Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Everyone's Paddling but Me

life's just been so busy these past few weeks that I haven't found much time for paddling. I'll be leaving early Friday morning for a 9 day visit with my folks in Hawaii. My brother in Denver will also be visiting. A bit of a family reunion without spouses and children. I'm hoping for some water time while there, and am particularly interested in trying out some OC1's.

Last Saturday Paul and I were up in Boone again. Our daughter had asked us to bring her a few things for school, and she had a day off to play with us. We would never turn that opportunity down. We drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway, had a nice picnic lunch at an overlook, then spent the afternoon hiking a couple trails to some fantastic waterfalls. Ending the evening taking her to the movies (Bourne Ultimatum) and then to a great Thai restaurant for dinner. It was a great day, full of fun and laughter, ending with lots of kisses and hugs.

Since then it's all been about chores and work as I get ready for some time off. I'm looking forward to long walks watching the sunrise off Kailua beach. Photo below taken last July during our family visit.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wizard is at it Again

The WaterTribe Ultimate Challenge, a 1,200 mile circumnavigation of Florida (with 40 mile portage), which I participated and completed in 2006, seems so small now. Check out the route below for another longer race.

I was surfing the web when I came upon the website Around In Ten, about "A single handed race around the world in ten foot boats", starting January 2009. Of particular interest to me was that one of the 4 declared racers is Wizard, WaterTribe alumni Matt Layden.

This is right up Wizard's alley, as he's all about the efficiency of small boats, and is well known for designing "micro-cruisers". Read more about Wizard in some articles on the small boats he's built and used in previous WaterTribe events on Wayfarer's Website:

Matt also wrote the WaterTribe article "Everglades Challenge in the Rob Royoid Canoe", which also provides an insight into his philosophy on small boats.

Also check out the website Microcruising. It also has pictures and descriptions of many of the micro cruisers Matt has designed in the past.

Good luck Matt!

Now I'm just hoping my son Alan (SOS) doesn't get any bright ideas :)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Practice Makes Perfect

The beach trip was cancelled this weekend. Instead I was out on the lake Saturday afternoon, and ran into Scott Burian. Scott and I had paddled in the 2005 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge, his tribal name was BilgePump.

Scott, a recent convert to the Greenland Paddle, was out practicing rolling with his new Lumpy Paddle, made by Bill Bremer. Bill a well known local paddler, has quite a following both locally and nationally with his handmade Greenland paddles. I love mine.

Scott had a previous on-side roll with his Euro paddle, now he can scull and roll on his off-side too. We practiced rolling for about an hour, then I went off for a short paddle.

Photo below is Scott and I in January 2205 on a training paddle for the EC.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Something Different

Paul and I spent the weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western N.C., in the small city of Boone, named after the famous pioneer and explorer Daniel Boone. We were up there helping our daughter move back to college, and to take a short weekend vacation.

There was lots of excitement. Saturday started band camp for the Appalachian State Marching Mountaineer's. This year she's on the drum line, playing the tenors (or quads).

Then on Saturday afternoon, Paul and I played tourist and hiked up to Linville Falls, off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Sunday, we took an even longer hike (~ 6 miles) around Stone Mountain, a 300 million year old, 600-foot granite dome, part of a 25-square-mile pluton, an igneous rock formed beneath the earth's surface by molten lava. Over time, wind, water and other forces have gradually eroded the softer layers of rock atop the granite block and exposed the outcrop we hiked over. We hiked to the falls, then up across and around the dome. Weather was perfect; it was just a wonderful weekend.
Next weekend, the beach for some kayaking and surfing.

Monday, August 06, 2007

What's Next

I returned from the MR340, without a future event on my calendar for the remainder of the year. An unusual place for me to be, but, I'm going to keep it that way for awhile. That's not to say I don't have some dreams, plans, and goals.

Top priority right now is to play with Paul, we've been getting in lots of biking as he adjusts to his new recumbent. Last weekend, looking for a ride without hills, we checked out the American Tobacco Trails rails-to-trails ride in Durham.

I'm also taking a weeks vacation next month, visiting my parents in Hawaii. While there I plan to try out a number of OC1s (a one-person outrigger canoe). Outrigger canoe paddling and racing has become quite popular on the East Coast these days through ECORA, the East Coast Outrigger Racing Association. It hasn't quite moved into North Carolina, but it's close enough.

I've been interested in OCs for awhile now, an expansion to my single blade paddling. I've been reading everything I can, joined some forums, and hope to pick up a used OC1 this fall. Always planning big, I've always wanted to race in the Blackburn Challenge, possibly next year, maybe in an OC1, and my ultimate goal will be the ultimate race from Molokai to Oahu.

I'm also going to retire my Kruger Dreamcatcher for awhile. It's had most of my time the last couple years. I'd like to spend more time paddling my NDK Explorer sea kayak, I've really missed it's playfulness. I may even go back to the sea kayak for next year's WaterTribe Everglades Challenge. I did my first 2 EC's in the Explorer, it might be time to come full circle. We're talking about ordering a Balogh sail rig for the Dreamcatcher, it's an excellent sailing can-yak, and I think Paul would really enjoy that.

And, I'm committed to finally finishing building my Skin-on-Frame. Hard to believe I actually finished the frame in 2001. I attempted to skin it with a polyester skin, and was so unhappy with the unfinished result, it's sat in the basement ever since. I've just ordered a nylon skin fabric, and plan to re-skin after my vacation (and before I buy anything else).

Of course in order to fit in this skin-on-frame kayak which I made to fit my anthropometric measurements 7 years ago, I HAVE to lose the 20 lbs. So, in the meantime, I'm back to my usual swim-bike-run fitness routine. Hmmm, that reminds me of the life-long goal I've had of finishing an Ironman Triathlon before I turned 60. I'll be 55 in November, maybe I should start getting ready for this too.

And there are still expedition goals of paddling around Isle Royale, the Baja, a return to paddling Maine, the Inside Passage, and the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, and, .....

MR340 - Day 3, The finish

We left Jefferson City a bit before 7:30 Am on Thursday, only about 4 hours after arriving. Marek was still there trying to assess whether he had a crack in his hull, as he said he was taking on water the day before (in the end he never could find a lean, and finished the race without repairs). I took this photo (right) of Marek and Connie the day after the race, I just love it. Marek has posted some great photos of the race on his fit2paddle blog.

It was as we were leaving that we first heard about Ann and Wayne and their barge accident. I only quickly heard that they were thankfully OK, I left wanting to know more. We had seen barges, and on this day would see many more, including a double barge being pushed up river, we did not see any at night. However, at night we came upon a number of silent sand dredges and other large pieces of equipment anchored in the middle of the river, with minimal lighting, often just 1 small white light, nothing to let you know their size until you are right on them. From a distance it is very hard to tell if these are moving or not, at night, depth perception is seriously hampered, and everything appears to be moving at you, rather than you moving towards them.

We had 120 miles to go to the finish, and we thought that after the 115 miles the day before, we could probably do this without another few hours of sleep. Alan had really developed a nice rhythm and strength to his stroke. Neither of my kids (Tana 19, and Alan 21) took to paddling with the obsessive passion that I have, though we have as a family enjoyed many weekend paddling camping trips over their lifetime. But other than a one time long 12 mile paddle, and a few 6 milers over the summer, Alan did not train for this race at all; though he's certainly fit in great good shape, and of course 21. I wasn't at first really sure why he was interested in doing this, except, like me, he loves a challenge, and has competed in the endurance catamaran race the Tybee 500, and did very well in the 2007 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge. We had joked for months about it being a race between us, his youth and energy against my age, training, and experience.

We had never planned to stay together, and on this day I wondered when Alan might try and make his move, I've been paddling for so many years that I still felt I was the faster paddler and could beat him, but he was now paddling so well, that it would be a hard race to the finish. In the end, we decided we were having lots of fun, we both were going to place extremely well as races go, and so we decided to stay and finish together. I was loving his company and experiencing this challenge with him, and no one in the race was giving him a hard time about being with his Mom :) Since the race, I've been back on the water paddling, Alan left 5 days later for Orlando for a long weekend of ocean sailing, his real passion.

It wasn't long before we paddled past the mouth of the Osage River, this is what enabled us to finish this leg so well, as the current in the Osage allowed us to paddle 1/2 mph faster right up to the finish.

Our stops were short at both checkpoints. In Hermann I needed a little first-aid; I'd never lost those extra 20 lbs, and I was chafing badly at the waist band of my shorts. We didn't even get out of the boat in Washington, though we did see Ann and Wayne there smiling and cheering on the racers. Stan told us he thought we could make the finish around midnight, though I was pretty sure it was going to more like 2AM.

And the river was beautiful, much more hilly, and occasionally lined with beautiful steep white cliffs.

The last 20 miles was hard, we were definitely tired, and very hungry as we'd had trouble eating since noon. It was very dark and higher water levels from the Osage had wind dikes partially submerged and making lots of noise. Occasionally we'd find ourselves going over a submerged wind dyke as we tried to stay in the channel, it would swing our sterns around and wake us up a bit. The river was also much straighter and we paddling past some large sand dredges. Shadows made it a very eerie paddle. And we could see the small lights of other seakayak racers a couple miles behind us, as they slowly and methodically worked their way past us.

Soon we were under the 'Bridge of False Hope' and a few miles later could see the lights of the large casino. We hit the finish line at 1:01 AM, our finish was 65 hours and 1 minutes (the race has a 100 hour cutoff). I placed 3rd among 8 solo women, and Alan 13th of 45 solo men. Overall we came in 23rd and 24th of 73 boats. Not a bad effort for a cruiser.

There were a couple of racers getting ready to camp, most who had already arrived had opted for hotels. Stan and Dana were there, and the race volunteer gave us our finish medals in a short ceremony.

Possibly the hardest thing that day was packing the car and lifting my arms up to put the boats on top of Stan's large SUV. We were pretty "stupid" by that time, just really wanting food and sleep. Stan and Dana lived an hour away, they too had spent the last few days with little sleep, so the plan was to pack up quickly and go to their house for a good night sleep in a bed. We slept till noon.

Once up we quickly packed our car, put my Kruger Dreamcatcher on top, and Alan and I drove back to the race finish. We spent that day (camped at night) and Saturday morning, hearing race stories, enjoying friends, partying, and cheering in the remaining racers.

Our only disappointment came during the drive home. We decided to play tourist and stop in St Louis to go up the top of the arch, only to find a 4 1/2 hour wait to go up. This was our only view.

During our long drive home, each of us expressed interest in doing the race again next year (a sentiment expressed by many of the finishers), even during the race, I always felt that there was little else I'd rather be doing. Keep on paddling!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

MR340 Day 2 Trip Report

Paul and I went to the lake last evening and paddled with the local Wednesday night paddling group (photo above). The 93 degree temps were a bit reminiscent of the heat we had on the 2nd day of the MR340. And it was fun getting reacquainted with my seakayak after paddling so many miles in my Kruger Dreamcatcher.

There was no breeze on the 2nd day of the MR340 race, it was a scorcher. We left the Miami checkpoint having had only a few hours sleep Tuesday night, knowing we would try for 115 miles today, with a goal of camping at Jefferson City. We didn't stop for long at Glascow only 37 miles away, other than for the check point sign in. The sign placed on a bridge "Only 199 miles To Go" meant we needed to keep paddling. At the next boat ramp between the checkpoints (I believe at Lisbon Bottoms), Dana greeted us with a wonderful surprise, ice cream. I ate the whole pint in less than 10 minutes :)

Later in the afternoon, so hot and exhausted, we decided we would look for a shady spot on the side of the river to take an hour nap. This would allow us to paddle very late into the night in the cooler temps. We just couldn't make this happen, and we ended up wasting about 20 minutes looking for a spot that was not muddy. We finally just gave up after loosing our spare time, but we did allow ourselves another 15-20 minutes to just rest and float, we missed our napping opportunity, but at least we were still moving and resting.

This was also the day of the barges. At least 4 barges passed us going up river. Alan tried a few times to catch some wake waves after the barge would pass, but we were careful to give them a lot of room. If you come upon a barge near points where the river makes some turns, it takes a while for your brain to figure out how the channel crosses over and back to make sure you are not going to be in the barges path. It is not always intuitive as you look down this seemingly wide river.

Early the next morning we would would hear the horrific news that Ann and Wayne had miraculously survived unhurt after being hit by a moving barge paddling their Huki tandem Outrigger. I think this left all of us racers a bit emotionally fragile for the remainder of the race.

Coopers Landing, the 5th checkpoint in the race was bustling with activity when we arrived a bit after 10PM. Stan and Dana had Subway sandwiches for us, a real treat after all the energy bars and other energy foods we'd been eating and drinking. We didn't stay long though, and got back in the boats, floating for a few minutes while we ate our sandwiches, and calculating that we would make Jefferson City sometime around 3AM. It was going to be a very long day.

It is the people who do these challenges, that keep me interested in continuing to do do them as well. They are a varied lot, from all walks of life, all shapes and sizes (not all are serious racers in top physical condition), and they enter these challenges for many different reasons. They are the very types of people that I love to meet, get to know, and hang out with. They love the outdoors and the environment, kayaking and canoeing, physical activity, and are not afraid of hard personal challenges. I got to meet up with some old friends from previous races and challenges, like RiverJohn, John Flegg below, and Marek and his wife Connie, and of course Mark and Brian, these all other Kruger paddlers.

And there were new people to meet this year, too many to go into much detail, and all very fascinating. It was great fun to get to meet and spend a few minutes or an hour paddling with the racers as you chanced upon them.

Alan and I came upon Jeff Barrow, at a time when I was starting to think this river was getting a bit boring. Flat, and lined with trees covered with Kudzu. Jeff coordinates river cleanups for Missouri River Relief, so he was totally familiar with the area, and in fact told us that the very bank we were passing, he played on as a child. His canoe sailed a flag with the logo for the Missouri River Relief. Jeff told us stories of the river, the past floods, and the renewed effort of building wildlife habitats that trail off the river, and he spoke of the diverse wildlife. I had not even realized that the charts I was using, showed both the Missouri River as it was during the days of Lewis and Clark, as well as how the river has changed to what it is now. Having met Jeff, I actually started seeing a much more diverse and interesting river. Another interesting note, Jeff left the race for a 12 hour period to do a book signing, after which he got right back in the race and still finished at 96 hours and 43 minutes. I was there at the finish to cheer him in.

Then there was Eric Pepos, probably my favorite of those I met, certainly the paddler we might have spent the most time with, though less than a couple hours. Eric paddled with us a bit on both the 2nd and 3rd day, so we got to visit quite a bit. He was paddling a beautiful wooden strip built canoe that he had made himself, it was very low volume to reduce windage. He talked to me a lot about canoeing. He is from Oregon, and paddles five times a week from 4AM to 6AM every morning, all year long on a local river. He often paddles the Columbia River, and even takes his canoe out in open surf. He was using a bent shaft carbon fiber canoe paddle similar to mine, and explained to me the difference between 'J-stroke' and 'sit and switch', with my rudder I don't need to switch nearly as often. He was a very strong and a very fast paddler. I also really enjoyed the stories of his young twins, already starting to learn yoga, we laughed as he told the story of them pulling off thier diapers and trying to do down dog; naked yoga. He was excited that his kids would soon be 2 years old, and his wife has agreed that he can then take them out in a canoe. He also told me that he hoped that when they were 21, he could be doing something like this with one of them, as I was with doing now with Alan, as he'd be the same age as I then.

Alan (photo above) and I paddled into Jefferson City at 3:09 AM, very tired. A wonderful boy scout offered to help set up my tent, Alan just opting for the thermarest on the ground. We slept till 6:30AM, three very noisy hours. I was sure every truck in America had driven over the Jefferson City bridge while I tried to sleep. We planned to paddle to the finish the 3rd day, so we lightened our load, leaving any unnecessary miscellaneous gear with Stan, and got back on the water by 7:30.