My First Race – Dragon Boat Racing

IMG_3594I heard a team captain say they were “short” one woman to be able to form a team for the Dragon Boat races that were coming up, so I shyly raised my hand.  DONE – I was part of the team!

Our day started at 5 AM on Saturday. We had to drive to the location, set up and prepare for the day’s events. A group got there before us and set up our tents. We all brought food for a pot luck and stored our bags, paddle, etc.  FYI: Never forget your towel and change of clothes. You do get wet, it’s fun, but not if you can’t change your clothes on a cold day.

IMG_3601When we practice we do not have a dragon head on our boat, so I was curious to see how this would look.  I didn’t realize that there is a real drum on the boat too. For those of you who do not know much about dragon boat racing I’ll fill you in. There are 20 paddlers to a boat. The first two paddlers at the front of the boat are called, “the strokes,” they set the pace for the boat.

The drummer uses the drum to set the pace of the strokes, so this person must have a loud voice for all of us to hear. When we are paddling it’s easy to get distracted by the boats next to us and their drum beats. I also learned that you lose time if you look up to see “how” you are doing in the race, best to stay focused and give your strokes ALL you’ve got. Finally, there is the steerperson at the back of the boat, who steers the boat and also gives IMG_3609commands to the paddlers. Here is a glossary of Dragon Boat terms.

We raced about 500 meters in 2.5 minutes. There were four boats racing at once and it took a little time to get us ALL lined up. I know 2.5 minutes might not seem long, but imagine how you feel when you are doing “planks” at the gym. You start out strong and then your arms get tired and it takes everything you’ve got to keep in the plank position. Same with paddling, you force yourself to continue paddling through the pain and finish STRONG. That’s where the drum beat comes in, it keeps the team focused.

BAD NEWS – We didn’t win!

GOOD NEWS – We had a lot of fun, we worked as a team and after our 3rd time out, we improved our time, and we finished STRONG!  It was a great day!   GO TRY IT!

Dragon Boat Racing / Italian Meetup

Ottawa Dragon Boat Feast

Ottawa Dragon Boat Feast

About a year ago I received an unsolicited Meetup.com email in my inbox. The title mentioned something about “Dragon Boat Racing.” Of course, I immediately thought this was “junk mail.” I didn’t know about Dragon Boat Racing and I had never signed up for a Meetup.

I was curious though, because I like being out on the water. I had heard that Meetups were a great way to do different activities and meet new people. So, I nervously pressed the “open” email button hoping I wouldn’t be infected with a virus.

Dubuque, IA Chamber of Commerce photo

Dubuque, IA Chamber of Commerce photo

I was pleasantly surprised. No virus! It turned out they had a Meetup scheduled for that Saturday, free to attend as they supplied canoe, life vest, paddle and free coaching – I just had to show up. I decided to give it a try.

It was a lot of fun!

So, I went again today and I wasn’t disappointed. The first group out to practice were the veterans. Wow – they are FAST. May/June time frame they have some competitions coming up, so they were focused on timing and their strokes. A canoe is 44 ft long with 20 paddlers. Wonderful to be out on the water, it’s a great team sport (see photo of a team in action).

View of Florence, Italy

View of Florence, Italy

This encouraged me to try another Meetup. This time I went to a weekly Italian conversational one. They meet every week on Sunday at an Italian café. This group spoke different levels of Italian, some basic/intermediate like me and others fluent, because they had lived there. Enjoyed being transported to Italy for an hour.

Well… I’m smiling, because I think that junk email is like dating. Sometimes the email you want to toss out is really the one you should keep!

Happy Easter!