Friday, July 19, 2013

Stroke the Slough - Part 2 - The Race

Preparing for a race is no easy thing, especially when you have to account for your co-pilot, amazing wife that will be jamming beside us on a bike on the parallel trail,  and make sure that we have all of the necessary gear to make it happen. It can actually mentally fry you....but in our case - Coli made a checklist to help us all stay on task.

Making sure we get to the venue early is also something that is necessary but not always easy to achieve. Parking and loading are not always your friends during a race event. Usually when we arrive - I take care of the board unload, and Coli installs the fins, transports the paddles, and makes sure that they are nicely waxed (since sunscreen and sweat work well together as a paddle droppin lubricant). 


Coli had a very special "Floral" Bat Click-it fin made for her by uncle Larry Allison that she was very excited to use for the race. Larry's Click-it system makes it a breeze for Coli to install and remove the fins allowing her to be an active part of setup and breakdown.


Checking in is always fun - we get our numbers scribbled on our limbs, we get to scope out the competition, slap high fives with our friends and get stoked!!

Getting to the start was interesting. We had to cross a busy bike path with our boards, get into a very schloppy muddy shallow area, hop on, then get into position. The start is narrow, shallow, with hardly any elbow room. 


Last year, there was a staggered start - which really helped with the amount of chaos that can happen when you have a stampede of wild frenzy chickins blasting down a tube...


This year, while Coli and I were setting up in the back of the pack - we glanced up and all of a sudden - everyone was going for it and the chaotic stampede began!!!! 

 Joel: What we've started already?? What the...?
Coli: Daddy.....Power - PUNCH!! 
Joel: Go - Go - Go!!!
Coli: Daddy - how are we going to get through these guys?? everyone's so close! It's super choppy and a giant mess....and I...need a snack!
Joel: What? Seriously?
Coli: Sorry daddy, I'm hungry!!!
Joel: Uh, bad timing hun - I thought we fueled up before - now we gotta get through these guys first
Coli: Yeah, we need to get through this madness so I can have my Shot Blox...


It was an interesting motivation to get through the snake train of paddlers splashing through the slough, but nonetheless it was motivation and it wasn't as intimidating for her this year as it was last year.

"In the beginning there was a small island, on one side. It was shallow with rocks, the other side was deeper but narrower - so all the racers were hearded to the deep narrow side - it was chaotic and awesome.


I thought we were going to stay in the back for most of the race, but since it was super choppy and uncomfortable, and I was hungry and wanted some shot blox, I decided that we needed to punch through the snake train and get out of the madness - so we could get our own pace going....and I could eat. So we started moving through the crowds. Passing other paddlers felt awesome and exciting. I actually felt sorry for them for a moment - but it felt so exciting as well....and...a race is a race"

Pushing through stormy soup bowl waters, paddles clacking, competitors yelling to get out of the way, trying to stay out of the shallows, through the narrows, rocks to the left, logs to the right, overhanging branches - quick, duck - watch those weeds!

We passed quite a few elite racers that were NOT so stoked that we did, but mostly we exchanged many Coli style vocal high fives as we passed them, Coli mainly saying "Awesome job!!! Keep up the hard work" as we overtook.

After we broke from the pack and figured out our handing Coli her re-fuel routine - we glanced up ahead and saw a wolf pack we set our sights on. Last year we spent much time clacking paddles, not being in sync, learning lots how to paddle with each other - this year we worked on cadence, pace, and simple commands - mainly to keep our sanity, and learn how to optimize our energy output better. We focused on pace and slowly started moving up the pack...with the occasional upward glance to see if we could see mommy at one of the bridges.... 


As we moved through the wolf pack Coli noticed that the racers ahead of us were keeping the same pace, and she was trying figure out why....

Coli: Daddy - I think those guys are stealing our cadence!!!
Joel: They don't want us passing them
Coli: Oh that does it - I am going to go Savannah STEALTH MODE
(*Savannah Baus is a paddler that Coli really looks up to~more about her shortly)
Daddy just follow me - I am not going to call out commands...

She mentions to the camera (which unfortunately did not record this) "Savannah - this one's for you!!!" and starts dropping into her paddle stroke and we start booking.........


Coli: Daddy - it's working it's working!!!! we're going Savannah Stealth mode for the rest of the race

We arrive at the 5 mile marker at Red Hook (which is where the finish line will be when we paddle back upstream) we smell the BBQ and know that there are 3 more miles to go. We hear cheering and many cries of encouragement - it was awesome!! when all of a sudden I hear "P-O-W-E-R----P-U-N-C-H!!" belt out and Coli is DIGGING IN super hard!! Wow, what a time to pick to do this, we were funneling through a ton of weeds and alongside several paddlers....either way - as the co-pilot, if she calls "Power Punch" we're doin it. It was messy, lots of weed whacking, and paddlers jostling, people cheering - but we punched through and ....passed them!!!! Coli was ecstatic!!! "LOG to the LEFT, WEEDS to the right!!! Medium Speed center - GO!" 

It was awesome to feel like Coli really is beginning to understand how to utilize the techniques we've been working on for a while in context now.

As I was feeling the burn - a second wind hit Coli and she was now taking lead into the last 3rd of this race. I was very proud of her - milemarker 6 and she's still holding up!

Charging ahead we saw the Elite racers paddling back upstream!!! The guys as always are so full of encouragement, shouting props to Coli and exchanging vocal high fives as we pass each other!!! It is such an awesome community we have here in the PNW!!


Alas the buoy turn!!! - We hit it disastrously!!! both of us on our last bit of steam trying to make this turn with my frankenturning skills was a bit of a challenge, Coli fell onto the deck and as I tried to quickly switch sides, I strike her achilles and there is a scream of terror that could have made the fish all jump out of the water.

I felt terrible, we had paddlers right behind us waiting to take this opportunity to pass us... this was the part where we paddle upstream and my co-pilot is down.

Joel: Coli, I'm so sorry hun, are you going to be okay?
Coli: I'm okay daddy - that really hurt me but it mostly startled me!
Joel: I need your help.... this is the hard part - can you get up?
Coli: I'm going to be a warrior and pop back up!

Coli pops back up and goes warrior style for the remainder of the upweed section of the race. Maintaining her rhythm, pace, and we stay stealth and steady!!!


We pass by our friends Rick and Josie heading downstream as we paddle back up, Coli still has the energy to belt out "YEAH JOSIE!!!! Way to go, keep up the hard work - you got it!!!" Coli was really looking forward to checking in on Josie during the race and was constantly asking if she was okay - It was good to see her.


Here we are - the final stretch - we have a visual on Red Hook!
We do our last "Power Punch" with all that we have left in us to the end.... we make it through the finish line - slap a paddle high five and just about collapse at the smell of BBQ food..... we look up and mommy is there - relief, we did it - wow, what a race!


It took us 1:37 to complete 7.75miles - 37th place, I think we did quite alright!


This is the first year that Coli is going into the races as a competitor. She has really stepped it up this year with her outlook on race events. Paddling and race events have become a very intrinsic experience for her, and it has in turn become a very worthwhile experience for the both of us paddling tandem together. We are extremely proud of her!


Our friends Josie and Rick Ask - rolling into the finish of the Elite 7.75 mile race - Well done the both of you 
*this was Josie's first race!

Our friends Luciana (blue hat), Linae, and Art Aquino pulling into the finish of the 5 Mile race!  *This was Luciana's first race!! 

Coli: There were many friends I was happy to see at Stroke the Slough this year - many of them first timers I am very proud of - way to go guys!!! Keep up the hard work and I'll see you all on the water!

Stay tuned for Stroke the Slough - Part 3, by Coli



  1. Awesome. Keep blogging about your experiences :)

  2. WOW! Very exciting reading. It was like being part of the race.

    Thanks for sharing

    Henrik F

  3. What an AWESOME READ! Love the play by play... Coli you are a FREAKING AWESOME WARRIOR! YOU GO GIRL! *High Five!* - Katie

  4. Awesome Warriors!!!
    Congrats OHANA

  5. What a great read - you guys make an awesome father/daughter team which is just the best thing ever!!! Love it! Sarah

  6. Exellent!
    Your family is awesome!!!
    I really like the pictures....^^

    From Tony Kim....

  7. What a fantastic day for you three. Amazing day, amazing family, amazing share! Can't wait to get the boarding 101 with you guys.