When we moved up to Newport a few years ago Jim and I expanded our watersport activities when we bought some stand up paddleboards. We learned to surf our boards and on flat days we enjoy the water with a nice long paddle. Paddling is our recreational and leisurely activity.
Last Sunday I changed that by entering the Providence Paddle Battle. I opted for the 3-mile course along the scenic Providence skyline. There was a 9-mile course but I learned a lot from my first half marathon and decided to ease into paddle racing.
Race day was a beautiful day in Providence. Before we started the wind was low and the temperature was cool. The start was delayed because the course needed to be set and Mother Nature decided to change the conditions. We did a paddle out and return. The way out was perfect, and easy, a little too easy.
We paid the price on the return to the finish. The light wind turned into a constant head wind and it was low tide so we were going against the current. Not exactly ideal conditions.
What I discovered in running, a marathon and a half-marathon are two different beasts. I found out last Sunday a paddle race is a completely new species. After the race I discovered muscles that have never been documented in Gray’s Anatomy.
Paddling requires every body part. At the end of the race when I was exhausted I was ready to stop and walk but there is not walking and resting when you are paddling, especially when mother nature is pushing you away from the finish.
As I neared the finish and my body was spent, I had to find something to keep me going forward. My distance running instincts kicked in and I relied on sheer will power to get me to the finish. At some point I adopted a mantra and used it with each stroke. “Fuck you, fuck you.” Don’t ask me why I picked those words, but when the brain takes over because the body wants to quit you don’t argue with the one thing that motivates you to finish what you start.
I got smoked by most of the other racers. When you run your shoes don’t give you a major advantage or disadvantage. However, when you paddle your vessel is a major factor in how swiftly you cut through the water. I was on a board designed for surf and most everyone else was on a board designed for speed.
It was discouraging seeing everyone’s backs but somehow I managed to keep the race in perspective. At the end of the day I say it was a success. I finished my first SUP race and even got second place in my division (there was a surfboard division.) I’m not convinced SUP racing is my thing but it was a great experience.
See you in the water!