There's a pool of about a dozen kayakers who frequently show up for the Morning Exercise Paddle, and on any given day there will typically be from two to eight of us. Today at 7:30 am no-one else showed up, but it was 45F and calm – in other words, a perfect day to paddle so I decided to go anyway. There were light sprinkles so I purposely left my sunglasses in the car and I zipped up my dry suit. I carried my kayak on my shoulder and dropped it in the water. A bald eagle flew in and perched above the beach and watched me as I launched – a good omen. And the rain stopped – an even better omen.

Most days it takes the first mile to warm up the muscles so they stop aching, but today was one of those good days where paddling felt good right from the start. As I left the swim area I started focusing on my paddling technique. First step was working on putting my paddle in the water further forward which meant I had to loosen my grip and rotate even more than my natural inclination. Natural isn't the right word, rotating while paddling is anything but natural. What I mean is rotating more than my usual habit of learned behavior. Anyhow the most important part of the forward stroke is the very beginning of it, and the further forward you plant your paddle the faster and more efficient your stroke will be. Before long I passed Greenwood Point (1 statute mile). It was under ten minutes since I started paddling, and that meant I had averaged around 5kt - a good start. For sure I wanted to go at least as far as Timberlake Park, maybe even Vasa Park if I could will myself to keep going. To Vasa and back is over five statute miles or 4.5 nautical miles. It’s easier to keep going when you’re exercising with others; misery loves company applies to paddling too. Back when we started this morning exercise program Timberlake was our standard turn around point, but after a year or so we moved the goal post to Vasa Park unless someone had to leave early for work or wasn’t in good enough shape to go the extra miles (about two miles extra round trip). Barb often turns around here; she and I drive separately so she can get back to the shop before we open at nine. Near Timberlake you have to watch out for submerged stumps just below the surface of the water – the result of a landslide a hundred years ago; if your mind wanders or you focus too much on your technique you’ll likely end up high centered on stump. Fortunately there were no close encounters of the wooden kind today. We often see eagles perched in the tall tree at the point just before Timberlake. But no more eagle sightings today; just flocks of mergansers ducks swimming out of my path. The mergansers were probably glad that the eagles were gone - bald eagles don't just eat fish. When I got to Timberlake it felt like I was just getting into my paddling groove so I kept going to Vasa Park. Twenty-nine minutes elapsed time to Vasa. If I keep that up I can get back to the beach in under an hour - one of my better times.

At Vasa Park I used a bow draw/bow rudder to turn around which made me think of Bill who practices draw strokes when paddling with us. This is the point where Steve usually catches up to us after starting ten or more minutes later than us, but no Steve today – haven’t seen him in a while. Steve's faster than any of us no matter what boat he's in, but when he's paddling his racing surf-ski he can lap us.  On the way back I started doing “power tens” to push myself to paddle faster which made me think of John. It was John started the morning paddle routine and introduced us to the power ten drill - something from his rowing crew days. Now it's Tom who likes to keep the tradition going. Tom and I have about the same sprinting speed; so we push each other to exert more. Take ten sprinting strokes on each side, and then “rest” for ten fast paced strokes and repeat. That's the power ten drill. Then for variety you can increase it to 15, 20, etc. If Terry were here I’d ask him what his “wake-o-meter” said our speed was. He’s perfected the ability to judge his speed according to his kayak’s bow wave. I looked at my bow wave and judged my speed to be around 4 knots (nautical miles per hour). I stopped paddling briefly to check the GPS on my Fitbit watch. It said over 5mph; a rough conversion calculation in my head = 4.3 kt. Not bad, but I pushed a little harder the next interval of ten strokes. My wake-o-meter started to red-line with the bow pointing upward as it tried to climb its own wave which is a physical impossibility that's associated with a boat's hull speed - the fastest it can go no matter how hard you paddle.

On my way back, as I pass Greenwood point I think to myself, "only ten minutes to go". Surely I can push a little harder for just ten minutes. It takes about 400 strokes to paddle a statute mile. If you did power tens the whole way that's twenty reps. Two minutes later I pass the speed limit buoy that that Terry calls the “Eight Minute Buoy”. Only eight more minutes to Tibbetts Beach, “keep pushing”. I pass a second buoy about a minute and a half closer to the beach; only six and a half more minutes to go. Reach forward more. Start rotating earlier. Push harder on the foot pedal and rotate all the down into the seat. Put more hand pressure on the paddle. I increase the Power Ten intervals to fifteen and then twenty sprint strokes per side and keep it up until I cross the swim rope outside Tibbetts Beach. The rope is my imagined finish line. After that it’s a short cool down session before getting out of the kayak.

When I got back to Tibbetts Beach my body was spent but my mind was as calm as the lake. It was a good workout, but I forgot to check the elapsed time. Oh well, like playing poker when no-one’s keeping score. I’ll call it 58 minutes round trip, but to myself I’m thinking it probably was less as I paddled harder on the way back. With the boat put away I changed out of my dry suit and drove to PCC for breakfast. A good morning; wish you could have been there.