Category Archives: Paddling

One more trip to Florida

Paddling with the group on some swampy alligator-infested rivulet
Paddling with the group on some swampy alligator-infested rivulet

As in the previous two years, I went to Florida for a paddling camp this spring. Unlike the past few years, I took hardly any photos. This year felt a lot more busy leading up to it (and since I’ve been back). Because I’ve been all these places a few times I felt like less of a tourist. I may also have been a bit burned out on writing and communicating and generally using my computer, so I didn’t spend much time taking photos or writing about the days.  Sorry to those of you who like that kind of thing!  Thanks to paddling buddy Chris for taking this photo, perhaps the only one proving I was there.

In retrospect though, it was a great 2(!!) weeks with many highlights:

  • Paddling by dolphins in the bay
  • Frolicking river otters
  • Monkeys and alligators, as per usual
  • No manatees since it was too warm for them in the fresh water 🙁
  • More than 60 hours of water time over 13 straight days of paddling
  • NO BLISTERS!! (thanks erging!)
  • Overall higher level of performance and new skills learned
  • Led yoga sessions with some acro-inspired buddy massage
  • Enjoyed some great dinners made by cabin-mates (thanks Edith!)
  • Had my 37th birthday with a coconut cream pie (thanks guys!)
  • Bought a Mike’s hard lemonade at a gas station (so American) and got CARDED!!!!!!

Awesome Autumn

 

Fall paddling in November
Fall paddling in November

This has been the warmest SK Fall in living memory, and probably the nicest I have had anywhere I’ve lived.  Highs of 20 in September and October, lots of sunny days, no snow or frost to speak of even deep into November.  Since the record cold for these months is something like -25 C, it feels like we dodged a bullet.  I think Sask kids didn’t even need their snowsuits for Halloween this year!  It means some winter sports folks are a bit bummed, but although it is pretty dark I have been paddling on the weekends, and no gloves or hats yet! It would have been great to have a fall paddling shot with golden leaves in the background, but they blew off in a storm weks ago. Instead you can enjoy this photo of single-shirt, no glove paddling in mid- November.

One more OCN shot

Another pro photog shot of the Pas race at OCN in August.  Oh, to wear a T-shirt while paddling!   Mid-change is not the most charismatic part of the stroke, but I am in good company here.
Another pro photog shot of the Pas race at OCN in August. Oh, to wear a T-shirt while paddling! Mid-change is not the most charismatic part of the stroke, but I am in good company here.
One more paddli

OCN was a while ago now, but as the days get colder and shorter its nice to remember the summer!

Straight outta OCN

I think our 'lead' is actually just the anlge and we are wash-riding here.
I think our ‘lead’ is actually just the angle and we are wash-riding here.

‘OCN’ is Opaskwayak Cree Nation, the reserve on the bank of the Saskatchewan River opposite the Pas in Manitoba (South of Flin Flon for those who feel disoriented.) A 6-hour drive from Saskatoon, just getting to the Pas is a northern adventure. I have heard about the canoe races there for years and always wanted to go. This year was the 50th anniversary of Treaty Days festival so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Treaty days are an amazing array of sport and cultural events: pow wow and jig dancing, trapper competitions, archery, axe throwing, running, biking, talent competitions, and… canoeing, of course!

Not your typical canoe race
Not your typical canoe race

The canoe race is about 2 hours of racing every day for 3 days, and placing is by sum of times over all the days. The course on days 1 and 3 is 4 laps around bouys on the river in front of the community centre. On day 3 there is one lap then a looooong slog upstream followed by a portage over to a lake and a finish on the lake beach.

The community is small but super friendly and involved in the events. People watched from all along the river bank, cheering and commenting on the action particularly at the bouy turns where a lot of jostling and re-positioning happens. As the first boat down the river containing a woman, we got some ‘you go girl!’ and ‘canoe-girl!’ (and in more romantic gestures I also got invited to the post-race party from what I like to think of as a feminist female-athlete admiring sports fan).

The only sunny day out of 3 racing days produced the nicest photos.
The only sunny day out of 3 racing days produced the nicest photos.

My racing partner Alex and I weren’t sure how things would go, since I don’t have a lot of experience in this type of boat, nor steering the boat from the stern (he has done this race at least 8 times over the years). We trained together in Saskatoon for the last 5 weeks or so, trying our best to train with faster teams. We are lucky in that some of North America’s fastest mixed teams paddle in Saskatoon, so we got beat down and passed and washed out many MANY times. It was a bit discouraging at the time and I certainly wasn’t feeling like a ‘big fish’.

Team photo at the awards
Team photo at the awards

However, I think the experience really honed our skills and fitness, and prepared us to hold on to a peleton of faster boats. We needed all those skills and experiences, and used them to hold onto some really strong men’s teams. At one point we did a strong pull and were in 3rd position, but our overall placing was 5th overall and first in the mixed division. In happy news, the band office kicks in prize money so there was a ‘winners envelope’ for being the first mixed boat, the 5th overall boat, and the 3rd boat from Saskatchewan. Yeeha!

paddle

Women’s Round Robin

Me doing a crossbow draw to get around a bouy.  fiona behind me won the event, and Saska-buddy Edith is in the front of the other boat with Minnesota-Kate, who came second and third respectively
Me doing a crossbow draw to get around a buoy. Fiona behind me won the event, and Saska-buddy Edith is in the front of the other boat with Minnesota-Kate, who came second and third respectively

This last weekend I drove 28 hours (round-trip) to Minneapolis to race the Women’s Round Robin.  I had been looking forward to it since I did the mixed Round Robin last year.  The format is really fun, involves a full day of sprinting with all these new people.  You get to paddle in the front, back, and try to match up with a bunch of different styles and personalities.  With my background in sprint racing and need to learn from new people, it is a really good fit.  It is REALLY demanding mentally and physically, but a good challenge and a fun time with a great group of people (Minnesotans are seriously the best).  When the event was announced back in March I could hardly wait, and I recruited and promoted and encouraged others to come out and do it.

19415707505_a31e778eb2_b

When it came down to the end of June, most of my enthusiasm had evaporated.  I just didn’t really want to go any more.  I didn’t have any appetite to go to Saskatoon Pride, or the free jazz festival concerts, or other summer social things… let alone plan a big trip to do a very hard thing that would require digging deep to stay motivated and on my game.  Luckily the clouds parted and  one of my more organized team mates had room in her car to go down.  I had to rally like a boss/gangsta/champ, but I showed up and performed reasonably.  I wouldn’t say it was my ‘A game’, but overall not bad and I had a few really nice races. For the record, I don’t think my ‘A’ game (or ‘C’ game for that matter) would have changed the end result rankings; it is more about the quality of experience while being there.  19228158508_010bace9c8_b There were some good races but also loads of mistakes, and all the learning that comes along with that and makes the trip worthwhile.  I do wish I’d been a little more sharp to pick up on more of that, but I’ll have other chances.  There are lots of things for me to work on right now, and I don’t have to worry about getting bored.
18793297314_de8a80d85e_b

Now I am back in Saskatoon with not a lot else going on for the summer but our busy (and productive) data collection.  Summer is very short in Saskatoon so it is nice to make the most of it.  I think I will race the Pas (Opaskwayak First Nation Annual Canoe Race), and I’m looking at joining the Rowing Club.  The river is so low and slow it is a good year to learn to row a single, and I think the change would do me good.

 

Ski to Sea Report: 2015 version

Fiona and I  passing these guys, seconds before they hit us.
Fiona and I passing these guys, seconds before they hit us.  

This year I paddled Ski to Sea with a new-to-me racing partner, longtime veteran paddler Fiona Vincent from Regina. We have done a few races leading up to this and paddled together in Florida, but this race was the ‘big deal’.  You can tell because Fiona stenciled our names onto the boat!  We are both normally bow paddlers, so we were almost flipping coins to see who would go in the stern.  Luckily for me, Fiona’s experience on rivers won out and I got to paddle in the bow like I did last year. Fiona also did the run from the road bike to the canoe, something I’ll need to get my butt in gear to do next time (note to self: prioritize knee rehab!).  These choices paid off, and Fiona did a great job of steering us over the swirls down the river.

Reports were that the river was empty and we’d have to run, and if you’d been eating ice cream this winter then too bad for you (or too bad for me, in my case of frequent winter ice cream). However, there was good deep water to be had if you knew where to look – and you weren’t seduced by the idea of taking the shortest distance between two points.  The longer route was often where the ribbon went, so that’s where we went too. The finish was a bit rough, we took a shallow route and spent the last of our arms trying to pop the boat.  We had a bit of a messy exit from the canoe to the final portage, and I (embarrassingly) dropped the boat 6 inches before the finish line due to dreaded ‘claw hand’.  Luckily, the biker already had the chip and was starting his leg.

Results were good, even better than last year which I was pretty happy with. On our mixed team of 5 sports, we were the highest ranking leg (although tied with the male kayaker).  We beat the next women’s crew (local all-stars who know the river well) by 43 seconds and Boundary Bay by almost 6 minutes. We did 2:09 compared to under two hours last year – but we did this on a slow river with a longer run, and this year we ranked 18th out of all teams compared to last year’s 22nd.  Full results here. The photos from the race can be found here, and there is also a cool video filmed by a quad-copter drone:

Manitoba Weekend

The angle shows us behind, and at this moment we probably were.  But we did catch these guys by the finish line.  They beat us the next day, but I don't see any photos of that....
The angle shows us behind, and at this moment we probably were. But we did catch these guys by the finish line. They beat us the next day, but I don’t see any photos of that….

About 2 weeks ago paddling comrade Kenzie asked me to race with him in Manitoba.  I hadn’t really been planning to go, but I was so thrilled to be asked that I looked into flights and rides and boat logistics and then said yes!

Graham found a great deal on a flight from Winnipeg to Saskatoon on Sunday night, so we grabbed it. My buddy Trevor offered to give me a ride there, since he was going anyway, and our boat was going to come in from Regina with Kenzie’s parents.  It turned out I couldn’t get off work early enough on Friday (farm visit) to leave with Trevor so I got a flight to Winnipeg as well.  It also turned out that since I am racing Ski to Sea with Kenzie’s mom Fiona later in the month and she was going to Winnipeg too, I raced both Saturday and Sunday with her.  So the weekend was nothing like I planned, but ended up being really fun and great anyway.  Going with the flow!

The water was super tough the first day, and we struggled a bit with a crummy water depth and twisty slow creek with lots of logs and sticks to hit. That race was in Selkirk on Cook’s Creek.  The next day we had a 40 min warm up down the Assiniboine to the Red River (shout out Brown/Martineau rellies!) and then did a 10km race on the Red split over 3 laps around bouys.  This race was a really interesting mass start, with 1 dragonboat, sprint C-2s, K-2s, K-1s and C-1s as well as a bunch of marathon boats.  It was waves galore!  Happily Fiona was driving and did a great job navigating the fray.  We had a great race in the deeper, faster water and seemed to match up really well.  I am looking forward to Ski to Sea, and ready to defend the Saskatchewan women’s title from last year.

Ideally you want photos to be taken at the that moment of the catch when everything looks extended and long and strong and powerful.  And sometimes, you get one photo and its of you being a little late on a switch.
Ideally you want photos to be taken at the that moment of the catch when everything looks extended and long and strong and powerful. And sometimes, you get one photo focusing on your boat and it’s of you being a little late on a switch. On the bright side, it shows us passing the other boat. 

Marathon paddling camp

March 18-25 I went to a marathon canoe camp in central Florida. Edith and I spent all day flying in either direction, and then spent 5 hours per day paddling the 6 days we were there. Paddling doesn’t take up all the time, so we also made some great dinners, did some yoga, and took naps. It was awesome! I really can’t imagine a more ideal vacation (maybe if Graham came along…) The wifi situation was really sub-standard, so I also had the bonus of hardly doing any work. Sweet!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Me with Mike (I paddled
Me with Mike (I paddled too, even though the photo doesn’t show it)
The gang on the Withlacoochie (true river name)
The gang on the Withlacoochie (true river name)

Last Saska-paddle of 2014

Graham out in the snowy landscape
Graham out in the snowy landscape
Ice on the gloves!
Ice on the gloves!

Sometimes you just know its going to be the last one. Last weekend we went paddling at -4C.  It was a bit miserable, but at least it was sunny.  The ice froze on the boats and we pretty much knew we wouldn’t be back on the South Saskatchewan for a while. Now the river is all jammed up with ice floes and getting thicker every day.  Hopefully we get to ski soon!

Water spray froze onto the spare paddle
Water spray froze onto the spare paddle
Snotsicles!
Snotsicles!
Edith with no gloves!
Edith with no gloves!