Category Archives: Paddling

Another long paddle

Mark, Randy and I getting ready for workout part II.
Mark, Randy and I getting ready for workout part II.

This Saturday I went on another long paddle. It was longer, a little more intense, and we also went out of town to Beaver Creek.  Fewer people lining up for a long paddle today since Alex got called into work, so it started out with Randy and I and then Mark swapped out with Randy for the rest. Next weekend is a race in Lumsden.  At 2 hours, that will feel pretty short compared to the last 2 weekends!

On our way up the river, we saw a family of beavers. We startled most of them, but one held his ground and stared us down. Normally I would think this was cute, but in light of recent beaver news, it is just unnerving. There was also an osprey pair, a bunch of goslings, and some crazy ducks that looked like wood ducks, but I don’t think they live here.

There must be 15 bebe goslings here!
There must be 15 bebe goslings here!

Loong paddles

Still no photos!  I’ll remember to bring my camera one day.

The days are warm and long, and there are enough keen people around to do some ACTUAL marathon training.  This Saturday Mark, Frank, Alex and I set out for a 5-hour paddle.  We decided to take laps of the city so that we could paddle with others, pick them up and drop them off at the dock.  Altogether we had 4 other join us for sections: Ann, Randy, Rick, and Leann.

Mostly I tired to take it easy, stay relaxed, and wash-ride.  I started out in the stern which I found a bit tiring since I still muscle my steering strokes.  But later I was in the front with Alex in the stern and that was much easier.  We took it easy enough that were were able to do some sprinting through the shallows in the last 40 minutes. It’s nice to know I can do it, but I think next time I will try to go a little harder.  We took a few breaks at the dock, and stopped for water and snacks a few times, but not more than 20min over the whole 5 hours.  I’m not sure what our average speed was – I’ll need to get a GPS app for that.

Afterwards we headed to our place for lasagne and ice cream while we watched the Au Sable river marathon race and felt like maybe we were only halfway (or 25%?) to being badass.   I was pretty hungry after all that; I can only imagine what the Au Sable paddlers are eating.

Training Camp

On the May long weekend I was invited to a ‘ladies’ paddling weekend’ in Regina hosted by Fiona.  She had invited some of her American friends to come up, and there are several fast ladies at the Regina club, so it was quite a group.  It was mostly women, but there were also some mixed boats with some of the local guys. Sorry no pictures (wise not to rbing a camera in the boat), but Fiona said she’d send me some so I’ll post them when I get them.

Although I have been on the water since mid-March, crappy weather prevented very long paddles and it took so long to warm up after that I only recently started paddling twice a day for a few days per week.  As a result, I was not as well-prepared for a super-volume weekend.  …and volume it was, along with adventurous routes and skill-building.  Friday I paddled with Fiona in their local creek, and got feisty leading upstream to the weir, wondering if we could get up it.  Fiona thought the drop was too steep and it was right, but I made a silly mistake steering us out of it and we went swimming. 😛  Luckily Fiona was very patient and good-natured about it; we got back in and paddled a bit more.

Saturday we went out on the creek again, with me in the bow with Carina from Boston. We portaged around the weir, then put in and tried to wiggle under the bridges we came too.  The first one was a disaster.  Generally you can lean forward under a bridge, unless it is really too low for you to bend double.  In those cases you need to lean back over the canoe and turn your head sideways to save your visor, sunglasses, nose, and teeth.  Although I am generally risk-averse, I have never been afraid of bridges.  You can’t paddle underneath them in that position, so I try to paddle hard up to them and then paddle hard when I can sit up again.  I did that this time, but in my enthusiasm to get going again I sat up fast and wiggled the canoe.  Carina reflexively sat up too, but since she was in the back she was still under the bridge – POW!  She was a real trooper about it, a big deal since she has like 4 degrees up in that head.  We ended up doing really well with the next bridges and the portages, and led the group for a while.  We headed back to gobble some lunch and stretch, then back out for afternoon session downstream at Wascana trails.  This was a VERY technical rapids course, so I was in the bow with Mike.  Good thing too, since it would take some skills to guide us down as I don’t read the water that well.

“Watch our for that rock, Catherine”

“What ro…BANG”     Seriously, all I could see was waves.  Hopefully this gets better in the future.  It was fast, but a bit hairy at times and a little hard on the boat.  You’d think it would be easy to go downstream, but the steering strokes are pretty muscular so I was sore by the end.

Sunday we went on an out and-back in Lumsden, starting upstream and then turning around.  I got plenty of scratches and cuts as Carina and I stuck to the edge-eddies going upstream, the best of which was a tick beaver-gnawed branch that stuck me in the ribs, broke off, and STAYED THERE.  I took a few strokes to clear the snag, took one stroke off to pull it out, and then kept paddling.  I think I must have looked like a super-hero viking, but I was trying not to cry and didn’t want to stop.  Overall this was a good paddle too, Carina and I stayed (mostly) with the mixed boats, and we were very aggressive in our strategy and lines.  This came back to bite us when we went for a swim, but overall we were both happy with it and the water was not too cold.  We were feeling too sore and tired to get excited about another paddle on Sunday, so we decided to do something for recovery.  I would have walked through fire to get to a hot tub, but instead we decided to do yoga in the backyard.  Since I have led yoga before, I was going to do some some gentle and lazy yin, with adaptations for the less flexible folks (no hand stands, no balancing postures, no cirque de soleil shit).    Instead we did a P90X DVD that was power yoga – and not the easy kind!  But I didn’t went to wuss out so I stood at the front of the room (6 people behind me) and did 9 million chatarongas.  Giant greedy dinner followed, then early bedtime.

Monday we headed out for a long downstream run on Wascana River to the Qu’appelle.  This was over 3 hours of very pushy turns and eddies, and there is no easy steady with this group – it was sprint to the next corner EVERY DAMN TIME.  I don’t like to be passed, so despite my desire for a lazy float down the river I ended up sprinting a lot and feeling really done by the end.  I was hungry, but only if I could lay down and have someone pour nutritive slurry in my mouth (a fork was just too much).  I thought I would head home then, but after a good lunch was convinced to stay and do a row on the lake in a Voyageur-style row-paddle boat.  It was pretty fun, and pretty low-key with no sprinting.

Although tired, I was in a great mood, well-fed, fully recreated, and ready to crank the tunes for the 2.5 hours back to Saskatoon.  I stopped by superstore while I still had the car (flour and laundry soap just suck on the bike), and got home and unloaded by 10:00PM.  I missed Tuesday morning ladies’ paddle (fancy that), but was back to boot camp Tuesday night and then 06:00 and 18:30 paddle Wednesday.

The total volume for the weekend was about 13 hours, not including the 90-min ‘restorative’ ashtanga yoga on Sunday.  I was feeling happy but pretty run-down.  I didn’t realize how much so until I weighed myself at the gym on Tuesday night: I lost 3 kilos  at that camp!  No wonder I felt a little crappy.



Easter Paddle

The docks, waiting on the shore for warmer days
The docks, waiting on the shore for warmer days

So it wasn’t the best day for paddling, but given how long winter has been and how I am kind of sick of skiing by now it seemed like a good option. Paddling buddies Mike, Fiona, and Kenzie came up from Regina to visit family in Saskatoon for Easter, but came early enough for a paddle.

The paddle starts and ends with a portage over snow mountain, then put in on an ice shelf
The paddle starts and ends with a portage over snow mountain, then put in on an ice shelf

It was actually ok once we got going, but it is pretty chilly and so on definitely needs the right gear (and a drybag of emergency clothes, just in case).

Mike, Fiona, and Kenzie, born Saskatchewaners and used to this type of thing.  Look at those smiles!
Mike, Fiona, and Kenzie, born Saskatchewaners and used to this type of thing. Look at those smiles!

Nothing motivates a person to cut down on splashy entry quite like sub-zero temperatures.

Graham being tough in C-1 by the power plant outlet that keeps (half) the river open
Graham being tough in C-1 by the power plant outlet that keeps (half) the river open

Rookie Race

Mixing it up off the start line… not bad for somegenuine rookies

Last weekend, after being away for about a month, I did a marathon canoe Race in Craven on the Qu’Appelle River. This was the season-ender ‘rookie race’, where each boat needs to have a first-year novice in the boat. I qualify as a rookie, but since I have paddled and raced so much I didn’t think that was fair, so I recruited a local fellow to paddle the race with me. Dave and I paddled together throughout the summer, and he improved a TON over the summer! We had a good race on a slow, very twisty river with a lot of traffic. We didn’t win, but came in around the middle of the pack. Since rookies generally paddle with an experienced stern person, having a rookie stern person was a bit of a disadvantage on such a technical course. However, Dave is stronger and more skilled than a lot of the rookies, and he held on really well for the whole 100-minute race. (So did I, considering I paddled twice in the month before the race). 😉

Tired but happy at the end of the race

Outrigger World Championships


This is the V-1, a rudderless version of a single outrigger that requires a lot of skill to steer. Will Graham regain his title as ‘fastest haole’?

Today is Graham’s first day of competition at the Va’a World Championship race in Calgary.  He went to the 2008 event in Sacramento but missed the 2010 one in New Caledonia because we were in Sweden.  This year he has been training in Saskatoon in Marathon boats and in outrigger only when he was in Vancouver.  He also took on the Team Manager role for Team Canada and because the event is in Canada there is a VERY big team.  He has been doing a great job and I look forward to seeing his results, especially with the promising OC-6 crew.  Good luck Graham!

Marathon Canoe Nationals

Fields of sunflowers in southern Manitoba.

This weekend I went to the Canadian Marathon Nationals in Winnipeg. Marathon Nationals is a LOT smaller and more casual than sprint Nationals, and you don’t need to qualify to enter so it was perfect for a rookie like me. The drive was the same as to Selkirk in the Spring, but now we could see ripe crops and harvest instead of seeded fields.

Loads of Plastex boats in one of the 4 boat bays of the Winnipeg boathouse. Down the river is the Rowing boathouse, about the same size but with a big upstairs.

There is some overlap between sprint and marathon in Manitoba, so I got to see lots of folks I haven’t seen for a long time, including coach Jerome (or Jaroslav as I was first introduced a long time ago) and former National Team Kayaker Dave. Good times! They hosted a nice Saturday night get together at their boathouse with pizza, major salads and beer. Unfortunately for me the beer was served before the pizza arrived… so I drank a couple, talked some shit about stand-up paddle boarding and then took a dare to paddle one up the river. All was well and only minor blood was shed when the 7-foot paddle bounced off a wave and popped me in the mouth. This actually didn’t hurt and I didn’t notice until someone pointed it out later. Ooops!

I remember the Manitoba team pulling up in this van at my very first inter-provincial regatta in Calgary in 1993. The Van de Manitoba still going strong almost 20 years later!

The races went pretty well, so I was mostly satisfied. Saturday I was fortunate to paddle a mixed ‘pro class’ boat with experienced and feisty Milan. I need to do some more chin-ups so we can keep up to superstars Mike and Fiona Vincent, but as it was we came 3rd and overall this was a good performance. Later that day I paddled the ‘Stock race’ with Milan’s wife Nancy. They both know the river really well and steered great lines. Nancy and I challenged some of the Men’s crews, we were the first women and maybe 4th or 5th overall? Sunday I paddled the women’s pro-class race with often-partner Ann. This race was super challenging; we had a lot of bumping off the start and some boat control and wash-riding issues. It seemed like there was easy water for us out there, but as it was we had to gut it out with some brute force. We stayed with the women’s leaders for maybe 1km, then fought for 2nd/3rd for the rest of the race. We had to fight back from some bad corners and it came down to a sprint that was not decided until the last 10m. I guess my decade+ of sprint training (distant though it may be) surfaced somehow and this one went in our favour. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some pictures soon, there seemed to be cameras out for the start and finish (and thankfully not for the paddle board).

Marathon paddling

One of the things I looked forward to doing in Saskatchewan is marathon canoeing – a part of my heritage!

The South Sakskatchewan River where we have been paddling.

Graham has already competed several times and has some plaques to show for it…  I on the other hand have only transferable paddling skills and good breeding.  Graham was patient enough to paddle with me a couple of times, and even let me steer.  I also got to paddle with one of the club’s veterans, Ann, who seemed happy enough to paddle with me up front while she steered us down the river in the light of the full moon – big and orange for October.  One day I will learn to find the fast water and washride like I did in kayak, but until then I will probably be paddling the front of any women’s crews.

Last Wednesday night Graham went in MC-1 for the first time, and still challenged for the front of the group against all the tandem crews. Not bad for the first time out! He may need a few tennis balls before the year is up. This past week I have sterned with two other fellows. Both tended to throw out some unrequested draw strokes, I guess they don’t like my line? Hopefully I will get better and inspire more trust in my paddling partners so they don’t try to steer from the front.

World Championships Videos

Here is a selection of videos of the races in Tampa. Double click to watch them full screen as they don’t fit in the blog width.

Premier Mixed 200m Final
Lane 4 – Silver medal

Premier Mixed 500m Final
Lane 2 – Silver medal

Premier Mixed 2000m
Boat 8 – Gold medal

Premier Mixed 1000m
Lane 4 – 4th place

Premier Open 200m Heat
Lane 4 – 2nd Place

Premier Open 200 Final
Lane 5 – 5th Place

Premier Open 2000m
Boat 8 – 4th Place

Paddling in Stockholm

Vinn under the sexy bridge

On Saturday I made a trip with paddling veterans Vinn and Mati to Stockholm to paddle kayaks around the islands. Forecasts weren’t so good, but the weather ended up being fantastic so there was tons of traffic and tossing waves but we had great views of all the islands and beaches (shout out, långholmen!)

Ready to head out
rafted up
Ice cream break!!

It’s really true that you get a different impression of the city from the water, and paddling through the waterways and exploring the coves I found a lot more in the way of paddle culture than I ever knew existed. Here is a selection:

K-1 in Sverige
DB in Sverige
Outrigger in Sverige!
The local boathouse
Trainer K-1s out in the crazy waves