The past few days have been the most extreme tides of the year–the water so high that it’s barely possible to paddle under some bridges, then the water so low that the Back Bay is mostly mudflats. This has also resulted in HUGE amounts of debris being pulled into the water–some chunks of it are large tangled island masses of branches and trash that are 4 or 5 times the size of my boat. Much of it is just random floating crap–so paddling through the channel is a bit like a slalom race. Yesterday I veered around something that looked like a tree branch, only to learn seconds later that it was a huge log (most of it submersed under water) and it made a loud thwack it collided with my outrigger. I was afraid that I’d cracked something and might even be taking on water. But the next few minutes went smoothly and I forgot about it until I brought my boat up to the deck for cleaning. I found an ugly gash on the ama (the outrigger float), exposing the carbon fiber shell under the gelcoat finish. Fortunately, it seems that the damage is purely superficial. It was still discouraging, though.
The scratch on the ama was on my mind when I went out again this morning. I work pretty hard to keep my boat in good condition–taking good care of her so she’ll do her best for me. I hate to see her get dings and scratches. And then I had this ‘aha’ moment: the best way to keep my boat in ‘pristine’ condtion would be to keep her stored away safely. She can’t help but show some wear if I keep taking her out on the water. And it was right then that I decided to wear out my boat–by paddling regularly and hard. Of course, I’ll still be on the watch for floating tree trunks…but I won’t stop getting out on the water just because I’d like to keep the pretty paintjob.
The other thing that was foremost in my thoughts as I paddled this weekend, was the news that I got on Friday: our division was canceled at the World Champs because too few teams could afford the trip to New Caledonia. I knew this might be a possibility because several teams had already pulled out. But the final news was pretty disheartening. I’ve used that upcoming race as a “carrot” to keep up my practicing and cross-training all winter long. And I was so looking forward to paddling the waters in the South Pacific in May. But of course I still aim to do so…someday.
So now I need a new carrot, a new goal to work towards. It might be a special race or reward for reducing my per-mile speed by a specific amount. I’m not sure yet. But if you have any good ideas, I’m all ears. (oh, and I’m also looking for a new way to ring in my biggest birthday yet now that I’m no longer planning to win me a shiny medal that week).
And just like the inevitable scratches on my boat, I’m sure I’ll continue to encounter a variety of bumps as I continue paddling–canceled races, bad weather, damaged boats, etc. But if I was gonna let the challenges stop me, I’d never have gotten back in the canoe on that memorable first race…