Swampy Times

Third week to go, training got real.

When I sat down to map my specific workouts, I realized I needed to work backwards from FISA to know what work to schedule. After a week of illness, I planned every day as a 2-a-day to make up some ground. I showed my three-weeks-to-go plan Alan. “You’re crazy,” he said. And?

Despite still getting a little choked up from sinus drainage, I managed to follow the schedule pretty closely until this weekend.

Alan graciously offered to take me to Lake Cumberland for a weekend rowing retreat. Miles and miles of open water. Ambitiously, I scheduled 5 rowing sessions.

In Which Launching is Half the Workout

Boat launch at Lake Cumberland

Friday night I drive to the boat ramp. It’s beautifully maintained, clean, paved. But Lake Cumberland is a damed reservoir, and right now it’s low. Like, 232 steps carrying a bathtub low. Take that Head if the Hooch! Rather than carrying it up that way, I opted try the bank on the other side of the point. Just as steep, sandy, but way shorter a walk.

The row was a lovely late afternoon, when the sun is at the right angle to blind you as you steer. Other than the occasional speed boat wake, a decent row if technically a little rough.

In Which I Make a Bad Decision

The next morning the first workout called for a 3x 18m x 3r row. I was looking forward to this!

Alan helped me launch. I had wanted to row at sunrise, but Alan wanted to go fishing. Marriage is about compromise. Alan went fishing. I launched at 9:30.

Looking towards Indian Creek across Lake Cumberland, but Friday night.

All went well for about five minutes. Seriously. Then the wind kicked up. I kept going until a huge roller soaked my back. I looked up the lake. Nothing but waves, pretty stacked by a miles-long lake parallel to the wind. I needed sheltered water. The map showed what looked to be a decent, wide creek that would be sheltered but it was across the lake. I could see a lot of boat traffic heading in and out if its mouth. It didn’t look that far. And I didn’t want to abandon my row after a few minutes! I opted to go for it.

When I started across, it was fine. Choppy water that I’ve raced in. You just go long and slow, stay relaxed, pick a good angle. And I’m in a bathtub designed as a coastal rowing boat. No big deal.

Until the wind really kicked up. The water kept washing over the deck. My bottle began to float. I dropped to arms-and-body rowing only. Water kept piling up. Three-foot swells rolled the yellow hull up and down. Water started sloshing around my heels, then my ankles. My phone started floating around my ankles. I grabbed the case and held it in my teeth.

If this was the weeds, I was in it. “I’m about to go swimming,” I thought. “Should I get my life jacket?” There was no one nearby, and I was in the middle of a lake. But at the this point, I was closer to the sheltered creek than trying to turn and row back.

Executive decision made. I dumped my water bottle and started bailing. I’d get the water down to my heels, then row again, slowly, painfully, heading for that creek, and bail again when the water reached the tracks. The whole time I held my phone case in my teeth in case I went over. Three times, waves crashing over the deck filled foot well, three times I bailed until finally, I rowed past a point at the river mouth and the swells died down to an acceptable chop.

The clouds cleared, the sun came out; sage harbor at last. I asked some fishermen if there was a boat ramp up the creek; they said yes. I let go of the phone to call Alan. The waterproof case had water in it; thank goodness for life proof cases! I yelled, “Can you hear me? Hello? Go get the car! I’m not going to make it back! I’m in Indian Creek!”

“Where are you?”

“Indian creek! Find a boat ramp in Indian Creek! Location ping me!”

He does. “Why don’t you row back?”

“I’m not rowing through that! Just come get me! I’ll find the boat ramp.”

And I do. The Marina’s about a mile up the creek; I just follow the boats heading in and out. This would have been the place to row. Sheltered, lots of water, blue lake, blue sky.

Some of the water sloshes out as I row, the rest we dump out picking up the shell.

On our drive back, from the dam, the lake looked just fine. I could see why he would think, “just row back.” But look closer: at the bouncing buoys, the lack of boat traffic on a lovely sunny day.

Third Row is a Charm

Cumberland River

But I didn’t want to just give up. We were camping on Cumberland River. The only reason I didn’t row here first was because of the lack of information. Online it says it’s a pretty stretch ideal for canoe, kayaking, and fishing boats to float. And then it says, “the shoals are ideal for beginners to practice their whitewater skills.” What shoals? Where are these shoals? No information. It’s hard to see on Google Maps. On the ground, the river looks narrow. And, it’s dam-controlled. In the morning I saw shallow water beds and rocks.

In the dinner, I decided to just do it. Prettiest row to date. Banks lined with yellow and brilliant red flowers. Towering limestone cliffs. Roaring waterfalls. Clear water, in the 50s, with a light mist. Wicked current though, 18 minutes out and 40 back.

Now it’s two weeks to FISA. Hoping for another solid workout week. Next weekend we’ll be in Florida! Yay!

What happens after three hard rows.
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About camckenna

I teach; I write; I row.
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