In what is now an annual tradition, I’m at my third annual TC Surfski Immersion Weekend. It’s a bit of a long drive, but I really enjoy myself when we’re here. And as another tradition, the Saturday morning event is participating in a local race. The organizer of the race is constantly tweaking it to make it better. Two years ago it was just a straight shot 2 miles across the bay. Then last year it was a squarish course about 4 miles long for the surfskis and kayaks and a triangle course of about 3 miles for the SUPs. This year he used the same course, but added a slight wrinkle with a beach start and finish. Which means you start holding your boat on the shore, and have to run into the water and jump in and go after the start siren goes off, and then at the finish you have to jump out of your boat and run ashore to a finish line a few meters from the water line.
I’d brought all 3 video cameras but discovered before the start that my head mounted one was dead. Never mind, two should be plenty. I started them both before the warm up, so hopefully they both kept going for the whole race (I haven’t checked them yet).
At the start, I found myself beside a local paddling legend named Denis, and both of us were struggling for room to paddle on that side. Rob and Greg had their expected very fast starts, and so did Denis after he got clear of me. Even Eric was way ahead of me before I got slowly up to speed. About half way to the first bouy, Nick and his son came chugging through in the V10 Double, and it looked like Eric managed to latch onto their wake as they went chasing after Greg. Rob and Denis were lost in the distance ahead and I rarely thought about them for the rest of the race. Eric didn’t last long on Nick’s wake and I soon passed him and managed to get to Nick’s wake just before the turn. At this point I thought there was a chance of getting up to Greg’s wake because he was only a boat length past Nick, but try as I might I just couldn’t come around Nick.
On the second leg, Greg started pulling away from Nick. A couple of times Nick briefly paused and I’d try to come around him but every time I did my heart rate would climb back into the red zone so I’d drop back into his wake and recover. But about 3/4 of the way into the second leg, Nick maneuvered me into the lead and hung out on my stern wake. I could out turn him at the bouy, but it didn’t seem to amount to much gap and he was soon back on me.
The third leg was along the shore line and I tried to stay off shore enough that I wouldn’t feel suck water. We started passing SUP paddlers who had gone directly from the start to our second bouy, and I tried to get a bit of help from their wakes, not just to get a pull but also to scrape off Nick, but neither thing happened.
On the fourth leg, Nick came back into the lead about half way to the finish. I tried to recover a bit, hoping if I left my finish sprint late enough I could out accelerate his heavy Double. I came up beside him right at the very end after we turned into the little harbor, and I recklessly sprinted for the shore. I jumped out just as the last second to save my boat from crunching into the shore less than a meter behind him.
I put more into that run up the beach than any run I’ve done in thirty years, but half way between the shore and the finish line I felt something pop in my leg and I fell face first in the sand. I had to crawl over the finish line, and they didn’t give me the benefit of the doubt and stop the clock when I fell, so officially I think I was nearly a minute behind Nick. But in my heart, it was a damn close thing.
One of the other participants is a doctor and he briefly examined me, and said it looks like I tore part of my outer calf muscle (he called it the gastrocnemius? Doesn’t “gastro” mean stomach?) and I’ll need to rest it for a week or so. He said I don’t need to rush to emergency, but I should probably see my doctor on Monday. He said they may want to mri it because a severe tear might need surgery.