Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Duke Race

The race was pretty amazing in the end. Chris, Lance, and I were the novices in our boat; Mike W, Ray, Rodney, and Yamada the experienced paddlers. Brian and Nestor, two guys form Kane`ohe, joined us to round out the crew.

This was our first distance race.

We paddled in thirty minute shifts, with fifteen minute breaks on the escort boat.

First segment - Kailua to Lanikai (roughly). Seat 4. We had a good start, and I was feeling pretty strong and solid. Almost like I could do it all day. The A-List boats shot ahead, but there was still a scattering of boats behind us & we were within reach of most other boats. I could've stayed in when Roz called the change.

Escort Boat - I can't believe how good I'm feeling. Jitters and nerves are gone, and now it's nothing but fun. Our training has paid off!

Second Segment - Waimanalo. Seat 4. Now the seas started getting big! I was having a great time. I still wasn't tired, our boat was keeping up a good pace, and it was fun being in big water. The waves were crashing on us, our ama was popping, but we held our own. Up ahead, though, was Makapu`u. We had to squeeze between the lighthouse and a smaller offshore island. Beyond that was where things were supposed to get really rough, and so the cliffs that marked the channel were looking extra ominous as we approached - especially given how big the waves already were, here in the easy part. I lost count of how many boats huli'd. There were a lot of spills out there.

Escort - I though we could make the channel, but Roz called a change before it. Drat!

Third Segment - Makapu`u to Ka Iwi.
Seat 3. Lucky for me (or so I thought!) we had a change right after the channel. I was in the boat for the fun part (which was good, 'cause I was getting a bit queasy by this time while on the escort boat). It was man vs. nature, and we got through on sheer adrenalin and muscle. Now I'm finally getting tired, but luckily we're half way & the hard part is behind us ... we think.

Escort - But we're still in rough water. At one point we crest a wave and I'm thrown airborn. I land hard on my side, and my ass, thigh, and forearm are still seriously bruised.

Fourth Segment - Sandy's to Koko Crater.
Seat 5. Why are we still here? This should be close to the final stretch, this change. The seas aren't as rough or as big as at Makapu`u, but they're still kind of big. We thought this would be downwind, and that we could ride some swells. Instead, we're still fighting our way forward. We can only see a couple other canoes - the rest must have shot ahead while we were in .... and then the ama came flip over, and we found ourselves upside down, under water, and still canvassed into the wa`a. This was one of the scenarios that scared me. Usually you pop right out of the boat, but I'd heard that sometimes you kind of get stuck & have to unzip yourself while submerged. Well, I was calm like Shelly Winters when the time came. I decided my paddle wasn't doing me much good, let it go, calmly unzipped the canvas, and rolled myself to the surface to take a big welcome gulp of air. Only, a wave bitch-slapped me when I surfaced, and I got a big unwelcome gulp of seawater instead. Everyone else seemed to be having a rough time of it too, and it took a lot of tries to flip the boat right. I tried to bail, but waves kept filling the boat up. When we finally got moving I was exhausted, and I could feel that everyone else was beat too.

Fifth Segment - Approaching Black Point. Seat 2. I usually like this seat, but now I am really frakkin' tired and hot and sore & I now I'm not keeping good form. We had thought this round would see us home, but we haven't even passed Diamond Head yet. We seem to be slow in the water. Everyone looks like they're struggling.

Sixth Segment - Diamond Head to Home

Seat 4. This is our water. We paddle this all the time. But oh it seemed to take forever! Worse, we started to hear a boat behind us, coming out of nowhere but getting closer. We sprinted, we pulled, we used every last ounce of energy we had, but they managed to pass us in the final quarter mile by riding inside. They beat us by a couple seconds, but we were neck and neck and fought hard the entire last section.

Our final time, 4 hours 18 minutes. I don't know yet if we were absolutely last or just close to it. It was a long race, much longer than the 3 to 3 1/2 hours we were predicting. Tomorrow I'll see how the jocks at work did.

I'm feeling pretty amazing now, but absolutely beat. I'm too tired to do anything, and too jacked to go to sleep.

(photos all from Mike Winters)

No comments: