As spring arrived (at least on the calendar) and we were still having North Pole conditions, this group continued to have paddlers surpassing the 100 mile mark, the 200-300 mile marks, going on epic expeditions, and those just getting out of the “I Suck Club” of zero miles. Our little facebook group; includes those who “just like to paddle,” race directors, beasts training for the Graveyard and Key West, or others training for their first 3 mile rec race. There’s Patty Davis who completed the paddle-marathon-paddle with Joe Bark’s group in California, that girl is a STUD! There’s also those who are sponsored athletes or write books on training and give clinics. We are a FORCE, an all inclusive “cool kid group.” It’s ALL good.

The Cause

To be perfectly honest, my reason for starting this simple and no-cost facebook group was 100% self-indulgent and selfish. I needed to keep ME paddling during the winter. I lost paddling partners to injury and the weather sucked (no nice way to say it), water temps were in the 40’s, double and triple suck. It was easier to get online and READ about paddling, than to get out there and do it. Talking is always easier than doing; plus I’m old, I could just take up knitting. But…I like to race, I may not win, but I LIKE to race. To race, you “should” train. So the solution was to find new training partners who would not let me wienie out. I read somewhere if you can’t make the team, start your own, that was my philosophy. I’d start my own training group.

In any other sport I’ve done, it was always easier to get up at 4:30 a.m. to run in the dark when all the boogie men are still out, IF, I had someone to meet = training partner=I was doing, not just talking. Same with awful biting-dogs, broken-glass, and flat-tires, long bike rides; IF, I had someone who would stop half-way at a mini-mart and eat donuts with me, I would do it=training partner=I did.

So this group was formed to help SUCKER me into meeting a “friend” to paddle whether conditions were good or not. Yep, it started out being ALL ABOUT ME!

The Effect

I’ve made quite a fool of myself in my quest to find other training partners and have them join the group. I’ve passed out 100/100 stickers at different events to complete strangers/paddlers (that must be an oxymoron.) I handed them to well-muscled young Marines at the Third annual Paddle to India (I’m a real sucker for an Army Ranger, but a handsome Marine will do in their absence) and paddlers at the Wrightsville Beach biathlon on March 22nd. Some stop and listen, others, well…not so much.

When I read your updates, I’ve been inspired not just by the work ethic, but also by the enthusiasm for each other’s success. People have shared and most of us have learned something new. I am SO thrilled when someone asks me to send them a 100/100 sticker. Take it to a higher level, I get truly OVER THE MOON when they post pictures of the stickers on boards or paddles or omelet’s. That makes this sport FUN. The serious part is reading an interval workout and feeling your pain. Some have to break ice every 15 feet just to paddle (Brad Hardee). Did I say whoa?

The effect is I HAVE gone out on days that weren’t so great, because you all were. The effect is I’ve had conversations online, the phone, and in person, with true hardcore studs (think Justin Schaay who set a new course record at the 2014 Watertribe Everglades Challenge.) This group made athlete-to-athlete paddling information accessible, without all the politics of who’s sponsored, who’s a winner, or who’s a rock star. Justin had a phone conversation with me about my wanting to host a kid’s SUP clinic when he only knew me from the 100/100 paddle challenge. It was spot-on with comments and suggestions, like ages 6-10 is a “high risk” boo-boo group and it’s very hard to keep their focus. The effect is I have a new appreciation for the people who paddle, and their willingness to share; whoever they are, whoever I am.

The effect is I’m working on being more ba**sy, like our training partner, Heather Cobham Brewers. She gets up before dawn, puts on blinky lights and paddles out onto her river; all for her first go at the Carolina Cup Intermediate Loop; pretty darn ba**sy. Heather finished right behind some dancing dolphins at the Cold Stroke Classic, this girl has some magic in her, and she might even be a good witch. Then there’s our training buddy, Katie Elzer-Peters; well, Katie is, THE ONE, who in my opinion, has done more for the growth of our sport with her infectious personality and energy than any big deal pro. At the Wrightsville Beach biathlon, Katie raced as a paddler, transitioned into full cheerleader mode while teammate Patty Davis slugged through soul sucking soft sand….AND….simultaneously worked as Distressed Mullet on-site everything person taking pictures of the winners and making sure every racer was taken care of. The effect is I listen when Katie tells me straight up, “grow a pair.” How come she knows when the wienie mode has started worming into my brain?

Where Do We Go From Here?

So where do we go from here? What will I do without you as training partners? Our challenge ends the weekend of the Carolina Cup. I will miss hearing about the race successes, and the “I got to paddle with dolphins or manatees or rainbows and pelicans pooped on me.” I’ll miss the “I SUCK” posts and the “intervals made me hate myself” comments. How can we keep the camaraderie of pushing each other as friends to succeed, whatever that success is? Thank you, but who’s going to carry the torch?

What happens next?