Monday, April 11, 2011


Tempe Race Day!
It has its own breed of anticipation,
that which is imagined
and expected with historic
reasoning for a spring race... too much sunshine on skin
in shades of various reds,
lots of water, colorful chairs, the preview of
other teams enviable jersey designs,
a tunnel of high fives
to greet our many dock exits,
maybe even pinwheels and hula hoops,
but definitely tank tops, flip flops
Julie's (John's mom) now famous cookies,
and excited gleeful smiles on new
and seasoned racers greeting one another,
tons of medals, pictures and teammate-ship.
(not really a word but I like it!)

But it didn't exactly go that way!

Its 5:00 am race day we are up early,
maybe too early
when the hotel door is opened
to the sound and sight of pouring rain.
Naively, hopefully, we want the forecast
to be wrong and calls are made seeking
a desired 'cancelled' confirmation.
Because we are desert paddlers and simply?
We don't do rain!
Unless there is lighting the Race is ON!
We, my party of four,
keep our eyes to the sky for any sign!

Soon, it is evident that some of us are
more prepared than others,
also, some of us are inclined
to whine more than others,
and mental notes are
made for who will win the
Whiners Award! ( a pacifier)
it's a clear choice, without any contender.
( I won't mention her name here, ha)

So on we go, trudging our usual
abundant collection of accessories,
it seems all paddlers need for the day,
chairs, food, tents and stuff
we can not do with out for 6 hours!
Dragging it to our little patch
of soggy real estate at the top of the grassy knoll!!

It's grim, it's gray,
it's wet, it's cold
40 something for a typical 90 degree day
in April and there is no lighting in sight!
Pure misery?

Would seem so,
but this is what happens...
clothes are shared,
paddlers do without so
someone else can be
a bit more comfortable,
we sit in cars a lot
with the unpleasant smell of wet neoprene,
but are retrieved when our race is up,
we give up any
and all sense of fashion and
take after Anita's paddling version
of bag ladies,
for tolerable almost warmth,
people stay even tho WE all want
to drive home...
to sunny temps knowing if anyone leaves
others won't be able to race.
(That's commitment. )
We tease one another
and thank those who were talked into this
"its so much FUN" event, for coming!
Good with whatever seat is given
after many calculated reformatting
from Sara and her race chart,
now very shredded and wet.

There is still the high five tunnel off the dock
cause the host team is happy, encouraging
and grateful for every team that showed,
and stayed to play and paddle.
Most of THEM are traditionally barefoot..brrr!

A generous guest paddler
returns with two boxes
of hot coffee, and becomes
every ones best friend and hero!
The turns are flawless, lanes widened,
one of us steering most of the races,
two, the rest... and another,
for the first time!
We all rally and greet other teams
with happy
"great to see you's"
we share food, clothes, tents,
blankets with them
and Yes, Julie's famous cookies.
A sweet distraction as we huddle together like
prairie horses against the wind.
"What the hell, give me another cookie."

For myself I wore a big blue
kite like tarp, resembling Violet Beauregarde
(the blueberry girl in Willy Wonka's story)
it was goofy but it cut the wind!
And everyone wanted that poncho
when I left it behind to race!
Didn't' care that my hair
was stuck to my head,
mascara running,
or that the tips of my fingers
were frozen off or
was developing a rash from being in wet clothes
too long.
Decided to say, YES, to whatever,
while enjoying who was who
just by their ankles and eyes,
cause thats all that was showing.
Steered my first race in three miles of rain
deceptively telling the crew
"we are almost there!"
Was won over by MJ's hobbling attendance
after a knee surgery just to support us.
Loved that the host team
asked if we really had two 69 year old novices?
Yes we do!!!
Enjoyed a co ed race that was an exciting
cat mouse chase game,
that had everyone on their feet
wondering who would take it.
(It felt like first all the way!)
Loved that Carol brought the pinwheels
and John's mom always remembers.

And that as abundant as the rain,
the goosebumps and the cold crinkled faces
and blue lips, were bright smiles
and warmth and medals!
(one for everyone that raced)
...that there was that familar
feeling of "family,"
the one that has carried
many of us, over years
and years of "paddletics" and conflict
to continue to be devoted
to a crazy sport we love,
in sometimes crazy conditions, like today...
with crazy people we ultimately
end up loving as well.

WHY? Because its what we do
and as Kuba our tireless race director
would say, "its all good"...
and today ...was proof!

Pam (Piper Rain)

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