The Owasco Lake Challenge was a very different race than it probably could have been. Because it was only a week after I got back from England, I decided that I wouldn’t be ready to do the 12 mile long course. That lead to some other decisions – because I was only going to do the short course race and so I wouldn’t be racing for points, I decided that rather than doing everything I could to do the best I could at this race, I was going to make it part of my plan to get back into shape and try to get back some of the speed that I’d had in the early season races like Round the Mountain and Tupper Lake but which seemed to be missing in Armond Bassett.
So contrary to any logical tapering for a race, I went out and did the Bay Creek Time Trial twice on Wednesday, and on Thursday I did a slow 10 mile paddle. I did rest Saturday, but only because it was horribly stormy and rainy. Otherwise I probably would have gone out and done some more long slow distance.
The was a pretty good crowd at the race – Tom Murn, Stephen B and Matt and Julia T were all in the short course with me, and Jim M, Mike and Paul D all did the long course. As well as old familiar faces, there were a few I’d never seen before. Quite the biggest surprise was Roger Gocking, who is a bit of a legend of the 90 Miler as well races like the Mayor’s Cup. The guy is incredibly tall, skinny, and has a “wingspan” that looked like a foot longer than mine.
I brought both boats – I was planning to evaluate the conditions and decide right at the last possible minute which boat to take. But when Scott said that he was shortening the long course to 10 miles because there was a possibility of thunderstorms later in the day, I settled on the ski, just in case the wind whipped up the lake. In retrospect, I probably could have paddled the Thunderbolt, but I doubt it made all that much difference.
As I was getting the ski ready, I did something which in retrospect was pretty dumb – I figured that because there weren’t many waves yet, I’d tape over the venturi drain so I was sitting in tepid water at the start. I’d seen other ski paddlers do that, and it made sense to me. What I didn’t count on, however, was the amazing amount of splashing at the start of the race – before we had gotten out of the shallows at the beginning, I was swamped and thanks to that stupid piece of tape I wasn’t draining. If you watch the video, in the first part you can see me pause quickly and say “SHIT” – that’s because my first attempt at removing the tape was unsuccessful because my Camelbak had slipped over it. It’s not on the video, but a few minutes later I took a longer pause and got it off.
One thing I didn’t realize until afterwards is that Matt Tole had been riding my wake from the start, and on one of those pauses he’d tried to pass me. I’d started paddling, caught a nice boat wake, and dropped him and he never got close to me again.
Tom Murn was well ahead of me after the tape removal exercise, and I tried like hell to catch him. I was getting closer every time I got a good surf on a wake, and at the turn it looks on the video like he’s only 20 to 25 seconds ahead. But I lost too much time at the turn, and with just enough tail wind to make sure I wasn’t getting cooled off, but not enough to kick up any good surf, I faded fast. I ended up finishing several minutes behind him. Stephen B was also up there ahead – early on I’d seen him way off to the right with his son Erin, and I assumed he was paddling with Erin, but then he suddenly came back into my view right at the turn fairly close to Tom, and he stayed pretty even with Tom from my viewpoint all the way to the finish.
On the way back in Dan was yelling encouragement – he’d come, but decided not to paddle, so he was out on the course coaching us. He advised me to punch it hard just before the shallows at the last half mile, and then surf my own wake in. Nice plan, but I didn’t have the energy to punch it more than a tiny bit, and I didn’t feel any wake. I guess it’s good that even for a shorter race I managed to use up all my energy by the end, but man I wish I had a faster time to show for it.
After finishing I paddled around a bit to warm down, and watch the other finishers. And then I went to try out the Nelo surf ski that Janet the Nelo rep brought out to demo. It’s tippier than the V10 Sport, for sure, but after dumping it once I managed to keep it upright. I can’t extend the foot brace far enough forward for my tastes – my knees were quite high, probably higher than a sprinter would have. It seemed strange that you needed an allen key to adjust the foot brace, but then again I never adjust my foot brace after I got it right the first time, so I guess it wouldn’t be too big a deal. Anyway, I don’t see another surf ski in my immediate future.
While I was messing about in the Nelo ski, I got to see Jim Mallory win the long race, and Roger Gocking come only a few minutes behind. That was impressive. I think some C-2s came in between the two of them – three of them came in within a few seconds of each other.
Just about every participant got a “OLC” branded boat chamois, and a nice medal for top three finishers. As well, Jim and the two paddlers in the top C-2 got these really beautiful framed 1905(?) hydrological maps of Owasco Lake. Probably the nicest prizes I’ve ever seen at a paddle race.
Oh well, time to get serious and see about getting some speed back in time for Long Lake.