Today Mike and I met up early to do another long work-out like we’d done on July 25th. A few differences this time: Mike only wanted to do 10 miles, and he wanted to meet at 7:30 so we could be done before it warmed up too much. When I showed up, I discovered a few more differences: Mike brought his EFT instead of his surf ski because that’s what he’s going to race next weekend at the Bear Mountain Challenge, and he left his wing paddle somewhere so he was paddling an ordinary flat paddle. Also, the river was running very fast, and there were a lot of chunks of wood in the water, like maybe lightning had exploded a tree or two.
Actually, all the floating bits of wood, large and small, was kind of ironic because when I’d made my breakfast smoothie I’d had a bit of an accident with a wooden spoon in the blender (don’t ask) so I was spitting out splinters of wood all the way up.
All these things added up to the fact that I wasn’t going to be riding Mike’s wake in the high 5 to low 6 mph range like last time. As a matter of fact, mostly because of the paddle, instead of riding Mike’s wash, Mike was riding mine. I was leading out at speeds in the high 4s, trying to tuck in as close to the bank as I could to keep out of the worst of the current, and Mike was having trouble keeping up with me. I kept having to slow down to let him get back on me, and then I’d look back a few minutes later and he was off it again. Finally, at about the 2.5 or 2.75 mile mark, Mike came up inside me and hung there with his bow just about level with my knees. I didn’t quite realize that he’d done it on purpose, but he had pushed me out from shore into swifter water, slowing me down to speeds in the low 4s, but he was also on my side-wash. That worked well until about the 4.5 mile part when I decided I’d had enough of being out in the strong current, pulled ahead of Mike and tucked in close to the shore and sped back up to around 5 mph. Like I said, I hadn’t realized that Mike had pushed me out there on purpose or I probably wouldn’t have done that to him.
One advantage of going so early was that the river was deserted except for a few rowers, and so we saw a lot of bird life, including a number of Great Blue Herons and one Little Green Heron. The disadvantage is that with me tucking in so close to the shoreline, I got a few spiderwebs in the face. I’m just glad that I didn’t see the spiders.
Coming back, with the advantage of the current behind us, we were paddling side by side, and easily managing speeds in the high 7s, low 8s. The second downstream mile (mile 7), I decided to really go for it to see how fast I could go, and I did it in 7:11 with an 8.9 mph top speed. After that I stopped for a drink to let Mike catch me, and we resumed paddling together. And as we were approaching the 9 mile mark, he said “You’re looking strong, so if you want to keep paddling go ahead, but I need to slow down”.
Compared to last time, upstream we were about 1.5 mph slower when I was in the shallows, and nearly 2 mph slower when I was out in the current, and about 1 mph faster going downstream. I don’t know how much of that was the current and how much was Mike’s paddle, but I figure if he’d been leading in the ski like last time, today we might have actually seen speeds over 10 mph at some point on the down.
Oh, and in today’s “The googles, they do nothing” moment, I discovered that my Halo headband doesn’t work as advertised at keeping sweat out my eyes. I had one eye or the other closed most of the way downstream because of stinging salt water in them. Since paddling with a wing paddle leaves me in a constant rain of water of my own making, I decided that the headband alone doesn’t work, and I need to wear a hat. So I splurged on the way home and bought another Outdoor Research hat. My previous one was wonderful, and I was sad when I lost it. I’ve put my name on this one, in hopes that if I drop it somewhere where I’m known, I might get it back. I considered putting my phone number on it, but I don’t really want to be advertising that on the outside of my hat, and “Sharpie” pen bleeds right through. Maybe I should just buy a couple of them. Every time I use that strategy to make sure I don’t run out, I end up never losing another as long as I live. (True story: after losing a bunch of expensive Stadtler mechanical pencils in succession while in University, I bought three cheapo plastic mechanical pencils, and I still own at least one of them.)