1st Jilin Intl Winter Dragon Boat Race
The creme brulee
Instead of going through a play-by-play of our most recent trip to China, I’ll focus on my favorite moment of the trip. Check out the pictures that are on the website and on shutterfly to get a feel of what we did outside of the boat.
Being a paddling freak, most of you will be shocked that my favorite moment did not occur while I was paddling (although passing 3 boats in the 6000 meter oval race and being the fastest mixed boat in that race was a close 2nd). My most memorable moment was calling the 500 meter short boat race. That race was just LARD – a caller (myself), a steerer (Eddy) and 10 paddlers (Henry, Jason, Andrea, Vi, Tammy, Tracy, Joe, Steve, Max, & J.P.). This was to be my first race as a caller and the most important race for us at the tournament. I was more than nervous.
As usual, we had the crappiest lane possible – not sure who actually picked the lane, but that’s a whole different story. We were in lane 1, nearest to shore. The lane was the shallowest, had the most current, and the most ice (both chunks and sheets). There were heats where lane 1 finished about 10 boat lengths behind the 2nd to last place team. I was trying to figure out who I killed in a previous life to have such luck.
So the strategy was to get off to an awesome start, and veer right towards the center of the river and then paddle like hell to the finish line.
Since the start sequence was in Mandarin, we had Tammy and Tracy translating for Eddy and me (oliver translated in the long boat 500m and 6000m). It wasn’t like other races, where there’s a pause before and during the called start sequence – it was just a whole bunch of Chinese (instructions on getting the boats lined up), then the “Ready, Paddle” (in Mandarin) command that started the race.
I told the boat to focus in the boat, right when I said that, the other boats started to paddle, so our 1st stroke (the most important of the race) was a mess but by stroke 3 of our first 5, everyone was in sync. As I counted the start sequence, I looked over to the other boats to the starboard side (right side) of the boat, all of the boats were veering right – heading to the center of the river, where the deep water was. Very trippy since usually, we are the only boat going sideways in a straight race. As we paddled to the middle of the river, we paddled through a bunch of ice that Jason described as “cream brûlée” – not good for our time.
As we straightened out, I called for the 1st of 3 power 15 sets (we usually only have 2 power 10s). At the start of the 1st power 15, we were behind by at least a boat length behind the boat in lane 2 (a team from Hong Kong or Macau, I believe, who were near 3rd place at that time). Once we straightened out, we were in last or second to last place. By the end of the 1st power 15, we had creeped to the dragon tail of the lane 2 boat.
As we settled, we pulled closer, I asked for even more effort, even longer strokes and reminded everyone how long we trained for this moment. The boat went faster. I got so pumped up, I screwed up the call on the 2nd power (I counted 10 to 1 then 5 to 1, as opposed to 1 to 5, then 10 to 1). It didn’t matter, the boat was so focused a stupid caller (not ALL callers are stupid, just me) wasn’t going to screw up the race for such a determined crew.
As we finished up our 3rd power 15 (I counted it right!), we had pulled almost a ½ boat ahead of lane 2. We shortly started our finish and surged ahead even more. I then glanced over at lane 2, and noticed that 2 guys in the back row of the lane 2 boat began to panic and got up on the high knee position – THEY WERE THE ONLY 2 ON THE BOAT – NO ONE ELSE! Everyone else in the boat remained seated. They started to hammer away, but to no avail.
We crossed the finish line finishing in 2nd place in the heat. From almost last to 2nd place. What a remarkable race. That's it for now. I can't wait to paddle.
Reflections on Jilin by Scott Wu
reprinted from the Long Beach Festival Program
Moments to remember:
Oliver "one-cap" Lee
At the airport:
Rodrigo to Scott – “which address should I put on my luggage tags?”
Jason – “your email address” – I guess you had to be there
- Rodrigo “overheating” after being in Beijing less than an hour
- Fancy squat toilets that flush..with automatic sensors
- The dude that made the funny noises with his horns and mouth
- Andrea and I getting miserably lost..and turning a supposed five minute walk into a 25 minute sprint
- That creepy taxi driver who followed us for 20 of those minutes, calling out things we couldn’t understand.
- Passing out at 9pm on New Year’s Eve after having an allergic reaction to lamb
- Hearing about everyone else who’d gotten their freak on with the natives
- Having all the your nosehairs freeze after being out for 2 seconds
- One word…silkworms
- Oliver getting drunk on two CAPFULS of brandy TWO HOURS before a race..mind you, this is around 7am
- Joe and Steve, our resident SWAT team
- Steve and all his high-tech gear
- Electrocuting Joe and making all his hair stand on end
Paddling that last 500 meter all LARD race…that was phenomenal..I don’t think I’ve ever felt more proud
Eddy drinking “Ice Tea” (aka Jack Daniels) at every opportunity
Watching JP, Andrea and Rodrigo on stage in front of camera crews and thousands of spectators performing and doing LARD proud
Having our two little rows of LARD stand while Wasabi sang the national anthem and feeling very patriotic suddenly
Being with people who understand your fears, frustrations and who listen to you vent. =)
Scott & Vi
Forbidden City: “Yeah! Everybody happy” *excited* then… SLAM the big shut out!!!! Walking back…All depressed…then…everyone sees a small puffy child in a yellow suit. Everybody=”Awwww how cute” everybody stops to admire…then… Scott sits by child, child looks at Scott, child wails!! Then Scott tries to make it all better by bribing the poor child with a sucker, but child cries even more!!
Child that Scott scared.
A group of us wanted to go visit the Forbidden city and we were all excited to get to see this fantastic historical wonderland. While three of us were lucky enough to purchase tickets, the rest of us who were literally the next ones in line were dumbstruck when the clock struck 3:30 and they literally slammed the shutters on us. When the sign says they close at 3:30, they aren't messing around.
The dangers of paddling in sub-freezing temps
I will never forget the panic of losing my fingers to frostbite that first practice boat out.
I will never forget thinking how stupid I must be going jogging at 6am in the dark and –30C weather, and finding a lot of locals already out there doing Tai Chi and Jazzercise.
I will never forget the Fu Market.
I will never forget how chinese food will never fill you up, buffet style, for 4 days straight, and how KFC became our savior.
I will never forget the 4 demonic children and their ear piercing performance.
I will never forget my REI invoice(s), and what's worse, how much more it should have been, now that I know what to expect.
I will never forget my ride in the little red taxi, wedged in the back seat with Joe and JP (I forget...what time did we leave????)
I will never forget there is a difference between China Airlines at the Bradley Terminal and Air China at Terminal 2.
I will never forget the look on JP's face as he bit into the silkworm cocoon.
I will never forget getting conflicting sets of instructions from each of the officials sitting in the same boat.
I will never forget Eddy running around the Forbidden City in only his Tshirt after his "Iced Tea."
Most of All, I will never forget my team mates, with whom I have bled, sweated, and now frozen with...and can now call my friends for life. Thank you all for the memories.