“Dude,you’re nuts” said my boss when I mentioned that I’ll be racing in this year’s Deception Pass Dash. With the recent cold spell and temperatures into the -5 range and lower, when the only paddling I normally do is at the pool, I was ponderous about the idea myself. But, decision was made and with several friends wishing me good luck I had no respectable way of backing out anyway. Even if people at work were convinced I’ll freeze my balls to the boat. Kayaking was invented and used on a daily basis in much colder climates and without any of the modern materials and safety gear, so we’re all wimps by comparison.
The start of the Dash is timed depending on the tidal flow through the pass, and this year the start was at a twilight 7:10AM, with all the race prep in darkness by a headlamp and racer meeting at 6:30. Which is probably the other reason turnout was at an all time low of 50 craft, mostly kayaks, a few outriggers, some stand-up and prone paddleboards and even a 8-person Voyageur canoe. In 2011 there were well over 100 boats. Like a (stereotypical) girl going on a first date, I had no idea what to wear. Dressing for the air temps would have me overheat in no time at all, dressing for the output leaves an uncomfortably narrow safety margin. A compromise was decided on and ended up fairly good.
Horn blew, and unlike last year I was ready. However just like the last year, I was left in the dust (or the wake). I guess I just don’t really start well. Soon enough I found my pace and got into a steady position in the pack, life once again was OK. Then came my favorite part, rounding Deception Island. First turn of the race, and the most fun one because the pack of racers didn’t have time to spread out yet. As we’re rounding the small rocky island, I maneuvered my sturdy plastic boat as close to the rocks as I can to get the very inside lane and gave it all I had. I managed to move up several positions. Probably similar to last year.
For a while I was head-to-head with a prone paddle boarder, who impressed me to no end. Almost anyone can paddle a boat, but to paddle a board, while laying down or kneeling, with your bare hands, for 6 miles, is something to write home about, especially in this temperature. Eventually I passed him at the top of Strawberry Island, the turning point of the race where the tidal current you’re pushing against for the first half stops being the enemy and starts being a friend.
Until the very end I was trying to catch 2 guys in my class that always looked within reach, but always had just enough energy to keep that distance. I ended up 20 seconds behind them and over 2 minutes in front of the person behind me, overall 10th out of 20 sea kayaks/fast sea kayaks. The rising sun made for a great view and it was my best DPD so far. Even if mid-way through the race the water in my camelback hose turned to ice.
Everyone got in safely with only one person forced to turn around, the free burgers tasted great, and I even won a little raffle prize. And then a small Chihuahua-sized dog-like creature ate my coleslaw. Moral of the story? some dogs like salad. And kayak racing is fun, even in the cold! We should organize a VOC kayak team and dominate the event next year. Maybe?