Sunday, March 30, 2008

On the Sea Again

After nearly two months off the water, I finally got a chance to paddle!!
PB, who has also been off the water for a while, was looking to paddle and planned a Sunday outing. The Sunday forecast was for sun and minimum wind with air temps in the low 40's. Water temp was also in the low 40's. The plan was to launch out of King's Beach in Newport. It would provide us with some protection from the wind, an open water feel, plenty of rock gardening opportunities, and the possibility of some surf play.
Despite the predicted mild sea state, the paddle was posted as a level 4 because of the exposure and the water temperature. The idea is to discourage marginal paddlers from showing up, while advertising the possibility of a day out for paddlers who have the kit and the skills. While giving winter trips a high level rating can be seen as "elitist," I think it is a good balance between inclusiveness and group safety/harmony. Winter paddling is more risky than summer paddling. Having a paddler along who is not properly equipped or who is borderline in terms of skills puts that much more stress on the rest of the group. It makes what should be a fun day on the water more like work. The only other option to avoid having inappropriate paddlers showing up is to not post paddles at all.
I had spent Saturday moving a friend (It was one of the smoothest moves I've ever done.) and my muscles expressed their disdain as I dragged myself out of bed this morning. It was nothing like the previous weekend, when, after lugging my brother's gigantic furniture around, I was nearly immobilized. As I packed up to leave, my muscles loosened up and by the time I hit the road I was feeling fit and fabulous.
In the parking lot of King's Beach, the wind was bitter and the temperature felt well below the promised low 40's. Fortunately, down by the water the situation was substantially better. The banks provided some shelter from the wind and the sun was warm.
Getting into the drysuits was chilly. It was also a little depressing to find it snugger than I remembered. I even had to readjust my PFD. (No more winter hibernating!!!) Once encased in layers of fleece and goretex, I was even warm in the parking lot.
The group of eight that set out onto the water was extremely strong. It consisted of PB, JS, BH, TM, GP, and myself. Two of JS's instructor friends joined us to fill out the group.
The conditions around this section of Newport are usually bumpy, but today the water was like glass. There was no swell and hardly any chance for excitement. We found what excitement we could by hugging the rocky coastline. There are plenty of outcrops to cozy up against. There was even the occasional rouge swell to keep us on our toes.
Overall, we lallygagged along the coast towards First Beach. It was fine with me. I was excited to simply be on the water. I appreciated the chance to rediscover my kayak-sense without needing it. It was nice to discover that I had not lost too much in terms of "skills." I could still handle the Q-boat pretty well. My forward stroke felt natural and relaxed. Where I noticed the time off the water was in my endurance. After a 9 mile paddle I was beat.
I also noticed it in my roll. At the end of the paddle I did a few rolls. They still worked, but they felt terrible. The first one felt rushed. The second one was a complete disaster. I blew it and barely recovered enough to make the 2nd attempt. The last one just felt creaky and like I was way out of position. It was probably a combination of fatigue, cold water, and the extra padding. I'll take comfort in the fact that even an ugly roll is a successful roll.
With the little taste of salt water, I'm ready for the season to start in full. I sense there will be some excellent paddling in the near future!!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Recovering from the Winter

As the weather begins to warm up, I slowly start moving again and discover just how much fitness I lost during the long hibernation. Each year, I'm amazed at the speed with which things slip and the slowness with which they come back.
I know that part of it is age. When I was in my 20's and early 30's, the recovery periods was hardly a blip. I'd notice some soreness for a week, maybe two, and then I'd be right back in the groove. Any extra padding would just melt off once the sun started shining and temperatures hit the 60's.
Now, as 40 lurks just around the corner, it is a real recovery period. The soreness hurts and it promises to last for a month (or two). The only groove I'm likely to slip into any time soon is the one on the couch. The extra padding has built fortifications and is fighting the eviction notices.
It has taken three weeks of regular sessions on the bike trainer to get back to the point where I can last the 30 minutes recommended by the doctor. Moving furniture around resulted in an immobilizing neck kink that lasted for days. In an effort to loose weight, I'm actually forced to suffer through non-fat, sugar free lattes. I'm feeling afraid to put the Q-boat in the water for fear that I won't be able to make it go - at least not very far.
I shouldn't be too surprised by any of this. Plenty of people warned me that this is what happens to people as they age. I listened and understood. Yet, I always believed that they were talking about when you were really old. I certainly didn't, and hopefully won't for much longer, feel like I was older. 40 isn't old. Maybe 50 is old....
So now I must work at recovering from a few months of winter slumber. Hopefully, I will remember this next winter and not slumber for a few months. The indulgence in morose winter doldrums is just not worth non-fat, sugar free lattes, the hours on the bike trainer, or the pain.
I'm looking forward to regaining a semblance of fitness in the next few weeks. Then I can start working on learning some more of those freaky Greenland rolls and putting some miles under the Q-boat's keel.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Practice

I've got a number of things I do to cope with stress and help them keep things in focus. These activities run the gamut from eating to watching TV to biking to writing to kayaking.
In some company, these activities are called practices. They must be practiced regularly for maximum benefit. Only through regular participation can one find some sort of balance.
Because they require regular practice, some of these activities are more destructive than helpful. TV and eating provide good short term escapes. They are easy and provide immediate relief. However, over the long haul, they are ineffective and potentially destructive. Unfortunately, because they are so easy, these are the practices I turn to when things become overwhelming. These are also the ones I turn to when other outlets appear closed off and I cannot see another approach.
The practices that I find most rewarding and most helpful over the long haul require work. One is weather dependent. Kayaking is my yoga. It provides me an outlet for physical energy, challenges my balance, gives me space to think, and forces me to remember the connection between my mind and my body. Biking, to a lesser extent, also provides me the same benefits. Writing forces me to reflect on my inner life, forces me to clarify my thinking, forces me to remember that words have power, and forces me to remember that others are not mind readers.
The last few weeks have been tough for getting the maximum benefit. The weather spirits have been cranky and keeping the kayak in the garage. Work has been devouring all of my writing energy. (Writing technical documentation does not count as writing.)
I did get the bike trainer set up. However, spinning away in the basement staring at the 60's wood paneling is not ideal.
Now that the sun is shining more, perhaps the weather spirits are happy again and I can get the toys out of the garage!!!
Until then, I'll just have to keep writing....

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I think that daylight savings time is a dumb idea. The reasons proffered up for its existence are mostly bunk. In fact they did a study recently that showed that DST does not create energy savings; it causes a net gain in energy consumption.
I don't, however, let my dislike of the idea get in the way of my enjoyment of the extra hour of daylight in the evening. I get tired of going to and coming from work in the dark. I also hate the fact that winter paddles have to be shortened because it gets dark so early. The extra hour makes winter paddling much less of a rush job.
The end of the winter is in sight. The light of day is burning away the dark days.
In a few short weeks, RICKA will plan the summer paddles. The local pond will be warm enough for some quick weekend (possibly even after work) practice sessions. Can you feel it?