Monday, 12 June 2017

First canoe marathon event

The International Canoe Federation claims that "the sport of Canoe Marathon is a true test of a paddlers tactics, endurance and athleticism". While I'm not in this league to experience a 'true test', I did do my first canoe marathon event yesterday, with my friend Sylvi, the same teammate with whom I did the canoe triathlon in early May.

Sylvi is older than me so we competed in the masters category and as such had a 16km race distance. The event was held at Wemmerpan, in JHB -  a sweet dam with a two-kilometre lap. Marathon racing includes portaging and so every two laps (4km) we got out for a short portage (50m maybe). I quite enjoyed this as it gave me a chance to loosen my hips and shake out my legs.

The good paddlers out there, including Olympian Bridgitte Hartley left us looking decidedly pedestrian, but nonetheless we paddled well together.

It was about 12C when we got on the water and on the near side it was flat and calm and still (protected by reeds) but on the far end and far side the wind had whipped the water into a chop and it was downright chilly.

The biggest excitement of the morning came in the form of a near swim. We were out on the far end, focused and concentrating on getting through the chop. Two fast kayaks came past us and the combination of the choppy water and their waves saw us tip over. I didn't even see it coming! Well, Sylvi and I were tipped over sideways - so much so that my water was actually coming into my cockpit. I could feel it pouring in over my hip! My paddle had also been caught by a wave and it was almost under the boat, my right hand still clinging to it.

Sylvi, sitting in front of me, was horizontal and because we got tipped with no warning, there wasn't even time for her to brace. Or me. Her paddle was out of the water and in one hand.

As Sylvi says, thank goodness that both of us have some whitewater paddling skills because we essentially rolled out kayak upright using our hips, not paddles. That was so close. Neither of us wanted to swim in that frightfully cold water and we were both so relieved to be upright again. We only had a quarter-lap to go before having to portage, so we could empty the water from our boat.

We had eight laps in total and four portages to make it a good day out there.

We're still uncertain whether we turned correctly at the end - there was an extra bit of a lap to make up the final distance. We were either correct or we did about an extra three minutes of distance.

It was a good event and I'm keen to do more. In summer.

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