After last week's Duke Race Jake told me that his favorite races were on the windward side, because the water was more interesting there.
I'm still getting used to "interesting" water. We train so much off of Waikiki that we're a bit spoiled, and we don't always have enough strong steersmen to take all the crews out past Diamond Head and into more challenging waters. Last weekend was my first time in big waves since last year, and so I wasn't totally prepared for this race at all! I did ok; for one of our guys it was his first time in water like this, and ... as he put it ... it was eye-opening humbling. But he kept going, and kept up with us, and sometimes that was all I could manage last year.
Our open crew line-up for the Kailua Men's Iron was Dave S, Lucas, MC, Scott A, Steve, and Alex. Three Novice A's and one B - we were an inexperienced, if older, crew! It's funny being a novice after 40. Each year your skills are going to increase, even if you're strength doesn't.
We had a good practice with this line-up on Thursday. I was playing around with my stroke, trying to work in more leg power. The only part of the Olympics I really watched with any dedication was the 1000-meter C2 sprint canoeing. It was stunning to watch how in synch the men were, and how much power they were getting from using their whole bodies in the stroke.
I wanted to bring some of this into the wa`a. And I was dropping more off my seat and onto my knees, and paddling from a lunge position. It worked ... in the relatively flat waters off Waikiki.
It didn't work so well at all in choppy Kailua! We were drenched by a sudden downpour right at the start, and had water in the canoe before we even began. Still we hit hard, and made for the first marker - Mokoea islet, about 2.5 miles offshore.
And we learned real quickly that we weren't as solid as we thought we were! We kept up with the pack until the islet, but past that we watched the other canoes disappear into the distance. We weren't bad, we just couldn't get out groove on in this water. I was having trouble too, and was focusing too much on balance and not enough on power.
Our line was for the right hand side of Mokumanu, an island I never even knew existed until Saturday. Of course I had heard of it, but I thought it was probably just another pile of rocks. Turns out it's a 200' high big chunk of rock surrounded by big waves. And though it was only 2.5 miles beyond Mokoea, it seemed to take ages to get there. And I kept thinking, I'm a master. I'm over 40. I'm a flat water paddler. Why am I in this race? The other master's got to turn right at Mokoea. Why are we still heading another 2+ miles out to sea??? Next year I'm claiming my spot in the masters' crew!!!
We took on a lot of water, and had to bail more than the other canoes around us. It was frustrating, as each time Scott or I would stop to bail another canoe would creep past us. Still, it was necessary - last week we learned the hard way what happens when there is too much water in the boat!
OK, so I was tired and sore & vowing never to do this race again before it was half over ... but it was pretty cool seeing Moku Manu up close. It's a seabird colony, and as it's just off-shore of the Marine Corps base it's rare that anyone is allowed near it. A beautiful brown booby sailed past us on the ama side just before the island, and there were hundreds of shearwaters and terns flying around the rock faces. The far side of the island had some sketchy waves, but the leeward side was refreshingly calm & offered us (or at least, me) a nice break from the turbulence of the first five miles.
Life got easier for me on the five-mile downwind run toward the Mokuluas. The swells were still decent, but at least they were predicatble. I relaxed a bit more, and was able to put more power into my stroke. I think the other guys must have been feeling better also - Alex picked a good line to the outside, and we passed 2 or 3 canoes. Yeay. Finally. There was one bad point where I felt pretty light-headed and faint, but I had loaded my camelback with cytomax and a few gulps of that helped it pass.
Passing through the channel between the Mokuluas was fun, as usual. We caught one really fast wave, and that kind of made everything worth it. In the final sprint we were next to a Lanikai boat; we'd creep up on them and then lose power, and they beat us by a couple minutes.
We're still waiting for them to post results. Roz guesses that it took us 2 hours and 20 minutes. The lead canoes finished in 1 hour 50 minutes, so ... we've got some work ahead of us!