Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Round the Rock - part 1 - What was I thinking?

Round the Rock was the race that started it all for me. Thanks to Brandon Rambo that encouraged me to go for it - 2 years ago marked my very first SUP race - I signed up for the distance race - 13 miles. I had no idea what I was going for at the time, being so new to it all - but I was up for the challenge. 

 Round the Rock 2011
 Pics: David Yang

13 miles is a long way on open water. It is not for the faint hearted, but I learned a lot about mental strength, equipment, met many amazing people, and realized back then that this community was where I wanted to be and grow with. Now that we're a paddling family - we came back to RTR with a completely different pair of eyes. This time I was doing the 13 mile race with Coli the Stoke-O-Nut! was I crazy to even suggest that we did this race tandem? what was I setting myself up for?

It was a while after the "Stroke the Slough" race when Coli and I were paddling together on Beaver lake, enjoying the sunshine and chit chatting like we normally do, when suddenly the idea of doing "Round the Rock" tandem with Coli popped into my head - my first internal response was   "What was I thinking?"

Coli's first response to me was "Daddy, are you crazy? " She had a point, perhaps I was, but I wouldn't have suggested it if I didn't think it was doable.... somewhat doable at least.

Joel: well, you're right - perhaps I'm just a little nutz...but I think we have a chance at it

Coli: seriously? wasn't it super crazy last year with bad weather and everyone hating it? and I'm not so sure how I feel about open water - and didn't you say that the beginning was totally chaotic? what if we totally fall in??
Joel: so....what do you think happens when we fall in?
Coli: .......you get back on the board?....
Joel: so what would scare you about a race like Round the Rock?
Coli: I dunno really.....the open water maybe?..falling in? it all really doesn't seem so scary now that we're talking about it.... but 13 miles is a long way...what if I bonk out and we can't finish?..let me think about that one and maybe there's a reaaally reaaallly teeenie chance we could do it........

The thought that we even had the slightest chance to do it was rather exciting - but we had lots going on that surrounded that particular weekend: the beginning of school, Coli's 9th birthday, Maia's birthday (on the day of Round the Rock), the fact that RTR was on a Sunday, and Coli would have school the day after..... and it's really not that far away.

Ironically I think I was more nervous about it than Coli was....and if she said yes, was I really able to follow through with it all?

Coli: So daddy - I've decided that we will need to practice some rescue drills to get me familiar with what to do if we're sprinting and I get knocked off...
She took one look back at me and cried "Oh no daddy!!!" and leapt into the water mid paddle stroke!

We practiced her falling, both of us falling - same and opposing sides, if I fell and she stayed on - This was awesome - she was into this! We must have both leapt off approximately two dozen times when she turned to me and said "Okay daddy, now that we got that out of the way, I'm ready to do this!"

Coli and Byron up to something at Laird Standup HQ

Round the Rock was literally....just around the corner. Byron at Laird Standup was nice enough to let us take our pick from several boards we thought would be most appropriate, so up to Bellingham we went to go figure this out.

Coli and I went through the pros and cons of each board and how we would need to modify the one we pick to optimize her standing area since she will  be standing on the "hood" of the board. We used board wax to provide her with some light traction for the test. We took several laps on the very beautiful and glassy lake Padden and tried our best to simulate choppy water and to narrow down which board would suit us best for the occasion......

"Daddy, are there going to be buoy turns at the race? remember how awful the buoy turn experience was at Stroke the Slough - we would really need to practice for buoy turns and I don't think I'm ready to do open water and a ton of buoy turns too......" I could feel that feeling of doubt sneaking up on the both of us now.... "Well, there aren't going to be any buoy turns ... but if you think about it...Mercer Island is like one gigantic buoy!" she responded with peals of laughter as I tried to keep her confidence on task.

Although Coli felt that we gave up acceleration and glide on the board we decided upon, we ended up choosing the Laird "Big Boy" board which was a nice and stable 14' x 32" prototype in case we hit some "serious wicked chop ruckus"

that night - when we got home - I started putting together some EVA deck pad scrap I had to see how I could optimize her "navigator's cockpit"

Coli woke up and saw it the next morning and was really stoked to go test it out!
The result? It absolutely sucked. The particular material I used was a smooth texture (which I thought she'd like) and during a practice run, she actually slid off, leaving her very discouraged afterward.

I had to keep a positive attitude about this - but I could see it affecting the both of us.
"Daddy....how come this deck pad is worse than just the plain board wax we used the other day???" I was determined to fix it for her - but this also meant hours of peeling and scraping ahead of me. I took a deep breath and went for it. Peeling off EVA deck pad is just about one of the most tedious things one could possibly punish themselves to do. It took some seriously painful hours of the night and lots of scraping....lots.... finally I pushed through it and re-did it all. This time I went a little technical with the areas so she had visual indicators to see where she was standing.

By this point in time, school had already started, her birthday was in a couple of days, followed by race day..... but it was necessary to squeeze in a final test run to see if we could get our confidence back for the final "thumbs up" for RTR.

   Coli's fave Floral Bat fin - by Larry Allison

We went out to Lake Sammamish for a mellow run to have Coli familiarize herself with the new and updated wild navigator's cockpit, and to go over our drills and strategies. 
6 miles passed fast and we were both in good spirits. 

It is always a plus when you have packages that arrive with impeccable timing - thanks to our friends John and Katie from Distressed Mullet - this totally added to Coli's Race Confidence

Thursday night hit us hard with lightning and thunder - it continued through Saturday morning....but the forecast predicted super nice "best ever" conditions - really?..... I briefly exchanged a few words with Jeff Underwood, he was stoked we were paddling tandem on his 13 miler......now if the weather was really going to do what we all hoped.... 

I tried not to pace about it all - but I was not going to take Coli on a 13 mile paddle through a storm. I waxed the board down with Onit pro, and made sure it was all good to go, got both of our paddles waxed.....and paced some more......I could not believe how nerve wracking this was making me - I was checking the weather report compulsively.....
I could have probably put myself to good use and waxed pretty much every board in this neighborhood with the nervous energy I had......this was getting irritating....

Since I got Coli into racing - I have always tried to keep her stoke going by making reminder trophies - for the effort that she puts into it all.... I barely finished this one on time..in stealth mode too!

We decided to pre-pack everything the day before - Maia helped make all of the food and made sure all scooby snax were packed - this is an area where she is particularly amazing at, and I fall short quite a bit - so I'm always thankful.

I triple checked the hydration units....... and still I was pacing like more still needed to be done... Coli had a very quiet and mellow "indoor camping" birthday this year as she knew race day was Sunday and didn't want to be totally exhausted. However, she was so excited about everything she managed to stay up most of the night with her cousin, and was very exhausted the day before the race......... 

This year for Coli's birthday, instead of a cake, she requested a rack of ribs with a birthday candle in the center - which sounded like an excellent plan to me. How could any dad refuse that one?

Our friend Renick shared some words of encouragement to keep our stoke up before race day. We were all exhausted so we wound down early in hopes to get a good night's sleep as we had a very early wake up call. As exhausted as we were - it was just about the worst night's sleep that we all had in a long time......the last time I checked the clock - I had to get up in 2.5hrs..........


  1. As usual very good reading!

    Henrik F

  2. Wow! That was exciting to read. You guys have the coolest life ever, with the coolest little girl ever! A rack of ribs instead of a birthday cake? Coli is hard core, and literally the coolest kid ever.