Yesterday we competed in Waterside C, a 23 mile race from Pewsey to Newbury with 35 portages. Julien and I finished in 4 hours, 25 minutes and 34 seconds, placing 24th of 35 starters. John and Matt fared rather better placing a creditable 11th in 4 hours, 2 minutes and 37 seconds.
It was a tough race. The wind was a fresh north easterly which we were fighting hard against for at least the first 12 miles and the course included a couple of challenging features.
Firstly, the 460m long Savernake tunnel. Overtaking is not allowed in the tunnel and there were rescue crews stationed at either end. Paddling through was a slightly unnerving experience as one can hardly see the boat or the paddles, meaning that everything is done by feel and it was hard not to wobble a couple of times.
The second feature was much more of a challenge. The 'Crofton Flight' is a set of six locks in close succession over about a mile which most crews choose to portage. We simply did not have the strength to run this distance carrying the boat and so we walked most of it which was tiring and demoralising as crews who might have been slower than us on the water were busy running past us.
It took us until about halfway through the race to find a good pace which then began to make up for the two demoralising factors early on of Matt and John disappearing into the distance, and our struggles with the long portages. By the finish, however, we both felt shattered.
After feeling very upbeat about our DW prospects last week I felt disheartened as our pace over Waterside C would indicate a DW time of around twenty four hours, which is what we have been targeting. Yesterday we found it exhausting to maintain that pace for four hours, never mind twenty four.
This morning I am trying to see things in a more positive light as I firmly believe that mental attitude is the most crucial factor in DW. Yesterday we were battling a headwind and we were perhaps a bit unrealistic in our expectations. It was also the first really long paddle we have done and I think we need to pace ourselves better to be more efficient and less tired. We have a few lessons to take away and I hope we can use them on Waterside D in two weeks time.