Seneca Monster Race

You might have noticed that I haven’t written anything about last weekend’s Seneca Monster race yet. There are a whole bunch of reasons for that, but first and foremost is that I had a terrible race. Secondly, one of my cameras wasn’t charged up so it didn’t get any video, and another fell off and was lost in the canal, so I have no video. And thirdly I had surgery on my wrist during the week and so I’ve had other things on my mind and a limited ability to type for a while.

If you want to know why I had a terrible race, you need to cast your mind back to 2014 when Epic changed the design of their V10 Sport. There are many things you notice, both large and small when you compare Mike’s 2013 V10 Sport with my 2014 V10 Sport. Most of them are awesome. The closable bailer is worth the price of the upgrade right there. The cutaways at the catch area are great too, and the handles sure are nice at the end of a long paddle. But if you look at the bow, there is a very subtle change in where the straight up and down part transitions to the curve that goes under. When Mike and I are paddling side by side, you might notice that on his, the waterline is actually on the curve whereas on mine it’s on the straight up and down part. I’m sure there are hydrodynamic reasons for that change, and I’m sure somebody figured out it would be half a percent faster on ocean waves or something, but the upshot is that my bow collects weeds in places where Mike’s doesn’t. They just seem to slide under his on the curve and stop dead in mine on the straight part.

The Seneca Monster race is entirely in weeds. There are weeds from the start to the end, worse than even the USCA Nationals. And just when you think it’s the weediest race you’ve ever seen, they run you through a channel behind an island that is twice as weedy and shallow suck water as well. And then just to make life terrible for kayakers, just before the downstream turn in Seneca Falls there is a massive mat of weeds that was so thick it stopped me dead from full speed. It was so bad I couldn’t make the turn until I paddled backwards to clear my rudder, then I turned and then had to go through the same damn mat again on the way up. There were three close together bridges in the town of Seneca Falls, and if they’d moved the turn to the second bridge, we could have avoided that horrible mess.

Before the race I’d been so worried about the two portages. I figured that Roger is faster than me on the carries, especially since these ones were perfect for using wheels, so I figured that I’d need a good lead on him before the second carry so I’d still be ahead at the finish. Instead, thanks to the weeds, I lost contact with him within 2km of the start, before the channel behind the island. By the third kilometer, exiting the channel, I was side by side with Mike and Scott. Both of these guys I’ve been beating pretty handily this year, but I’d blown so much effort on trying to keep up with first Roger, and then a guy I didn’t know who was behind Roger while dragging weeds that I didn’t have any energy left. My race was basically done well before the first portage. At one point Mike tried to stab the weeds off my bow with his paddle, but I had misinterpreted what he was doing and veered off so he missed. I stopped and backpaddled to get them off myself, and the weed bundle was the size of a football. By then I was blown up and I couldn’t catch back up with Mike and Scott.

At the first portage, at about 4.5 kilometers in, I actually caught them exiting the water, but they both portaged faster than me. Scott stopped to put on his wheels, but he came trundling past a few minutes in and disappeared into the distance. I did nearly catch him as he stopped to take off his wheels, and I got to see him practically drop his boat down these steep stone “steps” at the end of the portage. Since my boat is much more fragile than his I had to take it more gingerly, losing even more time. I still managed to crunch my boat a little bit – unbeknownst to me I’d loosened the stickum on one of my camera mounts, so about a kilometer later the camera dropped off and I was unable to catch it before it sunk. An expensive lesson in the value of camera tie downs, I guess.

After that, there really isn’t much to report. I tried to keep my speed up as well as I could. There were a couple of canoes that I would pass, and then they’d pass me back a few minutes later when I was backing up to clear the weeds, then I’d pass them again. In spite of the frequent weed clearing, my shoulders were incredibly sore from the effort of paddling with that much resistance. And the portages were hard on my shoulders as well.

If I ever go back to this race, it would have to be with a boat that doesn’t pick up weeds as badly as my Sport. My V12 has the same bow as Mike’s Sport, and it doesn’t pick up weeds, but it’s heavy. Maybe if I had wheels…