Lake Samish Salmon Roe, October 5, 2002
It was a dark and stormy night. Well, it was dark and rainy Friday night, anyway. Saturday was little better, but the pounding rain had let up to become only a light drizzle. Yep, fall had definitely arrived in the Pacific NW.
Today there was to be a Sound Rowers race at Lake Samish, near Bellingham, WA. Lake Samish is located about 70 miles or so north of where I live, so I had to get up early this gloomy morning for the drive up I-5 in order to be there for the start of the race at 10 AM.
The rain finally dissipated somewhere around the town of Mt. Vernon, but still looked very threatening towards the north. I took the off-ramp to North Lake Samish, and drove down the winding road towards the small park at the north end of the lake. As luck would have it, there was still room in the parking lot for my car. Just about all the other spots were taken by the vehicles for the other 75 or more boats that came to race this day. Yes, this is a very popular race!
Walking through the busy parking lot I found Bob Stuart beginning to unload the boats from the top of his car. We quickly carried them and all their associated paraphernalia down to the beach, stepping gingerly between all the other boats lining the shore.
This was the first time Bob had seen a Sound Rowers event. I think he was a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of racers and boats crowding this fairly tiny park. The photo above is only one corner. There were many more boats and racers along the shore and other areas of the park.
Bob asked about what he should wear for the race, given that the temperature was in the upper 50's, with no wind but the possibility of rain threatening. I told him that I tended to get hot, so I wore bike shorts, tennis shoes, a wrap around life jacket that I could easily open up and take off when necessary, and a T shirt or two. I also recommended taking along at least one water bottle, and preferably two.
After we got the boats mostly ready we registered and attended the pre-race meeting. Well, I did, anyway, as Bob was still preparing Lambordinghy. As in years past, the course was to circle the southern portion of the lake, cross under the bridge and circle the northern portion of the lake and end at the park. The total distance covered is about 6 statute miles.
After the meeting people got their boats into the water and headed towards the starting line. There were so many different types of boats, too! They ranged from single seat sea kayaks to four man kayaks, from dinghies to rowing shells, from two man canoes to massive six person canoes, and two pedal prop boats. This was going to be an interesting race!
With so many boats involved the starting line stretched pretty much across the lake. I chose to start somewhat behind the boats in line so as to pedal a shorter distance overall. When the time came, I could maneuver around any slow boats ahead of me. Bob stationed himself a few boats to the south, following my lead.
The race started about 10:15. This time I remembered to start my own stop watch, too. It was quite a mad house, with paddles splashing, waves generated by all the oars and boats making the water a little rough, and the boats all striving to get ahead of each other!
I actually managed to pace myself from the start this time. Keeping my heart rate in the 140's to 150's, I was able to keep up a pretty consistent effort. The width of the field narrowed considerably as I approached the middle of the southern arm of the lake, partly because of some roped lines forcing the boats further out into the lake, and partly because the shortest distance to the first buoy was along the shore. I had to slow somewhat in order to prevent a collision with another boat, but that was only a temporary setback.
A light drizzle started to fall. Through it I could see quite a number of boats a few hundred feet ahead of me making their turn around the buoy. It was a sight to see, with at least 15 boats all trying to make it around at the same time! I could also see the lead boats moving with incredible speed along the far shore back towards the north end of the lake.
I removed my life jacket and made it into a seat back cushion, while still pedaling, which seemed to help my legs a bit. It seems that I would really benefit from some sort of seat that would raise my torso to a position somewhat higher than my legs.
By this time I was keeping pace with a youth in a kayak and a pair of guys in a canoe. My pedaling was assisted every so often by sitting more upright, and I found myself gradually catching up to and passing the canoe on the inside just before the first turn. I planted the port ama into the water and pulled hard on the rudder lines, and Lilac slowly made the turn.
After the turn I discovered that there had actually been something of a head wind helping to keep me cool. Unfortunately, this meant that there was now a tail wind, and I began to heat up. The speed of Lilac through the water just about matched the speed of the air. Rats! My glasses started to steam up as well.
I was slowly falling behind the kayak, and the two man canoe passed me just after the second buoy as we headed towards the bridge separating the north section of the lake from the south. Still heading towards the first turn was Bob Stuart pedaling his Lambordinghy.
Approaching the second buoy I looked at my watch. It claimed that about 30 minutes had passed. The first boat had already crossed under the bridge and was almost at the finish line.
About this time I was surprised by the sudden appearance of a trout flying through the air no more than 5 feet from my starboard side. It appeared to be about a foot in length, and landed with a loud plop right in front of the ama. Ahh, if only I had a net - I could have had supper!
I was getting very warm. My forehead was dripping with sweat and my shirt and shorts were soaked. If only there was a breeze!
The next boats made it past the bridge and towards the finish line.
I felt a little out of focus, too. :-)
Eventually I made it to the bridge. The kayak and canoe were several hundred yards ahead, approaching the third buoy.
There was a little more of a cooling breeze up here. Perhaps this was because the trees along the shore stopped the tail wind, and the speed of my passage generated the apparent air movement. Regardless, I was feeling a bit stronger and began making a harder effort. Slowly, slowly, I could see the distance between Lilac and the canoe and kayak start to shrink.
By this time my first water bottle was drained, and my second bottle was a pain in the teeth to open. Still, I managed to yank open the stopper and gulp down some water as I labored to catch the boats ahead of me. At least my throat wasn't complaining too much!
After rounding the last buoy I pedaled with all my might. The sound of the water splashing against Lilac's hull increased, and the distance to the boats ahead visibly shortened. By the time they crossed the finish line they were no more than 40 or 50 feet away. Whew! What a race!
Turning towards the bridge so as to not collide with all the other boats that congregated near the finish line, I began the cool down process. One racer in a rowing catamaran was confused as to where to head on the final section of the course, so I helped direct her towards the next turn.
Bob Stuart was heading from the last buoy towards the finish line when I found him. We pedaled next to each other until I heard one of the finish line officials threaten to give me a new finishing time. Sorry! :-)
After we beached our craft Bob made the comment that sitting at a keyboard talking about HPB's does not seem to help much in actually getting in shape to pedal them. Still, Bob had a respectable showing - 2nd place in the pedal boat class!
The four man kayak covered the 6 miles in about 38 minutes. The man in the stern of that craft stood at least 6 foot 8 in height, and had the build of a football player! Two others in that boat were not quite so tall, but were still very muscular in build. That boat definitely had some powerful engines!
I managed to finish first in my class, and 44th overall with a time of 55 minutes, 51 seconds. Not bad for a desk jockey! As soon as the results get posted at the Sound Rowers web site I'll include Bob's time as well. (Oct. 28: Bob's results were 64 minutes, 26 seconds. Way to go, Bob!!)
There was an awards ceremony held in the standing room only park pavilion. With all the warm, wet bodies in such a small space my camera's lens was instantly fogged over, so I was unable to photograph anything indoors.
This was definitely a fun race, even with the intermittent drizzle.
I wish to thank Barbara Kovacs for taking all the photos of the race.
Click for a map of the course.
To see all the pictures, in larger and better formats, visit this link.
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