Race Report: CPR XIII (part 1)

This post is about the Corvallis to Portland Row (CPR) XIII, which occurred on June 5th and 6th. This is a two-day, 5-stage, 115-mile rowing event on the Willamette River from the college town of Corvallis to the Willamette Rowing Club boathouse in Oaks Park in Portland, Oregon.

People have been asking me what CPR is like. Well...

CPR is like...
Ok, I'm not a mother and therefore not entitled to make this remark (but when has that stopped me): CPR is like childbirth because during and immediately after, you say: "What the hell was I thinking?!" and then some time passes and you do it again and say: "What the hell was I thinking?!"

The child-protection top on the pain relief medicine taunts me:  "You can't open me, nyah, nyah, nyah." It's true, I can't grab much with my right hand and the mere thought of any twisting action involving my right wrist elicits a paroxysm of pain. Still, the child protection top is not immune to my steel-toed boots. If I could get them on...

And, this would be a surprise after the last CPR? Hello! Doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome, duh...What the hell was I thinking?!

This is what CPR feels like: vulnerable, inadequate, at the mercy of nature and fellow man.

Up the proverbial creek, launching at CPR

OK, I'm getting ahead of myself...

Pre-Race Roller Coaster
The last two months and particularly the last week have featured huge ups and downs relative to CPR. First, there was the enormous amount of snow and rain this winter and spring, suggesting to most everyone that the event would be canceled like the year before. Watching the Willamette river flow projections has become a several-times a-day neurosis for me. Even other rowing friends start to monitor this data and give me discouraging news: "Doesn't look good for CPR, does it?"

Earlier, my wife's CPR doubles partner, a college classmate, bailed. He hadn't had enough time to train, injuries weren't healing, etc (all legitimate excuses delivered early enough to do something in response). My wife was quite disappointed. I happened to be emailing a Santa Cruz rower and asked her if she might be interested. Surprisingly, this woman agreed to do it and my wife was quite happy again.

Exactly a week before the race, Tiff Wood announces that the race is going to happen. Yay! Spirits are high.  Shortly thereafter, Beth's second doubles partner announces that she won't be able to row (fitness, money, etc). Spirits crash. With 6 days before start time, my wife and I email a bunch of folks to see if we can scrounge up someone (hey, wanna row 115 miles next weekend?). Needless to say, there aren't many folks who 1) want to do it, 2) can do it, and 3) have the time to do it on such short notice. Miraculously, Beth's first partner finds someone who qualifies on all three accounts, a strapping, super-nice 22-year old with lots of experience, some even with CPR (helping out). Beth now has a third doubles partner, Alex, and he will meet us in Corvallis. Muy Bueno!

The Boat Dilemma
Paul Noyes (our fearless support person), Beth and I  arrive at the Oregon State University boathouse around 2pm on Friday to rig our boats and check out the river. I am particularly interested in seeing the flow up close because I have some apprehensions about the water. OK, my apprehensions are not about the water so much as about my ability to avoid entering the water.
The CPR web site says: "Click here to monitor the water depth at Corvallis. If river levels are less than 2 feet or more than 6 feet, an alternative course will be rowed." Ha! On Friday when we arrive the gauge is reading above 16.5 . Achtung Baby!

Talk about a roller coaster ride...

In other words, the Friday flow is 275% of the maximum for a conventional Corvallis to Portland Row. That translates to about 20,000 cfs (that's 566.3 cubic meters per second) at the start in Corvallis and around 50,000 cfs (1415.8 cubic meters per second) at the finish in Portland. That's a lot of water. I have just enough experience with rivers to know that volumes like that on this river can create interesting hydraulics: boils, shears, pillows, eddies and eddy lines, holes, standing waves, and all manner of shell flipping phenomena. I really don't want any part of any of that.

Another CPR competitor, Will Kalenius, is at the OSU boathouse and we talk briefly. He remarks that he doesn't row the Willamette in a single when it's at this level. I think he means that it's too hard to row back upstream...Or maybe, as he's a new father, he is feeling conservative, better part of valor, etc. 

I've brought two boats to this event because of the flow. The sleek and fast Hudson racing shell is tricked out with water bottle cages and various electronics (GPS and StrokeCoach) and is the boat I have been training in. I've optimized everything in this boat (foot stretcher height and angle, riggers, free space for extra clothing, food, inflatable life vest, etc) for this long rowing event. I am eager to row this shell, but the water may be too much for this skinny craft.

The other boat is my stouter steed, a Maas-24. The last time I rowed this open water boat was in the Open Ocean Regatta. There is not much that can be easily optimized on this: there is a fore and an aft setting for the riggers (and not much difference between these). The seat tracks are semi-permanent factory, one-size fits all. You can move the foot stretchers fore and aft but you can't change the angle. My custom setting for this boat is a bag that I have attached with Velcro.

I am schizophrenic: the racer demon part of me sits on my shoulder yelling Hudson (speed, speed!), while the prudent angel fellow on the other side politely suggests the Maas (safe, safe!). I decide to rig both boats and have both cleared by the one of the race officials:

Hudson on left, Maas on right. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe...
Race Day Forecast
The forecast is for mid to high 80s. This is a temperature increase of almost 30 degrees from the recent highs and this has some significant implications for this race. We are not prepared for this: we have scarcely rowed in shorts and tanks this year. More importantly, this will also be the first warm and sunny Saturday in months, and it is likely to bring out every water skier, wakeboarder, jetskier and pleasure boater. Finally, the temperature differential between the cold snowy areas and the heated land is going to set up a headwind.

All of this is shaping my boat considerations. I am now thinking a Maas-24 may be in order. I realize I will sacrifice some speed (how much?), but I am significantly less likely to swim and the boat is equipped with a self-bailer when I get waked. On the other hand, the Maas presents a bigger area for wind. My wife--she of the "just get in the damn boat and row it" persuasion--is amused (appalled?) at my paralysis by analysis.

After dinner, Paul and I move my Hudson, rigged, onto his lumber rack. I can switch boats at any time if I like, but for now I'm going with the Maas.

Race Day Dawn
The race organizers have decided to start two singles first, then most of the doubles and then the fours. Will Kalenius and his doubles rowing partner will start last as the race organizers peg them to be the fastest. The goal is to have everyone relatively close together and by starting the slower boats first, the thinking is that we will all come together by the end of the first leg, 35 miles down river. I will start with or shortly after Joe McGuire.

The nice thing about rowing the Maas is I know I can basically hop in it and row. It's comfortable and stable. On the other hand I have never spent 11-12 hours in a Maas seat before.

Attending to last minute details in the pre-dawn light
Speaking of seats, it's interesting and fun to see what boat mods other people make in preparation for a 115-mile row. Some have rigged up music. Others have arranged food trays. The four below have prioritized posterior protection.

The princesses and the pea
More in the next post...

1 comment:

andy baxter said...

Great stuff Torsten!