Imagine this… It’s -11°C. A lovely day for a x-country ski, a snowshoe, some skating or maybe just a nice walk outside…in a warm down jacket with your touque and mitts on.
Now imagine you’re outside in -11, you take your mitts off and decide to submerge your hands in freezing cold water….and you hold them there. Then maybe you’ll take off your nice winter boots too and dip your feet in the ice cold water. Doesn’t this sound CRAZY!?? Well folks, this is what it’s like for us whitewater paddlers training in the winter.
Lucky or unlucky for us, whitewater doesn’t commonly freeze so we’re able to train long past the rowers and flatwater paddlers. Long gone are the summer days of training in just a sports bra, spandex shorts, a neoprene spray deck and my lifejacket and helmet. These days I’m wearing, 3-4 thermal layers under a dry top, neoprene pants, 2 pairs of neoprene socks, a fleece touque and a neoprene hat under my helmet, a lifejacket and these things called poggies to cover my hands while allowing me to hold onto my paddle. By the time I wrestle myself into all of this gear I feel like I’ve just put on 20 pounds!
So, now I’m dressed and ready to paddle. Next comes getting into my boat. When I go to pick it up, it feels like it’s put on 20 pounds as well! The extra water that I couldn’t get out of my boat from yesterday’s training session has frozen and now I really can’t get it out. On top of that, I then sit in my boat and have to put my feet on metal foot pegs. It’s not a pleasant feeling.
By the time I finish my session it feels like another 20 pounds when you add up the now frozen water on my boat, paddle and equipment. Ugh! If that wasn’t enough, my feet and hands are absolutely frozen that I can’t even manage to get my gear off when I’m finished the workout. On the bright side, I’m training in England where there are warm change rooms for me to wait while I thaw. Back in Ottawa, I used to drive home in my equipment once my feet had thawed enough to feel the clutch.
Doing an outdoor summer sport in the winter is not ideal…especially when it involves getting very wet in very cold water. I can’t say I generally look forward to my paddling sessions these days but I know it will pay off and summer will inevitably return. In the meantime us whitewater paddlers have bragging rights to being the most BAD ASS!! Bring it on!