Friday, March 25, 2011

What Happened?

We’re all back home now and life is as it was, almost as if our vacation and the Everglades Challenge didn’t happened. My wounds have pretty much healed, both physical and emotional (so hard to not have finished a challenge). Now it’s time to figure out ‘what happened’. I certainly don’t want a repeat, and I plan many more paddling and WaterTribe adventures in the future.

Basically I was taken out by chafing sores both at my tailbone and up my backside, and around my waist. I have had chafing issues in previous challenges, actually most challengers have some chafing, hard to paddle 50-60 miles a day in salt water and not chafe at all. But this year my sores started early in the challenge, and then began to fester and weep. To have continued would have had me in too much pain, risk of infection, and a very lengthy recovery. I’ve just no time in my life for that any more. As hard as it was (I am never a quitter), I really didn’t have much choice in the decision.

I’ve attributed the backside wounds to an adjustment I’d made a little while back to my seat back (bringing it forward and lower), my neoprene shorts (different than what I usually wear), and to the weather conditions. Though most have complained of the headwinds, I often found them angled enough to have me sailing almost continually through the first 3 days except for the mid morning crossings of Sarasota Bay on day 1, and the first few hours across Charlotte Harbor on day 2. The rest of the time I was sailing like crazy, often trying to keep from being heeled over (winds were almost often 20-25 kts) and always sitting on one cheek (likely pressure sores as well as chafing).

Quick aside; my Flat Earth Kayak Sail worked beautifully, simple to use, easy to launch and easy to take down. It’s a bit more complicated initially setting it up (then the PAS), requiring side stays as well as front and back stays, but I love the ease in adjustments for various wind and angles.  Less a downwind sail, and more a real masted sail with sheet.  I wish I had some pictures of me sailing it in the Challenge, hopefully someone will have picture I can post later.

I labeled the my EC two years ago in 2009 my Muumuu challenge. I’d had such horrible chafing around my waist that at the finish I had to shop for a muumuu at the local dollar store, not able to withstand the waistband on my shorts or pants. I’d thought it was due to a different brand spray skirt I’d used that year. However with this year’s equally bad chafing, I realized it was the bottom of my Stolquist PFD where a thick cord runs through a tunnel that clips across my waist. By Monday morning I was telling Steve (mine, Paul's and Alan's EC shore contact this year) to warn Paul when he next spoke to him that it was looking to be another Muumuu year. Not sure how I managed last year.  I’m pretty sure I’ve figured this one out now. I’m now going to try out the Kokotat MsFit PFD, and think it’ll even ride higher on my chest.  Perfect timing, my REI members check has arrived.

Aside from the sores/pain during my 3 ½ days of paddling I was actually doing quite well.  Fitter and in better condition than I’d thought, this thanks to the weight training I’d been doing 2-3 times a week with Lauren at Chapel Hill Training. Lauren had set up a program for me that was very specific to the strength needs of paddling, lots of core, upper body and legs. In fact I don’t think we ever did anything that didn’t have me on a ball, a half round disk, or one leg, always working the core with every exercise.  I’d not put as much training time on the water as I’d have liked prior to the challenge, but really, I'm always on the water, know how to paddle, and know the way, it really didn't seem to matter too much.

My progress for the 160 miles I’d completed before dropping was great.  I was very pleased, and had been having quite a good time.  We had a very windy EC this year, and the Gulf was as rough as I'd ever seen it, but my speeds and times were as good as my fastest years, I was camped on White Horse Key in the 10,000 Islands on Monday night, which matched my previous and fastest year ever. For all the weather issues, and physical issues, I had really made some great time, and arrived at Checkpoint 2 in Chokoloskee a full day ahead of the deadline.

It was also while camping on White Horse Key when I’d realized I was likely seeing the end of this Challenge. I’m very careful with body maintenance in these challenges, using hydropel continuously, desitin on my butt, good soapy non-rinse wipes, and talcum powder to help dry at night. But the sores festered very quickly during the night, by the time I made it in to CP2 it was clear most were open weeping wounds that would never heal by staying wet in the boat, just sitting in my kayak had become excruciating.

I think because I was doing so well, as good as I could have, and with little room for another option, dropping out was only hard that very first day, and hardest when greeting other challengers as they prepared to continue their journey.  As a DNFer, I was in great company, as this year, 30 dropped out of 71 boat starters, including other EC veterans.  In the end it really wasn't such a bad vacation, I had a few extra days in Key Largo to celebrate Alan and Paul's great success, greet the remaining finishers, and visit with my many WaterTribe friends.  There will always be next time.

 Kristen (KiwiBird) and Alan (SOS)

Party in Key Largo

Me very well rested in Key Largo

Regardless, I paddled 160 miles in 3 days and 6 hrs, and do have some stories to tell.   And since  life just doesn't stop, I'll be getting on the bike now, starting training rides for the upcoming RABGRAI challenge in July.  Next weekend, I'm off to Hobucken and Pate's Boat Yard for the annual Goose Creek Paddle Weekend, a weekend of paddling, camping, eating, partying, and karaoke, last years report here, great fun.


Michael said...

A good race is where you give it your all without killing yourself in the process, so you can be happy with this EC it seems to me. You still rock, girl!

bjalgera said...

Sorry we didn't get any pics, but your Flat Earth sail looked great in Indian Key Pass.
Macatawa and NorthernLight

Ginger Travis said...

Hey, I'm glad you posted this, Dawn. I know you're one to look ahead more than behind, but those of us who race with you vicariously are really interested in how it worked out. Next year!