Thursday, November 01, 2007

Cascade Distance Race

It was darn chilly on the morning of this race. At 8:30 AM the temperature was 38 degrees Fahrenheit at my house, and 35 degrees at the Renton Boat House at the mouth of the Cedar River on Lake Washington. Brrrr! The lake was pretty well socked in with fog, but the surrounding land was generally clear of all cloud cover.
parking lot

There were about a dozen vehicles in the parking lot, all with one or more boats on their roofs. People were slowly moving about, bundled up with winter coats, hats and gloves. Gloves - those would feel pretty nice while handling nearly ice cold fiberglass. Why didn't I think to bring any?

As luck would have it, I remembered that I kept a nice pair of winter cycling gloves in the car for when I drove to my old job in Beaverton. They worked well in keeping the sun off my hands on that 3 hour southbound trip each week. It had been quite some time since I last used them, but they were still there.

Cadence in staging area

Bundled up with a couple of layers of jackets, shirts and pants, hat and gloves, I unloaded the Cadence from my car, loaded it up with the outriggers, camera bag, cycling sandals and water for the race. I took a couple of short plastic Halloween statues, one of a pumpkin headed man and the other of Dracula, and duct taped them one per outrigger. I had forgotten to take the inflatable skeleton and his coffin. That was going to be placed on the rear deck of the boat. Oh, well - no skeleton crew for this race!

Renton Boat HouseRegistration

After dropping the Cadence off at the boat ramp I walked over to the Boat House and registered for the race. The cost was the standard Sound Rowers member rate of $8, which included the support boat, ribbons and lunch. It is such a good deal!

Returning to the boat I changed took off my outer garments, put on my PFD and cycling sandals, and launched. I wanted to get to the boat house in time for the pre-race meeting.

Pedaling down the Cedar Riversnags at the mouth

As luck would have it I had troubles finding the channel through the sediment at the mouth of the river. There were a few logs and branches that fooled me into thinking they were in the shallows rather than lining deeper water, and the angle of the light made it difficult to see how deep the water was until you right on top of it.

After a few tries I finally made it past the bar and pedaled over to the Boat House.

Floating dock at boat house

The pre-race meeting was over but Dan Henderson, the race director, said there were no changes from the previous year.

I returned to the boat and headed out to warm up and take photos.

The new production outriggers were not the only new thing I was testing today. The drive train was outfitted with a pair of chain tensioners. Their purpose was to even out the peak loads applied to the propeller during each complete turn of the cranks.

Whether you are pedaling a bicycle up a hill or turning a propeller through the water it is better to apply a constant force to the wheel or propeller, respectively. Over powering in the power portion of a stroke and under powering at the full leg extension or retraction causes losses. Tests done by an acquaintance of mine riding a specially modified bike in the hills around his home proved the concept for bicycles. This test would, hopefully, prove or disprove the concept for boating.

All I knew was that the modifications to the drive system made it a bit noisier and added a bit more friction to overcome.
Todd in his CadenceWarming up

The sun was now breaking through the fog that had been covering much of the lake, and the wind was starting to pick up. With the increased wind from the north the water was starting to get pretty bumpy, too. Maybe it would be a good day to have the outriggers after all!
starting line

It took a while, but eventually all the competitors made their way from the parking lot, down the river and to the starting line. After a bit of jostling by the wind and waves we managed to sort out positions along the line and waited for the starting signal.

We waited some more.

We waited some more.

starting line

Just before I was about to drift behind a massive hulk that had been moored at the south end of the lake for eons the air horn signaling the start of the race sounded. We were off!
First moments

The side wind made it a bit tough for many of the rowers as it tended to push other boats into the areas required for the oars of the rowers., or pushed the rowers into other boats that happened to be downwind. I had to be a bit more careful as well since the outriggers now made the boat much wider than I was accustomed. Still, it was very nice not having to concern myself with balance while I turned my body this way and that to take advantage of the photo opportunities.
rowing in beam chopPaddlers

A number of racers were having problems with the beam seas. Many of the rowers were moving a bit slower than normal, catching quite a few crabs on their way. Most of the surf ski and kayak paddlers seemed to be pretty much in their element, unaffected for the most part by the chop.

My boat was moving around 6 to 6.5 mph. This was not a bad speed but definitely slower than I normally race when not using outriggers. Also, I found that every so often a wave would hit the upwind outrigger just right, splashing me a bit in the process. The nylon jacket helped a bit in keeping the water off, but my bike shorts were starting to get wet. Oh, well. The effort pedaling was starting to heat me up; perhaps the cooling effects of the water would balance.
Heading back

I was most of the way towards the Atlantic City turn buoy when I encountered the first of the short course racers on their way back to the finish. The wind and waves had diminished considerably by now, and the rowers were slowly regaining their normal places in the racing heirarchy. Still, there was a good chance that the first place finisher in this race just might be a surf skier.

Atlantic City turn buoyA long way to Seward Park

I soon reached the first turn buoy. Most of the boats around me made their turn and headed back to the finish. It looked like most of the boats that were on the long course were far ahead.

My legs were telling me that they would be very happy if I, too, turned around and headed back to the finish. Unfortunately, however, I promised Todd, who was racing in his pedal boat in the short course, that I would be doing the long course. This would give each of us a first place ribbon and me some much needed exercise.

I'd just have to tough it out.
Nearly at Seward Park

The drive system and outriggers were definitely slowing me down. I had a difficult time catching a guy in a kayak as we headed north towards Seward Park. The water was pretty calm here, and I toyed with the idea of removing the outriggers and stowing them. Nah! It would be better to test them further and perhaps on the return leg see what sort of speed could be attained with them removed at that time.
At Seward ParkRounding the second buoy

Upon reaching the second turn buoy just south of Seward Park I could see crowds of people at the finish line for the Pumpkin Push run/walk at the park. I could also see that I had nearly caught the kayaker who had been ahead of me for the past couple of miles. Go legs, go!
Nearing the north end of Seward Park

Try as I might, I wasn't able to catch that kayaker. Perhaps the air drag of the pumpkin headed creature on one outrigger and that of Dracula on the other outrigger was hindering my progress. Perhaps the drive train modifications had too much friction. Perhaps the outriggers just made my boat as slow as a kayak. Perhaps the combination of all three conspired to keep me behind as we headed around the north end of Seward Park where we encountered the first of the long racers as they headed back to the finish line.

This was interesting. The first boats heading back were surf skis, not rowing shells. Where were the rowers?
Rowers on the return

A few minutes later the first rowing shell, a double manned by Adrian and Rob, appeared and quickly passed on its way back to the finish.I wonder if they would be able to catch the pair of surf skis?
Northern tip of Seward Park

Quite a few more paddlers passed on their way back to the finish, and I was starting to gain on the boat directly ahead of me. Perhaps I could catch him after all!
Heading to third buoy

Heading into the cove on the west side of the park I found half a dozen more boats beginning the second half of the race. I guess I wasn't all that far behind the other racers after all, but began to doubt that there was anyone left behind me!
My nemesis

The kayak ahead made his turn around the buoy and I finally recognized him. It was Tom, a regular racer whom I normally leave far behind.

That settled it. I was going to have to do something!
Return leg

After rounding the 3rd buoy I was pleased to find there were several boats still behind. Yay! I wasn't the last boat after all!

I continued in pursuit of Tom.

It was time to try pedaling with a single outrigger.

While continuing to pedal I pressed the release button on the right outrigger support and tried to twist it out. It wouldn't budge as my sweaty hands slipped on the smooth carbon fiber tube.

Wiping off my hands I tried again, and it moved. Yay!

After pulling it out I rested the tube across the gunwales of the Cadence. This kept the float ever so slightly above the water.

Now, of course, the remaining outrigger was sinking a bit lower in the water as I leaned more to the port. Perhaps removing a single outrigger would not help as much as I thought.

I tried leaning more to the starboard. This was a bit better, and I started to pick up a little speed.

I had almost caught the kayak as we reached the second buoy.
Leaving Seward Park

It was at the second buoy that I decided to try removing the other outrigger, too. With a little effort I was able to release it, pull it out and balance the aka (the carbon fiber tube) across my waist on the gunwales, with one float on one side of the boat and the other float on the other side of the boat.

This generally seemed to work, so long as I held it with one hand and steered with the other hand. Once in a while, though, either the bow or the stern of one float or the other would dip into the water and act as a brake.

With my hands thus occupied, I couldn't take any photos. It didn't matter much, anyway, as the shots would have mostly been into the sun and would not have turned out. On the other hand, my speed increased by nearly a mile per hour and I quickly passed Tom and his dastardly kayak.

As I passed he said "I was wondering why you were taking so long to pass me". I told him about the outriggers and said "See you later!".

There was quite a distance between me and the next boat, but I kept on pedaling. My legs were very tired by this time, and all I had left to drink was another bottle of water.

I sure hoped there would be some food left at the finish!

The distance between my boat and the one ahead seemed to be shrinking, but there was no way that I'd catch him before the finish.

A couple of quick stops to remove weeds from the propeller didn't help, either.
Nearing the finish

With that being the case as I neared the mouth of the Cedar River I decided to reinstall the outriggers and take more photos.
At the finish

With a time of 2:22:27 I finally crossed the finish line. Whew!

Thirteen seconds later Tom crossed the line. I guess I wasn't as far ahead as I thought!
People hanging out at boathouse dockHalloween Cadence at dockDan grilling

I tied up at the dock by the boat house and made my way up the ramp and through the shop. The lunch was set up on tables lining the dock, with Dan Henderson manning the grill. That food looked and smelled good!
My lunch

I grabbed a plate and filled it with a burger, salad and dessert. Yum!

The sun had warmed up the day considerably. The temperature had risen to the low 50's and the wind had mostly died. Still, it was a little chilly in the shade wearing wet clothing so I basked in the sun. It was a good thing I had on my sunscreen!

After a while the awards ceremony was held. Ribbons were handed out for winners in each of the classes for both the long and the short courses, though many of the short course winners had long since gone home. This year, due to the rough conditions at the start, there were several DNF's (did not finish). The conditions also enabled surf skis to be first overall in both races.
Heading up the river with a paddleHigh kneel canoe

After the ceremony I returned to my boat and headed up the Cedar River to the ramp. A guy in a rather unsteady high kneel canoe accompanied me. We pulled our boats from the water and went our separate ways.

It was a good day for a race!
Dracula on guard dutyMy course and stats

For all the photos taken, head over here.

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