Things I saw at the conclusion of The West End Loop Race: 1.) Vacant stares; 2.) Blood; 3.) Folks with hypothermia; 4.) Silly, slightly bewildered smiles. It was no cake walk to be sure. For those that thought they still had a good base and that they could throw in an easy 16 miles (myself included), well, they got their asses handed to them.
The 11:00 start set the tone for the day. At 11:05 the wind came on and didn’t stop, and the NW swell had us clawing up some solid rollers (which was about the only time I could see any other paddlers). Honestly, I’ve never come off the board more during a race in my life and I don’t know how the SUP guys did it–they looked miserable paddling most of the first 8 miles on their knees. Keep in mind, these guys are all excellent paddlers, on their knees, just surviving the first leg. At mile 6 the conditions got a bit better (we could see the turn at the end of the island), but the damage was done–attrition pulled a number of folks out of the race.
What was supposed to be a fast down-winder on the front side of the island just wasn’t. If you stopped paddling there was a good chance that you were going backward…against the wind. At 13 miles, I just had to laugh at how spent I was and, had it not been for the support boats, that were carrying extra food and water, I think a good many people would not have finished.
Crossed the line 3rd stock…but the operative phrase in this case was “crossed the line.” The Flying Fish did a hell of a job keeping everyone safe and the race proved to be one that could be technical, punishing, and on my list again for next year. Now if I can just convince them to start it a few hours earlier.