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Row for the Cure

Sunday, October 03, 2010
Given two DragonBoat practice sessions under my belt and their need for a warm body, this morning I joined team Shibumi for the Row for the Cure on the Willamette River. This was to be, as I understood it, a roughly 2500 meter endurance race.

8:30 came awfully early in the morning as I braved the Portland mist to head down to the river. Rain was lightly falling as I grabbed my Personal Floatation Device (remember when we just called them "life vests"?) and joined up with the rest of the team. I already had a seat assignment, presumably in the place where I could do the least amount of damage.

Row for the Cure shirt

We warmed up by paddling in a large loop to the starting area near the Hawthorne Bridge, which was, incidentally, closed for maintenance and, with the lift span up, continually beeping as it does. That was fun. Still, our warmup seemed awfully long, to the point that I was getting tired and we hadn't even started yet. Still, since everyone else had vastly more experience than me and a considerable amount of practice doing this, it was probably right for them. We lined up near all manner of other watercraft, as everything from kayaks to outriggers were taking part in this race.

And then we started.

What followed was about eleven and a half minutes of intense paddling as the whole boat surged forward with amazing rhythm while our 20 paddlers propelled the boat forward with incredible power. As we went from the Hawthorne to the Morrison and then headed toward the Burnside Bridge, we started gaining quickly on another boat. We had caught up with them just as we passed under the bridge, but our positioning put us in an awkward place as we looped around the bridge's supports. We got stuck on a wider outside path as other boats all tried to make the turn. Since I was on the side of the boat on the inside of the turn, I took a few seconds to catch my breath as my paddling wasn't needed and my whole upper torso was already burning.

On the return trip we targeted the boat we'd almost overtaken and passed them with ease, powering our way toward the finish line. Again we passed under the Morrison bridge and raced toward the finish line. Apparently, we even finished 2nd in our class of Mixed Dragonboat!

And now? As, I understand, is typical for this sort of thing, I'm tired and sore. It's amazing what just 12 minutes of exertion can do when it's 12 minutes of pushing muscles I rarely use to the limit. I'll be feeling this one for a couple days.

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