漂亮的儿媳妇苏酥One person's effort to do his best as a canoe and kayak racer

Monday, June 22, 2020

Monday photo feature

This past Thursday local real estate broker Fancher Smith was closing the sale of the historic Shrine Building downtown when he spotted me paddling my boat up the harbor.  He pulled out his phone and snapped the photo above.  He calls the photo "Where's Elmore?"--you know, like "Where's Waldo," except my name is Elmore, not Waldo.

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Sunday, June 21, 2020


Summer has begun, and I'm having a hard time not feeling completely bummed out.  All the things I look forward to in the summertime--my trip to the Pacific Northwest, travel to races in my region, baseball, concerts and social events--have vanished into the ether this year.

Make no mistake: I consider myself one of the more fortunate people here in Pandemic Times.  But the prospect of spending a sweltering Mid South summer stuck here at home with very little in the way of social and recreational options seems to sandbag my mood a bit more heavily each day.

I was feeling super-sluggish when I got up yesterday morning.  The act of going down to the river and getting my boat seemed like a bigger mountain than I could possibly climb.  But I went through the motions one task at a time: stretching, putting my gear in the car, driving downtown, getting my boat off the rack, getting in it and starting to paddle... and there I was.  Adam Davis met me down at the cobblestones, and we headed up the Mississippi, and soon I was feeling comfortable and fluid again.

We paddled maybe halfway up the Greenbelt Park.  A couple of barge rigs were coming downriver, the second of which was producing some good-looking waves, so we paddled out and followed it.  The waves were moving just a hair too fast: several times I rode the crest of a wave for a few seconds but was unable to get myself down into the trough.  After several minutes of throwing in short, hard sprints, I was gasping for breath, and I had no sweet rides to show for my trouble.  But hey... good practice, good training.  That stupid maxim we heard as kids is true: "It's better to try and fail than to fail to try."

The Fahrenheit temperature rose into the 90s yesterday, but it wasn't too unbearable.  The humidity was moderate and there was a light breeze blowing.  Late in the day some clouds moved in, and around two o'clock this morning I woke up and heard torrents of rain pouring down on my roof.

In the wake of that, today has been a pretty nice day: partly to mostly sunny, not too humid, and a few degrees cooler than yesterday with a pleasant breeze.

I felt somewhat lethargic again this morning, but not as bad as yesterday.  This time my enthusiasm was on the rise by the time I was headed out the door.  Down at the river I got in the boat and did 70 minutes of relaxed paddling.  I did several hard workouts in preparation for my "virtual" OICK race last weekend, but now, with no races on the horizon, I'm letting myself do whatever I feel like doing every time I paddle.  Until further notice, all workouts will be "play" workouts.

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Friday, June 19, 2020

On the road again, briefly

On Monday I made a little road trip.  Over in Little Rock a few racers gather each Monday afternoon for a "sandlot" race, and I'd gotten a message from Phil Capel encouraging me to join them this week.  I hadn't left Memphis since February, and Little Rock is close enough to Memphis (about 140 miles) that it seemed like a trip I could make without too much exposure to lurking viruses.  So I decided to go on over there.

It seems like every time I go to Little Rock in the summer months, it's a few degrees hotter than Memphis (and Memphis is plenty hot in the summer).  Monday's high in Memphis was around 88 degrees Fahrenheit, but as I was driving into the Little Rock area the temperature display in my car was reading 93 degrees.

I exited Interstate 40 onto I-430 and crossed the Arkansas River.  Then I exited at Cantrell Road and followed River Mountain Road to the Little Maumelle River boat launch, where I found a group of paddlers preparing their craft for some racing.  Among them were familiar faces like Phil Capel, Phil's son Andy, Andy's wife Ashley, Karen Kesselring, Stephen Lynn, Lou and Charlie Payton, and Robert Orr.

Our course was an up-and-back circuit on the Little Maumelle River, which flows into the Arkansas River just above the I-430 bridge.  There was no current to deal with because the water was backed up behind Murray Dam about a mile down the Arkansas.  We would start and finish beneath the Two Rivers Park pedestrian bridge, and the turnaround spot was a tree in the middle of the Little Maumelle approximately two and a half miles up.

We did a staggered start, with slower racers going first and quicker ones going last.  Soon it was just Andy and me sitting beneath the pedestrian bridge, and when we agreed it was time to go, we went!

We sprinted out for the first 150 meters or so and then settled into a pace a little over 7 miles per hour.  I spent most of the first half of the race on Andy's stern wake, trying to conserve energy for some surges later on.  Around 3000 meters in I moved up onto Andy's left-side wake, and as our turnaround tree came into view I took the lead so I could make my turn without any unexpected mishaps.

I threw in a surge coming out of the turn, hoping I could open a gap, but Andy covered the move and held onto my stern wake.  So I led for a while, trying to paddle as efficiently as possible while the sun beat down.  Eventually the Two Rivers Park pedestrian bridge came back into view, and it looked "right there," but knowing it was still at least a mile off, I kept paddling steady.

With maybe 800 meters to go, Andy moved up onto my right-side wake, and took the lead a minute later.  I settled onto his side wake and pondered when to make my big move.  The local rowing club has a dock about 400 meters out from the finish, and I decided to go as soon as we reached it.  I began to paddle hard and pulled even with Andy.  Andy responded and I knew I had a real fight on my hands.  I dug deep and began to move into the lead an inch at a time.

Once it was down to about 30 meters to go, I had built almost a half-boatlength lead and finally began to believe that I had him--but only if I kept the hammer down.  Meanwhile, my body was screaming "Stop!  STOP!!  I can't take another ten seconds of this!!!!"  Somehow I ignored those inner voices and got myself across the line.  My G.P.S. device measured the course at 7700 meters (about 4.78 miles), and my time was 39 minutes, 33 seconds.

After racing Andy three times last year, I mentioned in this post that he was getting a little bit harder to beat each time.  That trend continued Monday, with Andy finishing just five seconds back at 39:38.

The other racers produced the following results:

Robert Orr 43:28
Dave Grundfest 44:46
Frank Walker 47:45
Jillian Elwart 47:48
Phil Capel 49:51
Karen Kesselring 50:40
Lou and Charlie Payton 56:40
Ashley Capel 59:02
(Stephen Lynn flipped and was unable to finish.)

The water was bathwater warm, but I flipped my boat anyway.  My feet could feel cooler water five feet down.  After a while I remounted and paddled back to the boat ramp, and returned my boat to the top of my car.  I'd now done two races in three days.  It felt good to get back to some racing even in an informal setting.

After a bit of conversation I embarked on the trip back home.  It was pushing 7 o'clock--suppertime--and I was reminded of one of the main challenges of road-tripping in Pandemic Times.  I'm feeling pretty skittish about going into restaurants these days, and I-40 between Memphis and Little Rock doesn't offer many good choices even in normal times.  I ended up getting a burger and fries at a Wendy's drive-thru in Forrest City... not what I consider much of a meal.  I think if I go to any future Monday afternoon sessions in Little Rock, I'll pack a sandwich or something on my own.

I got up Tuesday morning and did a round of the strength routine (again with no dips, as I'm still having this puzzling achiness in my upper arms).  Then I met Joe, and our relaxed loop of the harbor felt good after all that intensity.  On Wednesday I enjoyed a well-earned day off.  Yesterday I was back in the boat doing a typical 60-minute paddle that included a set of three 8-stroke sprints and some messing around out on the Mississippi.

This morning I did another round of the strength routine.  The summer solstice occurs tomorrow, and it looks like we'll have a hot weekend to go with it.

For more information on what this blog is about, click here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Now playing

The "virtual" race I did this past Saturday has turned into a video project.  This short film is about the storied past, the "virtual" present, and the hopeful future of canoe and kayak racing on the Mississippi River at Memphis.

For more information on what this blog is about, click here.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Monday photo feature

The Wolf River originates in northern Mississippi, flows north into Tennessee, and then flows westward across Fayette and Shelby Counties and finally meets the Mississippi River just north of downtown Memphis.

I shot this photo last week while riding my bike on the Greenline, a bike trail that runs through the heart of Memphis atop an old Louisville & Nashville Railroad bed.  The Greenline crosses the Wolf River on the east side of town near the Shelby County Penal Farm.

For more information on what this blog is about, click here.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Virtually racing

We lucked out with the weather for yesterday's "virtual" Outdoors, Inc., Canoe and Kayak Race.  The morning was sunny and pleasant, the humidity was down, and the wind was light, giving me hope that I could submit a decent time.  I loaded up my boat and headed down to the historic cobblestones on the Memphis riverfront.

I'd invited people to join me on social media, and I ended up having two takers, as Adam Davis and Scott Andrews arrived with their boats.  We lined up with a pair of utility poles on the cobblestones, from which we would paddle north in the harbor for 2500 meters, make a turn around a concrete structure by the old LaFarge plant, and return to where we'd started to complete the 5000-meter course.

Somebody yelled GO!, and off we went.  Adam and I were neck-and-neck out front, and I settled onto his right-side wake, where I would spend most of the first kilometer.  We moved along at around seven and a half miles per hour.

Once we'd passed beneath the Hernando DeSoto Bridge I moved into the lead and pushed the pace up to around 7.8 or 7.9.  I knew I couldn't sustain that for all of the remaining 4000 meters but I was hoping I could break contact.  By the time we reached Harbortown Marina I had a lead of three or four boatlengths.

The turnaround spot came into view: the concrete structure for loading barges next to the old LaFarge plant.  I made a beeline for it.  The Mississippi River has been dropping this week, but with a level of 22.2 feet on the Memphis gauge there was still ample room to made a high-radius turn and head back south.

As I got the boat back up to speed I hoped to maintain 7.1 or 7.2 mph the rest of the way.  I tried to relax and take the best strokes I could.  I was starting to feel taxed but felt certain I had one more good mile in me.  Once I was back south of the HDB I was hoping I could break 25 minutes.  As I passed beneath the monorail bridge I began my final charge to the finish, nudging the speed up around 8.0 mph.  I eyed my watch as the seconds ticked by, closer and closer to the 25-minute mark... and then past it.  I had to settle for a time of 25:12.

I brought my boat around to watch the other two come in.  Adam completed a respectable effort with a time of 26:28.  Scott was paddling a much slower boat but was undaunted by the challenge as he came in at 36:51.

It felt good to race again, even if it was a rinky-dink affair compared to a real OICK race.

Today I waited until the afternoon to paddle.  It was another sunny day, warmer than yesterday, but still not the blistering heat for which Memphis summers are famous.  I paddled mostly easy for 60 minutes.

For more information on what this blog is about, click here.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Trying to get stoked for a "virtual" race

In most respects, the Memphis area got treated gently by what was left of Tropical Storm Cristobal.  I watched the Internet radar and the heaviest rain seemed to avoid the city.  By mid-morning Tuesday the rain had moved out and we had a day of warm, muggy weather.  Then on Wednesday some cooler, drier air moved in and the rest of the week has been lovely.

I did a round of the strength routine Tuesday morning, once again without the dips.  I'm still trying to manage the achiness in my biceps/shoulder area.  After that I did a loop of the harbor with Joe.

A somewhat strong west wind blew all day Wednesday as Cristobal's southern portion moved through.  I hadn't planned to paddle on Wednesday, but by lunchtime I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, there were some viable downwind conditions on the westward-flowing section of the Mississippi River below downtown Memphis.  So around 3 o'clock I put my V10 Sport surfski on the car and drove across the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge to where there's access to the river from the Big River Trail.

I put my boat in the water beneath the Harahan Bridge and headed downstream.  As I rounded the big bend to the right I was hoping to find some good swells, but as it turned out there wasn't much more than some chop.  So there would be no sweet rides, and I spent the next hour trying to get the boat moving on small bumps and stuff like that.

I now turn my attention to the "virtual" Outdoors, Inc., Canoe and Kayak Race.  As I mentioned last week, I've laid out a 5000-meter course in the harbor:

The course starts and finishes at the magenta line in the bottom left corner, and the turnaround spot is marked in the upper right corner.

This morning I paddled in the harbor and did five 12-stroke sprints, and I also spray-painted a marker on my turnaround landmark so that anybody who wants to join me can recognize it.

For more information on what this blog is about, click here.