Monday, April 30, 2007

I have been in a bit of a funk lately. Its amazing that how most of my friends have the same types of funks. I sometimes wonder how they deal with them and get out. It seems for all of us we are at are most upbeat when we have a goal in mind and are training hard for it. Once we get injured, distracted or otherwise have the wheels come off it is hard to find the on ramp that gets us back on our merry way.

My family helps me alot. I like the noise and chaos that happens when there are 5 children and two adults in a house. David the baby just lays around and watches the show. Kevin is naked and running around in circles yelling naked boy having just got out of the tub. Mathew is chasing him with some invented gun. Laura is playing her clarinet at 100 decibles. And Sarah is just in a foul mood yelling at anybody who passes by.

It has really been a tough month. Not my worst mind you. I had to remind myself at one point that it was actually nothing compared to the first few months of 2001. first, after all the work for baja, it was over the first day. Then as you know our car broke down in the middle of our family trip that was suppose to be relaxing. What do you do when your car is broken down on the side of the road in the middle of nowwhere with you family in it, twice? And then Sea Otter; I am smart enough to know that in a short race my ass gets toasted by most everybody else on the team. I am older and they are just bad ass racers. I specifically didn't elect for any sprints with the team. Then Matt blew up his knee.

Matt would have been great in Sea Otter. I think that it was a race that was tailored to his abilities. When the teams got set, I made the mistake of racing a short race and doing the nav. It is hard enough to keep up with Seegs and Aaron but to nav as well is just more heeped on the pile. I should have insisted that Aaron nav since he is such a strong biker. So in the struggle of the race they see me at my worst and I feel like I let them down a bit. My performance was less than optimal.

Finally, I got to spend another week away from the family and that's propably the worst. When I am going away to a long race and I am in the middle of it, I always tell myself to go fast and get it done so that I can get home or at least talk to my family sooner. That's my motivation.

So I took last week off from everything. Spent time doing what needed to be done. Maybe it's God's way of letting me know what's most important. In the end, it doesn't matter how many hours I train or how well I do at a given race, I have my family and that's where my real life lies. I just wish I wouldn't eat so much when I'm in the funk.

Now, I'm hungry to get back in it and I will be doing more speed workouts and short races so that I can suffer well when RVG is riding me like an old mule.

Lord Cromwell

Saturday, April 21, 2007

So I went to the dealer. We are nowhere closer to fixing the problem. After two weeks and who knows how much money. Know they know we have a problem and don't want to talk to me until the manager gets back on Monday. I am afraid that it will get ugly. I am going to try to negotiate a fair price to get my car back. If they play hardball, my sister has found some CA consumer laws that should be on my side. I will tow it home and take it to a reputable dealer.

I called my wife and told her I was riding home. She would have nothing to do with it. She said I could start riding but she was coming down to pick me up. she said I was away long enough and to prove her point she put Kevin on phone and told me to explain to him why I was going to be another two days.

I rode for 8.5 hours and about 112 miles on my mtn bike. she ran into me at about 12:30 AM halfway between Cresent City and Grants Pass.

It was still a great ride but I'm happy to be home.

Lord Cromwell

Friday, April 20, 2007

I am being held hostage in Eureka.

I try not to communicate with the toyota dealer because last week they told me if I didn't like the service I could take my car elseware. So Weds afternoon, I just drove by to see if my car was still in the back lot or actually in the shop being worked on. To my surprise it was in the shop. Hence, they got the heads back are were putting the car back together. Ya baby that means that the car should be done by Thursday afternoon. Only one more night here.

So Thursday I plan a bike/run. On the run I get real excited that the car will be fixed and I can drive home. I push real hard and had a great run in the big redwoods. When I got back to the ranger station I call the dealer. Yes the car is back together but there is a funny sound that the mechanic is trying to sort out. Funny sound WTF. They have had the car for over 2 weeks and after that time and who knows how much money all they can say is that there is still a funny sound???

Needless to say I was crushed. I got another hotel and talked to cheryl 3 or 4 times as I tried to sort this out. I want to got home not stay another week. I was very depressed. I actually went out and bot some ice cream. We decided that Cheryl would drive down to pick me up if the car isn't ready today.

I found a pool this morning and went swimming. When I am not pushing hard, the pool is the best place to think. And I had an epiphiny. I have everything I need, I will just ride my bike home. It will take a couple of days but what the heck. It will be an epic bike training. The rental car needs to go back at 2 so I will go to the dealer at noon and make a decission.

Here are my limiting factors.
I only have the Gregory Reactor So I can't carry too much
I don't have adequate clothes because the RD at the last race has the bin
I only have 1/2 tube of nuun
I only have enough perpetum for 6 hrs so I will need to get food along the way
I only have enough light and motion batteries for 8 hrs so I will need to conserve

I do have a tube of hydropel. I figure it should take me 40-50 hours. I am not sure if I can do it but at least it will save Cheryl some driving time. If I do ride it out at least my life will be back in my own hands. If you read this and live along I-5 in Oregon look out for me or give me a call. I could use more nuun and perpetum.

Wish me luck. I am going to now go clean the rental car and pack my gear. I am tired of this crap.

Lord Cromwell

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Greetings from rainy Eureke. This place is a real piece of work. The bum to normal person ratio must be the highest of anyplace in the world. Or at least it would appear that way. There are also four high end bike stores in this tiny town. Is being a bum in NorCAL just a way of life? Why do they all sleep in the village green and have signs asking for gas money?

My car may not be ready until Friday so I have found some riding and if the rain lets up from the downpour, I should be able to get out. Maybe tomorrow i can find somebody to work on surf entry exits with me.

Lord Cromwell

Monday, April 16, 2007

I am here in sonoma waiting for my car. My saga didn't finish with a ride home from baja. On the way home the family truckster broke down and is sitting in Eureka CA. We rented a car which I still have. Since Matt injured his knee, I filled in at Sea Otter. Now I will work my way north running and riding as I go. Hopefully my car will be runing in the next couple of days.

Sea otter was a tough race for me. I tend to stay away from shorter 6hr or less races because my old body can't keep up. I was racing with Seegs and Aaron. We had a great paddle. We were almost the last on the water because we took more time to plot but we came off second.

The bike leg was real long. I didn't eat or drink properly and cramped up badly after 2 hours. Seegs and Aaron could have moved much faster but for me. The good news was we were racing with Nike for an hour or two. The RD misset some controls and the four top team were in a cluster. unfortunately it came down to luck as to whom would find the wayword controls. While DART-nuun was in the lead early on, Nike got lucky and found 14 to take the lead. Our team finished 2nd, DART-nuun 3rd, and wingnut 4th.

Races shouldn't be decided by luck. If I get back Home

Lord Cromwell

Sunday, April 08, 2007

I have resolved to write down the first day of our Baja Travesia Race. It might be a bit long and there are no pictures because our camera is at the bottom of the pacific. I am writing it down because it is helpful for me to understand what went right and what went wrong. Hopefully, I have learned from this experience and those who read this might learn as well. I encourage any additions, corrections, or clarifications. Also, the headings may become cumbersome and a drawing could help.

I take paddling seriously. I live in the PNW and due to the cold water; any paddling in open water can turn deadly. I am not exactly sure why I let my guard down for this race. Maybe it was the warm temperatures or the fact that the water was glass last year. In any event, no serious piece of emergency gear was required and I didn’t bother to bring flares of a waterproof VHF radio like I would around home in more favorable conditions. The basic required emergency gear was a whistle and “family style walkie talkie”.

After the surf entry/exit testing the day before the race we noticed that our rear hatch had some water in it. It was a red flag that was not noticed at the time. For big water in rough conditions, it is recommended that inflatable bladders be placed in hatches and compartments. This ensures that water taken on is limited and the boat will always remain buoyant with the cockpit cowling above the waterline. Unfortunately we did not take action to remedy this situation.

These gear issues would not prove to be catastrophic but in the end they would effectively limit out choices at critical points.

Race Start

We were configured with RVG in the back, JVG in the middle and myself upfront. We chose this setup because RVG is the heaviest and should be in the back. He steers and keeps a visual of everything around us and calls out instruction from his vantage. I paddle a great deal and would focus on power and cadence. My focus is the 5 to 10 feet in front of the boat. JVG has great power to weight ratio and while paddling hard, she also focuses on keeping me steady.

The race started with a 1 kilometer paddle out of the harbor in calm water. We were paddling well. We had paddled so much together that this pace was easily sustainable compared to our training paces. By our conversations and feel, I could tell that the team was in a good shape at the pace. We were leading the pack and pulling away.

We were warned the day before that swells were predicted for up to 9 feet. As we rounded the jetty we immediately faced 3-4 foot swells and a wind off of our starboard quarter of about 10-20k. Our first checkpoint, CP, was the southern tip an island about 8 miles out in the ocean at a heading of WSW 247d true. The swell was from the NW 315d and the wind was from the NNW 337d. Also, there was a 2K southerly tidal drift. We opted for a heading of approximately W 270d to compensate for the above factors. This was approximately the northern tip of the island. It also allowed us to take the waves more frontally which is safer and efficient and we would spend some time approaching from the lee side of the island which was calmer. Our heading did ultimately give us a 247d course made good. However, the pack behind us opted for an unadjusted course of 247d. While we were putting distance on the field, we were also taking a more northerly route. If the pack continued their heading, they would need to make constant course corrections to the north while we started more to the north and drifted south toward the CP as we paddled.

I expected the crossing to take no more than 2 hrs, or 4 mph. I took us almost 3 hrs. During that time the swells had grown to 6 feet. At approximately 2hrs, we started pumping. Going through large waves in a 24ft kayak water naturally works through your skirt and into the cockpit. We were constantly blasted by waves as we moved forward. Being in the front, I would take them full on right over the top of me and could occasionally feel the water drain down my wetsuit and out my legs.

We had also noticed the day before that the bulkhead between the first and second cockpit wasn’t sealed at the bottom. This allowed water to pass between JVG and my cockpit. It also meant that JVG could effectively pump both of our compartments. At regular intervals JVG would crack the leeward side of her skirt, slide the pump in and empty our compartments while RVG and I kept it steady into the waves and wind. We attempted to have RVG pump but the boat would become too unstable when he ceased paddling.

I can tell you that waves come in sets. Three to four big ones would come through and then we would have a minute or two of small waves. Without speaking, we could all see the pattern and we knew what needed to be done. When the way was clear, I could feel the boat lunge forward as we all dug in hard.

When we got to the island, we rested near the southern tip in a sheltered cove. We had hoped to go ashore and pump the boat and check the hatches but the shore was covered with seals so we took turns pumping, eating and drinking as we floated in the cove. We knew that it was going to be a long day and eating whenever possible was imperative. We headed S about 200m to the southern tip of the island expecting to find the floating CP. It was nowhere to be seen. We assumed we just beat the race officials out to the island. We took a picture and headed off to the next CP.

Our heading was down the coast SE. As we cleared the southern tip of the island, we entered a confluence where the waves had grown to 9ft from the WNW and the wind, still from the NNW, had grown and was creating 1-2 ft swell across the larger swells. We had about a 3 to 4k open water crossing to a point of land. We were now almost running with the waves. About ¾ across, we dumped the kayak. We quickly sorted out the most efficient way to bail out the boat. First RVG and I would get the rear compartment while JVG worked up front. When the back was empty, the boat had enough buoyancy to keep the cowling above water and we could finish the front. We would do this 4 more times before the day was done.

I always paddle in a neoprene wetsuit. I get ridiculed and hot but a good farmer john and booties are your last defense against hypothermia. RVG had brought his neoprene but opted for tights and JVG had shorts and my paddling jacket. Since I had my wetsuit on, we would get JVG in the boat, followed by RVG, and I would get in last.

Going with the waves is much more unstable that going through them. I learned this from the small swells I encounter at home. In addition, our heading necessitated that we take them at an angle off the rear starboard quarter. If we just went with them, they would ultimately run us into the cliffs. All kayaks are designed to turn into waves. So the effect of these waves if taken at out heading would be to turn us perpendicular to the waves. So like everyone else, we would ford out to sea, and then take the line back toward shore. It was almost like tacking in a sailboat. Unlike everyone else, our boat was more instable because our rear compartment was slowly filling with water from the waves coming over the stern.

We would dump one more time before CP2 but got in and expected to be first only to find out that the course had been shortened, CP1 Eliminated, and we were now over 2 hours behind the leaders. This is something that we went over again and again. One of the race directors admitted that he did not check the conditions before the start of the race. After the start, the other RD went out in a powerboat, saw the conditions and told the “lead teams”, those on a more southerly heading, to just go to CP2. The other DART team told the RD that we were ahead and to the north. I was told that he looked for us but I am not sure how hard he looked. From my perspective, he had an obligation to account for every team and inform them of the change. Unfortunately, he had no water safety director and we didn’t see any of the promised safety boats. He was overwhelmed and undermanned. From his perspective I can only guess that he performed a risk assessment that placed us, a strong lead paddling team, at less risk than the under qualified teams that were already being picked up by boats and returned to the start.

Throughout the day, the swells were building. By the time we had pumped out the boat, ate and pushed off, we would be about 2.5 hrs behind the leaders. They would be finishing in less than an hour and we were just starting out into the teeth of the growing seas. Once again, when we checked our rear hatch, we found it was 1/3 full of water. Another red flag but the urge to catch up and get back in the race precluded common sense.

Soak this up. In the hours that followed, the real mud hit the fan. We happened to be at the right place at the right time and do what need to be done. I will finish the story later.

Lord C