Madrid Canoe Regatta, Day 2

What can I say about Day 2 that I didn’t already say on Day 1? Well, camping overnight was utterly freezing. I was really glad I’d decided to throw in my winter mummy sleeping bag in the pile, because an hour or two after I went to bed I decided the summer weight bag wasn’t cutting it. And then a few hours after that, my head was so cold I ended up wrapping a turtleneck sweater around it. And then at 5:00 or there-abouts a goose started honking very insistently. But other than that, camping went well.

The course was longer today, 13 miles instead of 9. It might have been hotter, as well. Added to left over fatigue from yesterday, I thought it was going to be torture. Turned out to not be much of an issue. I ended up having a tiny bit faster average speed, although I suspect that was because the time on the portage was a smaller percentage of the overall time.

There were a lot more kayaks here today, including 3 top-flight competitors from Canada. Jim said that one of them was a Olympic gold medalist in the 200 meter. More women in K-1, including a Canadian woman in a beautiful Vajda black ski, and Scott’s mother Eileen was in a V10 Sport today. Last week she’d been in a cedar strip kayak, and yesterday she’d been in a C-2, so I didn’t really know what to expect. There were 3 K-2 crews, including Roger Gocking and Scott Visser in Roger’s V8 Double and the couple I said I should pay more attention to in a Nelo kayak. The other K-2 was a Vajda kayak, so they were probably Canadian. Ontario and Quebec seem like Vajda country, if this crowd was anything to go by.

For some reason, they decided to eliminate age categories in kayak, even though we have more people today. It probably wouldn’t make much difference, I think all the people who finished ahead of me in K-1 Unlimited were over 50.

There was one guy there who I really wanted to talk to after the race – he had an ancient and beaten up Nelo Viper, and I wanted to ask him how long he’d had it. Because I could have sworn it was the same Nelo that I rode wake on in my very first NYMCRA race back in 2009. Alas, I didn’t see him after the race so I didn’t find out.

The Start

The big guys went off like a shot, including Roger and Scott in the V8 Double. Eric was right with them as well, but then Roger and Scott veered off their line and collided with Eric and the guy with the sprint boat who fell in yesterday squeaked past them. He was still staying off to one side, trying to stay out of the wakes, and Roger and Scott and Eric soon passed him and tagged back onto the lead pack. I put in the effort and got into his stern wake.

Seven or eight minutes later, I caught the guy in the sprint boat. Up ahead I could see the V8 Double and Eric had dropped off the lead pack, and the woman in the black Vajda was a boat length or two ahead of them.

The sprint boat guy was giving a good tow, except I had to be careful not to bump him if he braced because I didn’t want to be responsible for knocking him in. Eric had said he wasn’t going to go out as hard as yesterday, and it showed because my tow buddy and I were losing time to him at a much slower rate than yesterday. But a couple of kilometers in, the Nelo double came chugging on by, with Eileen latched onto their wake. I wasn’t going to let an opportunity like this go by, so I moved off the sprint boat guy’s wake and onto Eileen’s. She was obviously getting a good deep wave off the K-2, but I was getting about the same wave I got from the other guy, but going a bit faster. I knew Eileen was fit – after all, she’s heading for the Yukon River Quest (715 km from Whitehorse to Dawson City) in a few weeks – but I didn’t know if she was fast, and since the couple in the K-2 had been a smidge slower than me yesterday in K-1, I was entertaining dreams of maybe getting a chance to bounce up past Eileen and getting on that sweet K-2 wake. Alas, it was not to be. After another kilometer in, Eileen lost their wake – I yelled to her to not let them go, but she did, and I had no energy to make a try to get up past her to get that wake myself. And then a couple of kilometers later I found myself losing Eileen’s wake, fighting back up to it, and then losing it again. At exactly 6.6 kilometers into it I waved goodbye to her and settled into my own pace.

Up ahead I could see Eric and the K-2 were pretty much side-by-side, although eventually I think Eric smartened up and tucked into their stern wake.

The Long Lonely Drag

Without Eileen’s wake to ride, I was all alone. There was the occasional clump of C-2s to pass, and sometimes to say hi to one or two people I’d met at the campground. But I had no idea how far back the guy in the sprint boat was, or if one of the other K-1s was going to catch me up. I just had to keep powering along, trying not to follow the canoes into the worst of the suck water but also not hanging out in the main current, weak as it was. At least every now and then there was a bit of a breeze, or some waves indicating there was probably a tail wind that I couldn’t feel because I was paddling faster than it.

I got occasional glimpses for what was going on ahead, and it looked like Eileen caught Eric, and the K-2 had distanced them. I didn’t really see it happen, but I think Roger and Scott dropped back, but that might have happened after the portage.

The Portage

Arriving at the portage, I could see Eileen having some problems carrying her boat – I think she was trying to carry it under her arm like you do with a kayak instead of on her shoulder like you do with a surfski. Eric was gone ahead out of sight at this point.

For me, it was still a slow tortuous process, but it didn’t go quite as badly for me as it had yesterday. I didn’t get my camera knocked askew, and I didn’t tangle up my drink line, although I did put in in a muddy reedy place instead of the more sandy place I’d put in yesterday.

The extended time before the portage meant that the boats were more spread out, so nobody passed me on the portage this time and I didn’t have to mark anybody to make sure I passed them back on the water.

The Final Up and Back

I saw Jim coming back down – he was about 1.2-1.3 kilometers from the finish, and had about 400 meters advantage on the next guy. There was another guy maybe 400 or 500 meters behind him. As well, some of the C-2 Pro racers were coming down, and they were pretty fast. When I saw Roger and Scott, they were out of sync and not as fast as when I’d last seen them, so I guess one or both of them had gotten tired. Just as I went in behind the island, I head the distinct sound of the camera on my head shutting down for a full SD card – the replacement 128GB card hasn’t arrived yet so I was using the old 64GB card, which is only good for about 2-2.5 hours at 4K. More’s the pity, because something cool was about to happen.

Just as I was rounding the top of the island, one of the pro C-2s came down. They’d gone an additional mile or two upstream and so they were moving pretty fast. I put on a massive effort and managed to get on their stern wake. It was 2.5 kilometers to the finish, and I was getting a great ride, at speeds up around 11.5 to 12 kilometers per hour. Up ahead I could see us getting closer to Eileen, but I knew she had too much lead so I wasn’t going to catch her.

Unfortunately, while it was a great ride, I was still working pretty hard, and just as we passed the buoys marking half a mile (800 meters) to the finish, I had to drop off the wake and go back to my standard 10.5-11 kilometer per hour finish “sprint”.

Still, it was good enough – nobody snuck up past me and I didn’t pass anybody.

I don’t have the actual results sheet to hand (otherwise I would fill in some names), but I was 4th in K-1 Unlimited Men. I was also beaten by Eric in Touring class, at least 2 and possibly all three of the K-2s, and two women, the Canadian woman in the black Vajda and Eileen. But I beat the unsteady guy in the sprint boat fair and square today, since I don’t think he fell in, as well as a couple of other people who didn’t paddle yesterday and so didn’t have any excuses.

Nice race, fun camping, I’ll definitely be back again.