Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

Axel Schoevers (Photo: A. de Krook) Name:
Axel Schoevers
Rijswijk, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Elfstedentocht (11-cities) non-stop

I Just returned from my second "11-cities, 200 km, non-stop" adventure. It is not a race because it is all about the achievement of completing this distance within the 36 hour time limit.

In my opinion and experience this is not as physically demanding as one might think. It is the psychological aspects that gave me (again) some unwelcome surprises. In my case it was again the sleep deprivation that (for me) takes it's toll in the night-time hours. That almost 'disables' me to paddle at a reasonable speed without frequent automatic "low-brace-skim-the-water" when I 'nod off'. OK, maybe that is a physical aspect. However the frustration about slowing my group down (psychological) is the worst feeling. After an-hour-and-a-half desperately trying fighting sleep I could finally have my 10-minute power nap at the Stavoren check-point and I was OK again.

From Leeuwarden onwards the organizers only allow teams to continue into the night. Teams will form naturally because at that time in the event people will have found fellow paddlers with the same speed and focus.

This kind of challenge is only possible with lots of volunteer help. Jolien took great care of me at all the checkpoints for food and moral support. And there is a great deal of sharing between all the support teams. For the team of Ad, Anneke, Peter and Piet, who I joined for the last 100 km, this event is 'a piece of cake'. That is what we stopped for at Workum; home-made apple pie with cream.

This time it took me and my group members 32 hours (first time 34 hours). My goal this time was to get reasonably fit out of the kayak at the finish. Two blisters at the side of my left ring finger and some chaffing from my back-rest, no muscle pains the next day. There is still room for personal improvement if I ever could deal better with the sleep deprivation issue. So I just might do this thing again to test myself... Have I already forgotten my bad moments? No, my good moments greatly outweigh my not so good ones.

The event is open to all, so if you fancy a challenge in a sea kayak, just contact the organizers at Elfstedentocht non-stop per zeekajak. If you have never been to the Netherlands before, it is also a great opportunity to see lots of windmills and make long-time friendships.

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