Here's how my race days go:
8pm. T-12 hours. My final meal. I saute half a pound of calamari in olive oil (I'm still trying to recreate the calamari we had in Mykonos), make a salad of bitter Italian greens that Roy's neighbor grows, pile a mess of pasta in marinara sauce on the plate, open a bottle of Primitivo, and pop Shoot the Piano Player into the VCR. I wonder how I'll ever get to sleep in time. I can't take an ambien, as I don't want any drugs in my system.
9 pm. My eyelids are getting heavy. The pasta is working it's magic. I pour a final glass of wine, polish off half a pint of Ben & Jerry's, and then crawl to bed & pass out.
11 pm. I wake up. Is it race time? No. Not even midnight. I piss. It runs clear. I'm hydrated! I chug more water before heading back to bed.
2 am. Piss. Drink. Sleep.
4:30 am. Piss. Drink. Check the clock. One more hour to sleep. I love my bed. I love my pillow. Back to bed.
5:30 am. The alarm goes off. Here we go. It's still dark. I don't want to get up. Why do I do this to myself? I make coffee, and eat some bread. Pack my bags, stuff a bunch of power gels into my pockets, and head out the door.
6:30. Meet the guys at the club. Anxiety is low. That's good. Maybe I'm still not awake yet.
7:30. T-1 hour. We're at Hawai`i Kai. I stretch. I pace. I hit the bathroom three times. It's as if my body knows what to expect, and is purging itself in anticipation. I know I can do this, and yet I also know that I am going to put my body through hell. I know that I will paddle until I cannot move, that I will hit the wall, and that I will then find a way beyond the wall and keep moving. And I know I'll be fine once I'm on the other side of the wall ... it's more the anticipation of what comes before that keeps me tense.
8:30. We're in the canoe, waiting for the flag to drop. I'm still in this world. In a few more minutes I'll be completely in that other world, the one that's just ocean and sky and us. We have a mixed crew. Most of us are in the stay tough and just survive this mindset, while others are much more competitive.
First Change. Seat 3. The boat feels heavy. I feel heavy, like this is taking more effort than it should. We are in the bottom 1/4 of the pack before we change.
Second Change. Seat 5. This feels good! My body is relaxed, I feel strong, and the canoe is gliding along nicely. The ama threatens to fly up a couple times, but we keep control. We seem to fall off of the swells, though. We could've used the boost.
Third Change. Seat 3. Still feeling strong as we take the turn around Diamond Head. I get tired towards the end of the shift. We walk up on a couple canoes, and are close to passing them.
Fourth Change. Seat 2. It feels like we're going pretty fast, and riding a nice current - but the other canoes have disappeared. I see some boats a couple miles out to sea on our left, but no one inside. We see other boats rounding Kalaeloa, and though it looks close it is still a long ways off.
Fifth Change. Seat 4. OK, now I'm getting seriously tired. I'm good for the first segment, and suffering during the second. We took the boat way inside, too close to the coast, and now have to struggle to get around `Ewa. I ask Lorna, and she said she was hoping we'd have been around the coast already.
Sixth Change. Seat 2. This is it - the end is in sight!!! Ray is stroking, and it feels nice and easy to me. I can keep pace with him, and am feeling a nice pull in the water, but Lorna shouts that we're not going fast enough & need to pick up the pace. Next change and Shaun is in one. He puts some serious muscle in it, and we feel the boat pick up and really start to race. We're passing the industrial plants & Ko Olina, and I almost feel that I can iron it until the finish. I stay in one more change, and Ramos is now in one. I realize that I spent most of my energy trying to match Shaun, and I'm getting sloppy. It takes some serious mental work to keep pace.
Next change and I'm in the escort boat as the Makanani crosses the finish line around 2pm. Suddenly I'm starving. I eat at the race tent, and then have a second lunch that the wahine had prepared for us. I get home and eat again.
Next stop: Moloka`i. There are 20 of us fighting for 18 seats. And though I think I've got a good chance, I really don't know where I stand. The coaches want us to do a timed one-man Diamond Head run to compete for first crew, or a Kewalo run for second crew. I haven't even done a DH run yet solo, but figure that it's better to aim high. If there swells are ok I'll go for it. I'm not even sure which boat I'd prefer. I hate being the weakest link in a strong canoe, but it's also easier paddling with a strong crew. That, and the top canoe gets Steve to steer, which is a major bonus.