When I was a competitive Sprint kayaker, Autumn was always the time for long distance races. Nationals was over, the sprint season was done, and you could have fun and take some low-pressure risks. I was never a great starter and had decent endurance, so I always liked these races. They were ‘sprint style’ long distance, so they were never longer than 10km (often 6km) and there were never portages. Usually they were laps around a sprint course, and you’d do K-1 in the morning and K-2 in the afternoon (and it would rain and you’d be glad to be paddling hard and not cold waiting on the beach).
It has been nice to come back to kayak racing while in Sweden, and our local club is really lovely. Graham has been paddling most mornings since it has been light enough to do so, I paddle 2-4 times per week and in a far less structured way. So I wasn’t sure I felt up for it when we were invited by the club president to compete in the 2021 Swedish national long distance championships, but since everyone else was doing it, I said yes. Luckily the location was a lovely little lake with no motorboat traffic, and the weather was a very familiar 17 degrees with drizzle and occasional wind. It ended up being a nice event and I got to meet some new people from other clubs. One strange thing: although gender equality is really big in Sweden, there were lots of premier and masters men competing and relatively few women. I was the only masters-category woman, so they put me in with the premier group (the under-23s). Cue downturned corners! I felt a bit like a Grandma on the start line (or at least like a mom, which I was FULLY old enough to have been Mom to any of my competitors). It ended up a little better than I thought, lots of bumps to work out but I did see some of the other competitors, at least. Saturday we did short track which was 3.6km with 3 portages at the beach, and Sunday was 20km (!!) with 5 portages.
Swedish Nationals was definitely the highlight of the 2021 ‘long distance season’, but we also had a little tune-up race at our local lake a week before, and the season’s ‘denoument’ the weekend following which was a 13km tour of our local lake with (only!) 2 portages.
At Swedish nationals they had colour commentary running during the races, and they posted on YouTube the shoreline video for Saturday and Sunday. The Saturday was great for Graham and he won handily, whereas I struggled with the portages and ended up getting passed as I emptied my boat. Sunday our fortunes reversed, I made fewer mistakes on the portages and the longer water time was more to my advantage. Graham had a bit of a spill getting back into his boat on Sunday, which cost him some distance. I recommend scrubbing through the video below to get to the parts where athletes come into the beach. You can really see the difference that good hop-in/out portage skills make! Something to work on for next year. On Saturday my race started at 3:18 in the video below, Graham started after that.
On Sunday my event started at 58:15 in the video below, and Graham started after that. He ended up passing me on the beach, so there is some fun overlap to see in that race.