Round the Mountain 2015

Today was the Round the Mountain race. There are two reasons it’s a big milestone each year – it’s usually my first race of the year, and it’s usually the last time I paddle my Thunderbolt for the year. After this, it’s all surfski all the time.

We arrived at the start at Ampersand Bay, and found the first disaster of the day: the bungee that holds my rudder down had broken on the drive up here. I managed to beg a small bungee from Todd and borrow a knife to cut the ends off, but it was thicker than the one I’d had so I had to arrange a different route for the cord. It worked, so disaster averted.

I had two video cameras on the boat, one just in front of the GPS pointing forward, and one just behind my PFD pointing backwards.

The weather was warmer than last year, and the wind was lighter. I almost wish I’d dressed lighter. I might even have been able to manage the V12 in these conditions. But it was just about perfect. There were a bunch of guys in sprint boats here, including a large guy in a beautiful top of the top Nelo and a young guy in a red Plastex boat. I think we got a lot of Canadians because it’s Victoria Day weekend.

I’d been worried before the race that in my training all spring I hadn’t had my heart rate up over 152, and even then for less than 8 minutes at a time but I knew that I normally raced with my heart rate over 160. So I wasn’t sure I could even get my heart rate that high. But as I was warming up, I was so nervous my heart rate was up over 150 even when I wasn’t doing anything.

At the start, as expected, Jim and Todd took off with some guy in a V14. The Plastex guy and the Nelo guy weren’t too far behind them, then I was behind Roger Gocking. But that didn’t last for long – I passed Roger almost immediately, but he glommed onto my side wake. It looked to me like I was catching the Nelo guy and the Nelo guy was catching the Plastex guy. I put in some speed to come up behind the Nelo guy and just latched onto his stern wake and was able to rest a bit. Roger didn’t follow me when I moved right to catch this wake, so he was still hanging out alone beside us. As we were catching the Plastex guy, Roger came steaming up alone. I blasted past the Nelo guy (although for some reason I went the wrong way around him instead of swing off in the direction of Roger) and latched onto Roger’s stern wake just as he was coming up to the Plastex guy. Plastex guy got onto Roger’s side wake and we made a nice little group. I risked a glance back and Nelo guy hadn’t managed to hold onto any wake and was well behind.

As we got near the gap between the island and the shore, the Plastex guy was starting to fall back off Roger’s wake and he tried to catch my right side wake. I didn’t want to let him catch it, so I pulled up on Roger’s left side and blasted past them both. I ended up leading both of them up the river. If you look at the rear camera, it appears Roger was about a boat length or two behind me rather than right on my stern wake, and Plastex guy was well behind. I lead them through every narrow and shallow little sneak I could find and I hit my paddle a few times, and felt my rudder hit at least once, but I could hear them hitting things as well. Having an overstern rudder and polarized sunglasses was a real plus.

At the portage, I had trouble getting out of the boat, and Roger was up and trotting before I got out. Then I picked up my boat and started trotting, but the PFD fell out of the bungees so I had to put the boat down and go back and pick it up. By then Plastex guy was up and running – in bare feet no less. By the time I hit the water and got mounted up, both of them had about two minutes on me.

It did not look like I was catching Roger at all, but I was definitely catching Plastex guy. Every time he passed a landmark, I’d check the time he passed against the time I passed and I could see I was making up time all the time. And then he followed Roger through a sneak but ran aground, and had to come to a full stop. I figure I made up nearly a minute of the two minute gap for that. As I came through that same sneak without trouble, I knew I was going to catch him.

After a few more minutes, I caught his stern wake. I contemplated staying on his stern wake all the way to the finish and trying to outsprint him, but he looked like a sprinter. So I pulled around him and swung out far enough that he couldn’t catch my wake. He sped up and stayed with me. We were neck and neck for the last three kilometers. I put in more speed and he sped up. I put in some more and he sped up some more. I had nothing left, but we were a kilometer from the finish and Jim was out warming down and he yelled at me to drop the hammer, and I barely gasped out “I don’t have a hammer”. I didn’t hear him say it, but he said afterwards that he was telling me to try to scrape the guy off on the buoy. I actually managed to increase my speed again with about 500 meters to go, but the guy had more in the gas tank than me, and he managed to beat me by a boat length or so.

As far as I can tell, the Unlimited Kayak class results were Jim, then the guy in the V14, then Todd, then me. So no wood plaque for me. Touring class was won by Roger and Unlimited under 50 was won by Plastex guy. I think somebody else ended up ahead of the Nelo guy.


Racer Class Time Diff from Last Year
Jim Mallory Unlimited +50 1:22:57  
Steve Rankinen (V14) Unlimited +50 1:23:42  
Todd Furstoss Unlimited +50 1:23:44 -3:25
Roger Gocking Touring +50 1:32:51 -2:48
Mike Archembault (Plastex guy) Unlimited -50 1:33:48  
Paul Tomblin Unlimited +50 1:33:50 -3:09
Pete Gugel Unlimited -50 1:36:01 -3:00
Rich and Angela Guide Boat 1:50:27  

I’m worried

The first race of the season is in two days, and I have to admit I’m worried. On the surface, I probably shouldn’t be – I’ve put in a ton of training this season. According to Garmin Connect, I’ve done 335.3km in my Thunderbolt, 75.3km in the V12, and 16.7km in my favourite boat, the V10 Sport Ultra.

But one of the things that worries me is that I’ve done most of that training cruising along with a heart rate around 120 or so. Even in interval training, I’ve almost never exceeded 150 bpm. In races in the past, I’ve *averaged* over 150 bpm. How will I be able to keep my heart rate over 160bpm for 90+ minutes if I’ve never had it that high for even 8 minutes? Does that mean I should shoot for a lower heart rate this time? What heart rate should I shoot for?

Another thing that worries me is that my shoulder started to hurt a week or two ago, and it hasn’t been getting any better. And yes, it’s the same shoulder that’s had two surgeries, each of which cost me a year off paddling and then another year of trying to recover my form (basically no races between Sept 2010 and Sept 2013). I’ve been trying to take it a bit easier this week and stretch more and take something for the pain, and it’s a little better, but what if I completely blow it at this race? What if I blow it so bad I have to stop racing? What if I don’t blow it, but it never recovers completely? Will I have incentive to keep fit and paddle with my friends if I can’t race?

Another thing that worries me is that I never sleep well before a race, and due to scheduling problems we’re probably not even going to get to the place we’re sleeping that night until after my usual bed time. Knowing me, the slight shortening of my sleep time will be minuscule compared to how much sleep I’ll lose obsessing over my lack of sleep. One of the first books I read about competitive cross country skiing said that lack of sleep before a race is normal, and the trick is to make sure your muscles aren’t tired by holding very still when you can’t sleep, so you’ll show up at the start with a fried brain but rested muscles with is better than fried muscles and fried brain. I’m not sure if that is really what the author intended, or if making you hold still instead of tossing and turning is just a good strategy to make you fall asleep. But I’ve tried to practice it whenever I race.

I’m going to race my Thunderbolt this weekend. The Thunderbolt is old, it’s beat up to shit, and I just had to put a big strip of fiberglass under the seat because the seat was wearing through the outer skin. And it looks like this is the second time it’s been patched there. The foam “beams” that are supposed to keep the back from flexing too much are broken. Also one of the screws that holds in the seat wears a hole in my hip. I’m much rather use my V10 Sport for this race, but it has some shallow water so an overstern rudder is a bit of a plus, and it has a portage – last year I slipped on the muddy hillside and dropped my boat. If I’d been carrying my V10 Sport instead of the Thunderbolt, I probably would have put a hole in it. That Thunderbolt is a tank. I’d love to buy a new one (and Roger Gocking has a new one for sale that he’s barely paddled) but since I basically stop paddling it after this race every year, I can’t really justify it to myself. Actually I’m kind of hoping that I’ll get good enough at paddling the V12 that I can use it next year, because it’s got an overstern rudder and it’s Performance layup so it’s more robust than the V10 Sport’s Ultra layup.

I guess my strategy this race will be to go out at a more moderate pace than usual, monitor both my heart rate and the condition of my shoulder, and if I feel up to it, increase the pace after a while. And hope that nothing horrible happens.