My dragon boating adventure has just reached news heights, as this weekend I took part in my first races.
After work on Friday Sarah and I jumped in the car and set off for Nottingham, what should have been a two and a half hour drive, turned into a three and a half hour magical mystery ride. The traffic was horrendous and so the Sat Nav decided to avoid the worst of it by taking us cross country, through some very picturesque wee villages and towns. This would have all been fine, except after never being let down by it before, this was the day it decided to play up, every now and again it would just turn off, leaving us…… well who knows where! Luckily we had the back up of Google Maps, but it was an irritation I could have really done without.
As it turned out we hadn’t done too badly, other members of the team had set off at midday and taken just over five hours to make the same journey!
We managed to check in at the Village Hotel with no problems, then there was the hike to get to our room. Up in the lift, down various corridors, up some stairs, more corridors, down some stairs and eventually we found it. A few minutes to off load our stuff and back out again to meet up with some of the team to join them for dinner. This turned out to be another first as we all ended up ordering from the ‘seniors’ menu – I’m only forty-six!! This worked out well thought, the portions were supposedly smaller, but certainly big enough for me, especially given we knew we’d have an early start in the morning.
A good breakfast in the morning and we were off to the National Water Sports centre, where the first thing needed was to unload the boats from the trailer and get them on the water.
After that a pep talk and set up ‘camp’ with our chairs and the team gazebo, I was told there would be a lot of waiting about, so I’d brought a comfy chair and a book to fill in the time, ready for the day. How wrong was that, we went down for the first of the ladies 200m races soon after, then we had been barely off the water before we were back for the second, then the third race. Waiting around? What waiting around?
The day was truly glorious, not a cloud in the sky, the sun was shinning and we were ready to give it our best. The first race, my first ever race, and we loaded up and were off, heading up the way to the start line, practicing a few race starts along the way.
After some toing and froing we and the other boats were ready, the call comes out ‘teams, are you ready? …. attention …… GO!’ The first, deep, hard strokes, then the pace steps up, then up again, up once more before we ‘reach…. it…. out….’. We did our best and came in second. The next race we were third, the. We were in our final race, the Minor Finals. Maybe it was the determination not to let down our coach, maybe the threat that we would miss out on the lovely cake Josh had cooked, but whatever it was we really went for it. The grunting and effort put in to that final race paid off and we did it, we won the Ladies Minor Finals – at the Nationals!!!
The buzz from that was truly amazing, I won’t claim to be the best or the strongest paddler in the team, far from it, but I will always give it my best and work through the pain to keep going right to the final call of ‘easy’.
I was lucky enough to join the team for two further races, this time in the mixed races. They too were hard work, but great fun, then I was able to sit back and enjoy the sun and the races from the sidelines. Watching some of those teams was inspirational, the timing and power they can put in to moving those boats through the water is phenomenal.
Sunday was a whole different experience. We were warned the weather was going to turn and it certainly did. As we had breakfast it started to drizzle, then as we walked to the car the heavens opened and it came down in torrents. But, given dragon boating is a water sport, this wasn’t going to stop anything.
I was lucky enough to participate in a couple of 500m races, they were hard and fast and great fun, neither were winning races, but I’m still so glad to get back out on the water. The team did, however, win their Minor Final, a fantastic finish to a brilliant weekend.
Of course once we were off the water we had to still get the boats off, the heads, tails and drum removed and stored in the van and the boats onto the trailers. This in itself takes all hands and a fair bit of co-ordination, those boats really are heavy, so to get one off the water, over to the trailer, lifted up, turned over and then onto the top of the trailer was a feat in itself. With both boats loaded we could finally get everything else packed away and a cup of tea before the final stretch – that last, long, drive home.
I’m tired, I ache today and I know I’m going to ache more tomorrow, but I wouldn’t change a moment of this weekend. Spent with some truly wonderful people, my Hurricanes family, I have had a brilliant time and so pleased to haxve been able to take part in the racing….. now to sleep……..