It began, as these things always do, in a pub or restaurant. I can’t remember which, and it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that we both had a drink in front of us, and neither were our first that evening.
Tom Rendell and I were talking about doing a slightly different endurance challenge in 2009. I’d got my excuse of aging, wobbly knees in early. So events such as the ‘Ex to Ax’, or the ‘Dartmoor Discovery’ which Tom and I had previously done were safely out of the frame.
Which is when Tom suggested the Devizes to Westminster canoe race. If he could find a double kayak would I be interested?
What did it involve I asked?
Well, you start at Devizes, paddle 125 miles, do 77 lock porterages, and it takes about 30 – 35 hours non-stop.
Now at this point I thought yes, why not? I’d be sat down after all. How hard could it be? Plus – Tom would have to find a double kayak from somewhere.
Which of course, he already had. Curses.
So training began in July of 2008, and in the summer months it was very enjoyable. Pleasant even. Sunday mornings; out from the floating harbour in Bristol and up the river toward Bath.
It’s now the bleakest of midwinters. Training is no longer enjoyable. No way is it pleasant. New Year’s Day we set off at 07.00hrs, headlights on, wrapped up in every piece of thermal clothing we had. 11 hours later we paddled back in the dark and hammered on the door of the Adam and Ever pub to open up, having gone to Bath and back. Which is 36 and a bit miles.
Sunday saw us inadvertently take part in the Avon Gorge Head of the River race. We paddled out at 09.00 only to see lots of power boats heading for the lock in Cumberland Basin. So we nipped in with them and took the opportunity to do something that we’d both always wanted to do – paddle down the Avon, under the Suspension Bridge and out toward the sea.
When we got to Avonmouth bridge, we found it a hive of rowing activity. Eights, sculls, fours, fixed seat boats all waiting for the start of the Head of the River. So we turned around and paddled back in. It might look lovely in the photos but it was savagely cold. You can just about see us under the bridge, holding off a novice eight for as long as we could – well there are only two of us!
Anyway, the race is now but three months away. We need to enter. Sort out a support crew. Get lots of paddling kit. Work on our technique and get our pace up from 3.5mph to 4.1mph if we’re to hit our target time for reaching high tide at Teddington Lock. So not much to do….better get back in the boat. More on our progress as the race approaches.