Thursday, October 31, 2019

An Incident at Chattajack

TL;DR: I broke up a fight at Chattajack and I can't stop thinking about it.

When I wrote my Chattajack 2019 recap, I left out the drama of the day.

As I've read more about activism and social justice, I've become more willing to speak my mind. I'm less apologetic and more forceful. Basically, I've internalized a lot of the empowerment/confidence messaging of 4th wave feminism, but I often wonder how I'd act in public if faced with a situation where this kind of strength is really needed. Where confrontation comes to a head.

I got to see it in action last Saturday.

At the start of any paddle race, there are collisions. It's the nature of the start line; with so many crafts at so many different speeds, people just get run into sometimes. At Chattajack, there were a handful, which were mostly taken lightly and as par for the course.

One collision involved Matt's team (K2N) and an OC2.

An OC6 is faster than an OC2, just based on manpower. It's also a much larger boat. K2N found themselves between a bridge piling and an OC2 at the start line, and rather than yield, the OC2 got in their way. The OC6's ama went over the OC2's tail and got stuck for about 10 seconds. The equivalent (for the OC2) would be getting jostled and stuck behind a group of people at the start of a marathon.

(We've since seen video and know that rather than paddle out of the situation, the OC2 steersman tried to lift the ama and deliberately tip K2N's boat, which could have resulted in a broken boat, major injury if someone got trapped between the boat and bridge, or even a drowning. The only reason they didn't succeed is that two K2N rowers realized what was happening and leaned the opposite direction to counter the lift. The gravity of the situation can't be understated. Basically, this was a much bigger deal than we originally thought for K2N.)

There was a lot of swearing and personal attacks hurled between boats before the OC6 peeled off and got on its way.

Matt's team finished in just over 4 hours but we hung around the marina for a long time trying to get things situated. About 5 hours after the start, the enraged OC2's second paddler found us at the marina. He came stomping up to Robert, K2N's steersman, and got in his face. This guy was lanky and tall, taller than Robert and much taller than me. At first, we spectators thought he was joking. It was just so ludicrous to see a 60-something guy trying to fight a friend of ours.

He screamed about how Robert was in the wrong for steering into their boat, literally asking, "Do you think you were right and I was wrong?!" to which Robert replied, "What do you think happened?" (I later learned this all came down to ego more than anything else, because this guy apparently travels to paddle races all the time and works for the Pentagon. He clearly didn't like that Robert stood his ground.)

Robert refused to apologize because he wasn't in the wrong.

The guy threatened to report the team to the race director, a threat at which we all rolled our eyes. Collisions happen. No boats were damaged. What's the fuss?

I told him I had photo evidence of the incident and he laughed in my face before stalking off, perhaps to attempt to find the race director.

Remember that marathon analogy? If you finished the race and then immediately went searching for the group of people who had jostled/blocked you briefly at the start line, that's basically what this guy did. He didn't take the time to celebrate or take pride in his own race; he was single-mindedly searching for the team who got in his way five hours earlier.

Anyway, I thought that it over, but this guy approached us AGAIN twenty minutes or more later, as we stood at my car. He was still yelling and circling Robert like he wanted to get physical.

Matt and I both tried to defuse the situation. I said, "Emotions are running high, but nothing was damaged, it's in the past." Matt said, "Everyone is here to have a good time. It was 10 seconds 31 miles ago."

The guy wouldn't let up. He and Robert were facing off. Suddenly, he made a move like he was going to shove Robert.

Without thinking, I jumped in between them and got in the guy's face. I was so close I had to tilt my head up to look him in the eye, and I felt my body brush his before he moved back. His expression shifted, surprise replacing some of the pugnacious rage. In my best Teacher Voice, commanding and loud but not quite yelling, I said, "STOP IT. YOU ARE A GROWN MAN. WALK AWAY."

I think I may have even wagged a finger in his face.

My entire body was pulsing with adrenaline. I was shaking. The guy finally backed off, shouting, "So is he!" and walked away. I followed him a few steps to make sure he really left.

Afterward, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I had taken a risk, assuming he wouldn't push or hit me because I'm a woman. But I also hadn't actually made a conscious decision to make a move between them. That leap into the middle of the argument happened on instinct.

Now I know that I actually have internalized the messaging that we shouldn't let entitled jerks walk all over us and heap abuse on us. I, of course, thought of a million other things I wanted to yell at him after the fact. But that's not the point. That wasn't a learning moment for that guy; no one is open to hearing about how they'd benefit from therapy and anger management in the midst of an apoplectic tantrum.

But I have thought a lot about the fact that he apparently works at the Pentagon. I have a lot of disdain for men who treat people with such disrespect and cruelty, and I don't think men like that should be representing our country in the military. Obviously, I'm not naive; there's a reason men like him get into those positions of power. But I do wonder what his superiors would say to him almost getting into a physical altercation with a civilian at a recreational sporting event.

I hope when he looks back at his race weekend, he remembers the short little woman who got in his face and shamed him for acting like an immature bully.

I hope, given time, he realizes just what it says about him that I had to do just that.

Maybe someday he'll learn from that. Maybe not. But I learned something about myself, and I'm proud.


Monday, October 28, 2019

Chattajack 2019 - the 5th Year!

Ever since Matt did his first Chattajck in 2015, he has been determined to complete the race five consecutive years. Paddlers who finish the race within the course time limit for five consecutive years get a special hand-designed belt buckle, and Matt coveted that buckle.
Over the years, he's faced a variety of challenges in completing the course, but he's always prevailed, despite freezing cold, high winds, and driving rain. He's raced on stand-up boards of various lengths, his OC1, and now an OC6.
For those that are new here, Chattajack is a 31+ mile race on the Tennessee River. After I ran my first marathon, Matt was intrigued and wanted to find a similar challenge for SUP. Boy, did he!
Bill, Jim, Cindy, Dalton, Robert, Matt: Team Ka Nalu Nui
Saturday the 26th dawned wet and warm. We'd arrived in Tennessee the previous Thursday and had endured a couple days of constant rain. Everyone hoped the rain would let up on Saturday; it didn't quite stop, but it was lighter.
Pre-race run!
Pre-race selfie!
This year, Matt raced in an OC6 (an outrigger canoe with six paddlers). His team (Ka Nalu Nui, called K2N) consisted of his paddling friends Robert, Cindy, Jim, Bill, and Dalton. Each seat in an OC6 has an assigned task. Matt's job, in seat 1, was to set the pace.
Placing the boat in the water.
Heading out for the start
The OC's start later than the SUP paddlers because they are faster crafts, so they start a little later, at 9am instead of 8:30. This meant I had time to get a little run in before seeing them off at the start line.

There was a bit of a collision at the start - K2N's ama (the smaller piece that helps balance the boat) got caught on a smaller OC2's back end. There were heated words exchanged. I'm going to skim over how this ended up causing some drama later, because I actually think it warrants its own post.
Anyway, after the collision (which are par for the course in paddle racers and of which there were quite a few that morning!) K2N got their momentum and got moving!

I saw them at mile 10, Suck Creek, as planned. (In fact, I made it to all my viewing stops this year without any drama or getting lost, which was really good because they were so much faster than when Matt paddles solo that if I had gotten lost, I probably would have missed them. I barely had to wait for them at all along the course!)
Anyway, they were looking strong and in good spirits, paddling away! The rain had stopped and it was breezy but not too windy - excellent outdoor activity weather. They were the first OC6, and I didn't see another anywhere close behind.

Next, I drove to mile 20, Raccoon Mountain. I always get lost getting to this stop, but not this year! As I waited for them to arrive, I noticed the rain and wind had picked up a bit. I saw them after about 15 minutes.
They still looked strong, but a little more subdued. At mile 10 they had still been fresh and peppy; I could tell the race was starting to get tough. Matt told me later that they had started to get some headwinds around mile 15 or so (gusts around 30+ mph), which are always tough to paddle through, but then those headwinds turned into tailwinds and they got to ride some waves and basically enjoy some fun, downwinder-style waters.

I made a pit-stop at Raccoon Mountain's visitor center to use the restroom, then hurried down to mile 24, Sullivan's Landing. This is the spot where the viewing point is farthest from the boats, as they stick to the opposite side of the river. With our new camera, though, I was able to finally get some good views of them. Also, the gigantic boat made spotting them much easier.
I could tell the wind and picked up, but the temperatures were still mild and the rain was barely spitting. Overall, I'd say it was some of the best weather we've ever had for Chattajack.

From Sullivan's Landing, it was on to the last stop: mile 31, Hale's Bar. I arrived so early they were still setting up the finish line! No one had finished yet! That's never happened before!

I got comfortable on the dock. As usual, Quack joined me. There was a bit of entertainment as the first finishers came in, especially because someone had tied a random fishing boat along the dock where the final sprint takes place, and a volunteer had to hop in the boat and paddle it out of the way so the surf skis could get by unobstructed.
This volunteer paddling a fishing boat with a SUP paddle deserves an award
After about twenty minutes of waiting, Matt's team turned the corner and came into view.
They dug deep and paddled hard for that final 300 yard sprint. I took photos, then, as usual, ran along the dock beside them screaming wildly.
Bill's girlfriend got video of their finish:
Obviously, they were exhausted, but so ecstatic! They'd finished right around their expected time (4 hours 8 minutes) and in first place by over 10 minutes. They also placed first in the sprint (which is timed separately as a second mini-race at the end of the main race).
After getting the boat out of the water and situated on the trailer (and dealing with more drama from that collision early in the race), we headed back to the Airbnb to shower and relax.

View this post on Instagram

What a day yesterday. Still taking it all in. ✅ First place OC6. ✅ Fastest sprint finish after 32 miles (separate award). ✅ 5 year belt buckle earned for 5 consecutive successful @chattajack races. After finishing 3rd and 2nd in past years, I feel like I’ve hit for the cycle by adding the above awards this time. The conditions were awesome. 30+ mph winds. Sometimes headwind, but more often downwind. We were catching bumps on the river in a 40 something foot OC6 😍 Our final sprint was apparently a bit sloppy with some missed switches and not always in sync, but in our defense, the crowd on the dock was going wild, we just paddled 32 miles, and we could barely hear the switch calls. It was an amazing feeling and we still had a convincing win in the sprint awards. Big thank yous to all my teammates for killing it while having fun, @abk_runs for being the best one-woman support crew and cheering squad on the course, @_super_robert_ and Ka Nalu Nui for organizing it, my college buddy “Quack” for his yearly post-race help and support, and Brent at Dunedin OCC for lending us a fast @puakeadesigns unlimited OC6 and hauling it up here. More to come later! . . . . . . . . #paddlerace #race #fitness #itsaboutlifestyle #stokeonthewater #chattajack2019 #chattajack #oc6 #outriggercanoe #puakea #puakeadesigns #puakeamalolo #malolooc6 #outriggerzone #crosstraining #canoeracing #canoerace #outrigger #hippostick #hippostickherd #puakeaohana
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At the awards ceremony that night, Matt got that shiny, special belt buckle. K2N snagged their first place awards (handprinted posters) and first place sprint awards, too (custom hats). Matt also got to see his paddling idol and friend Danny Ching, who raced Chattajack for the first time this year and won first in his division.
Matt and Karl with their buckles.
The top 3 OC6 teams
Matt and Danny
On Sunday before heading home, we stopped at Point Park for some photos and had lunch with Quack.
2/3 of team K2N

View this post on Instagram

#Chattaswag At first, this race started as a bucket list race for me. But it was so awesome I had to do it again the next year. But I still figured I would just do it now and then since it is a big far away race and tough to do every year. But a few years ago, during the award ceremony for probably my second @chattajack in 2016, they gave out these super nice custom belt buckle awards to a small group who had done the race successfully in 5 consecutive years. I knew right then that I was going to have to do the same thing 😅 . I knew it would be no small feat. Racers I knew had to start their 3-4 chattajack streaks over due to having to drop out mid race from hypothermia, missing cutoff times at the end by mere minutes, life getting in the way, injuries, etc. 5 consecutive *successful* finishes is tough. This year, my final year of the streak, I decided to do OC6 to do yet another craft at the race. But I knew and stressed out all along about relying on so many other people to complete my streak. You see, even if one person dropped out mid-race, and the rest of us finished without them, we would all be disqualified. If someone got sick or injured on the way to Chattanooga, we would be in a tough spot. And I even brought my SUP up as a backup in case the OC6s were delayed or damaged in an accident on the way up. I made sure my teammates brought extra warm clothes to store in the canoe so hypothermia couldn’t derail us. In the end of course, my teammates were all badasses and I didn’t have to worry about them, just myself. And it was amazing to experience the thrill and accomplishment of Chattajack as a team for once. And to have a bunch of friends in the same boat helping me accomplish this streak was special too . There’s a strong chance I take a break from this race next year. After all, no 10-year belt buckle has been announced yet 🤣 And @abk_runs says its her turn for a big far away race which is definitely true. She’s been an amazing supporter these last 5 years. Thank you to @kimfriberg83 and @ben.friberg for organizing this life changing event 🙌
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This was a great year to cap Matt's five-year streak. Good weather. A strong team. Solid logistics. We couldn't have asked for better!


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Things I'm Realizing

When I posted about my running anxiety, a few friends brought up that it may be in relation to my less-than-stellar 5ks this summer and my fear of a repeat performance this fall. Now that I've run my fall 5ks with much better results, my anxiety (in this regard) has definitely lessened.

I've been mulling this over and coming to terms with some things. Here are my thoughts.

My performance at the SUP n Run and Run for Equality 5ks had a bigger mental impact on me than I realized. Logically, I knew the heat was a big factor in both those races being slower than my typical 5k, but the results still altered my perception of my abilities. I was struggling with more self-doubt than I realized, and I felt like anyone watching me go for a run would see that I was a fraud.
May 25 - SUP n Run splits
June 1 - Run for Equality splits
Looking back, these races weren't as bad as I felt they were, but they were significantly outside my usual times.

Because my summer training runs tend to be done at a slower pace, every time I went for a run I faced a fear of seeing slower times on my watch.

Those two 5ks compared to my most recent ones (Phillippi Shores and Game Day) also solidified for me something I've been kind of denying for years: eating "better" impacts how I run, and losing weight has made a difference, too. Most likely the impact here is both mental and physical.

I feel better and more athletic in my mind and it feels easier to get my body moving. When I ran my 5k PR in 2016, I weighed a little more than I do now, but not by much. I weighed less than I did during those two recent 5ks where I struggled so much. I've never come close to that PR again, and I wonder how much the weight gain factors in there.
October 5 - Phillippi Shores "5k"
October 12 - Game Day 5k
As far as that goes, I am maintaining the weight I successfully reached over the summer and am very happy.

Another thing I've had to come to terms with is that I have to let go of the lackadaisical mindset I've been in  - I can't do very little running and expect to stay at the top of my game. That mindset came about after surgery, when I was just so happy to be running at all that I wasn't too bothered by paces or distances. A large part of me still finds the idea of training unattractive, but I also know that if I want to be able to be happy with my race performance at any distance, I have to find a better balance between doing basically nothing/very very little and training hardcore.

I forgot that a 5k isn't "just" a 5k, and performing well takes work.

My pre-run anxiety has subsided. I think I connected it to feeling exposed/judged/like people could see I was a fake because I'd had some bad runs and I was getting nervous about losing my edge forever.

I think I can avoid a recurrence of this anxiety if I keep to a basic running schedule, whether I'm actively training for a race or not. I may not be planning races far in advance these days, but if I want to be able to just pick up a 5k on a random weekend, I need to be in fair shape, especially if I want to avoid the emotional fallout, and consistent running will do that.

I'll continue using the calendar I've started planning for this fall after the season has passed, and it will hopefully help to keep me on track.

It's funny that even after a decade of running, I'm still learning new things about my body and mind. I guess that's one reason running never gets stale!


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Next Up!

I've mentioned this before, but I will not be running the A1A marathon (or half) in 2020. I love that race for many reasons, not least of which is the location (giving me an excuse to see friends and family) and that it has always fallen on a long weekend near my birthday.

Next year, though, A1A is on a different weekend; they've moved it up an entire month to January, in fact. I don't like racing in January because I'm never able to train through the holidays, and because winter break goes through January 8, I hate taking time off work because the month is already cut short.

I thought this meant I'd have to write off a Fort Lauderdale race completely, but then Kristina brought up that she and Adam have run the 13.1 Fort Lauderdale relay and that piqued my interest! I don't feel inclined to run a half marathon this fall, but a half relay sounds fun!
Matt immediately agreed. We had some frustrating issues signing up and I had to go back and forth with the race organizer and the Chronotracks tech support guy for literally months. But, finally, things are set up and Matt and I are registered! I'm pretty pleased with our team name:
Get it?
The race is on Veterans Day weekend, so there's no need to take the following Monday off. We'll stay with Oden, like we always have for A1A, and we'll get to see Steph and the family, though not at the finish line.

As for training...My runs have mostly been 3-4 miles these days; volleyball has started so that's made running a little challenging. I only have a couple weeks 'til race day, including Chattajack, which complicates matters. I'm a little nervous about meeting my training goals for this race, since my timeline is super abbreviated, but here's the plan, starting this week:
Is it weird that I prefer to plan on a calendar rather than using an actual training app?
I can't plan to run on the days we have actual games, but I can run after practices. This year we have the entire week off for Thanksgiving, so I'll definitely be able to use that week to my advantage.

I will be using this Ft. Lauderdale relay as a way to build a base to start increasing mileage for Ragnar instead of looking at the distance as a goal in and of itself. Even still, Ragnar isn't that far out and I haven't been doing any kind of long runs yet, so we'll see how that goes!
My training has focused more on elevation than distance; I hope that doesn't end up being a mistake!
All in all, I'm actually pretty happy that the races I'm interested in this fall increase in distance gradually - it's like I actually planned ahead or something! As I posted previously, I'm also happy to be doing something a little different race-wise this fall and winter. Change is exciting, and in this case, definitely of the good!


Monday, October 14, 2019

Game Day 5k

After my surprising performance at last weekend's 5k, I decided to do something I haven't done in ages when it comes to a race: I set a time goal. Specifically, I set a pace goal. I had managed to run the abbreviated Phillippi Shores 5k with an average 9:06 pace, and after a successful and steady 4-mile bridge run on Wednesday the following week, I decided to try for a 9:00 pace this last Saturday.
The Game Day 5k is a smallish race near my parents' house once again staged by the Manasota Track Club. (I hoped this course would be measured correctly.) With Matt in Dunedin for another team paddle, it was the perfect race to fill the spot left empty when the Thrive 5k was canceled.

I knew there would be other Skirt ambassadors there and I was also taking over the Skirt instagram page that day, so everything was falling into place.
The race was set to begin at 8am, which is pretty late for a 5k in Florida no matter the time of year, but I was surprised by how cool the weather was when I first got there around 7:30. I checked my app to confirm because I couldn't believe it - it was only 68! Fall is really here!

I had to park about .1-miles from the race; as I was pulling onto the road, I noticed a bunch of runners doing their warmups had paused and were indicating I ought to turn around and park on the side of the road rather than continuing to the venue. Listening to them saved me ten minutes of navigating the overfull parking lot and having to find a farther spot, which would have messed up my morning timing. I was grateful!
Pre-race, feeling some nervous energy!
I parked and walked to the start, where I got my packet and said hello to Wendy and Marjorie. Then I had time to go back to the car, drop my things, put on my bib, and get ready to go. I felt nervous but not anxious.

Once again, there was no tracking mat at the start. I was a little discombobulated because one of my earbuds wasn't turning on, so I was distracted trying to fix that. (Afterward I had to look up how to turn the individual earbuds on and off once they're out of the case, so I'll know for next time!) So, my start wasn't great. I wasn't at the very front of the line and my GPS didn't kick in right away; generally I just felt a little stressed and unprepared when the starting gun went.

This mindset at the start meant I went out a little faster than I should have, but because I had a plan in mind, I reined it in pretty quickly. The majority of the course was shady because of the time of day, but there were patches where the sun was cutting through and already hot. The morning was sticky. This 5k also has a 10k option and I was so glad I wasn't running longer.
As usual, the last half mile of the race was tough for me. It was starting to get hot and I could feel myself slowing down. I have a tendency to take a walk break around 2.6 miles of a 5k; when I felt I may be losing my pace goal at this point, I just told myself to keep running, even if I had to slow down. Just avoid walking. Just finish in a way that you can be proud of.

Here are two blurry screenshots from the finish line video:
The time on the clock when I finished was 28:30, but my watch read 28:19. With no timing at the starting line, I'm happy to believe my watch over the clock in this case.
I can't get over how evenly matched my first two mile splits were!
I sat for awhile just past the finish line on an open stretch of curb. Eventually I saw Wendy and we got to chatting while we waited for some other friends to finish.
We made our way over to the food and celebration area, where I checked my time. I had placed 2nd in my age group! I had hoped I would place top 3, since this is a small race and the faster runners were taking on the 10k rather than the 5k.
Okay, to be fair, the age group was so small and the MTC does awards 6-deep, so I was guaranteed a place, but I was really glad to have earned it.
I went back to the car to put a shirt back on, ditch my earbuds, and grab my water. By the time I was making my way back, I could hear the announcer already calling names for awards!
Standing on a podium sure is fun!
It turns out the ladies in Skirt really cleaned up that morning! We all placed in our age groups, so we waited for all the awards to be read before getting a final picture together and going our separate ways.
Me, Wendy, Marjorie, and Bonnie. This was Marjorie's first race in the 70-74 AG! (She did the 10k and is amazing!)
Despite missing my pace goal by just a smidge and letting the wheels come off in the third mile, I am really pretty happy with this race. I signed up hoping I'd place and I did. I set a lofty goal and nearly met it. I feel like this race and last weekend's have helped realign my perspective on where I am in my training and fitness right now, which was seriously necessary.

I'm sure I'll post more on it later, but I can see now how much my slower 5ks from the summer messed with my head and my perception of my abilities.

Anyway, this was a fun race with an excellent pay-off, and I hope to run again next year!