By 2 PM on Saturday, July 28 2012 the winds across Odell Lake (Oregon) were cranking. White caps (big for a lake) were hammering the shore alongside our campsite. And the downwind race was over hours before. Just after 11 am, the red calico flag waved the casual start of the 32nd year of this annual event in light winds that assured safe passage for all competitors from canoes to SUP race boards to kayaks. The spirit of this race is all about the group. While the standup paddlers were wishing for a start the coincided with the predictable afternoon winds and waves to glide on, John Milandin (the race organizer) enthusiastically ushered us into the water as he has for 32 years. And we all had a blast.
The light winds for the first 30 minutes or so, gave way to a more steady breeze and some fun on the growing white caps as we approached Shelter Cove for the finish. During the race on my 11’3″ Amundson surfboard I had plenty of time for reflecting on past races since all the other SUPers were far ahead on an array of sleek 12’6″ to 14′ race boards. I paddled hard and tried to stay with the pack, but just didn’t cut it. So with my sweat and heavy breathing came thoughts of past years and friends we miss. The first time I paddled Odell Lake with Randall, Cristina and Isabella Barna we were joined by my husband, Ed and friends including Eddy Miller. It was just a casual practice paddle that day, a cold windy August that found us all falling in and laughing often. By the time the 2008 Pioneer Cup came around we were way more prepared. We sorely miss the joyful love of life and adventure Eddy shared in everything he did through a life cut way too short.
Over the years we all have changed, standup paddling and boards have changed, but the consistent spirit of the Odell Lake Pioneer Cup stays steady. Each year no matter where we place or what the conditions, we all know that a BBQ on the deck of the lodge will be delicious. Some years a front of the pack ribbon was part of the take-away for me. This year it was quite the opposite. After all the awards were given out John turned toward me with a mischievious grin and said, “Each year we hand out a questionably prestigious award, the ‘sightseer award,’ to the person who just sticks with it and finishes the race no matter how long it takes.”
Me: GULP! A little embarrassing to be dead last, but when confronted with John’s pure joy in handing out the award I couldn’t help but grin. After all, I regularly write about the joy of the process of honing skills and training for more than the race results. Thinking back on how it felt to dig that last paddle stroke at the finish (woooohoooo) was pretty cool. Like in life, simply showing up is a big part of what makes us who we are. John is one wise person to consistently celebrate that “showing up” and sticking with it to the end.
Can’t wait for next year! In the meantime, there will be plenty of training days working on getting more fit. There will be lots of camping trips and paddles with friends and family. There will be trips to surf, watch beach sunsets and wait expectantly for the “green flash.” More than that there will be plenty of opportunities to embrace life, show up, look around and make a difference. In life I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by so many people whose spirit, love of life and people in that life continue to inspire. For those of you who read this, you know who you are!