Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Four (plus many more) to take me home

Back in the day. Wish we lived a little closer to Deception Pass, such a great class there with Body Boat Blade. I did have to be fished out a minute later - that's FINE, I was playing hard at the upper limits of what I could do, and that's what makes a paddler get better.

Just finishing off the one paddle, two paddle series I started but stalled out on in favor of pretty pictures from vacation. I'm of course quoting the 60's era Hawaiian song that's remained popular to this day, and I've done one paddle, which was frustratingly short, two paddle, which was way better even if I didn't find the whale, and three paddle, which was a lovely spin around Canarsie Pol and Ruffle Bar with a new member who was looking to get out and turned out to be a very good paddler. In that one, I mentioned running out of steam a mile or so from home, and my frustration with my continuing relatively poor physical shape.

So - four to take me home. Pardon me while I get a little more metaphorical here than I usually do, but have you ever heard it said that your body is your home? I think the business about your body being your temple is maybe more common, but I've seen the "home" description from time to time. Going with that, well, my "home" needs some serious work to get it back to a semblance of what it used to be, particular where it comes to paddling. In the not terribly distant past, I've been a pretty skilled paddler. Under the old BCU scheme I was a 4-star paddler, in the ACA, I'd gotten up to being a level 4 open water coastal kayaking instructor. I was strong, pretty fast, maybe not the bravest surfer in the world (seriously, every time I have ever gone to go into surf or whitewater I started out just about wanting to pee my wetsuit, but I always knew that if I could just get past that and get myself out there, I was going to have fun), but basically somebody who was able to get out in rough conditions, have fun, and show others how to do that too. If your body is a home, mine was a solid, comfortable, and strong one. I knew what I could trust it to do, and more often than not, when I tried something challenging that I wasn't sure I'd be able to do, I ended up being pleasantly surprised, finding that whatever it was was not just within my capability, but actually fun.

But then the home got hit by the surprise storm of cancer.

This is all getting to be a while ago now.

That's why it's frustrating that I'm still flailing around not knowing what I can do.


I found the lump in August 2015.

I had the mastectomy in October 2015.

I went through chemo from November 2015 through April 2016 and then had breast reconstruction surgery in late April of that year.

I was given the go-ahead to get back on the water pretty fast after the mastectomy, and my first paddle was almost exactly one month after my surgery. So much faster than I'd expected! Here, that was so awesome I have to put up the picture: 

Now this was probably the shortest paddle I'd been on in years, aside from those where I was leading short trips for club open houses and such, but OH so satisfying.

I kept paddling through chemo. I was getting my foundation back together, and I think it really helped my attitude in getting through what was a pretty tiresome procedure - I did pick what I jokingly called "chemo lite", a regimen that was much gentler than the ones that make you lose your hair and your appetite, but it does run twice as long. I'm pretty sure that keeping myself physically active made it easier and it certainly gave me a mental lift to post stuff like this: 

And I continued working on re-solidifying my foundation through 2016. I kept paddling on weekends, and the Coney Island Y had a great deal for the summer so I joined and was swimming laps on weeknights, I was taking it all pretty seriously and actually working at it.

And then last year I let it all just kind of fall apart. We had some extra stuff going on at work, and I just stopped doing the work I still needed to do to get the "house" back in shape. I was doing some paddling on weekends but I stopped swimming. I did pick up Monday night dance classes after running into a dance teacher of mine from years back when I was doing a lot of Irish dance, back before I started kayaking, so that was good, and I had gotten back up to the point where I could keep up with beginner to intermediate groups  and even take pictures and not end up getting left behind too badly (that was a shocker from an early group trip around Canarsie Pol in 2016 - I stopped to take pictures as my friends paddled by, and then I went to kick into high gear to catch up and EEK NO HIGH GEAR - fortunately TQ was along and came back to babysit me, but that was a shocker), but I just stopped making progress towards getting back what I'd had.

And I've lost confidence. A friend had once asked me if I thought I'd lost my nerve once when I got to talking about this, and I think I said "Not really" but I think I just didn't want to admit it out loud. The reconstruction I chose to go with involves a significant re-rigging of the chest muscles, with the pectoral muscle stretched over the implant to make the shape. It looks fine but it feel a little weird and although my plastic surgeon has told me that I can do anything I guess I'm not entirely trusting things yet.

And the rebuilding that I have done so far has all been on flatwater. With the exception of some fun class 2 whitewater last year in Colorado, I haven't tested things out in anything resembling rough conditions.

And at this point, because I haven't tested them in anything except flat water, I literally don't know what my skill level is these days.

So, this needs work.

For the fitness, I should get back to the swimming; I love the Coney Island Y but the Park Slope one is easier to get to so maybe I should just suck it up and join there. I did swim there once when the Coney Island pool was down for some reason and it was perfectly nice. Could try running again too - I've been finding my friend Jenn's Brooklyn Runner in Calgary blog has been getting me thinking about how running is such a wonderfully simple outdoor excercise; I used to run but I never enjoyed it that much but I think that was partly because I was always pissed at myself for being too slow (somewhere when I was a kid and running a lot more, I picked up the idea that a 9 minute mile was "respectable", which made being slow very depressing). I recently ran across a plan for getting into running (or back into running) that suggested starting with going out for a half hour WALK into which you insert short bouts of running, even as short as two or three minutes if that's what's comfortable. Then you build as the running gets more comfortable. Simple, and I do like to walk so this could work.

And obviously, I need to paddle more. I've been wanting to get weeknight paddles back into my life - those are so nice in the summertime, and I do get to the occasional club evening paddle, but I would genuinely love to make those a little more regular. One of the members of the Church of the Double-Bladed Paddle Facebook group had suggested the "2017 Challenge" last year, where members would log their miles and shoot for 201.7 miles. I was thinking about doing it and then just utterly failed - I have no idea how many miles I did paddle in 2017 but it wasn't anywhere close. I was thinking I might do a 2018 version. I have been tracking my mileage this year and I am going to have to pick things up if this is going to happen, it's mid June and I'm only at 54 miles, but between bad weather and a bad flu I did get off to a very slow start. I'm not saying this is a resolution - resolutions work about as well for me as 9-minute mile expectations, the only New Year's resolution I ever kept was the one that I would never make another New Year's resolution - but it would be something to shoot for.

So that's all a good enough plan and all stuff I can work on myself.

Getting the higher-level skills back up to speed is going to take some help. I think that the only way to knock out this stupid timidity is to get myself out with some instructors - except for the May whitewater class last year, I haven't taken any classes in a very long time. Now this is something that I AM determined to do this year; I didn't just magically get into a kayak and become a good kayaker, I have relied on a series of instructors who I trusted, and I think that getting myself back into some training situations is the key to getting back some of what I've lost. I don't know exactly what I'll do this year, there are budget limits and I don't have a car, but I'm starting out with a couple of days at the upcoming Hudson Valley Paddlesports Symposium that Facebook had been dangling under my nose for a while. I'm not expecting the rough water that I'm feeling like I need to get back into to really see what's still working and what isn't, but I'm expecting that this is going to be an excellent skills refresher and a good step back towards where I want to be.

After that, there are a couple of instructors around who I used to take classes from with whom I'd love to get back on the water. Bill Lozano's Atlantic Kayak Tours used to be at Annsville Creek, but moved to Norrie Point (first he just opened a branch there, then decided to make that the full-time location), so he's a little bit harder to get to, but I do see he's got something in NY Harbor in September - he's an excellent instructor and had a lot to do with my getting as far as I did. I don't see this on the AKT calendar but I would also give my eyeteeth to get in on a weekend in Rhode Island with him and his team - I did my 4-star assessment with them up there years ago and it was phenomenal.

Bill was actually the main mentor for instructors and higher level paddlers at Sebago for a long time, but he was more involved with the BCU back then, and at a certain time Sebago made the decision to switch over to the ACA. At that point Elizabeth and Gordon O'Connor-Dayton from Sea Kayaking Skills and Adventures started coming in to run our instructor training classes and other higher-level skills classes. They are also excellent instructors from whom I have learned a lot. When I started taking classes from them they weren't married yet and Elizabeth lived on Long Island; in 2010 they got married and moved to Connecticut, opening up a new company called Changing Tides for their business up there. The relationship with Sebago tailed off after that, and I'd lost track of them for a while; I actually went looking for Changing Tides last year, probably already thinking I needed to get back into some instruction, but couldn't seem to find them, but then Gordon emailed me to say hi sort of out of the blue last October and sent me the updated websites for their businesses. Also turns out that they're still teaching at Empire so that's another really good possibility - again, pretty quiet water there, but again, would be a great skills tune-up to spend some time with them.

And then there's a friend at the club who has been going out for some rough water practice pretty regularly - she's offered to take me along and I should take her up on that. Sorry about the novel, but there, more or less, is a plan. And to quote something my dad used to say to me when I was tackling school projects - I've planned my work, now let's see if I can work my plan. This should at least be a little more fun than homework!

To be continued (knock wood).


nesmuck said...

you go girl! Life is short and one should at least attempt their wildest goals, and this is not so wild at all. Gail

bonnie said...

Thanks! Last year was just rough at work with the moves and some other stuff that was going on at work - I don't think I took a single summer friday all summer. I'm going to try to make that up to myself this year.

Karen said...

I have every confidence that you will successfully work your plan. Cancer, chemo, they have power. You have done what you needed to do and now will take your power back.