Gung Haggis dragon boat team getting ready for Fraser Valley races at Harrison Lake
Harrison Lake is a beautiful mountain lake with a hot spring rumoured to be somewhere in the middle of the lake. There is a hot spring pool for the public, and a more luxurious one for hotel resort guests. There is a lovely sandy beach, with a lagoon. It's a great place to visit.
In 2005, we were the team with the fastest posted times going into the Recreation Finals at the at inaugural Fraser Valley Dragon Boat Races. We were pumped. We felt we had a date with destiny. We were anticipating medals. Only 4 boats in the finals. 75% chance of winning a medal. And we had the fastest posted times. But it didn't happen. We fell behind at the midpoint, and chased the other boats in to collect a 4th place ribbon.
Last year, we passed on the FVDBR in favor of the Greater Vernon Dragon Boat Races at Kalamalka Lake. But this year we are returning to Harrison Lake on July 21st., and will head to Vernon for July 28th and 29th.
We had our final two practices before the race on Sunday July 15th and Tuesday July 17th. Both practices felt good. 24 paddlers on the boat Sunday – but not everybody is going to races in Harrison or Vernon. Some will just join us for Vancouver Taiwanese races on Sept 1 & 2.
Each month we are rotating captains for our team. Stephen Mirowski will captain our team for the two races in July. He joined the team early last year, and also quickly began learning to steer. Due to an injury that prevented him from paddling at the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival, Stephen steered for the team. This time he is our drummer. It's good to learn all the different roles on a dragon boat team, as I help mentor him into a coaching role for our team.
We are also integrating some new paddlers onto the team. Gerry and Joanne have 10 years of experience and paddled on seniors teams. I have known them for many years, and am happy to have them join Gung Haggis. Andrew and Emma are brand new paddlers and have been making steady improvements with the 2 or 3 practices they have had so far. I always ask new paddlers to simply focus on the timing, and to keep the paddle stroke short. After they get the timing down, the next step is to work on their reach and rotation. Get the paddle in early, then deep, and the power comes naturally.
For Sunday practices we warmed up and moved into working on our starts. Stephen next had us working on endurance pieces… During the middle of the practice, I moved from paddling lead stroke to a coaching role and helping people improve their paddling technique. After we finished a final 500m race piece, people felt good. The boat was moving well, people paddled in time.
As we paddled towards the dock, I asked Stephen to ask each team member to call out their favorite ice cream flavor. “Chocolate!” I yelled… other flavours soon followed. Vanilla, Strawberry, Mango, sorbetto, were called out. “Tequila!” yelled Wendy, followed by quizzical comments and laughs.
“Hold the boat!” Stephen yelled. I told the team, that I wanted one more practice start. We were now relaxed and happy. Thinking about ice cream does that to a person. I told the the team, I wanted an explosive start, with a big yell, deep paddles, and the best start of our day. The team readied itself, and on Stephen's call the boat jumped forward, leaping with each stroke, lifting with our faster “Up” strokes.
“Hold the boat!” Stephen called… before we raced past the barge at the entrance to the South East harbour area. We all patted each other for a job well done. It was a really good start. We were tired, but we pulled it off.
On Tuesday, we had another good practice. Stephen was sick, so steersperson Deb Martin came up to drum to start off our practice (Deb drummed for us at Alcan, and for the two previous years and wants to steer this year). Steven Wong steered and I did lead stroke as we worked on starts and a practice race. I moved to the back and coached paddlers there to help build more cohesion, as our timing was off. We did some group drills with paddlers working in groups of 4 or 6 at at time, to build timing cohesion and for resistance training. It all came together for a final race piece. It felt good.
After practice we went for dinner at Congee House Restaurant where our team prides itself on fitting as many people around a single table as possible. Tuesday the count was 15. We ordered about 10 different dishes including sweet & sour pork, buddha's feast, salt and chili dry ribs, chicken chow mein, and cantonese steak. Our bill came to less than $10 per person with tip. Our team likes to eat. Hopefully we won't be too fat to paddle dragon boat races for two weekends in a row.
Here's directions to get to Harrison Lake