I really had no idea what to expect for a 80 mile paddle. When we got to the Penticton Marina, the starting point for the long journey for World Paddle for the Planet the sun hadn’t shown it’s face. I was dressed in my Florida winter gear, Bob and Stefan both born and raised in the area were wearing board shorts, booties and hoodies. The heavy mist was sprinkling on us. The support boat was loaded with 3 coolers of food and drinks and extra paddles. My thought was I’d paddle for as long as I could being that the longest distance I’ve EVER paddled was 7 miles and that had been quite some time ago. The water was calm, quiet and deeply smooth. The three of us looked at each other and said “lets do it”. We began the paddle gliding through the early morning twilight. Those on the boat said we were so quiet they hadn’t realized we had gone past them.
I knew Bob and Stefan were going to paddle faster than I, and I said “please don’t wait for me I’ll see ya at the hour break”. This left me alone on this big beautiful lake, alone with my thoughts, all senses heightened. The comforting sound of the support boat in low gear behind me, the soft sound of my paddle pulling water made me feel like I for sure could do at least 7 miles no problem.
As the sky lightened, the rain started. As the rain came down the water glassed even further making the rain just an added element to my sensual experience. Rain was dripping off my cap, but it never got on my face. I looked to the water with each stroke, and felt myself becoming hypnotized by the liquid silver patterns the board was making as I slid on top of the water.
Before I knew it Bob was saying I had exceeded my personal best we had gone 7.5 miles. I was feeling good, keeping a good pace so I decided to continue on with Bob giving me encouragement, “Leslie you can do it just take it one hour at a time”. I have never had any reason to go further than I thought I could, this day I did. Bob was inspiring, I surely could continue, my body was feeling fine, the water was perfect, the rain became music to me. I paddled on. Alone again with Bob and Stefan way ahead of me, the support boat maintaining a middle spot as to see us all, I began to talk to my dead relatives. Maybe I should say my guardian angels, that sounds better? I was emotional as my arms started to burn with each paddle stroke. I was asking my angels if they were proud of me, and what I was doing, I thanked them for being with me and getting me this far not just on the lake, but in my life. Ok maybe I was getting a bit crazy. Tears were pouring down my face as hard as it was raining. I started using my core to take some of the pressure off my shoulders and triceps, I was able to get into a groove and put a song in my head to keep me going, “Wonderful World” I only remember part of the words so I made up my own. I do that often. When I finally caught up to the boat for the scheduled break Bob and Stefan were already there they told me I just hit 14 miles! WOW! I couldn’t believe it. I had no concept of time. In my head I wanted to hit 20 miles consecutively so I drank my magic drink, coconut water ate half of a power bar and decided I would continue on. Encouraged by Bob and the crew I paddled on!
The boat was ahead of me as my arms decided they could not move another stroke. I went to my knees, trying to stretch my arms out in front of me, but my biceps and triceps were literally on fire. I could barely grip my paddle anymore and I remember saying damn I’ve just got to stop now. The boat saw me and turned around and came speeding to my assistance. I had now gone 16 miles consecutively and thats all my body was up for at that point. I was pretty happy with that more than doubled my personal best, but at the same time Im thinking, “Bob is going 80 miles 16 is nothing”. When I got into the boat it was apparent I wouldn’t be paddling for a while at least. I couldn’t raise my arms! If it wasn’t for crew manager extraordinaire John Anderson giving my arms a rub down I would have died right there!
Having a great support crew, the right nutrition, coconut water for sure, is crucial for an adventure like this. I still had no idea what to expect for the next 15 hours of the day.
Stay tuned as this story continues…My pledge to the planet is to not buy plastic water bottles and use re-usable grocery bags!
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