Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dragon Boat Paddling: What Not to Wear

This morning was my third paddling practice with the Mighty Women dragon boat team. I stayed up much too late reading a mystery, but was so excited about paddling that I awoke at 5 a.m. and couldn't find sleep again.

Invigorated by the sunrise and the promise of another amazing paddle, I drove over the Columbia River via the I-5 Bridge and then headed toward the Willamette River in downtown Portland. It seemed we'd have another dry paddle. Yay.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have many words to describe rain. I consider myself an outdoorsy woman, and I am fine with being outdoors in sprinkles, mist, drizzle or even light showers, but being soaked in a downpour is not my idea of a good time.

This week a friend told me bluntly: "If you're going to do this, you're going to be paddling in the rain--more than once." Thankfully, we've had only a few sprinkles so far, and none today.

In this colder weather, it's challenging dressing warm enough without overheating. During my first two practices, I dressed much too warmly and immediately regretted it. When you're paddling, you can't start flinging off your outer layers of clothing, even though it would provide instant relief.

So this time I left off all the wool: Army pants, sweater and hat. But I was still too warm. Next time, I also will leave my polarfleece sweatshirt and even my baseball cap at home.

Rain pants and coat are essential outer layers because we paddle hard and we get wet. And waterproof gloves are a must to help us grip the oars and to protect our hands that sometimes scrape against the boat. Some women wear nifty waterproof paddling booties, but for now, I just wear an old pair of sneakers.

I look forward to warmer weather when we can wear our rafting sandals and just one layer of breathable clothing under our life vests. How utterly free it will feel to dig in and to paddle hard without considering peeling off clothing and flinging it willy-nilly into the Willamette River.

At the end of today's rigorous paddle, Coach Jeanie welcomed me officially to the Wild Women dragon boat team by presenting me with a paddle. Many exciting adventures are just around the river's bend.

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