On the other hand, my dislike of paddling is no secret. It's by far my least favorite discipline, and my heart had sunk at the pre-race meeting when Gerry told us the paddle was 22 miles. With three of us in the canoe, it was more likely to handle like a barge. And...wow was my seat uncomfortable. It seemed really low, and somehow it sloped backwards, forcing me to either lean back at an angle or hunch way forward. Suboptimal.
There was really no way to get comfortable, though I tried scooting around in different positions. I have a semi-deserved reputation with my regular teammates for not complaining, and it's something I pride myself on, but in this case I made my discomfort clear enough that Keith offered to switch places with me after the brief trekking leg we had partway through the paddle. Thankfully, before too long we saw the takeout for the trek and pulled over to the riverbank.
|It doesn't look like hell on earth at all, but pictures never tell the full story.|
The clue for the first CP was lakeside, or something like that. There were exactly zero lakes in the location we'd plotted the CP. Because the lake hadn't been there when the map data was collected, Gerry also provided us a map of the lake printed from Google Earth. Looking at it while we plotted points, I didn't have a clue what it was supposed to show us; luckily, Chuck was able to match up the curve of the river on the two maps (no small task since I think we had nine maps for this race) and figure out where the printout fit the course.
Finding the lake was easy; finding where the checkpoint was...wasn't as easy. We made our way along the edge of the lake for a while, peering across to see if we could catch a glimpse of orange and white. No luck. After a while, I mentioned, "I think it's time we get out that Google map." It's always nice to be racing with someone I know well enough to be comfortable making suggestions to. My Virtus teammates have always been that way too; they've always included me in navigational decisions, but I've rarely had the confidence to speak up. I worked really hard over the past year to improve my nav skills, and it was just for situations like this, to be able to give input when we weren't exactly sure where to go. Between us, we figured it out and found the flag.
|No shortage of vegetation|
I don't remember much about the next two CPs, so I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.
Chuck: I remember - hilltop, to rentrant bottom, to hilltop, to rentrant bottom. The clue for one CP was 'saddle', but there was no saddle visible on the 1-24,000 scale map, so we were a little concerned about where the point was plotted. It turned out to be dead center in a saddle (too small to make the map scale) which was described as two Indian burial mounds during the pre-race meeting. I would have loved to explore the mounds a little.
Did anyone else giggle and mutter "That's what she said"?
With the end of that relatively short trek I was dreading getting back into the canoe but still hopeful that we might find a 2-person team to trade with, so I was heartbroken to see a 2-person team paddle away as we headed towards the beached canoes. There was no lucky rescue coming; I was going to have to suck it up and deal with the broken seat.
Keith again offered to take the middle, and while I felt bad about him having to be so uncomfortable, I was all ready to accept his offer. Then Chuck spoke up in a don't-kill-the-messenger mumble that made it clear how much he didn't want to say it: "...the lightest person really needs to be in the front or the canoe will start getting tippy."
Chuck: And I regret saying that. In the end, maybe, general canoe loading rules would have been less significant than splitting up the bad seat and sharing the pain.
Or maybe not. I like having teammates who know they can tell me shitty things that I need to hear rather than do something the wrong way to make me happy.
That was that. We got into our assigned spots in the canoe and shoved off. There's really no way to make 19 miles in a canoe interesting, so I'll give you the parts that stood out.
1. Bringing the pain. It hurt. A lot. I'd have been uncomfortable no matter what since the only paddling I do is during an adventure race, but the broken seat took things to a new level and I was constantly stopping paddling, shifting around, and trying (in vain) to find a comfortable position. The guys were probably ready to shake me, but they never complained. I'm disappointed in my lack of mental toughness here; the only way out was to finish the canoe, but I couldn't get past my discomfort and stay focused on paddling. I did a lot of crying on this leg.
|Dramatization. I told my class about the race and then used the experience as a think-aloud during our writing lesson. They remembered a lot of details, which was pretty cool.|
Chuck: 1a. Thats what she said. I was sitting in the back watching the way she was scrunched up and hunched over, and knew how miserable it had to be. Even with that Kate paddled more than shes letting on, there was some pauses, but we did long sections non-stop with a great cadence. I looked forward several times at my teammates, one with a nail in his foot, and one with a back ready to break down into cramps and spasms, and was absolutely impressed by these bad-ass adventure racers.
If Chuck was any kind of teammate he'd have sliced his hand or something to even things out.
|On the minus side, now we were carrying even more weight.|
2. It's raining, it's pouring. I'm a notorious weather stalker, but after the repeated rains at Stubborn Mule I've stopped worrying so much about it. Because of that, I hadn't even seen the radar picture of what we had in store for us.
|Hmmmm...I wonder if it will rain...|
|My one non-fake smile of the canoe leg. How do you not laugh about paddling downriver in a rainstorm?|
|This over-the-shoulder shot took teamwork as I held the camera and Chuck directed where to angle it.|
|It was raining really hard.|
3. Hallucinations and sleep paddling! If you canoe with your eyes closed, you're probably going to knock paddles with the guy in front of you, especially if he is paddling with his eyes closed. And when my eyes were open, they weren't very reliable. Over the course of the paddle, I saw a huge, red brick house (dirt riverbank), brightly decorated totem pole (tree), piano in the river (concrete block), and multiple bridges (trees). It got to the point that I no longer really trusted anything I saw.
Eventually, after 6 hours and 45 minutes of paddling, we finally made it to the canoe pull-out, where I promptly burst into tears telling the volunteers about the broken seat. We made a slow transition while Keith tended to his injured foot and I basically poked around. This is another place where I need to up my mental toughness game. First I wasn't able to keep pushing on the paddle; then, once it was over, I let it totally take the wind out of my sails and was in "poor me, that was so terrible" mode instead of race mode.
All the same, there was still racing to be done, so (eventually) we pedaled away from our friends at the canoe take-out and headed into Palisades Park towards the big trek.