Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Getting Fit: Paddling

*My heart breaks for Boston after yesterday's explosions during the Boston Marathon. I had a friend running who was close to the finish line and is safe, but so many are not. Normally Patriot's Day (aka Marathon Monday) is such a fun and spirited day in the region; this year it is not. Sadly this happened when many who run to raise money for charities were coming in. Boston is such a sporty town. Sending prayers to Beantown.*

I used to live right on the Atlantic Ocean. It was wonderful to be so close to the sea. Not a day would go by where I didn't see it, hear it, or at least smell it. In college I regularly biked along the scenic shoreline, longing to be out on the water. My school didn't offer rowing, something I'd previously enjoyed in high school, so I had to be content to be close to the water. It wasn't until after college that I discovered the local outrigger canoe club, a more affordable option than the pricey Boston rowing clubs.
Granted, outrigger canoes are more at home in the South Pacific than a corner of the globe known for its massive snowstorms, but apparently there were enough Hawaiian expats who wanted to enjoy 'their sport' while living in New England. It was great to get out on the water several times a week and just paddle. There's something special about being on the water in small craft. You're right there on the water, not way up high like a sail- or motorboat. You can see and feel the water's resistance against your paddle and sense it's power much more intensely in a small boat. The pictures here are from an inter-coastal waterway that's really calm, but we always paddled on the open ocean, between the waves and sometimes surfing down them.

For a number of years I was happy paddling in one of our club's six-man, ~400lb (~180kg) boats. Then I started paddling doubles and singles privately with my coach and his wife and began to dream of one day buying a single for myself. Budget and storage issues prevented this, but I did invest in a great rowing machine that kept me in shape during the off-season and let me compete annually in a major indoor rowing competition, the C.R.A.S.H.-B's.
In the summers our outrigger club would participate in competitions around the East Coast, and sometimes we'd have friends-of-friends fly out from Hawaii to paddle with us. They'd bring everybody leis and shirts from their club and we'd send them home with one of our club shirts. Two of the more fun races were the 3 mile Lake Champlain Challenge in Vermont and the 15 mile Liberty Challenge -where we had to paddle under NYC's Brooklyn Bridge and out to the Statue of Liberty. Those were great, but my favorite was the longest and most scenic race: the 20+ mile Blackburn Challenge. This is also happened to a local race for me as it circumfrenced the island I lived on.

Last summer I had the chance to witness the race again. One of our friends had volunteered his boat as a chase boat, so I was able to join he and another friend for the morning. We had the first position on the race course and were able to watch over 200 boats and nearly 300 participants paddle by. Then we began motoring along the course, pausing to say hello or cheer on friends and old paddling buddies. Spending those hours out on the water was easily one of the highlights of my summer.
Later that day we spent time on the beach at the finish line as the boats continued to come in, seeing friends and family cheer, listening to sports journalists interview competitors and watching photographers snap away with fancy lenses. At one point, a friend who had competed came up to me and quietly said, "You must really miss this, huh?" He knows what my area of Germany is like and knows my paddling days are basically over. There are little rowing clubs here that row on our tiny regional river, but I tried that and it's nothing at all like what I did in the US. There are no long, open stretches and I just feel so caged.

So I've been trying a few new things. Staying fit is important and it's something I've been slacking on. We're slated to have some friends do a little outdoor photography session with us this summer and it's nice to have a goal in terms of wanting to improve how I look in pictures. I don't think I look horrible, but the main thing is I know I can look better and be healthier, so I'm aiming for a return-to-healthy.

What about you? What sports do you enjoy? What keeps you motivated to stay healthy?

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