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Don't stop believ-ing

I have a couple of tough challenges set up for 2022. The Iron Man, the Comrades marathon, the Race Across South Africa, the Sky Run, and Everesting the Westcliff steps, to name a few. However, the two that scare me the most are the Duzi and Berg River Canoe marathons. I am not a paddler.... I am a stirrer! Having never paddled before, I now intend to fulfil a dream and paddle the 120km Dusi Canoe marathon in February 2022 and the 240km Berg River Canoe Marathon in July 2022. Here's an account of my short canoeing journey to date. I started paddling just over a month ago, on 2 August 2021 as a social member of the Milnerton Canoe Club. On arrival at Woodbridge Island, I was overcome by nostalgia. Many years ago, in my wilder, younger days I spent many happy nights drinking wine and other adult beverages with my sister at a popular establishment on the Island. It seemed fitting that my illustrious paddling career would now begin in the very same car park where Lyn and I squatted to pee, and where I, on more than one occasion, vomited. Where does one pee in a canoe, I thought. What if I get sea sick and least I can feed the ducks, but will the canoe roll over in the process?

My first challenge had been telling Richard, the chief whip at the club, via email that my intention was to paddle the Berg River Canoe Marathon in 10 months time. I didn't dare mention my plans about the Dusi Marathon, only 6 months away. Naturally, Richard expressed his doubts and concerns about the lack of time to achieve my goal. I must say that my delicate Pisces feelings were slightly hurt by his honesty. But, after a good stiff gin and a big packet of Cheese Curls I realised that he was, in all fairness, just doing his job as the club chairman and safety officer. I would just have to put on my big girl knickers and and show him I could do it. But, what else to wear? First impressions are everything. As a woman of the world, I believe that one should always look the part, and dress for the occasion. More importantly, as a Physiologist with a keen interest in the field of brain functioning, I also know about the crucial interaction between the outward and the inward. When dressed for success, your motor neurons are subtly manipulated into finding the correct synaptic pathways to perform a new task. So I posted an attire-related query onto the 'Freedom Challenge Extreme Triathlon' whatsapp group. I received many suggestions from this very exclusive five person group. In summary I gathered that I should wear something waterproof but breathable, warm but cooling, tight but loose flowing, functional but flirty, and definitely something slimming, or maybe they meant something for swimming. I forget. I chose my outfit carefully and arrived at the Club eager to please. Richard looked me up and down, gave me a paddle and told me to never ever call it an oar. I was then introduced to my white Vital K1 canoe and told to never ever call it a kayak or a big white boat. It is a very fancy white canoe. Unlike me, it is from Knysna not Benoni and is very stable and reliable. Check out the video showing my very first canoeing attempt in my white Knysna Racing Vital K1

Mmmm, not too sure about this. At the time, I really believed that I looked like an extreme paddler. Then I saw the video. Now I am a bit dubious. My major horror was the visible panty line - that is completely unacceptable. The underwear also creates a pesky wedgie that is hard to dig free while trying to master the perfect paddling stroke. Next time, no underwear. Or maybe I should wear my underwear over my pants. Now that is a brilliant idea. And yes, I will most definitely brush my hair (before and after). Sorry Mom. On the up-side, the foot-wear was a huge hit with the ducks. One even gave me a rather suggestive 'come-hither' look. From now on, I will wear them for most of my training and social engagements.

I did not fall into the water. I am told that is a very good sign, especially as I intend to wave back at the super-friendly golfers on the nearby Milnerton Golf course, and dispense free golf swing advice using the paddle as a club. And eat cheese curls while paddling.

Canoeing is hard work. I have now been paddling 2 times per week for just over a month. Strava tells me that I have done about 70km of open water canoeing. My longest paddling session has been 12km. Before you all break out into thunderous applause, let me put this into perspective. My monthly 70km of paddling equates to completing only one of the four days of the Berg River Canoe Marathon. A sobering thought. One that makes me want to drink another gin.

I am finding the paddle-stroke hard to master. You-tube has become my virtual coach. I started with "what stroke is best when paddling solo". The information you gather will make your head dizzy. In fact, it should come with a warning for the newbie "paddlers'' out there. After watching many videos, even I know that lying down in the canoe naked is not going to be very helpful. Seriously, how on earth does one hold the oar, sorry er paddle, and generate a full stroke while lying down. No sir, sitting is far more efficient.

Nevertheless, I am really enjoying my new sport. I even have a local fan club. Yes, a group of homeless people that sadly live in the car park at Woodbridge Island have become my biggest fans and toughest critics. Rowena is the hardest to please, but I am winning her over gradually. Just the other day, when I was out paddling seemingly all alone on the Lagoon she shouted out with great jubilation " Fok Aunty, jy is komming secoooond!"

My goal for September is to get to 20km of non-stop paddling. I will keep you posted. I may even attempt the Club time trial. Advice on wardrobe attire will still be appreciated. Until then, I wont stop believing.

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