Round Bowen Island 20-mile Kayak & Canoe Race
Bowen Island, BC
If you miss the now defunct, San Juan Challenge, and haven’t found a race to fill the void, you will love the Round Bowen Race. It is a 20-mile circumnavigation of Bowen Island in BC where everything matters! Strategy, route choices, endurance, speed, nutrition, hydration, weed guards, comfortable seats, and, in a good year, big water skills.
One word can sum up this years race: HOT!!!
This year the race course went counterclockwise, heading north out of Snug Cove around the island. This put us against the tide briefly, but hugging the shore we were making good progress. As soon as we hit the northernmost point, the racers ahead of me started to disperse, trying to take the best advantage of the swift current that was now going with us. I could see John George and Ben Fast in their tandem surfski, and one other surf ski heading on a course strait towards Hut Island, off the northwest corner of Bowen, looking for the fastest water. Other boats settled into the middle of the channel, and then there were those who continued on a path closer to shore.
I chose the middle of the channel. With a 15 knot headwind, I was averaging about 7.5 mph, which seemed good to me, so I stayed where I was. There were wind waves and rolling swells in the channel, making for a fun paddle, and the breeze kept the heat down.
The current continued to give me a nice push until I hit the southwest tip of the island, Cape Roger Curtis, then, the wind died, the current switched, and I knew it was going to be a hot, slow, final hour. I ate a bag of Clif Bloks, took a few hardy gulps of my Gatorade, then headed into the heat. Hugging the shore seemed to be the fastest route through here, although the weeds had me zig zagging like I was going through an obstacle course.
There was a definite slowing pace of the racers around me. One surfskier, who had been ahead of me the entire race, began to throw his legs over the side of his ski every few minutes and dump water on his head before continuing on. The second or third time he did this, I paddled past him, feeling his pain…
After 2 hours and 48 minutes, I crossed the finish, happy, hot and tired. I am not sure who had the best route choices, but I was stoked with my time and top 10 overall placing! As I floated around, cooling down and watching racers cross the finish line, a man ran down from the dock.
“Are you OK?” he asked.
“Yes,” Me, and Abe, who I was talking to at the time, answered.
“Good,” he says, “because your husband is not!”
For races over 2 hours, Brandon likes to use a Hammer product called Perpetuem. This is a product designed to “deliver stable, long-term energy hour after hour.” Brandon has used this in many races over the years, with great success. At 6’6″, 240 pounds, he needs calories in races where others may get away with just Gatorade.
But today in the heat, with Brandon racing hard and sweating up a storm, we realized we had overlooked a missing ingredient.
Brandon crossed the finish line strong, holding onto a third place finish. He felt great, especially considering his training focus for the past few months had been the 5-mile Ski to Sea, not a 20-miler! None-the-less, his energy never faultered, and he was pleased with his race and finish. He paddled to the take-out, carried his boat up, and after a few minutes off the water, his body suddenly seized into a mass of spasming muscle cramps. He was frozen in place, unable to move, and pleaded to some nearby folks, “Can you help me?”
By the time I found him, he was sitting in the shade with a cool, wet towel on his head and three water bottles, two Powerades and three Emergen-C’s laying on the table empty in front of him.
What we realized is that while Pertetuem is a complete ‘fuel’, it is not an electrolyte replacement drink. There is very little sodium or potassium, or any of that good stuff that replenishes your electrolytes.
Although Brandon felt great on the race course, and his energy level never faultered, his electrolytes were grossly over-depleting, and he was doing nothing to replace them.
Back to the drawing board:
We will have to experiment and get back to you on this one… but, the lesson learned here is that you must understand what your body needs, and make sure you are giving it all the crucial ingredients to keep going and going!!!
Brandon and Heather
Fast and John George
1. Alan Carlsson 2:36:48
2. Graham Smith 2:39:51
3. Brandon Nelson 2:42:10 (Bellingham)
4. Dean Bumstead 2:44:36 (Bellingham)
11. Mike Gregory 2:55:41 (Bellingham)
1. Heather Nelson 2:48:44 (Bellingham)
2. Kathleen Petereit 2:58:00
3. Katja Rademacher 2:15:08
Men’s Tandem HPK
1. Ben Fast and John George 2:38:58
1. Abe Lloyd 3:02:06 (Bellingham)
2. Jim Zimmerman (with a broken rudder!) 3:20:31 (honorary Bellingham)
4. John Robinett (Bellingham) 3:58:26
For full results, go to www.bowenislandkayaking.com
~ In the Spirit of Compassion and Adventure~
Heather and Brandon