The Hawkesbury caught me a bit by surprise this year, sneaking up on me round the back. I hadn’t done a lot of training, half a dozen 20k’s and a single 30k flogging up and down the Lane Cove River. I did almost all my training alone, not by choice but because scheduling to meet others just didn’t work out with my family obligations. Back in the trusty 580, with the Novorca GP again. The only mod was to raise the pedals a bit so it didn’t fishtail quite as much as last time. The tides were good this year, so I hoped to match my 2009 PB ( solo with a wing, 12:05). No stops: I planned to nose in at Sackville to put a fleece top on , and not to stop at Wisemans unless I was broken.
Landcrew were novices: my brother David, and my son Sam. We only got together the Tuesday before the race, so it was all a shade ad hoc as well. Worked out bloody well, though. They were interested and eager all long night.
|My trusry crew, never better sailed the sea!|
The car we had was a Jazz, a small city car about a third the length of a 580, jammed with gear and three big blokes. Tight getting everything in. Tight getting everything out.
|Made for each other|
A bit scattered at Windsor. Lots of paddlers from the NSWSKC but almost all paddling under another flag. Found Rae and Neil Duffy , and Cathy with her new bloke, and a couple of others but it never came together the way it did last year.
|They fluffed the 5.00pm start - five minutes waiting at the front line.|
Came out of the start quickly, rhs of the river. Two trains developed, with me at the front of one ticking away like an eveready bunny, and another very strong looking bloke on the other. We stayed neck and neck for the first 12km but frankly by then was starting to feel the pace and decided to drop to the back of the peleton. Ooops. Never quite caught the tail… and watched as the two trains gradually pulled away from me.
|Moments before the gun: the last bridge of the race|
|Just after passing under that bridge. My lonely stick.|
Just as I was reconciling to not getting a place this year but instead just trying to beat my PB , I passed a checkpoint with Mark Schroeder hanging off it , who called out. Buoyed my spirits no end, glad to see Mark again too after all the grief he’s been through with his bike prangs recently. He looked no worse than usual.
Lovely balmy afternoon shaded into evening. I was feeling pretty flat when I nosed in to the Sackville mud to put my fleece on, and discovered the torch didn’t work. As it turned out, that wasn’t a problem, but I sent a fair while mucking around trying to get it to go.
Out into the night, and cruising on to Wiseman’s. Because the torch was crook I didn’t bother looking at the maps at all, kinda hoping I wouldn’t miss a checkpoint ( and in truth they are pretty hard to miss, though wish they would get rid of those hopeless strobes).
Sailed in to Wisemans, pulled into the bank to get fresh water and change the GPS batteries. Sam and David very attentive, just a couple of minutes (stayed in boat) and on. The paddlers thinned out, more than I had noticed in the past. Managed not to hit either the tree or the rock I have clobbered twice before, and was keeping up 9km/hr moving average until the last turn down the reach after Spencer, straight into wind and tide. The GPS dropped to 8.9, then 8.8. Momentary speeds fell from 9s and 10’s to 6’s and 7’s. disheartening, and I had to dig deep to accelerate the last few K to the finish.
|Still smiling. Note the redtip 'nanas untouched.|
Clocked 11:44. Somewhere in the night I had passed almost all my class, as I came second in class again. Pretty pleased with the time, with a GP and in my Mirage, but of course wondered how much faster without the silly stick.
I didn’t eat any solid food apart from a banana and still felt full the whole way. Put way only three or four litres of water the whole night, but three protein drinks, numerous snakes and gels, and my new fave boat food, salmon jerky : salty as anything, pungent, just the go. I didn’t need the torch at all, and didn’t use the maps. A few hours of music was good but not the whole way. And I wore a hole in the outer coat of my epoxy paddle with my hand! The GP this year felt muchmore ike an extension of my body: another’s year’s near-daily use of it had really improved my forward stroke and rotation.
Next year is number ten. After that I run out of fingers.