First things first, Gibsons is a great place, and the town really got into the race. The locals were happy to have the paddlers in town, and the event was well organized and executed. My only gripe was the finish was off of the harbour authority's dock, which they had dedicated to the races for the weekend, had nowhere to sit and watch the finish; we sat on a couple of cement building lego-blocks and were told to move because of "insurance reasons".
One of the allures for me of the Gibsons Iron is that it is in the Howe Sound, which gets some spectacular tides and good winds. Except when we were racing. It was flat and calm during our race.
I caught the earliest ferry over to Gibsons, and watched the women start. A bunch of us went for breakfast, and then I went to the park assigned to the paddlers to camp in. After setting up my tent, I wandered over to a grocery store to pick up some water to mix into my hydration system.
All of this took me more than 2.5 hours past the start of the Women's race, and I missed the finish. I feel like a complete ass for this, seeing as how none of the women missed our finish.
After a bit of confusion on shore, Vlad, Neils, me, Steve, Frank and Norm managed to get away about 5 minutes later than we wanted to, which cut into our warm up time. Our warm up consisted mainly of the paddle out to the start line -- about 2km distant.
Along the way, Frank stopped paddling to adjust his hydration system, and looked up again and didn't have his paddle. It took Frank about 20 seconds to convince us that he actually dropped his paddle, and we did a loop to try and find it.
We didn't find it in one loop, so Frank grabbed the spare, and we were the last boat to the start.
Being the last at the start wasn't good for me. I was looking for Frank's paddle, so I didn't zip up the spray skirt around me properly, and I didn't adjust my hydration system properly. The first got me a nasty rash from chafing the skirt, and the second probably cost me a couple dozen strokes over the race. We also got a crappy start position, and were at the tail of the boat in front of us when the race started.
It also didn't give me time to plan out the race. I went out *way* too hard, I looked at my HR monitor 40 minutes into the race, and I was at 175. I can sustain that level of effort for about 40 minutes paddling. I tried to relax more, and managed to get back under control, but the damage had been done.
The good news is that about the time I was starting to bonk, we turned downwind (of what little wind there was), and managed to surf a bit. We made up 2 spots, and then either the boats we were catching up to got on the waves, or we died.
I suspect it was both. We died rather spectacularly about 2/3 of the way along the downwind leg. When we got to Hut Island, we made the turn homeward, we were fading fast. Norm made the smart move and held a straight line home, while the other boats went for cover (from what?) in the lee of Keats Island. This saved us, because it took us about the same amount of time to get to the point of Keats Island.
As we passed the point of Keats Island, one of the boats bumped us.
And we woke up and started paddling again. We managed to take back the spot we had lost, and significantly reduced the distance to the boat in front of us. We managed to hold up this pace for the remaining 2km to the finish, as it was a 3 boat sprint till the end.
About 1km from the finish, we managed to pull ahead of the remaining boats, so I stopped calling at the top of my lungs. The boat started to slow down a bit, so I started calling at the top of my lungs again, and the boat picked up again.
We managed to hold on to our lead right through to the finish, and we were about 8 and 17 seconds ahead of the boats we were sprinting against.
All in all, I had a bad race. I went out too hard in the start, and then I had nothing to start the boat moving again when it started to sag. I think everyone in the boat worked hard, we just needed a better race plan. I chalk all of this up to being flustered at the start, but I'm probably the most culpable, as it was my job to organize the pre and post race meetings. Both meetings could have been much better.
The race was fun, and a good learning experience. We'll have lots of room to improve for next year.