Several weeks ago for (Canadian) Thanksgiving I spent the weekend in Algonquin with the Western Outdoors Club. This is an annual trip which I have gone on several times. This year was the largest group I’ve been part of: 62 university students in 21 canoes!
There are several things I love about this trip (and about Western Outdoors Club in general):
the variety in skill level and equipment
the number of international students
how accessible the club makes trips like this
However, this year there was one thing I DIDN’T ENJOY and that was the weather: cold and wet. Weather forecast was for highs of 8 and lows of 2 with rain on and off most of the weekend. I’ve camped in much colder weather (-27 winter camping!) but I find fall weather much colder. I’m not sure why, possibly the damp but also possibly because I’m not mentally prepared for it and/or never seem to pack enough warm gear. That being said, I was not cold at night even though I was sleeping in my hammock tent.
Despite the cold it was a fun trip! If you don’t believe me, watch a video here…
In our Fit Feminist Challenge Group we have a thing every Tuesday called “Try This Tuesday.” It’s a way of encouraging people to try new things, using the “Try This” entries in Fit at Mid-Life as prompts.
This week when I posted I realized I haven’t actually tried anything new myself in ages. When Sam and I did our challenge in the run up to 50 a few years ago, one reason I got excited was that I discovered triathlon. It was new and a bit scary and super challenging. It involved a learning curve and pushed me in a different direction. And I haven’t felt that way about anything workout and training wise since.
Enter Stand-Up Paddle-boarding. As regular blog readers may know, among other things I’m a sailor. My partner lives on our boat, Guinevere, and I visit him from time to time (yes it’s a slightly unconventional arrangement and it works well for us!). I’m visiting at the moment and he surprised me with an SUP. This was a huge surprise because we have been talking about it for a few years.
I always say, “wow that looks like a good workout.” He always says “I can’t see why anyone would want to do that. And where in the heck will we store it?!” (Space on a boat is at a premium). But at the boat show in Annapolis this weekend (I wasn’t even here yet) he found a great deal and texted me that he got a SUP!
I couldn’t wait to try it. So this morning I took it out for a spin in Spa Creek, where we are at anchor. I worried that I might fall in (it’s lovely on the water but not as nice here in the water, which is briney and dark). I’ve seen people struggle. Often they start on their knees.
I read a “ten tips” primer on the internet and watched a short YouTube video about paddling style. You’re supposed to bend your knees, use your core, keep your paddle vertical and your bottom arm straight, and turn the contoured paddle to face the opposite of what you think it should (you don’t want to scoop the water).
So I started on my knees to get used to the paddle. Then after a couple of strokes I went for it and stood up. Luckily it was a flat day on the water, no waves at all. The board is solid and though I did lose my balance a couple of times I didn’t actually fall in.
I paddled around for about 20 minutes or so and even stayed upright without difficulty when a couple of people went by (slowly) in small boats that produced a bit of wake. I followed the directions from the video. It’s quite the workout. I need to work on technique still, but I did get into a good rhythm and I know I’m going to love using the SUP.
But it’s actually a lot more stable than I expected it to be. Loads of fun. I’m glad I got out yesterday because the edge of Michael is rolling our way and it’s probably my last chance until the Bahamas at Christmas time.
54 is just fine so far. I turned 54 last Friday and spent the weekend celebrating. See Happy 54! Celebrate Sam’s Birthday Season. There was a lot of cake but also a lot of friends and family and adventures. Thanks to everyone who took part and helped organize!
On Sunday fifteen friends and family members went rafting on the Grand River with me. Here’s a review of the activity, note though that we were on the shorter, faster section, from Edon Mills to Paris. So much fun. I’d definitely do it again. You can hang with people or go off on your own. Definitely though bring lots of snacks, sunscreen, and things to drink. It wasn’t all about floating leisurely down river. We had a headwind and in some sections if you didn’t paddle you went backwards. My sub-group didn’t paddle much. We were committed mostly to not paddling. It took us the full 5 hours.
Often we rafted up and appointed the people at the edges the chore of paddling.
At one point I landed up in super shallow water and could neither paddle nor float. I got up out of the boat and tried to walk it downstream but nearly lost my boat, paddles, and pfd in the water. Luckily Sarah rescued me! Thanks Sarah!
You can rent kayaks, canoes, large rafts for groups of people, or individual rafts like the one below. Despite the paddles they aren’t actually that maneuverable. And they’re definitely not speed machines.
But they are a lot of fun, especially through the fast sections.
On Saturday, a group of us rode our bikes 54 km to celebrate my 54th birthday. We chose the country roads east and south of the university being careful to avoid campus because it was move in day. In the end it turned out to be 52 km due to detours but I pedaled around the block a few times to make it an even 54.
Kim didn’t join us for the ride but came along for cake.
Best of all, my former PhD student Mark stopped by with his daughter who is starting university at Guelph and his son who was along for the ride. The teenagers gave us flossing lessons. No video though!
All in all, a happy birthday weekend full of friends, family, cake, and birthday adventures.
I blogged last summer about combining boating and biking. It’s part of my effort to spend time seeing beautiful Ontario countryside by boat (thanks Jeff!) while also getting some road cycling in. That’s partly about fitness but mostly about pleasure. I like moving, not sitting, and the bike/boat combo seems like a great way to do that. In Europe there are lots of bike paths that run alongside the canals and there’s a whole tourist industry built around the boating-biking thing. It’s your mobile home on water that you meet up with at the end of each cycling day. No need to carry stuff. It stays in the boat. Got a non-cycling friend or partner? They can stay in the boat too. You’re both going to the same place.
Last year it worked really well. This time it didn’t work so well but the boating part was a lot fun anyway. The basic idea is sound. For us it’s not about following the boat by bike. What bikes allow you to do is go back and get your car and keep your car near to the boat for trip home. With all the locks and no-wake zones the boat isn’t making great time and so mid-afternoon it’s easy to bike back to where you started and rescue the car. That way when you go to leave the car is nearby.
On day 1 we started in Peterborough with the world’s highest hydraulic lift lock and with best of intentions of biking but we started late and Jeff didn’t have bike shorts and instead we motored on up the canal.
We had dinner out that night and stayed in Young’s Point, anchored where we could hear loons with some bonus cottage noises–playing children and personal watercraft. Zoom zoom.
Bikes at rest on the boat
The next day it was raining hard. But now we couldn’t avoid biking as we had to go back and get the car. Biking and boating involves bike trips back to the car and then shuffling the car on ahead. We waited the rain out until it stopped and then went on what was possibly the worst bike ride of my life. I don’t usually write about things that don’t go well. But this time, cottage country, I’m making an exception.
The main road we needed to ride on was busy and had an inadequate shoulder for riding on. Worse though were the people honking at us and passing too closely.
I got home and posted to Twitter
“Dear cottage country, Would it kill you to pave the shoulders? It might kill us cyclists if you don’t. I’m not asking for separate bike lanes, nothing fancy, but paved shoulders, please.”
“Dear cottage country drivers, We’re bikes, riding single file, just two of us. Speed 25 km/hr. You’re cars going 95 km in an 80 zone. You’re passing us and there’s a dotted line and no oncoming traffic. You’re allowed, in fact required, to leave the lane. Please pass safely. #opp.”
(You can follow me on Twitter. I’m @SamJaneB)
Later, we looked at a bike guide for the area and saw this road labelled, “High volume road, use appropriate caution.”
After the busy road there was my next favorite: gravel bike path. And it was followed by a construction zone that had us riding on the sidewalk. Just 3 km from our car I got a flat. Argh!
At first I thought the drivers just hated cyclists but later I drove a car through the area and continued to get abuse. Argh.
The next day we could have ridden some more but I looked at the roads and decided to stay on the boat. It was a gorgeous day and we made the right call.
The snipe is a small, two person boat and there’s a healthy racing fleet of them up at Guelph Lake. Jeff’s been teaching Sarah and me how to sail and race the Snipe over the past month or so and Tuesday night we got to make our debut. There was no Jeff. He’s off on his big boat and you can read about his adventures here on his own blog.
How’d we make out?
We didn’t die, capsize, crash into any other boats, or drown.
We (mostly) successfully rigged the boat.
We got the boat into the water, and ourselves into the boat, and vice versa at the end. As with rowing there are times when this feels like the trickiest part of the whole thing.
We made all of the mark roundings.
The winds were tricky. It was great that it was neither dead calm nor blowing all the boats over but the winds were really shifty. Because the weather was unsettled we were happy to see that there were only a dozen or so boats out. Sometimes there can be twice that number and it gets a bit hairy at the start. In the end, it rained but only for about ten minutes. We got damp but not soaking wet.
From my point of view, we safely followed the fleet around the course at a respectful distance. In our last race we nearly came second last but the other boat got by us on the final run up to the finish. It was a confidence building experience. It was fun and we’ll definitely do it again.
Sarah had the much harder job of skippering. I was just crew. But we’re learning to work together, to communicate better, and next time we’re hoping to mess it up with the boats at the back of the pack. It’s good to have something that’s new, with a lot to learn, to distract me from all the things I’m not doing this summer because I can’t.
Sarah hadn’t sailed a dinghy since high school. Most of my sailing experience has been on big boats. So this was definitely in the “something new” category.
What’s a Snipe? Wikipedia says it’s a 15.5 foot two person dinghy. The class has been around since 1931. There are fleets around the world.
The community club in Guelph is super beginner friendly and very welcoming. There are club boats you can race so you don’t even have to have your own Snipe to start. Also, there are lots of women around. The boats are pretty stable and beginner friendly. A wide range of ages race Snipes. But they are also fast, tactical, and while not the most performance oriented boat, they’re fun to race.
Here’s some footage from the women’s world championships a few years ago. They’re young women. Luckily there’s also a master class.
More Snipe fun:
If they’re two person boats, how’d the three of us race? The original plan had been for Jeff to skipper all the races and Sarah and I would take turns crewing. We’d swap crew at lunch. You can’t really do that but since it was unlikely we’d place in the regatta (newbies plus club boat) no one was going to object. Instead though Sarah got to crew on one of the go fast boats when someone didn’t show. I crewed for Jeff which felt a bit like old times.
What’s the fitness angle? There’s a lot of physical work in the boat. The most obvious is hiking. To keep the boat from heeling over too much when it’s windy you put your ankles in hiking straps and try to get a lot of your body weight out over the water off the high side of the boat. My abs are sore after three races.
More importantly, I suppose, my knees aren’t sore! Victory