Chapter 1: “Summertime, And the livin’ is easy”
Summertime is almost over, but these Gershwin’s lyrics are as familiar as the post paddle bottles of ibuprofen to most every paddler who is fortunate enough to fall into the Masters category for the upcoming Slocum Challenge. Well, actually, that may not be the case for those “just turned 50 yesterday” folks who skew the bell curve of finish times on this two mile closed loop river race in Dartmouth, Massachusetts to be held on October 6th.
This three chapter series of reflections has more to do with appreciating the gift of good health and of being able to partake in the Challenge; than it does with the number of years since one became eligible to be a Masters qualifier. This year also represents a subtle name change from the Slocum River Regatta to the Lloyd Center Regatta- Slocum Challenge. While it is a challenge for all who enter, the notion of challenge carried a slightly different connotation for me last year, when I needed to ask a younger paddler to pin my Race Number to the front of my PFD, because my range of motion is less than it once was.
Part of my challenge involves the dilemma of how much effort to expend and of making peace with a body that chooses not to respond as energetically to the gas pedal being pushed to the floorboards as it did 20+ years earlier, when I started paddling at the age of 40. The age of 40 tends to be a benchmark for many men as it is a time in life when many take a look back and also a look forward.
Regardless of age, whether you are riding in a hilly century or paddling the more epic Blackburn Challenge (the 20mile, circumnavigation of Cape Ann); I suspect that most folks have to make sense of the mental aspect of such endeavors. Do you go out like a jack rabbit knowing at some level that it is not sustainable and cross the finish line at an exhausted crawl or do you pace yourself by starting off too slowly, so that you finish strong.
Either way, there is the mental “face saving” dimension of consoling yourself with: “I could have broke X number of minutes if I went out a bit faster or slower? The question becomes: “Who and what am I competing for or competing against?” Perhaps it is all a bit too existential for a <30-minute paddle. But perhaps not, for it is within these brief moments of time that reside the opportunity to reflect and to be mindful. It is the journey and not the destination that is worth attending to in such endeavors.
…At least that is my story and I am sticking to it.
For me, pacing and exertion have historically been relegated to the barfing barometer, aka ‘The Barf-O-Meter’. But exertion and mindfulness will be the subjects of the second chapter. More to come as the Slocum gets closer.