At the start of every race, I question my sanity. There is no harder work than trying to beat the ocean at its own game. Soon the heart rate builds, the power propels the canoe forward, and I get lost in some kind of alpha wave trance with flickers of beta - where my brain analyzes the waves, conjures some distraction then ultimately sinks into a meditative state. I pull myself, stroke by stroke, forward across the water and eventually, around forever minus twenty-two minutes to be exact, I cross the finish line between two yellow buoys.
Ted Taylor, head honcho at Manu'iwa Outrigger Club, introduces himself before the race as an Englishman, coaching outrigger, in Connecticut. Nothing like hearing a Hawaiian Mahalo with a UK twang on the sands of an ocean inlet in the USA. Later at the luau, Ted requests a plug on social media (click here for media/photo links). Was this race better than last year's, he wants to know? For me, yes. And it isn't just because I took first place (for finishing in 2018 the race I started in 2017) nor because I took first place in the $175 canoe class. It was, dare we utter its name, because of the Milford Triangle.
I personally find races that follow a coast a little difficult to mentally tag. Coastline unfolds like a rocky rope with nothing terribly remarkable. The triangular buoy set up gave me a mental check and a goal with enough frequency to keep me motivated. It also gave me three different wave and current patterns - four actually - because the southerwestly wind (that some of us surfed after the second buoy turn) tapered off near Charles Island. So the overall pattern was 1: flattish , 2: turn into the wind with bigger waves (ama bouncing up), 3: turn and surf (bow lifting high, ama rolling under the swell) and 4: calm and flat for a dash to home - then repeat. On the second round we all had a learning curve down, and mentally it wasn't just another 4.5 miles but 1.1 mile (buoy turn = Pavlovian reward), 1.5 mile (buoy turn) and 1.9 mile (beer is in sight).
I have raced in Milford four times. The first two were OC6 races, and after training on the stinky Hudson River in New York City, let's just say I was astonished by the beauty of the Gulf, a tranquil little curve tucked into the greater ocean inlet of Long Island Sound. This is a five star race, where the quality of the food down to the quality and craft of the prizes are not forgotten. Manu'iwa's own novice Nicky not only came in first for women's OC1, she got to take home one of the first-prize, bottle-opener-paddles she made--and the rest of us got to choose from Monique's thoughtful and unique commemorative tiles. Thanks for a great race and bringing us, no matter our accent or World Cup favorite, together. Mahalo, Manu'iwa. Mahalo, ocean.