Some random delights from my longest, toughest, outrigger race ever:
–My teammates were amazing! We had a coed crew of 6 girls and 3 guys. We sync-ed together far better than we’d expected, with everyone’s timing being excellent. I paddled the race rather than steering. It was a huge change for me to slip into a different role, but I wanted to just paddle hard and not have to think (so much of steering is in your head), which ended up working well.
–I flubbed one seat change (where you’re dropped into the water by the support boat and then ‘leap’ into the canoe to fill the seat of someone who jumps out just seconds before). It was near the end of the race and I was exhausted, not to mention that the bruising on my leg under my knee was so gnarly that I couldn’t keep using it as a fulcrum point (typically, you hook one leg over the side to help get you in). Next time, I will be stronger & more ready. :)
–My novice coach’s canoe was close to ours for much of the race (she was racing with a Masters Womens team). Everytime she passed by in the chase boat I felt such a thrill. This journey that we started together in February–back when I thought getting to the PCH bridge was an accomplishment (that’s like 1/4 mi of paddling)–I can’t believe how far I’ve come in these past few months!
–The day was overcast–a thick marine layer–and temps were in the mid-70s. The ocean water was in the mid-70s, too. It felt so remarkable to be out there in that huge expanse of blue. Each time I was rotated out of the canoe and had to swim back to the support boat I would ask for a bit of extra time to swim and float. It felt so good to my aching muscles and just felt cosmically right to be carried by the swells.
–The island wasn’t visible until the last 8 miles, when the edge of the cliff started appearing out of the mist. It was ethereal–the stuff of fairy-tales. I won’t forget the beauty of that. Ever. By that point I didn’t care what our place was in the race anymore, I just wanted to get there!
–After we landed and retrieved our belongings, I realized that I needed some help figuring out how to make my connections–to get into Avalon and to get to the airport that sits up on a high cliff in the center of the island. A teammate flagged down a nice guy driving a golf cart and he ever-so-willingly gave me a lift to town (it was one of those moments where the kindness of strangers absolutely bowls me over). Then I got to the shuttle stop and had about 30 min to change into dry clothes and find some food (both relatively easily accomplished and I should also say how grateful I am for the extremely large & clean disabled bathroom stall that I found. I had to completely remove my beach leg to dump the inches of ocean water that I was carrying in my socket. And there’s nothing nicer than having a nice space with grab bars for accomplishing the relatively complicated task of peeling off layers of wet clothes, removing pegleg, and then putting everything back on again!)
–As I’d been told, the ride up to airport was as precarious as one could imagine–a one lane road climbing high. We saw the island bison, survived some hairpin turns with oncoming vehicles, and every minute I kept looking out at the big blue ocean and knew that I’d just paddled that. What an amazing feeling!
–Originally I’d planned to ride the ferry home from the race, but Laura & Graham told me that they’d love to pick me up by plane(!). I’ve never been in a plane that small, but how could I turn down such an offer(!). Even though the clouds were rolling in in a rather dramatic way by the time they landed, all went well (Graham’s landing skills are excellent, I must say!). And, the views!! Laura let me borrow her digital camera during the flight so hopefully I’ll be sharing a bit of that with you soon!
–Flying in over the coast of California I saw various harbors & bays–from Marina del Rey, on down. It felt so satisfying to reflect on the races that’ve taken me all up and down the coast this past year.
—People. I did it. Or rather, we did it. Thank you to everyone who has aided, supported and been patient with me this past year. For teammates who’ve been so willing to jump into my boat, for the prosthetists who crafted my extra-special beach leg, for coaches who challenged me to work harder each practice, to friends who listened to me yammer on about paddling, and to Sharine for introducing me to the world of the outrigger(!). But most especially to John, who is right now cooking up a protein-heavy omelet breakfast for his uber-achy pilgrimgirl.
PS: As for the ginormous bruise behind my knee…I am naming her Catalina :)