Oceanside race, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

Sorry to burden you all with another paddling post, but....

Today's race was in many ways my hardest one yet. I've been ill and struggling to keep in shape, I've been leery of the demands of the later summer races (where the course lengths jump from 6 miles to 16 or 26 or 36 miles), and I haven't had much experience with 9-man steering. The steering is different because every 20 minutes or so, we switch out 2-3 paddlers to freshen up on a support boat. So I've got to maneuver to pick up paddlers bobbing along in the open ocean, all the while being mindful of calling the right moment to have the outgoing paddlers jump out of the boat, keep us all aright in the waves, and keep the boat away from all those dozens of other boats following the same course (oh, and this is even harder when the waves are so big that I can't see much of anything, much less my teammates in the water ahead!).

But it's not all me, doing all this work. It's a team effort, and that was made incredibly clear to me today as I watched each and every person in our crew keep it together. From Captain Ron on our support boat who helped me sight the turn buoys that were miles away, to the change coach Mike who made sure that everyone was rotating in and out of the boat correctly, to each paddler who gave 100% on every stroke.

This race was challenging not only because of the added difficulties of the paddler changes, but also because of the huge storm headed straight to Oceanside. There were currents flowing in two different directions, causing huge swells (reportedly around 8 feet). We watched boat after boat tip over or swamp with water. And we just kept going. My team listened well and worked together beautifully. Due to safety concerns the race was cut short, and while I have to say that it was a bit of a relief to finally pull into the harbor after many miles of fighting such extreme conditions, I kept thinking "that was it???" :)

There were two moments out there when I had our boat a bit off course and my team helped me figure out which way to point again. I'm regretting those sidetracks now, and hoping that next race I can do an even better job of keeping us headed straight into the turns and finish line. Every race I learn new things and conquer new challenges. I love it.

Pictured here with me is Aimee, another awesome steers(wo)man. Like the other gals on the team, she makes me feel like an amazon because I look so tall standing next to them!


Hellmut said...

Congratulations, Jana. Eight feet waves must be quite something in an outrigger.

jana said...

They were awfully amazing when we were coming up and over the huge swells (wayyyy better than any roller coaster ride, for sure). They were awfully scary when they were coming at us from the side & either swamping the boat or threatening to tip us over. :)

Outriggers are made for the ocean--they are made to ride the big swells and they perform beautifully out there. It's amazing to feel the boats doing their thing and to be a part of that. Although I love the racing element of canoeing, even more I love how it feels to be so connected to the elements: wind, water, and sun.