Remember how when I first started paddling I used to blog about every workout? These days, I don’t bother. I paddle 5 times a week, and there would just be no way to keep up with that. Also, I’m starting to pile on the miles (kilometers) in preparation for the Lighthouse To Lighthouse race in a couple of weeks. The race is 14 miles (22.5 km) and it’s on Long Island Sound, which isn’t the open ocean but it’s likely to be quite different that what I’m used to. So every weekend and some Tuesdays you’ll find me and Mike F out grinding out long paddles on Lake Ontario.
I looked at my stats, and 2010, the year before my surgery, I did 18 paddles of longer than 15 km. So far this year, I’ve done 27. All but one of my paddles over 20 km have been in the last month or so. Case in point, today we did 25 km.
Several of our paddles recently have been battling boat wakes from every direction at once, which is probably good practice but it’s no fun at all. Today we got a really early start (7:30) to try and avoid the boat wakes. We probably needn’t have bothered – the lake “turned over” early this week and the skies were overcast and grey. There was a wicked wind from the south, which is no help at all, and a low amplitude long period swell coming from the north west, which we hoped would provide a bit of help on the way back.
We set off towards the west, keeping tight into shore to avoid the south wind. It was a bit of a balancing act, trying to keep out of the slow shallow water but remain mostly in the wind shadow at shore. Sometimes it didn’t work. One advantage of staying in close was we got to see more scenery – people out walking their dogs on the beach, people taking their morning coffee on their decks, and in one place, 11 deer, including babies with their white spots, coming down to the shore to drink. We paddled a bit slower than usual, and Mike and I paddled beside each other instead of him riding my wake as is often the case. My heart rate was ticking over in the low 110s mostly, which is lower than I’d like, but to go harder would mean losing Mike’s company.
Right smack dab in the middle of the trip in each direction we had to swing away from the shelter of shore to clear the end of the break wall at the river. This is a dicey spot – you’ve got the waves and wind from the south, the swell from the north west, and all sorts of reflections of both of those. However this time, because we left early and because the conditions weren’t optimal for pleasure boats, we didn’t have the usual confusing maelstrom of boat wakes on top of it. It wasn’t too difficult, but even so my heart rate went over 130.
As usual on these paddles, I normally just keep heading out until Mike suggests we turn back. Usually he does it just after I’ve decided “ok, at the next kilometer/point/whatever, I’m going to suggest we turn back”, but it’s good for my ego to make it look like it was his idea. This time it was just seconds after my GPS beeped at the 12 km point – I was going to tough it out to 12.5 or 13, but that’s good too.
As we turned, we did our homage to Oscar Chalupski and shortened our paddles. I wanted to get a bit higher heart rate, so I increased my speed and started towing Mike in my stern wake. That worked out pretty well – with a little assistance from the north west swell at my back, I was nearly 1.5 km/hr faster than on the way out. And all was well until once again we had to leave the wind shadow of the shore to swing around the river break wall. The wind blown off shore waves were bigger, and now it seems like every sailboat at the Rochester Yacht Club is heading out to the lake. Mike lost his place on my wake and started falling behind. Now I’m faced with trying to navigate this mess, but also trying not get so far ahead that I can’t check in Mike and possibly circle back if he needs help. But I don’t want to slow down, so I quickly cross the river and head directly into the wind, then circle back to Mike as he gets about half way between the end of the break wall and shore.
After we get back in the wind shadow, it’s clear that Mike is spent. He can’t even stay on my wake anymore. I don’t want to slow down, so what I start doing is paddling ahead until my GPS beeps for another kilometer mark, then circling back around Mike. That’s literally circling – I don’t have to paddle in the reverse direction, just turn 360 degrees. And even then it usually takes me to about 400 meters or more before I catch and pass Mike. It probably would have been better for Mike, who was clearly suffering, if I’d slowed down and given him a wake he could hold, but out on the water I was only thinking of my training needs and I wanted to know I could still increase my speed at will.
The circling increased my total distance – we’d turned back at almost exactly 12 km, but I finished at 24.9 km. and afterwards I still had enough energy to carry Mike’s boat back to his car for him.