At my very first Dragon Ladies of Paris dragon boat team practice (all of 2 weeks ago), I impulsively decided to join the team for an upcoming race. I didn’t get a lot of details, but I figured it would be fine. Fast forward to race day (today!), and it turns out this race was a 14 km paddle through the city of Paris. Um, the longest dragon boat race I’d ever done before today was 2 km. It was an adventure to say the least!
We all took home paddles and PFDs from practice yesterday, theoretically so everyone knew they had one but also so that some of us would get lots of weird looks on the train.
I was completely blown away by the scene at the start. It’s a race for all sorts of water craft and also a mass start, so the river was full of kayaks, SUPs, canoes, a couple dragonboats (one complete with reindeer and Mère Noël!), and outriggers of all sizes. It was chaos. To make things worse, our dragon head is exactly the height of a person sitting in a kayak and we aren’t super nimble. What can I say, the dragon was hungry.
Photo credit: Cristina
The race course was incredible: around the islands and through the center of the city, passing by all of the great monuments and bridges of Paris. It was gray most of the morning, but the sun broke through for a few glorious minutes just as we passed the Eiffel Tower–pure magic. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the best parts because I was slightly busy paddling, but it was really incredible.
Things got harder after that. Instead of famous monuments and surprised runners cheering from the bridges, we were in an industrial area with a headwind and some pretty serious waves. It felt like mile 15 in a marathon, when you feel like you’ve done quite enough, thank you, but actually there’s still SO MUCH LEFT. To make matters worse, I was in the first row, which sets the rhythm for the boat and can’t just stop to catch their breath. There was a lot of just staring at the bottom of the boat and counting to 10 in my head for this part.
Photo credit (both above): Dragon Ladies
But then we were finally (FINALLY!) at the finish line, and there’s nothing better than being done with a long-distance race. You can’t really move and everything hurts, but the sheer relief of getting to stop is an incredible feeling. (I’m re-reading this and it sounds more than a little masochistic, but I do run marathons, so…) In the end, we did 14.3 km in 1:46, which I have no frame of reference for but seems pretty damn good. Between a brand-new PR and a very cool way to see the city, it felt like a super successful morning.
Félicitations à toutes les Dragon Ladies de Paris! I’m so happy I get to paddle with all of you!