Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Release Date 10/14/2007
I released this message right before starting the Mayor's Cup kayak race in New York.
The Mayor's cup is a race all the way around the island of Manhattan.
I paddled over from my home in Brooklyn early in the morning so I wouldn't have to fool around with parking and car drop-off logistics.
This turned out to be a good idea. I got warmed-up and stretched-out before the race.
It was cool in the morning waiting for the race to start. I attended the mandatory safety meeting at 8:30, then hung-out in the World Financial Center trying to stay warm while I waited for my start time.
I was in the 2nd heat of the touring class and we were to start at 9:55. I took absolutely everything out of my boat that I didn't need for the race to make it as light as possible. The only "safety" gear I had was a cellphone, a pump.
I put together a wacky assortment of food, and when I got to my boat before the race started one of the other more serious racers made a comment about it. On the deck I had:
package of 2 pop tarts
2 chocolate bars
1 granola bar
1 container of gel
1 can of monster energy drink
1 liter of sports drink that I mixed-up in an old seltzer bottle.
Most of the stuff had been given to me, and I was looking for an excuse to eat and drink it. I got the gel and sports drink when I volunteered to help for a swim race. A friend gave me the pop-tarts. Another friend works for Monster and gave me the energy drink.
I ate the pop tarts and drank the Monster energy drink right before starting, and took one last pee.
I decided to put my pfd on the back deck, since it slightly binds when paddling.
I got a good start, and headed out pretty far into the river to try and catch the current up the Hudson. Almost immediately I got into a hassle with the old men running the USCG Aux safety boat. They told me I was too far out.
I went in a bit, and then argued with them. I could see the first heat ahead and they were even farther out, getting a good ride in the current.
It was windy from the NW going up the Hudson, but I only had to use the skeg a few times. I tried to just compensate with my paddling.
I kept looking at the GPS to see how fast I was going. It helped as I adjusted and fine tuned my paddling stroke. The more I used my body, instead of my arms, the faster the boat went.
One of the other racers was even with me to 23rd St. or so, then I slowly pulled out ahead of him. By the 79th St. Boat basin I was closing in on some guys from the first heat, which left at 9:45, so that made me feel pretty good. I was definitely paddling faster than them. In the Hudson I got speeds of 6 kts, sometimes getting up to 7. Once I surfed a boat wake and went all the way up to 9, but that didn't last.
I knew I couldn't win my touring class, My friends Jeff and Carl are faster, but they were in the first heat. I wanted to beat out a number of the other local paddlers, but I had never tried a race like this, or even tried paddling fast for a long period of time, so I wasn't sure how I would do.
My heart rate was up, but I wasn't sweating too hard. I didn't know if I could keep up the pace for 4 or 5 hours, was I working too hard or not hard enough.
Just before I reached the GW Bridge some of the OC-2 people passed me. I just looked up for one minute, and they were there next to me, seemingly from no where. They were really going fast, and it was very impressive to watch them zoom by.
I entered the Harlem River and checked the tide table I made up for the day. I couldn't see any current on the pilings it seemed to be at slack, which is what the tables predicted. I stayed toward the middle for a while following the straightest course, then moved to the side when the table told me the water was flowing against me.
It also helped to get out of the wind on the side. I tried to stay just one or two paddle widths away from the wall.
I got to the Peter Sharpes Boathouse to get my "split" time, then just paddled on.
Other OC-2 boats passed me, then a tandem with wing paddles inched by. All these guys had started 10 or 15 minutes after me, so they were going a lot faster.
When I was in the Harlem along the seawall I was going at about 4.5 kts. I couldn't really sustain anything faster.
My friends Marcus and Kate passed me when I was working my along the wall. We said a friendly hello. I tried to draft on them for a while, but they were too fast, and their borrowed boat was so nice I was afraid I would damage it if I tired to get close.
More people passed me in the Harlem, and I just kept paddling. I tried not to ever stop paddling, and generally I didn't maybe 2 or 3 times for just 1 stroke to adjust the skeg, but nothing else. I knew the key was to keep going.
The 4 elite leaders passed me just as I was entering the East River. That was really impressive. 4 boats going almost in perfect lock-step. 2 in front, and 2 drafting off of them only a foot or two apart.
As I entered the East River I kept waiting for the current. At one point in the beginning I tried to paddle on the wall because I thought the current was still against me, and I wanted shelter from the increasing wind, but it didn't seem to help, and looked like a lot further, so I decided to make for the center, and try and catch some decent current below Mill Rock.
The current had just changed in Hell Gate, so there wasn't much to help us, and no turbulence to speak of. I've been up there when it is really rocking big standing waves and whirlpools, but there was nothing this morning because it was too soon in the current cycle.
Once I got abreast of Rosevelt Island I did start to see the GPS inching up and I knew I was getting current again.
I had been a little thirsty for a while, but I didn't want to take the time to drink anything. I also didn't want to have to pee because that would have slowed me down more. I had decided to wait to eat and drink when I got in the current, reasoning that was the best place to not be paddling. I ate a granola bar, a chocolate bar, drank some of the crappy tasting sports drink, and ate the gel packet at the North Side of Roosevelt Island.
I had some more drink a little later, and took to aspirin with codeine since things were starting to hurt a bit.
I just barreled down the East River, trying to stay toward the center to get the most current, and take the shortest path.
I saw a few other racers. At one point a double caught me, but they kept stopping to adjust things or eat or pee or something, and they never actually got past me. This seemed odd since they had gained at least 10 minutes on me to get to me, because they started later.
I got good current down the East River, and was feeling pretty good when I finally got to the Williamsburg Bridge, since that is at least "downtown" I knew the end was getting near.
It got kind of rough later down by the Manhattan Bridge. Lots of boat traffic, and a stiff wind against an increasing current.
I didn't have too much trouble with the motor boats, they all seemed to get over on the Brooklyn side for us.
I noticed the SI Ferry pulling out as I got close to the Battery. I got over near the side since I knew the current would be against me in the Hudson. Another ferry was pulling in, but I was able to beat him, but only by a few minutes. I would have sucked to have to stop for him.
I hit a fishing line along the Battery, but just went underneath.
A SOL ferry was pulling out, but I just scooted by him as he left.
I did make the NY Waterways ferry wait for me, and they were a little pissed, but I have waited for them plenty of times over the years, so I figured it was my turn.
I got right on the wall for the ride up the Hudson back to the North Cove because the current was substantial. I blew by another guy from the first heat because he was out in the middle of the current. Eric Stiller of Manhattan Kayak gave me some good words of encouragement, as I started up the Battery.
I got into the North Cove for a time of 4 hours 17 minutes. This turned out to be only 13 minutes off the leader, Jeff, so I felt pretty good about that.
I did the obligatory victory roll then changed and relaxed on a bench to wait for everyone else.
I couldn't stay till the end to get my medal and prize money because I had to get back to the Boathouse before it got dark. I was also starting to hurt as my muscles started cramping up.
A few days later now I feel ok, just a little sore. My shoulder which bothers me from time to time was fine, and the pain is in all the right places telling me I was paddling with my back, neck, and legs. Just a bit in the arms.