MS Success: Racing in the Heat in Hawaii

It’s been almost one full week since arriving in Hawaii and less than 24 hours after completing the 26k Queen Lili’uokalani Ocean Canoe race – the world’s largest long distance outrigger canoe race. The impact of the race and the heat on my MS has been minimal; the heat training in Victoria appears to have paid off!

Honour and Thanks:

Preparing for and partipating in Queen Lili has taken a lot of hard work and the devotion of a paddling community. I am indebted to my paddling community and would like to honour and thank them.

  • Ocean River 1 – Women’s Crew: Holly, Katie, Karrie, (me), Jenny and Cindy (coach)
  • Ocean River 2 – Women’s Crew: Emma, Lise, Jodi, Elaine, Mariola and Marianne
  • Ocean River 3 – Women’s Crew: Heather, Denise, Wendy, Shannon, Regina, Vivian
  • Ocean River 4 – Men’s Crew: Paul, James, Erik, Todd (coach), Jordan, Paul
  • Ocean River 5 – Men’s Crew: Chris, Colin, Dave, Terry, Jan, Brian
  • Support Crew: Bruce, Stephanie, Alex, Erin, Peter, Shaun and Maria
  • The Kamehameha Canoe Club, the Kahalia Canoe Club and the North Shore Canoe Club for their boats and expert knowledge of rigging
  • The Keauhou Canoe club for their training facilities
  • All of our family members and friends back home

Each person on this trip as well as our families back home has contributed to the success of all of the paddlers and their crews.

Here’s a bit about what the race felt like (for me) and how I managed my MS along the way:

At approximately 5:30 am three Ocean River Paddling Club women’s crews (18 paddlers) and two men’s crews (12 paddlers) arrived at the race site supported by family members and friends. The sun had not yet risen and the air was cool. The heat was just around the corner. I was relived we had time to prepare before it arrived.

I focused in on my body and began preparing myself physically and psychologically for the race. Everything was in order with the exception of the left side of my upper chest. Four days prior I was struck by car while bike riding in Kona (mom and dad, if you’re reading this I am ok). My chest hit the passenger side mirror with enough force to remove it from the vehicle. Expanding my chest in any way hurt.

At sun rise, we all met for prayer to bless the canoes. Immediately after 137 women’s crews began launching their boats.

After a quick launch, my crew – Ocean River Women’s Crew 1 – made its way to the start area to prepare for a 7:30 am start. The air was still cool; I had no signs of MS creeping up on me. I focused on my chest injury, gauging the pain so I could prepare mentally to manage it over the 2 – 3 hour race.

A half an hour after entering the water, with 50 boats on our right side and 86 on our left, we formed a line for the start. The red flag dropped and we were off!

We moved quickly, paddling with intensity to position ourselves at the front of the pack. I could feel the bruising in my chest with every stroke I took on my left side. It felt as though there was a tennis ball inside my chest pushing to come out. Thankfully with outrigger canoeing you switch your paddling side after every 14 strokes. I felt relief when paddling on the right and knew I would feel it again each time I was done paddling on the left.

One third of the way into the race the heat began to kick in. I started to experience numbness on my baby fingers and half way up the outer side of each arm. I made sure to push my paddle blade as deep into the water as possible to cool my hands. I drank as much water as I could to cool my body. It worked!

At approximately 8:30 I really began feeling the effects of the heat. Mild numbness had now moved to my feet and lower legs. Using my paddle I splashed myself with water, popped a shot block (electrolytes) into my mouth, and drank some water. The numbness faded.

By 9:30 am my chest was throbbing. I could now feel my injury with every stroke and with every breath. The numbness and tingling from my MS were minor in comparison. From that point on, my MS took a seat in the background. I did all that I could to manage my injury for the last leg of the race.

Around 10:00 we entered Honaunau Bay. We upped our pace for the finish. At 10:03:58, 2 hours and 33 minutes after we started we had crossed the finish line!

Once near the shore I jumped out of the boat into the water to cool down and remained there for 10 to 15 minutes. I could feel the impact of the race on my body. I was relieved that most of what I was experiencing was not MS.

Today I have minor tingling in my toes and one really sore chest.

Managing your Multiple Sclerosis by staying fit? Contact me so we can share your story with others.


> Read MS Inspiration: Dragon Boat Champion Sue Reid


4 Comments on “MS Success: Racing in the Heat in Hawaii”

  1. barbara simmons says:

    We are sooooooo proud of you! Congratulations!
    Lots of love, Mom & Dad

  2. Sue Reid says:

    Susan you are amazing !! Congratulations to you and all of the other Ocean River teams. Wowzer !! What a great accomplishment!

    Hope your injury heals quickly Susan!
    Cheers from Victoria!

  3. Isy Moeck says:

    Susan – You are absolutely AMAZING!!! Ypou are truly inspirational to all persons dealing with MS or any other disability! Congratulations to your team and all the other Ocean River Teams! I’m sooooooooooooooooo impressed with all of you! Cheers……Isy Moeck

  4. Natalie says:

    You are awesome and inspiring! MS or not – completing that race is an accomplishment!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s