Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Paddle Tattle

You know it's gonna be a good paddle when Jose wears his Blue's Clues sleeve. No better omen than that. But my heart was already sky high from seeing Bonnie's bright white convertible pull up next to the net shed. She hobbled out and hugged us, letting us know it will be very, very soon when she can get back in the boat. Only a broken kneecap would keep her out. We stood around, warming up, when suddenly someone staked a claim as to what actually defines art, at which half of us circled closer and the other half stared patiently at the empty canoe waiting for us to get on with it.

Two old friends from Halpern's distinguished background paddled alongside us: Steve Bennett from Sound Rowers and Traci Cole from Women on Waves (WOW). I don't know much, but I do know that someday I wanna look that relaxed on the water. Traci paddled back and forth between boats for two hours, covering well over 8 miles looking more fluid and blissed out than an expert frosting a cake.

We turned left into the sun and it was so bright we had to paddle with our eyes shut. We're good at that; just ask Jane. We had to stop the boat to peel layers, that's how warm it was. Dan set a beautiful pace, steady enough to meditate by. Martha managed to schedule a board meeting in 2 minutes, something that usually takes 2 weeks of emails to accomplish. Ivan kept us safe from airplanes, pointing his nose from side to side, switching on the hut.

Becky's shoulder's almost better. She thinks of us every time she lifts a spoon. Denyse is coming back. Where's Rick? I haven't even seen him at the thrift store...

How about YOU? Where are you? If you're out there, wondering when to get back into the paddling groove...we miss you, too.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Halpern's Report

RACE RESULTS FROM THIS WEEKEND: High winds and sub-freezing temperatures forced the race organizers to change the race course three times prior to the start of the race and once during it. The course at the start of the race sent us out nearly directly into three-foot rolling waves. After about 200 meters Amy and I were convincingly in the lead of the OC-2 boats and and in the midst of the small lead pack of the whole race. John Pachuta, paddling a single, was somewhere back in the crowd, but paddling with his usual focus. At what we later determined to be the exact same moment, John flipped his single and Amy and I flipped the double. It was like a car accident in some ways, dragging the event into slow-motion, but slowing your reaction time just a wee bit more, leaving you witness to your own delayed demise. I was on the off-ama side and could see it lifting, floating up for a long moment, just out of reach, indecisive at best, and then over we went. Flip the boat back, tuck under and pop up between the ama and the canoe, kick yourself up onto the boat, brace while Amy gets seated, and off we go, now looking at the backs of the entire field. Then comes the hard part. The waves that did us in are only bigger the further out we go, the wind has numbed my hands which are now solid and heavy as packed snow. I hold in that form, and wondering if I can thaw out enough on the downwind leg to manage the two complete laps left after this first one . . . . and only wondering that to keep myself from wondering if we'll manage this first lap without practicing our flipping technique over and over again. Theories that the ama on the OC-2 rides a little light are hereby confirmed.

Despite the challenging start, Amy and I managed to move back into the lead of the OC-2 class by the end of the first lap. John managed to complete the first lap without turning his biathlon into a triathlon, a better result than about half a dozen others who DNF'd. Amy and I pushed on, learning a little about wave-riding this long canoe with too small a rudder, learning that with the wind or with a side wind, a short high-tempo stroke rate worked better than the power-stroke that pulls you into the wind. Amy learned that when we're riding the waves, I'll use her hut and ho as a guide at best, switching sides only when the challenges of steering and wave immersion allow. And I learned that Amy will do what she needs to do, adjusting to whatever comes along and once in a while just laughing back at the waves because she can. Nice job Amy.

We were passing boats and gaining solidly on those ahead during our second lap when the they called the race. With only one short leg left when we were told, we made an aggressive effort to pass the only OC-2 ahead of us (a strong women's OC-2) and we managed to close their lead considerably, ending up just 9 seconds behind after being down more than a minute. It was a race with a lot of lessons buried in it, the best kind.

Congratulations to Amy and John for jobs well done in unusually tough conditions!