I have a friend called Mark. He's a strong guy. Anytime I need anything heavy moved I call him. He also kayaks, so sometimes, so far only once I drag him off to do a race. He has helped me move twice and in May of this year I dragged him to the Housatonic Downriver race - a 10-mile, (normally class 1, that this year was running - ooh, 4 times normal?, 3600 cfs and class 2-3).
Where am I going with all this? Payback. Two weeks ago Mark called me to ask if I;d consider doing the Mayor's Cup race with him in a double kayak as his single aggravates his sciatica. Oofah! One, I have paddled twice this year - both times 10 miles on the same stretch of the Housatonic. Two, 30 miles, the distance around Manhattan of this course was a loooooooong way. However, doing the circumnav. has been on my "intrigued enough to want to do this before I die" list so I said yes.
I will say that I've kayaked the Hudson three times - all during ARs so I wasn't totally clueless. 2001 the Balance Bar 24hr paddled from Nyack to the GWB at night, 2002 BB 24 again went from Fort Montgomery to Ossining at dusk and NYARA's 2005 The Longest Day went from Cold Spring to Denning Point and back.
I was surprised that, even somewhat underprepared, I was not nervous at all. I did check the tides - high tide at the Battery (south end of Manhattan) was 9:28 am. and high tide at Spuyten Devil (north tip of Manhattan) was 10:20 am so it looked like we'd at least ride the current north to begin with - after that who knew.
Got up at 3:45am to meet Mark at his place, then drive to Jim's house to meet him and Steve (Jim and Steve also joined us at the Housatonic race back in May) and we headed to Manhattan for the first annual Mayor's Cup kayak race.
Arrived at the start at the North Cove harbor on the lower west side and got ready for our 9 am start. Nice laid-back atmosphere even though there was some amazing kayaking talent there. A great variety of boats - single and double surf skis, a couple of outriggers that intrigued me a lot, regualr touring kayaks and racing kayaks and one K-1!! (way to go Jaroslav! - this dude paddled a boat the width of a toothpick through Hell Gate!) Kayak racers might be just as gear obsessed as adventure racers.
We weren't sure how long it would take us but reckoned 6 hrs max. so we packed food and fluids for 6 hrs. I had my usual Raspberry Hammer Gel, the Almond-Raisin Hammer Bar, Hammer's HEED and I also had a few endurolytes and Sustained Energy but never used these last 2. Apart from the obvious challenge of eating and drinking while kayaking, the demands seem to be very different from the demands/needs when running, trekking or biking. I started with a gel just pre-race and scarfed a Hammer Bar after about 1hr and then just took gels every hour and HEED throughout and they worked great.
Race started in groups - we were in the tandem sea kayak in group 2 and set out up the Hudson on a still, bright and sunny fall day. This was just an amazing day to be paddling. Tide was still coming in and we cruised effortlessly at 9mph up to the GWB. We passed Chelsea Piers, the Intrepid (still remember vividly rapelling off that thing twice!) and past the ferry terminal were the Norwegian Maid was tied securely at anchor so no worries there.
It was an incredible kayaking day as we paddled north with many of the 12 coastguard and NYC Police boats working the race - it was very comforting to have them alongside. The safety captain said at the pre-race meeting that with 12 boats on hand, this was the most protected race that had evr been held in NYC waters.
We continued past the Little Red Lighthouse under the GWB and on up past the cloisters at the top of Manhattan. We had steadily been catching and passing boats from the first wave and the later waves were starting to catch us. Webber and Folpe in a double surfski cruised by us just south of the Harlem River. Whenever someone passed us I was studying their technique and subconsciously picking up there cadence so shortly after we would be passed Mark would be yelling at me from the back to slow the cadence.
We hung a right into Spuyten Devil and under the Henry Hudson Bridge and into the Harlem River. THe Columbia boat house is right here.
Tide was still coming in (flowing north) so we were paddling against it and our speed dropped to high 5s with the occasional 6mph. For some reason I totally spaced on my knowledge of how to paddle the Hudson - i.e. when against the current hug the banks to get out of the main channel so we slogged for a while before I remembered this.
Shortly thereafter Greg Barton (5-time Olympian, 4-time medalist) came cruising by with Jim? Glickman. Barton has the most relaxed slow stroke and yet he zoomed past us. Did I say he was also chatting with Jim the whole time!
Harlem river was hard work/boring with none of the stunning Hudson scenery - it is all industrial, wasteland, yukky. Around the 2 hr mark I was bursting to pee and eventually - not wanting to pee in Mark's boat - we had to pull over and I hopped out on some concrete and rebar and tooka squat - ah!.
The Harlem River dumps out into the East River at the south end of Ward's Island/Randall's Island. At Hell Gate to be precise.
At this point the incoming tide was slacking/changing and there were just random areas of standing chop and swell and lots of confused water which we made it through. There was a solo kayaker in the race here and he was looking like he needed a change of underwear - didn't look confident at all and I have to say we were happy to be in the beamy double tandem (Seda Tango - 23' x 28"). We were now well into 2-4ft chop from all directions - hairy! but comforting to have the powerful Mark in the back.
We had been advised to take the Manhattan channel down past Roosevelt Island but keep to the island /east side so as to keep out of the 100yd exclusion zone around the U.N.
At this point one of the 12 CoastGuard/NYC Police boats that were working the race appeared to keep an eye on us and who was on the bow but Jim, who had broken the carbon fiber rudder pedal on his 23lb Epic V10 surf ski and had to bail at 17 miles in. Both he and the surf ski were on board. He stood on the bow shouting encouragement but it was hard to hear what he was saying.
Well, slightly north of the UN the chop started getting crazy and then a DEP barge was coming up river with a crazy bow wave coming off the front so we turned ourselves to face that and it was probably the day's biggest single wave - about 7-8ft and we raced up the face. I actually remember a moment where there was nothing beneath me but air and then down the kayak slapped onto the wave and we were through it and just back to the regular 3-5ft chop. The wake did come back of the river bank so we got it on the flipside too. Jim got to see it all from the comfort of the CG boat.
Breathing a sigh of relief that we got through the big one, we were deafened by the roar of cigarette boats ripping down the East River and then one ripped right by us only about 25ft away, flying off the top of a chop and becoming totally airborne.
So now we had just a crazy chop to contend with and maniac speed boat drivers. We paddled right thru' the UN exclusion zone as we were not going to go into the main channel with the speed boats around. At this point the tide had turned and the current was ripping past the huge bouys at the U.N. at 9 mph again. We contended with the chop, which at one point popped my skirt off and dumped a bunch of water into the , from here all the way to at least the South St Seaport and the Brooklyn Bridge which made for a very focussed hour or so of just mental and physical work.
Approaching the 4hr mark, I was dying to pee, trying to hold it and now in excruciating trying-not-to-pee-pain. About 300 yds from the finish I just had to pee in the boat (thanks Mark - it was all sports drink anyway) - what sweet relief! Considering there was Hudson River water in the kayak already you can argue that I made the situation better and not worse
Fortunately there were no Staten Island ferries, only a couple of Circle Lines, the Statue of Liberty ferries and two yellow water taxis to contend with as we rounded the Battery and made it back to North Cove in 4hrs 19 mins. The GPS said 29.9 miles! (Good enough for 10th out of 40 boats)
Barton took the win and the $2,000 in 3:21 - fastest circumnavigation ever in a kayak. Glickman was 5 mins or so back and Webber/Folpe in a double surf ski were at 3:35.
What an incredible day - beautiful, stunning, tranquil and hairy all in one. Longest I've ever paddled and now I can check off one more thing from the "things to do before I die" list.
Full results at nymayorscup.com. Various pics posted in the forum on paddling.net - http://www.paddling.net/message/showTop ... l?fid=chat
= -lokk for NY Mayor's Cup discussions.
Train for racing, race for training.