The yellow house on shore stayed in the same spot, and I had been watching it for what seemed like an eternity as I struggled to reach Tower Beach on Rehoboth Bay. The swells on open water were rougher than I had ever faced. The dark clouds were threatening and the wind blew right at us. The shore never seemed to be getting any closer.
At that point, my paddling companion – male, younger, taller, stronger – turned to me and said: “You really shouldn’t be out here.”
It started out as a sunny, beautiful paddle from Lewes Canalfront Park through the canal to Rehoboth Beach, and then Ed and I would paddle on to his truck parked at Tower Beach south of Dewey. Total distance about 10 miles. There was a TV crew with us because we were on the last leg of a charity event: Mark Carter was paddling prone, with his hands, for 25 mile to raise money for a dock project in Rehoboth. Really, how fast could he go?
Pretty darn fast, it turns out, even with the 15-mile-an-hour headwind. I was soon bringing up the rear with an octogenarian, who was a lot more cheerful than I was. Do you ever notice how a group waits for the lagging members to catch up, then they take off again without giving you – the slowest and most winded – a chance to catch your breath and maybe take a swig of water? This has happened to me on hiking and biking trips, too.
So it turned out to be a five-hour ordeal. At one point, Ed and I huddled on a deserted beach to wait out an impending thunderstorm.
Here’s what I learned, and I learned it before – interestingly, while cycling with Ed – but I think it has really sunk in this time:
I can still bike 25 miles . . . hoist a kayak on top of our SUV by myself and enjoy a leisurely paddle . . . and easily walk four miles. If I had been paddling by myself that sunny day, observing the osprey nests and the scenery along the canal, I would have enjoyed it. I wasn’t hot, even though it was 90-plus, or tired or hungry. I was just slow compared to the group paddling with me.
When cycling with others, I tend to push myself. Then I bonk, because I can’t keep up the pace. I used to average 15-16 miles per hour, now it’s 12-13. When you’re biking by yourself, you don’t notice. You just enjoy the ride.
Not that long ago (2014-15), I ran long distances – including two half marathons. Now I can’t run a mile; the mojo is gone. But I can walk for miles.
It was something of an epiphany: There is still much to enjoy and accomplish, at your own pace. You can still push yourself to be fit and active, but stay in your own realm of possibility and doing. Or else you are just paddling against the headwind.