Number 209

That’s my number – 209.

Got to remember it.
Got to repeat it each time I pass a checkpoint.

On Saturday 24 October at 4.15pm I’ll be starting in Hawkesbury Canoe Classic, a 111km paddle through the night along the Hawkesbury River to Sydney’s north.

I’ve acted as landcrew twice before so I know what’s ahead. What I didn’t know a few months back when I committed to this was how much of my life it would consume. The training has meant seeing less of family and friends, turning down social paddles, long hours of stroke after stroke after stroke. Each one worth it though. The more strokes during training, the better I will be on the night….and hopefully the less pain there will be.

I’ve read lots, talked lots, asked lots. Learned about what to eat and how much to eat. Tried different foods on the water. My regular habit of munching an apple got ditched ages ago – takes too long, too much munching. Eating a boiled egg is the thing of the past too……too fiddly to take the shell off and not the right diet. I’ve tried Carbo Shotz gels and found that I can tolerate the citrus flavour and the vanilla is actually quite okay (didn’t even bother testing the banana). The gels are quick and easy to consume. I’ve had bananas taped to the deck and even tried squashing them between some white bread for extra carbs. I’ve trawled the supermarket shelves looking for foods high in carbs that would be easy to access and quick to consume. Baby food! Found some in squirt packaging that taste alright. Of course, there’ll be a few of my favourite butter scotch lollies and some bite size chocs around, just to keep me motivated in the wee small hours.

I’ve learned about consuming enough fluids and realised that I just wasn’t drinking enough. I intend to start with 4 litres each of water and electrolyte fluid.

My PFD has been dunked, tested and tagged at Blue Earth, which means I won’t have to start with a wet PFD. I’ve thought about clothing, and am still not quite sure what I’ll start in. It’ll depend on the weather forecast. There will be plenty of extra layers stuffed into the day hatch.

I’ve got all the safety gear required, have looked carefully at the maps and all the rules and regulations. An old spray skirt has had 4 tabs sewn in to allow a map case to be attached. The map will be close enough to read.

I’ve replaced the deck bag that was fixed to my foredeck just prior to our 2005 Whitsundays trip. Suffering from exposure to sun, salt and sea it had started to rot away. A Sea to Summit mesh bag proved to be the perfect replacement. Some quick adjustments with the sewing machine and I attached it to the deck lines using cable ties.

Taking Matt’s idea, I bought some little LED lights and trialled them at night. The red made map reading tricky, the blue made it easy. So the little blue light will be inside a piece of garden hose to keep it pressed to ON all night and hanging from my PFD.

The training hours are nearly over. For ease of access and so that time on the water can be spent with the focus on paddling rather than sea conditions and boat traffic, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the Lane Cove River.

Got to know it quite well in fact. It’s amazing that I can move from the waterfront mansions of Woolwich and Hunters Hill

past sailing and rowing clubs to quiet mangroves and national park.

I glide past sandstone rock faces with a factory on the opposite bank.

As I eat something I can see traffic queuing up on the bridge.

The sound of planes on their approach to Sydney airport provides overhead company. The bird life includes ducks, a sea eagle, kookaburras, cockatoos and cormorants.

The weir marks the end of my passage and becomes the start of the return journey.

And as the Coat Hanger comes into view, I know I am almost finished yet another training session.

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