Not exactly how I planned to spend this evening

I want to start putting in some long distance paddles in the Thunderbolt – specifically I wanted to do a couple of 10+ milers early this week before I have to start tapering for the Armond Bassett race on the 10th. I’ve been doing mostly surf ski paddling since Tupper Lake, and that mostly tires out my balance muscles rather than my forward stroke muscles and aerobic system. Tuesday’s practice is another surf ski session, and Wednesday is the time trial, so really that left today and Thursday or Friday.

So I figured what I’d do is get to work early today, and get home early, feed Widget, and then go out for a long paddle at GWC, then come home and walk Widget. And everything was going perfectly according to plan (I even brought along my headlamp in case I took longer than expected) until I got into the boat. I pushed my feet down onto the foot rest, and there was a strange noise and the foot rest gave way. That’s when I had a sudden flash of insight that a few days ago I’d found a wing nut on my driveway. After spending a few minutes trying to figure out if I could rig something in the boat to hold the foot brace in place, and failing that, trying to see if I could paddle without it. No luck. So I packed up and brought the boat back home.

Then I spent at least an hour with the boat upside down on a couple of saw horses, with my head lamp on, trying to squeeze both arms into the front of the boat, trying to thread screws through angled holes by feel, and generally getting frustrated and annoyed. With the boat upside down and my head in the hole, the heat rising off my body got trapped inside the boat, raising the temperature and activating the smell of hundreds of hours of wet swampy feet that have soaked into everything in the kayak over the years.

I finally got it done. I think I got the foot brace in the right holes – I guess I’ll find out on Wednesday. And because I missed the long workout that I wanted to do, I think on Wednesday I might do a lap around the bay before the race.

Rochester Open Water Challenge – too challenging?

Today was the Rochester Open Water Challenge. The wind was coming from the south, meaning the bay was a little rough, but the lake looked very smooth. So I decided to paddle the long course, in spite of the misgivings I’ve had for the last couple of weeks. There was a chance that the wind would pick up in between the time the short course started and the long course did, but I figured it would be better to aim high and fall short than to take the safe route. Although I have to admit it looked like the waves were smaller on the lake than on the bay, so I was maybe taking the easy way out by going out on the lake.

The course was different than last year – Ken was hoping to have us run directly into the waves for a bit over two miles, then surf back, and then repeat it. But with shifting winds and no predominate swell, he ended up putting the turn around buoy 2.25 miles straight off shore. I tried not to be freaked out about being that far from shore. After all, there were three safety kayaks out on the course, not to mention the committee boat at the turn.

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At the start, going through the channel, there were immediately three distinct groups – Jason Q was leading, with two guys hot on his tail, including one in a Thunderbolt T-REX, then there was Doug and Mike. I was beside Mike Littlejohn and Stephen Bergash, although they both started to pull away as soon as we got into the lake proper. I didn’t see where the woman in the rowing skiff got ahead of me, but I don’t think she was ahead of me in the channel.

As we went out into the lake, the water could best be described as “lumpy” – there were waves coming from all directions at once. Not very big, but very random – if there was any predominate swell, it was coming from the west, almost directly the direction we’d have been going if we’d taken the original route. It was throwing me off big time. My stroke was falling apart – I was using my arms way too much, and I had to keep interrupting my stroke to brace or just to plant my blade in a wave top. I was trying very hard to push more with my legs, because that seems to help my stability. But I just wasn’t doing well. Not paddling well, not feeling stable or comfortable, and getting further and further from shore. I had to keep telling myself that if I dumped, I could just turn back, and if I finished one lap, I’d still have done more than if I’d done the short course. It was the only way I could keep myself going.

As we got to the committee boat, I was actually catching Stephen B. But he surprised me by going to round a buoy instead of the boat, and got another length or so on me. I quickly got it back, and passed him just as Julia rocketed past us both. We were doing all right, but the chop was getting worse. Julia dumped, and Stephen yelled that he’d take care of her and I should go on ahead. At one point this very strange little group of three waves appeared out of nowhere – it was fairly big, but only about 25 feet wide. I tried to surf them, but I didn’t have the energy to get on them right, and they were too close together. As a matter of fact, the only good surf I got was the last hundred yards or so into the beach. It was almost enough to make me want to turn around and go back out again, but only almost. I’d had enough, and I was ready to quit.

I’ve been beating myself up about the decision to quit ever since, but I was probably right to quit rather than going out again and dumping because I was overtired.

Undecided, but leaning…

As of right now, I’m about 75% sure that I’m not going to do the long race in the Open Water Challenge tomorrow. The weather forecast is for winds around 7mph from the WSW, which might favour my lack of wave skills by giving some protection from the wind near the shore, but Dan thinks that Ken might go to a “go straight downwind to a buoy a few miles out in the lake, turn and come back and repeat” format if the wind isn’t blowing into shore. If the swells are anything like they were today, I’m definitely doing the short course on the bay.

I think I’ve given it a good try to get ready for open water racing these last few weeks, but I’ve got a bit of a way to go before I’m ready to race it. Definitely next year, though.

After tomorrow, my focus will be back on the Thunderbolt as I get ready for Armond Basset (10 miles on the river) and then (maybe) the 90.

Getting there…

My IP block has been delisted by SpamHaus. Unfortunately, in spite of the “R” in “RBL” standing for “Real-time”, apparently some ISPs cache their copy of the SpamHaus RBL and are still blocking me. Hopefully normal service will be restored eventually. My outgoing mail queue has gone from 120 to 85, so I guess some ISPs are updating their caches.

I also discovered that evidently you can’t just rsync your whole mail spool area over to a new system because postfix somehow ties the spool file names to the inodes they’re on or something. I was getting strange errors like fatal: lock file defer B99792602A5: Resource temporarily unavailable until I did a “postfix check”, and it said something about renaming files, and now everything is happy again.

Not the rest day or workout I was expecting

A few minutes after posting that “Current Radar Picture” and declaring that I wasn’t going paddling, the skies brightened up, the sun broke through, and Jim phoned me to see if I was going. He said “Come on, it isn’t golf”. And so I went.

And since there is a race this weekend, I thought we were going to take Dan’s coaching advice and “paddle easy, work on surfing technique”. Instead, I get out to the beach, get launched, paddle out to where Mike, Doug, Bill and Stephen are waiting, and Mike says “Aim for the smoke stacks, go!” and off we went to paddle the same course that we’re probably going to race this weekend.

There was very little wave action. I’m sure the other guys thought it was flat, but there was a strong breeze from about 30 degrees off to the left of where we were going, and it was starting to whip up waves. There was a very subtle swell coming in from behind, small and very long wave length. Sometimes you could feel a bit of a ride from that. And there were a few boat wakes coming from all directions, although not very many because of the recently passed storm. I found it challenging. I’m still very twitchy in the boat, and it seemed like a double effort to paddle strongly and keep upright in the waves.

Because I had been expecting a surfing session, I hadn’t brought my camelbak, and I was very thirsty. I was also afraid to stop paddling for even a second so I couldn’t have asked anybody else for a sip of water, nor even scooped some out of the lake.

After not very long, the group sort of separated out with Mike way off ahead, Doug, Jim and Stephen paddling not very far ahead, and Bill just behind me. And not long after that Doug peeled off from the pack of three he was with and came back to shepherd Bill and I. I was afraid to look around, and so I don’t know if Bill was keeping with me or if he was falling behind, but I think he was falling behind. He’s a lot better boat handler than I am, but he hasn’t been working out all that much in the boat and he doesn’t have the fitness of the rest of us.

As we got closer to the jetty, the wind was getting stronger and stronger, and the hoped for rest in the wind shadow never happened. Instead, the jetty turned the waves from being 30 degrees off my left to coming almost directly down the jetty from my right to left, making it easy to use them to turn around in. Bill and Doug didn’t come in near to the jetty, so I couldn’t ask one of them for water, and by the time I got out to where they were and everybody was paddling the same direction, I was back in a “concentrate and try to stay upright” situation so I didn’t bother to ask.

As expected, the waves being whipped up by the wind, now behind us and angled more in towards shore, were growing. Bill and I paddled the entire distance back side by side, as he used his skill to catch waves and get a ride while I tried to do the same. We were mostly side by side but every now and then one of us would catch a good ride that the other one missed and surge ahead, only to be caught and passed as the other caught a ride. A couple of “linked runs” saw our speeds nudge up into the 7 mph and higher range, although mostly we were around 6.2 to 6.4 mph. For a while, I was really enjoying it. But then the fatigue and dehydration caught up with me and I was starting to struggle again.

Mike was miles ahead and way off to our left, well off shore. Stephen was a not as far ahead, and he was well into shore. If the waves had been any higher, he probably would have been in bad surf and been expending a lot of energy. I think Bill and I had a good line because the last mile or more was straight down wind. I have discovered that sometimes it seems better to be diagonal to the waves so you can surf faster than they are going, but I still think it’s good to have a relatively easy straight downwind surf at the end.

So it was probably too much effort this close to a major race, but on the other hand I really need more wave time and this definitely counted as that.