Reflections From The Cockpit December 2009
"Lessons Of 2009 "
In keeping with tradition, the transition to a new year and the main purpose of this section of the web site, I want to reflect on my past year of 2009. My regular readers know how much value I put into taking time to reflect on our actions and experiences. I feel taking time for reflection is especially important in this age of instant messaging, instant feedback and AV stimulus overload.
I just read my reflection from last January to see where I was a year ago during my reflection time. Since time goes by so quickly I was reminded about last years losses and questionable physical conditioning. This year seems to be a year of reversal.
I learned that it is never too late to get back and stay in good physical condition if you really want it. Last year at this time I was 298 lbs. Today my scale read 208 Lbs. My keen mathematical mind tells me I have misplaced 90 lbs somewhere. For those who are wondering how, it is a simple formula of more calories out and less calories in. The formula is simple, but the execution takes work and more importantly determination and dedication. Was the hard work worth it? Yes! Yes! Yes! I am no longer carrying around a 90 lb backpack filled with fat.
There was a slight ironic twist to my weight loss. When the fat layers were off of my belly I noticed a bulge in my lower right area. It turned out I had a hernia that was asymptomatic. I discovered the bulge in October. When I found out the recuperation time I told the surgeon to wait until after the Deception Pass Dash race on Dec 12th. I did not want to miss the race. I had my surgery 3 days after the race. I have to say I love modern surgical techniques because I was able to walk a couple of miles, a week after the surgery and back to swimming two weeks after the procedure.
As for the race, I did better than last year. My goal was to finish with a respectable time. I ended up taking third in my division, which was the fast sea kayak division. See USK article, “DNF.” I learned that I am faster than I thought and I also have a fast kayak. I also learned that swimming three miles per day build ones endurance for such a race.
This year was a year of surgeries for our household. Hadley has been plagued with elbow and wrist problems. She has been having elbow pains for almost two years. It turned out she had a degenerative problem with her forearm muscles. They were detached from her elbow. She had surgery on both elbows three months apart. It virtually took six months before she was fully functional. She is looking forward to finally getting back into a kayak and doing some paddling. We wondered if paddling was the initial cause of the elbow problems. It turned out to be an overuse strain from refinishing some furniture and doors doing a lot of sanding. We both learned that repetitive injuries can be found in activities other that kayaking.
Even though the weight loss has virtually changed my day-to-day life, I have to say my kayaking related highlight for this year was spending quality time with Maligiaq Padilla the eight times Greenland champion. I took advantage of his skin boat building class when he visited Washington in August. The clinic was planned for 9 days. At the end of the clinic you have a completed and fully functional skin boat.
I have always dreamed of building a skin boat. There are numerous books and resources out there to help you through the process. However, having a master builder lead you through the process not only made it easier, it followed the tradition of the master teaching the student. The techniques Maligiaq shared were techniques that have been passed down from his family and other elder boat builders. I am 59 years old and I had this 25 year old leading me through the process. I have to say that Maligiaq was the mildest mannered, patient, understanding and receptive teacher I have had the pleasure to work with, especially given his age. As a bonus, my friend John Peterson, another boat builder in his own right, was the other clinic participant. Yes, there was just the three of us for the clinic. One on one time was plentiful. The boat turned out great and as I said above, it turned out to be a fast boat. It was a nice culmination to a year of hard work to use a boat that I built and do so well in the race.
The experience of building a skin boat is one I wish for everyone who loves to kayak. It truly fits my sense of order with respect to appreciating the origins of the sport and the history of kayaking. If you ever have the chance to do a boat-building clinic with Maligiaq do NOT pass up the chance. It is worth the time and the money. Every time I get into my skin boat and paddle it I am reminded of the incredible time I spent with Maligiaq and John building our kayaks. The boatbuilding clinic reminded me of how much I like working with my hands especially with wood. My dad was a carpenter and my grandfather was a carpenter. My dad did teach me a few things but I can honestly say he did not teach me to be a carpenter. Perhaps working with wood is just in my genetic makeup. The experience motivated me to set aside a little bit of time for woodworking each month.
Another great experience I had this year was doing a solo paddle to the Farne Islands off of the North Umbria coast of England. I visited my friend Derek Hutchinson for two weeks at the end of August. We did a great paddle along the coast by Derek’s house near the mouth of the Tyne River. We paddled out of Tyne Mouth and headed north along the coast to paddle around St. Mary's Island. St. Mary's Island is now privately owned and at low tide is accessible by car or by foot. From middle to high tide the roadway is totally underwater. I have to say it's a real joy paddling along the English coast where one can see castles, old ruins and remarkable historical monuments.
Aside from the enjoyment of paddling with Derek and doing my solo trip to the Farne Islands, I learned that my abdominal muscles could only take about three hours of keeping me upright before they turned into a quivering mass of jelly. Unfortunately, the foot pedals in the boat I was using were not long enough for my long legs. Therefore I had to hold myself upright by pulling my 2 feet together and jamming my thighs up toward the top deck while using my abdominals to keep me sitting up and slightly forward. The experience reminded me how important foot pedals are especially when fighting a current or playing in rock gardens.
I would like to say I learned how much I love the food in English pubs, but I would be lying because I already knew that. Since I was on my weight loss program, while I was visiting England, I not only had to swim my 3 miles a day I also hiked 3 to 5 miles a day so I could enjoy the pub food. There are some incredible footpaths along the coastline by Derek's house. As a side note, I lost weight while eating on vacation. That meant a lot of extra exercise.
I am the first to admit I am impressed with current technology. Hadley and I both converted to iPhone's in May. One of the ways I was able to lose as much weight as I did in a six-month period, was due to a calorie counting application downloaded from the Apple store. While my friend Rod Tucknott has reminded me, all these electronic gadgets are tools; it is how you use the tools that is important. I bring this up because I learned I am becoming fanatical about too much constant communication. When I say fanatical I mean I am against it. I rarely see a person driving a car that is not on a cell phone. I watch younger people texting while they are working behind a fast food counter. Since Hadley joined Facebook we seem to get messages all hours of the day. While I feel communication is important, I really do not need to know when someone adds to their Facebook or twitters that they went to the bathroom. I feel this constant overload is robbing us of much-needed quiet time. I guess I am becoming an old fogey when it comes to these new forms of communication. Do I think they're useful tools? Yes I do. However, as my friend Rod has pointed out, it is how you use the tools.
This may sound hypocritical, but this reflection was spoken by me but typed by my computer using the latest Mac Speech Dictate software. As I said, I am not against new technology, but I am against constant overload without taking the time for reflection.
As we begin this New Year Hadley and I want to wish all of you a happy and healthy 2010 paddling season. I also hope each and every one of you takes some time, some quiet time, to think about what's important. Think about what lessons you are learning, what nourishes your soul, what is really important and then go out and live your life to the fullest.
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