This Wednesday night was the last time trial of the season. It’s a shame they end when the weather is still so perfect, but I understand that the staff finds these things wearing and Ken doesn’t make any direct profit off them, so I guess we should be thankful for the weeks we do have. It was also the second annual “Huggers Regatta” for members of the Huggers Ski Club. Between the extra people the Huggers brought out, and the fact that the weather was great, we had 68 participants, which broke the previous record by 20 people! We’ve never seen the river so crowded.
I’m a member of the Huggers Ski Club, and I was actually a bit worried that my presence in the Regatta would make the other members of the club feel like there was no point competing, so when Rob approached me discretely and asked if I’d be disappointed if I were “disqualified” I immediately answered that I would not be. I don’t want to seem like I’m special, but I’m regularly turning in times just over or just under 19 minutes, and the next fastest member was 22.45 minutes with a bunch of them between 22.5 and 24.5, so it’s much more competitive that way.
Because the weather conditions were so perfect, Dan suggested that I try doing the race in a surf ski. I warmed up in the ski doing the course in reverse order, going up the creek first and then out on the bay. Even though it was a warm up and I wasn’t pushing it as hard as in the race, I was at least 0.5 mph faster on the creek, and I was thinking maybe this wasn’t a bad idea. But then I got out on the bay, and as I rounded the far turn I nearly tipped and after that I was a nervous pile of goo, paddling very timidly. I wasn’t sure that the extra caution I’d have to take on the turn and any boat wakes would make up for the extra speed I’d feel on the flats, so I decided to race in my own boat. I’m kind of kicking myself now that I did.
Once again I worked hard on the way out to the marker, and didn’t get the rest I hoped for from the tail wind on the way back. I passed numerous people on the way out, and saw a long line of boats coming out on my way back, including several team mates and my coach’s son Tom. My time for the half was 9.42, which is 0.09 minutes slower than last week. I felt much stronger on the creek, although I could really feel home much slower my boat was than the ski. Darn, you should never warm up in a faster boat, it just feels too discouraging when you have to compete in the slow one. Coming back down, I again saw many of the same people as I’d seen coming in from the bay, and I saw Hugger George M up ahead of me in his Pygmy Boat Coho. I tried like hell to catch him, and just barely got on his stern at the finish line. Compared to last week, I lost an additional 0.06 minutes, making my final time 19.05 compared to 18.90 last week.
One curious thing was that after the race, one of the Huggers asked me about the legality of something she saw. She said she’d seen one of the boats grab the buoy at the top turn with their paddle and pivot around it. Now I’ve put those buoys (actually a swimming noodle on a length of semi-rigid hose) in before races and taken them out after, and I can attest that they are not very firmly anchored – it always amazes me that we manage to get through an entire race without them being knocked out. For the one on the creek there, you actually have to search a bit to find some river bottom that isn’t hard packed mud so that the end will penetrate an inch or two to hold it in. I tried to convince her that there isn’t any way you could use the buoy to change your direction, and any pressure on it would yank it out of the river bottom, but she didn’t believe me. So I’m wondering what she did see. Jason Quagliata and Nicole Mallory did a run in a K2 (in 13.82!) and I’m wondering if the person in front did some sort of bow rudder move like a canoe would do to get around it, and that’s what she saw. Because I can’t imagine anybody else putting dragging a paddle on the inside instead of sweeping on the outside.
George M, the guy with the Pygmy Boat who I nearly caught on the line ended up winning the Huggers Regatta men’s category, and he took pity on me and shared his prize with me. That was really nice of him. And Rob’s wife Iris, who has the worst technique of any paddler there but has fitness to rival anybody on the racing team won the woman’s category. It’s lucky she doesn’t like paddling that much, because if she took Baycreek’s “Forward Stroke Clinic”, I bet she’d be rivaling my times in no time.
Jason and Nicole, as well as demolishing the course in the K2 also did individual runs, and Jason set a new course record at 14.02 (breaking his own record). Nicole’s father Jim did it in 14.68 one of the many times he did it, and Nicole did it in 16.53. It’s really a privilege to have such world-class athletes compete in our little event. It gives you something to admire and strive for. Especially when Jason and Nicole go to the Olympics in 2012, we’ll be able to say “I’ve eaten hot dogs and discussed technique with them”.