air out your feet whenever and as soon as possible
  • Large Vitamin E capsules, opened. Use the liquid for blister protection
  • Sunscreen, don't forget your hands, and lips