Winds of (Standup Paddle) Fortune

Elder SUP paddle Bend OregonIt’s a long story (video – see below) but today was one of my last training days before next week’s 11-lap / 31-miler standup paddle in the Deschutes River following the route through the Old Mill District of Bend, OR. I bundled my iPhone in its waterproof case and logged into Nike+ GPS so that I would be certain to log my scheduled 6 mile course. I had left the house just after 7 am in order to miss the wind that had been whipping up white caps up and down the river all week.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the wind is my friend, like when my buddy Cristina Acosta and I use her hand-painted sarongs to glide down wind. But when going for mileage up and down a river, with a against some pretty hefty current, the wind is a totally different “friend.”

By the time I got ready to launch my SUP board the wind was more than 15 mph and increasing, but the flag on the stacks showed it was blowing behind me while I trekked up-current (Horray!)

So weirdly, the up current leg seemed really easy.  I got into a rhythm and a glide. The upstream turn at the rapids just past the Healy Bridge seemed to come up more quickly than usual, but it actually hadn’t been as fast as it seemed. Nike+ gave me my splits and I was a bit slower than usual. Mmmm?  The last rock on river right is my turn buoy, so I rounded it ready for the down stream leg #1. Wow! Wind in the face, but it had to be a faster leg since it was down current. Once I passed under the flags at mile 2.4 I wondered if I was going to make any headway. Tucking close to the bank trying to avoid the wind, head down and choked up on the paddle handle I started a fast and steady paddle pace. Exhilarating for sure. Elder SUP at healy bridge bend oregon

Rounding the buoy just before the spillway  Nike+ reported my pace and I had shaved 3 minutes off my last upstream mile – in spite of how the 25mph wind-in-the-face actually felt. This got me thinking. (Scary!)

Life, sometimes when we are in the flow it seems like all of our effort is driving us toward goals and successes. While paddling a rhythmic pace against a pretty strong current, the steady wind at my back made the journey delightful.  The chorus of wind ripples playing under my board as it glided up river was energizing and sweet. Reaching, planting the paddle, executing a smooth catch, stroke and return happened easily. Yet, there was a powerful current working its best against my forward movement. With its effects buried beneath the forward moving wind-powered surface of the river the paddle seemed almost effortless.

Doesn’t life do that for us – at times. Even when it’s an uphill battle something plays the role of “wind at our back” and that makes all the difference.

Similarly, when life is good – a down-wind cruise if we let it – a bit of unexpected “wind in our face” sets us back. Mentally or emotionally, what seems to be the driving force in things, what’s visible and obvious is not always so. Just like my struggle to keep the nose of my board into the wind and churning chop seemed to make that part of the journey slower, in reality the deeper down-river current provided a faster run.

Before I knew it my 6.22 miles was done – maybe it was the endorphins or the insights, but I left that training run fully charged!

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