Thoughts on how being a Yogi-Raw-Vegan helped me to my first 12-mile finish line…
Last weekend I participated in the 17th Annual Key West Paddleboard Classic Race, a 12-mile race around the island of Key West. What Fun!!! I am new to the Sport of Stand-Up-Paddle (SUP) racing and this was only my second race ever. WHAT FUN!!!
Here is my recap of that Epic Day…
Saturday Morning I awoke to a drizzling rain and butterflies in the belly. As a sun-gazer, I usually start my day with sunrise gratitude mediation. Well, there was no sun to be seen and so many race-day thoughts buzzing around in my mind, forget about meditation. I know this is when one needs it the most, so I gave it a shot, set a quick intention, and rushed off to the beach.
For breakfast I had Chia seeds soaked in fresh coconut water that my dad helped me harvest and open the night before and several home-made raw energy and protein cookies. YUM! All week leading up to the race, I had totally cleared out my diet of pretty much anything but superfoods. Some call me extreme. I say I am passionate. 🙂
Down on the beach excitement was growing as the moments were closing to the race. My biggest dilemma was where and how to carry my energy gel for the race. I predicted I would take between 3 and 3.5 hours to finish, so I needed to carry some form or nourishment with me. But paddling is not like a running race where your hands are free to grab a quick snack on the go. One hand for one second is about as much of a time loss that I wanted to give myself for re-fueling. After several placements around the body including, the straps of my hydration pack and inside my bikini top, I decided to store them already opened, upright, inside my bathing suit bottoms. This was a mistake. Almost immediately goo started going everywhere but it was too late to fix as the race was about to begin and I needed to paddle out to the start.
An observation about the start for anyone who may be reading this who was actually at or part of the race…I noticed that what seemed like more than half of the racers were lined up outside of the actual start line, giving themselves a distinct advantage to the wind angle at the start. I also noticed than a large number of people were creeping way ahead of the start line so that by the time the whistle actually blew, they were a several board lengths ahead. I know there is not much to be done about this as, how do you penalize half of the fleet? (well in a sailing regatta you re-start everyone) And at the same time I like the fact that we still have a laid-back vibe about paddle racing as opposed to some sports with entire volumes of racing rules. (like sailing) But, I don’t like to see people taking advantage of things because that is exactly the mind-set that necessitates rules to start being made. I know I am new to racing. This is just my two cents.
The Race itself was awesome! We paddled clock-wise around the Island. Starting and finishing at Higgs Beach. The paddlers got spread out pretty quickly as the first mile or so was open water and very rough. I lost count of how many times I fell and all of my silly preparations and frets about not wanting to waste seconds opening or finding gels went right out the window as I had lost half of them by the third fall. At least all of the sticky stuff running down my legs was washed off. 😉 At this point I thought I was way behind where I had wanted to be, that for sure no one had fallen as much as me. Haha. Little did I know I was actually doing quite well. Anyway, I paddled on…
On the back side of the island things calmed down considerably. Besides 90% of the race being cross-winds, which are my least favorite, this 6 or so miles went by fairly quickly. I was able to hold my position in the fleet until around mile 7 or 8 on the second diagonal leg headed towards Cow Key Cut. (the northern end of Key West) At this point geometry, (I think I took a more direct route) endurance, or perhaps my meditation practice began to pay off. I slowly started to pass people.
This is the leg of the race I have heard a lot of people say they began to breakdown. Instead of giving in to exhaustion, I began to meditate. I looked to the sun for energy. I asked to be tapped in to all the energy of the universe knowing that everything I need is provided for me, including abundant energy. I asked for everyone in the race to receive that energy, that we all would finish the full 12 miles with our best time possible. Then I began my mantra. With each stroke for the next 3 miles (until about mile 10, where it is all just a blur) I said the words “I love you.” Sometimes in my head. Sometimes out loud. Most of the times directed at the person I was busy passing. I firmly believe in the power of positive energy.
When we entered Cow Key Channel, the wind and current were against us. I pulled as far to the Key West side of the channel as I could to get out of the current and soon joined a 4-woman drafting train. This was very helpful taking turns ‘pulling’ each other up-wind as fast as possible. (whoever you women were, especially the one in pig tails with the neon yellow pants, thank you! you were awesome!)
The last hour was pretty much every paddler’s worst nightmare. 2-3 miles of chaotic wind chop made trying to stay on your board like riding a bucking bronco. This time around I was prepared. I realized my mistake in the beginning was trying to paddle to fast and not stabilizing enough. So for the last two miles I slowed my paddling way down, but I managed to stay on my board (almost) the whole time. I reminded myself not to tighten up too much or to fight against it, but to become one with the motion of one of my greatest loves in the whole world, the ocean. And at the very least to relax the tension in my face and jaw. This technique also paid off as I did not experience debilitating cramps as many people did towards then end.
I ended up finishing 49th over all out of over 200 paddlers. 16th over all on 12’6” boards. 7th over all in the women’s division. and 1st in my age group.
Not too bad for a first try. I sincerely hope to be back to try again next year! A HUGE thank you to LAZY DOG, Distressed Mullet, and everyone involved who helped put on such an AWESOME event!!!!!
And my “Sponsor” Paddle! the Florida Keys
– an after note – when I first started writing this I didn’t intend on the theme being a new-age approach to paddling, it just sort of came out that way. If you have any thoughts or questions about diet or the benefits of yoga in your SUP training, I am more than happy to answer and discuss.