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Posts Tagged ‘kayak race report’

Mid-race going under the bridge to Quinsippi Island

It’s been a hectic week, but I’ve just been dying to write a race report from the 1st (or 63rd) Annual Quincy 5 Miler Hand Powered Boat Race!

Justin and I before the race.

The Quincy 5 Miler is a revival of a race first held in 1872 along the same route as we traveled last weekend.  Quincy, once known as a national rowing powerhouse, hosted the event 62 consecutive years until the race was discontinued because of transfer of interest to louder, more motorized modes of transport along the river.

Ray Heisey, of Portland, Oregon by way of Quincy, saw the opportunity to partner with Kevin Dempsey of Kayak Quincy and several other local organizations (Including me, here at Adventure Foot) to revive the race.

When I was approached about the race this spring, I agreed to help with publicity and prep work, but I told the team that I was unable to help on race day itself, because I really wanted a chance to put my paddle to the water and see what I could do in competition.  Here is a shortened version of one of my KHQA TV interviews regarding the Ladies Night Kayak events I hosted in the run up to the race.

Safety paddler Ryan Craven.

So that brings us to race day!

I woke up to weather that simply couldn’t have been nicer.  It was cool, the breeze was blowing lightly, and as I drove up to the Knapheide Landing at the Canton Chute Public Use Area, the backwaters of the Mississippi looked like glass.  In the grassy clearing near the ramps, over 70 kayaks, canoes, race shells, rowboats and more were laid out in kaleidoscopic rows.   I made my way over to my 17’ Valley Avocet kayak and proceeded to ready my boat for the race.

My husband and our friends Ryan and Adam had volunteered to be safety crew for the race, so while I got ready, they helped other boaters ready their crafts and worked on adorning their own kayaks with orange safety flags.

After a brief safety meeting, all of the boaters made their way down the ramps and took their places out in the starting area.  The safety boaters separated the racers from the recreational paddlers, and after some directions about the route from the loudspeaker, there was a count of three and the race had begun!

To assure an exciting start for the television cameras, we all took off quite fast and water was splashing everywhere.  A 5 mile race is a decently long way to go on a kayak though, so everyone slowed down not far from the start line and began to find their groove.

Dan Vale and I before the race. Dan paddled SUPER fast and will be in the competitive category next year!

My head wasn’t really in the game at the start- I spent a lot of time adjusting my foot braces and just kind of paddling along straight ahead.  Most of the boats were behind me, so I just took my time.  About a half mile into the race though, the course turned left on to the main channel of the river and I first noticed that there was another female paddler out in front of me.  In fact, she was way out in front of me (far enough that I was only about half sure it was a girl out there).  I’d estimate the distance at about 300 yards or better.   I was kind of shocked to see that someone had opened a lead up that was that large in the first half mile of the race.

Now listen, in a foot race, it’s never really in my nature to get competitive about it.  I’m a slow-and-steady runner who just tries to enjoy the experience.  I’m never even close to contention for placing in races and such so really racing anyone doesn’t often cross my mind.  It was almost a surprise to me when I felt a surge of competitive spirit and decided I was going to catch that girl.

I gave myself a pep talk thinking- “Hey, this is my home water where I paddle all the time.  It’s just a stone’s throw from the place I’ve spent most of my life.  And moreover, I don’t get a chance to be competitive in a race for speed ever…this is my race to lose.”  So with the new goal of, “Catch the woman in the blue boat with the black hair,” I really set to paddling hard.

With no distractions, I concentrated on form. I worked on pulling with my core instead of just my arms and using my brace leg to add power.   I paid special attention to evening out my strokes to maintain my line and none of the drifting off to the left that plagues my recreational paddling seemed to be a problem.  Normally I do a lot of daydreaming and bird-watching from my kayak, but this time around I focused on strokes, watched each paddle pull through the water and even counted sets of four to myself.  It was exhausting.

Right after the win!

Two miles and at least twenty minutes of focused paddling later, and I had to have a break.  I sat my paddle across my deck, grabbed a drink of water and as I stretched my sore shoulders, I realized I had really closed down the distance between the blue boat and myself.  She was just about to turn into the backwater area we call the “Cut” which leads to the regular bay, and I was only 3 boat lengths behind.

With renewed energy, I went back to paddling and, because I was familiar with the route, I took a better line in the curve and passed the other female boater before the Cut emptied into the bay near the Quincy Ski Club ramp.

And that, my friends, is where the wind really picked up.  The breeze out of the South had turned into a steady wind, and with little to block it, the paddling got really difficult.  The other female boater was only a couple of boat lengths behind me, so I decided on a risky strategy.  I figured that paddling in the shallow water near to the island on the west side of the bay would offer the most protection from the wind.  It would add some distance since we would have to cross the finish line on the east side, but I was hoping that avoiding paddling into the direct wind would help me to have some energy left near the finish line.

Kristen and I after the race.

Sensing the end was only a mile away, the other female paddler and I were suddenly and simultaneously sprinting toward the finish.  I was already very worn out from the struggle to close the distance and catch her in the beginning, and she closed the lead I had opened up surprisingly fast.  I dug deep and decided that I wasn’t going to be happy with second place and I got down to business.

I didn’t really look up at her much- I was too worried about my paddling.  My stroke, which in the beginning was fluid and graceful, had become ragged and formless.  I was very aware that my tired muscles were causing me to change what had worked this far, and I’m pretty sure my paddling started to look more like a canoe stroke than a kayak one there towards the end.

We passed the Pier Restaurant and then the Northside Boat Club in rough waves and whitecaps.  I couldn’t believe we were still neck-and-neck.  I spotted the flashing lights of the finish line and ferociously paddled the last few yards until we heard the bullhorn.

I’d won… by half a boat length.

My first trophy since high school??? 🙂

My husband was at the finish along with my friends Jon, Adam and Ryan, and I pumped my paddle in the air once, very excited about the win.  The second place boater (named Kristen, I later found out) and I brought our boats close together and snapped a picture.  We both agreed that without the other, we wouldn’t have pushed so hard.  I’d have never paddled so hard or so fast or so long without someone to really race.  It was awesome!  My finish time was 1 hour, 11 minutes and 15 seconds.  Kristen’s was listed as 15 seconds behind me.

I talked a little with Kristen after the race.  She’d had a baby a few months ago and was just getting back in the swing of racing. She’s done a lot of neat kayak races including an incredible 340 mile Ultra Paddle Race across Missouri.  I guess we’ll put that on the list of things I need to try!  She was an incredible competitor and an amazing paddler.  I was very impressed!

Anyway, the race was super tough, and while I’m stoked to have won first overall female, the thing I’m most proud of is finding out that it’s in me to really RACE!  I realized that even though I’m not in place contention in the 5k/10k/half marathons that I’m entered in this fall, there is enormous satisfaction to be had from just trying to find someone in the race to work hard to close distance on.  Not to necessarily target someone to beat, but to challenge myself to do better than I would have done without a worthy opponent!

After the race I enjoyed a local beer, Quincy Gems IPA, provided by O’Griff’s Pub and Brewhouse, and got my trophy.  “Another Board Company” from Lake St. Louis was at the event, and Adam, Justin, Ryan and I went out to demo some stand-up paddle boards.  I’m going to write a blog about that later…

I had a great time at the revival of the Quincy 5 Miler Hand Powered Boat Race, and am looking forward to seeing this become a Quincy tradition.  I’m also thinking I should look into some other kayak races in the area, because this was a ton of fun.  It goes to show, you never know what excitement is in store when you put your Adventure Foot out the door!

Here’s my KHQA TV Interview after the race!

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