This is madness! This is KAYAKING!

It’s 12:55. I’m dressed in a farmer-john wet suit, toque, and polar-therm long underwear. It’s 39°F and there is a hint of snow in the air. My hands are freezing and my feet are cold. And I’m putting my kayak on my roof rack in preparation for going paddling with Dan and some of the others.

It’s now 1:20. I’ve arrived at Dan’s house to find out that I’d gotten the time wrong, and I was supposed to be there at 12:30. But Ginny says that they only left a little while ago. If anything, it’s colder than it was at home, and it’s certainly windier. I have a perfect excuse to quit if I want. But instead I quickly load up. Ginny doesn’t know which way they went, but I assume they went upwind so they’d have the wind at their back on the way back.

It’s about 1:45. My shoulders are aching, and I’m spending more time resting than paddling. I’ve been weaving around the canal, trying to stay on the upwind side to stay out of the wind, which is bitter at times. It’s cutting through me – the wet suit certainly protects me, but the parts of my torso not covered by it are cold. At least my eyes have stopped streaming. I figure I’m not going to catch up to Dan’s group, but I’ll go to the “2 mile bridge” (a bridge which is, coincidentally enough, 2 miles from Dan’s dock) and back. 4 miles is a pretty decent work-out, even if I’m struggling as I am.

It’s about 1:50. I turn the last corner where I should be able to see the “2 mile bridge”, and there is Dan and Steve. Steve is paddling cross-ways across the canal, and Dan is watching them. I’m tucked in to the shore, between two docks, and I don’t think they can see me. I speed up to see if I can get closer without them seeing me. But Dan spots me. They’ve found a semi-sheltered part of the canal, and Steve has been trying to get used to a new boat he’s considering buying, an Epic 18X like Frank and Paul D paddle. Dan points out why my shoulders have been hurting – in my rush to catch up I’ve let my technique fall apart and I haven’t been pushing with my feet and getting good torso rotation. It’s like I have to learn that lesson over and over again. Frustrating. It starts to snow a bit. A man walking along the canal looks at us and shakes his head sadly.

It’s about 2:00. We’ve been heading home, and Dan has been trying to help Steve with his technique while I try to ride either Dan’s or Steve’s wake. I’m not having to stop to rest anywhere near as much as I had on the way up, as I’m using my legs and torso much better. Plus the tail wind is helping. When I’m trying to ride his wake, it’s obvious that Steve is having trouble with his rudder and he’s weaving around. It’s much easier to stay in Dan’s wake because he doesn’t weave from side to side. He brings the speed up and down, and I follow. And the snow stops, but we’ve in and out of the wind as the canal changes direction.

It’s about 2:15, and Steve has, as he so often does, gotten frustrated with himself and stopped listening to Dan and just plunged on ahead. Even I can see that his technique has fallen apart. On the other hand, Dan wants me to finish up on a high note so we slow down and work on getting a good catch, good rotation, and a good glide. With the technique still good, we brought the pace up slowly, and finished up with 10 good hard strokes. I’m tired, but proud of myself. I really did it.