Kayaking? In January? Are you crazy?

Yesterday, Jim contacted me minutes after I woke up asking if I wanted to paddle. It’s been above freezing during the day for a couple of days now, and there was open water near where he lives. He had to get going quickly because he had something going, and I had to do some work too, so I rushed down to the water. Unfortunately in my rush, I forgot my GPS, but even worse, I didn’t stretch properly. Jim brought this funny boat with no deck on top and a one-bladed paddle. I think he called it a “canoe”.

We were paddling up into a strong current, which meant hugging in as close to the bank as we could, and then when the river was blocked by ice, he turned up this creek that was running pretty fast. And worse still, it would get very shallow and very fast at the same time, meaning that I had no depth to paddle in just when I needed it the most – I ended up being pushed backwards several times and I was worried I was going to break my rudder. The rudder is designed to kick up if you run over something going forwards, but has no protection for going backwards. But mostly what I ended up doing because of the lack of stretching was hurting my shoulder. I didn’t want to make it worse, so I paddled very easily back to the put-in and let Jim go off and do some real paddling without me.

Today was even warmer than yesterday, so Jim, Stephen and I met at the same location. This time, my plan was to stretch a lot more, get woken up and warmed up, and show up a bit early so I can start paddling easy before they both show up. And it worked – my shoulder was a bit sore, but it felt more like a residual from yesterday, and got less sore as time went on.

I got to wear the new Hydroskin shirt, paddling jacket and neoprene socks that Vicki bought me for Christmas. They were very good. Actually too good – after warming up for a few minutes, I took off the jacket and my pogies. Man, it’s great to be warm and comfortable while paddling in January.

We warmed up by paddling downstream, because it was clear of ice a long way downstream and not very far upstream from the put-in. Jim said “once we turn upstream, it will be `anything goes'”, which is code for “Jim and Stephen are going to try to race and leave me in the dust”. One thing about paddling my Looksha that I think I’ve mentioned before – in spite of being wider than the Thunderbolt, the cockpit is actually might tighter, and in winter clothes my hips are locked in place and I don’t get much rotation. I should probably see about removing or planing down the foam sides of the seat. Because of that, I didn’t feel my technique was really working right. I really miss paddling the Thunderbolt, but every time I crunched into an ice floe or over some debris close in to shore, I was glad to have my “beater boat”.

When we turned upstream, Jim started going hard before Stephen had even finished turning, which I thought was a neat trick, but it turns out afterwards that Jim had seen that I was ready and thought we were both ready. Anyway, I held Jim’s wake for about a mile or so as he snuck in between fallen trees and ice floes up the shore, but it was hard going. My heart rate was a pretty steady 160 bpm, which is close to my anaerobic threshold. Stephen managed to grind his way up to us, and when I found my heart rate going even higher than 160, I decided to let Jim go and Stephen passed me and continued to ride Jim’s wake. I kept grinding along at 160 bpm and losing some ground. Eventually they decided to stop for a rest, and I caught up to them, but they continued to go at a fast pace so I started losing again. This would never have happened in my Thunderbolt! (Mostly because I would have broken my rudder on a submerged log in the first mile and been out of action.)