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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Race Report: Big East River X (40km solo)

The Race

40km of paddling, starting in Huntsville (Ontario).  Mostly river paddling, first up-river, then down-river... with  small lake thrown in.

Really well run event - great people, and how can you beat a $12 pub voucher for the post-race meal?  You can't!

My Race

This was my first time in a canoe race this long (previous longest was 20km!), and also my first solo.  Seems like a bad combination.

I used my Wenonah Wilderness canoe, which is not a racing boat really... so this was more just about racing myself than everyone else.  I ended up 4th in category, which was a little disappointing... I didn't see any other boats out there ahead of me that looked like C1 "stock" - turns out it includes some really narrow fancy boats!  Mine's almost 30" at the waterline, some of the other stock C1s are 22"... I thought they were proboats but guess not!

Things I Found Out

  • 5 hours and 25 minutes of paddling is hell on the butt.  Why the butt!?  I don't completely know.  It's almost like the bending over stretches out the muscles that connect through it, combined with sitting for that long... I mean it seriously hurts, like can't sit on uncushioned chair hurts!
  • 5 hours and 25 minute s of paddling is blister inducing.  Both hands, blisters everywhere, 8 in all.  One popped near the end, that hurt until it was over
  • I can maintain a pretty steady pace for 5 hours and 25 minutes!  Other than the aforementioned butt/blisters, I actually felt remarkably good through the whole thing.  
On to My Race In More Detail Than You Probably Care About... Feel Free to Skip!

The Start and Up the Muskoka River

It was a mass start, not sure how many boats but 50 or more.

Given my lack of competitive ambition and knowledge that my solo stock canoe would be slow, I lingered a bit farther back at the start.  

Gun went off, I started in clean water, and just looked for boats that were about my speed.  All in all it was a pretty clean start (although one kayaker managed to find his way into the drink - oops!)

After awhile I managed to tag onto the back of a C2 (2-person) canoe paddled by two rather exceptional teenage girls.  I bit awkward being a 40 year old dude drafting off teenagers, but I got over it when I felt that headwind - yikes!  

The Lake Part 1

About 3.5km in you stop going up the Muskoka River and dump into a lake.  This was a little choppy, but nothing compared to the way back... I'll get to that though!  My speed to this point was pretty good, wind was at our backs, felt great.

Big East River - Upstream With a Paddle

The river started out quite wide and with a slow current, so at first I figured this was a piece of cake!  I was holding my own against a few of the C2s anyway, live was good.

As we went further and further the current got trickier and trickier.  At times it was quite strong, and lots of corners.

My boat corners really well, and doing all the time I do in Duffins Creek in Ajax I'm pretty good at knowing where to stick the boat.  Passed a few floundering C2's on the way up, and generally felt OK... although I was very ready to turn around by the turn-around point!  That was almost 3 hours into my race, more than I'd ever paddled, and it was only halfway.  

Big East River - Downstream 

At first the river was fast, and again my ability to read currents and get my boat in the right places had me keeping up with the boats around me.  But as it slowed down and the currents eased off, it got harder and harder... I didn't really run out of energy, but my advantages slipped away and I got passed by two of the C2s that I'd passed going the other way (including those teenage girls - the horror!)

The Lake Part 2

The wind had really picked up, so there was a fair bit of chop on the lake.  I had kind of hoped this would work to my favour but I watched as the C2 teams pulled away, and one from behind caught up (to the point I could hear them doing their "huts").  This was my toughest section, my little boat got tossed around pretty good, hard to keep momentum.

Muskoka River and Finish Line!

Finally we turned back onto the Muskoka River.  The 3.5km that had gone by so quickly on the way up felt like forever, even with the nice tailwind...

Midway back I felt a blister in my hand pop.  Between that pain and my butt pain I was really ready to be done!

I hustled to make sure I stayed ahead of the aforementioned C2, and finished just shy of my 7km/h goal (6.9km/h... so close!)

All in all a good day, did about as well as I'd expected I could.  Not sure how eager I am to do another solo canoe race, having a partner is a nice advantage!

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