Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bainbridge Island Marathon 2011

Last Saturday was the Sound Rowers Bainbridge Island Marathon and Half Marathon. Since I had not been on the water since the Manchester Race in early July, I was easily convinced by Sherri Cassuto, a former Olympic paddler, that it would be better to pedal 12 miles and finish happily rather than attempt 26 miles and perhaps not finish at all.

The weather was just about perfect: mid-70's, moderate wind from the north, and mostly sunny.

After Sherri helped me put my boat in the water, I loaded it with a couple of water bottles in the new cage mounts bolted to the rear of the seat back, put a third bottle in the cage in front of the gearbox and, with the Nikon D90 in a waterproof bag hung from my neck I boarded the vessel with about 4 minutes to spare until the start of the race.

As the boat was not quite in the right position for the start of the race I began to turn it around. As this boat turns very slowly I wasn't quite done turning it when the signal for the start was given. Yikes!

I managed to snap off a few wild photos of the other competitors while trying to get to the starting line, and then shot more as I quickly caught most of the field. Ahead were Sherri in her surfski, Joe in his fast OC-1, and Jeff and Theresa in their double rowing shell.

Jeff and Theresa kept increasing their distance as we headed east through Rich Passage, but slowly I was gaining on Sherri and Joe. By the time we reached the fish farms, where I had to push the boat away from a piling because I couldn't quite steer away in time, I had nearly caught up with Sherri.

With Decatur Reef in sight I actually caught up with Joe, who then took an inside track and put on more speed. I guess he didn't want to be outdone by some weird looking pedal contraption!

Throughout this time my heart rate was about 150 bpm, and the speed was about 7 mph.

Rounding Decatur Reef and heading north I encountered the wind full force - and some very mixed up water.

Not only were there wind-driven waves, but with this being one of the few nice weekend days all summer it seemed as though most people who owned boats had them out on the water. The course went straight through a sailing regatta, with boats tacking this way and that, and numerous powered craft were going every which way. Topping it off Joe and I just missed being held up by a car ferry making its way from the island back to Seattle.

As it turned out, the rowing shell took to the somewhat calmer waters closer to the island and found themselves much closer to the ferry than they expected. Quite possibly the captain did not even see them!

Joe started putting some distance between us as we headed past Eagle Harbor. I estimated he was about a minute ahead by this point in the race, approximately 6 miles into the race.

We continued on through the slop, with patches of floating weeds and brownish algae here and there, with the occasional kelp to make it interesting. Every so often the bow would bury itself in the bigger waves, but they quickly dissipated before reaching the cockpit. There were some times when water would splash against the deflector plates under the seat, resulting in my bottom getting wet, but this was not a problem.

The stabilizers worked pretty well to keep me upright. The winglets were definitely a good thing, as a couple of larger waves buried one or the other stabilizer to the point I was almost sure I would capsize - but didn't. The application of body english was definitely helping, too.

With the bigger waves the propeller was also ventilating fairly frequently. This made for some rather uneven pedaling.

Further north I decided to head somewhat closer to shore in order to get out of the messier stuff. My speed was about 5.5 to 6 mph, so perhaps the tide was against me along with the wind. My heart rate was in the mid 140's, and my energy was dropping rapidly.

In the quieter water I discovered I was getting pretty tired, and discovered that the boat was definitely pulling to the starboard. of these days I'll get it properly adjusted so I don't have to be compensating for it so frequently.

Around the 9 mile mark I was completely wasted. It took a real conscious effort to keep pedaling with more than a token effort, and my heart rate was in the low 130's. So, I opened some of the food I took with and began munching it. It didn't take too long before it started working, either.

Joe was still in sight - barely. There was no hope of catching him now.

I managed to push my legs so my heart got to the low 140's, corresponding to about 5 to 5.5 mph. Eventually I reached the 11 mile mark, pushing harder and harder. With the end in sight I managed to get my heart back up to 150, cruising quickly past the beach of Fay Bainbridge Park. Not long after I crossed the finish line, with a time of about 2 hours and 5 minutes - a personal record!

I had so little energy left it was hard to pedal back to the finish. Again, turning was so slow I ended up far out in the Sound before making it back to the beach.

Surprisingly enough, however, Sherri arrived just before I reached shore - approximately 5 minutes after I crossed the line. Where the heck had she been? I was expecting her to pass me any minute back on the course when I was running on fumes.

So, in another personal best I was the third boat to finish the race.

Later on I found out Joe is a semi-professional OC-1 paddler, so I shouldn't feel bad finishing after him and the double shell!

Pictures I took while pedaling in the race and stats from my GPS can be found here.