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1x marathon notes in greater depth

After our pre-race meeting wrapped up at around 6:30 am, all the marathoners trooped down to the docks to launch our boats and get underway. We tried to start out in order from fastest to slowest to minimize the hassle of trying to pass. That meant I should start at the very back, behind the quad, doubles, pair, and men's singles. But just as the quad was about to get underway, one of its rowers declared, "I forgot my water bottle!" The quad members consulted with each other and decided to delay their start because hydration was going to be a big factor for the marathon.

So off we all went. I felt fairly nervous in the first 3k or so because I know that it's easy to start out way too fast in a marathon, but I haven't been getting in quite enough training so as to have a sense as to an appropriate pace. In addition, the water conditions mean that it isn't always possible to judge one's effort based on one's splits. I had to settle for rowing for a bit and keeping an eye on my stroke rate and splits and then just figure I was proceeding fine.

It didn't take too long before I caught up with the pair. As I was working on gradually overtaking the pair, the quad started to charge up, so we had three boats across for a bit.

The heat, air pollution, and scattering of thin clouds made for an absolutely gorgeous sunrise.

I'm hoping to download footage from the cheap Chinese GoPro knockoff this evening. Its battery didn't even last all the way to the halfway point, but there should still be some cool Slow Television footage on it.

The scenery along the Petaluma Estuary is entirely different from the scenery along the Cane River in Louisiana, the other place where I've completed a winding river marathon. Almost all of the banks along the Estuary are mud, leading up to flat, grassy habitat, which is probably great for birds. There are a bunch of gentle curves, but only a couple of sharp corners at the very beginning of the row. So for the most part, steering is very easy. The main obstacle to watch out for is other boats.

After I got underway, I realized I hadn't set up my SpeedCoach to display the elapsed time - only my split (time it takes to cover 500m), stroke rating, meters to go, and meters completed. I made mental note of my starting time and then did a few mental calculations for what kind of speed would be necessary to make it to the turnaround point ahead of the two-hour cutoff time.

After I had been rowing for about an hour, I passed another boat, this time a men's 1x. At about that time, I also started to notice my split times creeping up. I didn't feel like I'd changed much in terms of effort, so I had to figure the difference was due to changing tides. Still, I became slightly more nervous about making the cutoff because my ongoing mental calculations suggested I'd now be cutting things close. But there was nothing to do but carry on.

At long last, I rounded a long corner and could see some sort of bridge off in the distance. It was the highway overpass shortly before the turnaround at the train bridge. I also spotted the quad, charging straight at me! The bowman in the quad shouted a warning, and we both adjusted our courses to avoid a collision.

Then, through the highway bridge, and through the train bridge. In that section I could definitely tell interesting things were going on with the tides because every couple of strokes things would feel strange due to currents and eddies. Observing the angles of the train bridge, I concluded I'd be best off weighing enough to complete my spin. And then I could tell that yes, the tide was most definitely coming in. I'd have a chance to cruise along for a bit on my way back to Petaluma.

The first of our safety launches was parked back on the return side of the highway bridge, so I decided to head over towards it before stopping for my first slugs of water and energy gel. When I reached the launch, I observed that they were helping another 1x rower with something. Eventually he got back in his boat and carried on. Later I learned that he was having severe hamstring pain and couldn't use his legs at all. What a slog. I also learned, at the end, that a second men's 1x rower had his footstretchers rip out of the boat while he was rowing, causing him to fly out and flip the boat. A safety launch helped him back in and found some rope to tie his footstretchers back in so he was able to complete the row.

I stopped again at the 14 km-to-go mark for another slug of water and sugar gel, figuring that dividing up the remaining effort into 7ks would give me good distances to work through without stopping too frequently. It was starting to get fairly warm. The only other boat I saw along that stretch was a pleasure boat, which chased me along at top speed until it hit a no-wake zone, then slowed down, then plowed along again and delivered a huge wake. I said a lengthy series of curse words under my breath as I stopped to ensure that I didn't flip. Ignorant jerks.

I made my last quick water stop at 7 km to go. Shortly thereafter, I started to see the familiar sights along the early stages of the route and was cheered by how the landmarks gave me a sense of forward progress.

When I crossed the finish line, my SpeedCoach said I still had about 500m to go, so I decided to finish out the full marathon distance by continuing to row down to the next bridge. Then I finally stopped, spun the boat around, and headed for the dock.

Altogether I think I should have carried one more bottle of water, given the weather conditions. If I'd needed it, I could have stopped at one of the safety launches to reprovision, but as it stood I had just enough to squeak by on fumes at the very end. As soon as I reached the dock and pitched out of the boat, I made my way over to a cooler full of Gatorade and downed a full bottle. It tasted wonderful. I also stuck my hat in the ice water and put it back on my head and it felt utterly amazing.

I managed to finish without any blisters ripping open, probably because I was rowing but not really racing. If I'd intended to really race, I would have needed to have trained more carefully in the months leading up to the marathon. That said, my finish time was only 10 minutes slower than the record finish for the women's 1x marathon distance. Something to ponder if I want to come back and row this event again. I also think I'd switch over to just drinking sugary sports drinks. That worked well for me the last time I completed an erg marathon. The gels are too concentrated and a real nuisance.

Today there are a number of butt and postural muscles that are complaining, and ligaments in my right thumb are unhappy. Still, recovery's pretty swift for an event like this, and I'll probably try to row again tomorrow morning. Altogether, in spite of the heat and the air pollution, yesterday was a wonderful day.

This entry was originally posted at http://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1177066.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


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