Chapter 3: “To Plop or not to Plop…that is the question”
The 7th Annual Slocum Regatta Challenge was held on Saturday October 6, 2012. The sunny morning became an increasingly windy day as it progressed towards its noontime finish. After expending a great deal of energy in my late morning race, my cohort of paddlers and I were inhospitably greeted by gusting winds and a quartering one foot short chop as we navigated the sandbar a hundred yards before the beach launch site. The total distance from launch site to the start/finish line is about a 1/3 of a mile. The only saving grace was the refreshing spray off of your bow as you pounded over that set of waves.
In Chapter Two, I wrote about the elusive “Plop” as a way to increase the experience of “mindfulness” while at the same time decreasing those demons of self-doubt that challenging conditions evoke for me. The question posed was essentially this. ”Will my time be slower or faster than in past years and will the overall experience be more or less enjoyable”.
At the age of 62, my time for 2012 was 22:10, in 2011 it was 22:52 and in 2010 my time was 22:23. 2010 was a windy year, 2011 was fairly quiet and 2012 provided windy conditions once again. I paddled a rotomolded (plastic) Boreal Design Baffin in 2010 and a kevlar Boreal Design Alvik in 2011 and 2012. The Baffin and Alvik are both sea kayaks and the Baffin is a somewhat faster kayak. So, there are the statistical facts, the empirical evidence and the physical experience that it takes my body a little longer to recover each year.
During the four weeks leading up to the regatta I was able to get out on the water about 1.5 times per week. I never paddled for more than one hour and tried to complete at least one training interval of at least 15 minutes during each outing. My plan was to gradually increase not only my ability to focus but also my cadence. In the last two weeks, I could comfortably push myself for twenty minute intervals where my only focus was to increase my cadence while still making nearly every stoke a “plop” rather than a “splash”. It actually proved to be not that difficult a personal challenge once I was able to get in that mental groove of the “Plop” being my silent mantra.
This year’s goal of being more mindful about the moment I was presently in without imposing any judgments upon that experience and of seeing what happened was met. My time was faster, the experience seemed to be of a much shorter duration and the experience was more enjoyable. It became one of those life experiences that mark how you approach kayaking as your life moves forward. In many ways, being on the water can be a wonderful metaphor for experiencing life and the challenging conditions we all encounter. That is clearly beyond the scope of this mini-series, but perhaps the most important take away of all.