|Open||500m Div A Finals||3rd||2:23.02|
|Women||500m Div B Finals||3rd||2:52.54|
|Red||500m Div C Semi-Finals||1st||2:37.53|
|Black||500m Div A Finals||2nd||2:15.20|
While studying at the University of California, Irvine, for the past four years, I was heavily involved with the university’s Chinese Association Dragon Boat Team affectionately known as the CAUCI Elements Wind/Thunder/Fire at races. Having devoted a significant amount of time paddling, steering, and coaching, my impending graduation in June became a bittersweet realization that my time with the team would soon be over. However, I was excited to transition forward, join a team, and find a new dragon boat family.
Observing and frequently racing against the numerous Long Beach teams over the years, I wanted to take advantage of the blank canvas I had in front of me. I decided to practice with AeroDragons, Killer Guppies, Space Dragons, and the Los Angeles Racing Dragons during the offseason. I knew my cameos throughout the community could be misunderstood as untrustworthy, flip floppy, and even a little arrogant but I wanted to be absolute with my decision to join and I would probably never have the chance to experience the different technique styles, coaching, and members the teams had to offer after making my commitments. After gauging the different teams and experiences I eventually made a difficult but unconditional decision to commit to LARD.
Fast forwarding through weekends of grueling land training, water practices, and time trials, the time came for the 9th Annual Arizona Dragon Boat Festival.
The Arizona race is one of the most memorable venues because it is where I paddled my first dragon boat races four years ago as a college freshman. To this day I still vividly remember the anxiety and excitement preceding the first heat, the determination and butterflies before finals, the overwhelming anticipation prior to hearing results, and more importantly the work my teammates and I invested together and the memories we shared throughout our journey. I was ecstatic to return for the first time since graduating donning the red, black, and white with LARD as well as competing with and witnessing the growth of my old club. It was a huge honor and privilege to be designated on LARD’s Black boat to paddle with such strong individuals, some with countless years of experience. Also, I was fired up knowing there would be races against my former team from examining the race grid beforehand.
The first Mixed division heat and Black’s first race of the day almost left us doggy paddling in the water. At the time I was in complete confusion and even thought Megan, our steersperson, had fallen overboard but I later discovered another team had impeded us shortly after our start sequence. I remember being bewildered that this was happening for our first heat, disappointed that we couldn’t finish against one of the other teams I was sure we had the lead on, and crushed at the possibility that our finishing time of around 3:30 would compromise our opportunity for the top. Luckily we were granted a re-race entering another heat as a surprise fourth boat against none other than the CAUCI Elements Thunder! It was great to be marshalling amongst familiar faces, and it was funny to hear my LARD teammates joking that they would monitor my performance to ensure I wasn’t sandbagging. The second Mixed heat was also against the Thunder boat and for the semifinals Mixed heat we raced with the CAUCI Elements Fire boat that we ended up knocking out. I was very pleased to have had the chance to race against every single person from my previous team.
The Open division heats came swiftly. It was great being part of the testosterone heavy boat with our long, controlled strokes. Having not practiced that much together, there were signs of brilliance throughout the heats which got me excited for the power and potential of the crew.
The Mixed A division finals was truly a battle until the end. Through the chaotic, windy conditions we paddled our hearts out. I remember my muscles blistering and being pushed to the limits with the motivation of paddling beside my benchmate Karen Wang, grunt wars with Sue sitting the row in front, and the spirit and desire of the entire team paddling together towards the finish line. In the end we fell short by 16 milliseconds but our insatiable appetite for more was ignited.
I come away from the weekend with fond memories like judging an obscure spicy food scale of 1-5 at a Thai restaurant we dined at for Saturday team dinner, new friends and family, hunger to improve, and motivation to push myself and my teammates. I cannot wait for the upcoming races during the team’s fifteenth season and to continue my journey as a member of LARD. This is only the begin – wait for it . . . . . . . . . – . . . ning.
SLAM! HOLD ON!
Is that a dragonhead?
We returned for yet another race in Arizona and like with every race we came back with many stories to tell. This year it was memories of extremely crazy winds, but more importantly a collision. A collision in which I had to steer through. It honestly felt so surreal because it was the very first race of the weekend and conditions seemed ideal.
Like every story let’s start from the beginning. Black was the first one to kick off this race weekend. We marshall, load up, head out and get ready to line-up at the start. Things are going alright so far. We’re in lane 2, so there’s a boat to left of us and one to the right. We line-up, the horn goes off and we go into our start. Towards the end of our start sequence I noticed lane 1 (boat to the right) is getting closer and closer to us. I was like, wait, what?! I swore I was in my lane and so I hold my course, but they keep coming closer and closer until it’s too late. Their head hits us at row 7 or 8, whichever row Jeannie is in as the head of the dragon comes right into her lap. The next few moments are so surreal since I have never steered through a collision before. The other boat eventually slows down enough that they’re sliding towards the back of our boat, but that pushes us making our nose swing sharply right. We eventually clear the other boat and they pass us, but our boat ends up pointing at the shore. Due to this sharp swing our boat dips to the left and we take on massive amounts of water, almost on the verge of huling. I swear when we dipped the one thing that was going on in my mind was, “I know I’m going in the water.” Somehow we don't huli and I end up falling on my butt into the boat. We tried looking for the chase boat for help, but it was nowhere in sight. I turned our boat around and we crossed the finish line, but we weren’t trying to play catch up because we knew that we had taken on a lot of water, in fact almost half a boat. I actually had a nice lake around my feet as we paddled to the finish line.
We thankfully got a second chance for this heat, but in the end everyone had a good attitude when we got off the boat. In fact it was quite entertaining hearing everyone’s perspective of the entire event and the following day it was fun replaying the footage Huay was able to get on the headcam. What a way to start the weekend!
There were definitely a lot of stories, but this was the highlight of the weekend. Though the last thing I want to end with is a *fist bump* to my “boat” partner: Huay. We were both on every single LARD boat, whether we were the calling/steering pair or paddling together. 16 races in one weekend, Way to go us!
And we’d like to take this opportunity to say how sorry we are that the weather caused us to postpone our traditional 1000m and 250m races.
We understand that these are races that you all look forward to as a nice diversion from the standard 500m, but the water was very rough during Sunday’s Open final and when we saw wave caps over the side of the boat we had no choice but to place ourselves on hold and then to cancel.
Please understand that we are not in a position right now to be able to offer refunds on entries for these races, as per our race rules. We certainly empathise, and hope that teams understand.
Tempe is all about heat. Our first race of the season is usually under blazing sun and we find ourselves scrambling for shade in between races. But did you know that the Arizonans also like their Thai food on the same scale of supreme heat? Who knew?
After a day of racing, sweating, and reapplying sunscreen, everyone was tired and hungry, and I looked forward to a nice team nosh. We had reservations at a local Thai restaurant, and that sounded great. I’m a fan of Thai, and although I’m not a huge spice eater, I do like my food with a mild kick. Sometimes a medium kick. Every now and then, or if I’m sniffling through a cold will I go up to an Asian level full blast. On this occasion however, a post race dinner, I just wanted to eat. I ordered my Thai iced tea and listened to the waiter explain the restaurants spice scale for their dishes. Simple enough: how spicy do you want your dish on a 0-5 scale? Basic math told me 0 means not at all, and 2 is a little less than halfway of their max. Feeling like a middle kick, I’m positive I replied “medium spicy, please, a 2.” The waiter nodded…
Yet somewhere between my voice and the waiter’s ears and the chef’s ears, there was a loss in translation. Perhaps the chef saw a “x2” on the waiter’s notepad and he thought “double it” or maybe the waiter’s messy handwriting made it look like a “5.” Or, I picture the chef bored with the low levels of spice and just going nuts, complete with maniacal laugh.
Quite simply, we discovered the restaurant’s spice-o-meter was completely bogus. 0 was not the existence of nothing, it was their baseline of sweat level spicy. 5, their maximum, meant insanity, mind blowing spicy, for experts only. Therefore my 2 was just a middle level of tongue swelling, sinus melting, sweat pouring, tear jerking, lip inflating spicy. Duh. Not a normal medium. Not even a San Gabriel Valley medium. Holy $%^&. This was a Tempe Thai medium. And those lovely beet slices? No, those were chili pepper slices, and they work better than any glossy lip plumper over the cosmetics counter. Bonus they even add a natural red tint. I killed a poor tree’s worth of tissue soaking up my nose, but satiated my hunger by stuffing my stomach with the fizzing food. By evening’s end, I had enjoyed the company of my fellow sniffling, runny eyed Lardies, and was feeling quite refreshed, but I definitely needed to join the mass migration to a stomach-coating Yogurtland before my insides could set on fire. Mental note made, when in Tempe, the sun isn’t the only thing that is extra hot.
Tempe was the LA Racing Dragons' first major step in our preparations for Club Crew World Championships and our festival races in Hong Kong. Everything we do is to get us peaking in July. The 2012 Arizona Dragon Boat Festival was another step in that process. Both CCWC and the Hong Kong festival races will be the most competitive races we will ever have - especially since local Chinese teams will likely be vying for cash prizes from their sponsors. Money that will literally be used to feed their families.
Traditionally, Team LARD used Tempe as a spring training race where we mixed both crews equally - Yolanda and Gilda. This year, our strategy was a bit different. Although we still viewed this race as a spring training race, we debuted LARD Black and Red a few months earlier than usual. We wanted to get our crews an opportunity to race together earlier in the season so we could see where the teams were currently and determine what areas we needed to improve on. Race placement, although may be important to some of us (especially in the heat of battle), was not of paramount concern for the coaches. What was more important was to see how the teams performed under race conditions and how our personnel is developing.
Tempe was very generous to us this year, as it provided us with race conditions we will likely see in Hong Kong - hot, extremely windy and choppy conditions as well as great competition. The only thing missing was humidity. We learned that our goal of at least 2 sets of world class callers and steersmen/women is on target. Both Megan and Phil performed very well in perhaps the hardest conditions to steer in. Huay was awesome - as expected. Kat continues to progress as both a top level paddler and caller. Justin shows remarkable promise as both a paddler and steersman. We also found a new set of strokes for our Open boat. Patrick and James made a very difficult and stressful position look easy. Well done, gentlemen.
We were also very pleased with our new paddlers' development. The amount of growth they have displayed in only a few short weeks is nothing short of remarkable. Our veteran paddler on both Red and Black showed the grit and fight our team has shown in the past.
Although our growth at this point this year surpasses the levels we were at last year at this time, we are not ahead of schedule. In previous years, we looked at late July and even September as our months to peak. We are merely on target as we must be at our peak in early July. We cannot be satisfied. We cannot remain stagnate.
Shortly after the races, I shared some of my observations with my brother, Dr. Will Wu (for those of you that don't know, he has a PhD in Kinesiology and prescribes our land/midweek training). I told him our propensity in Tempe to leap ahead the first 1/2 then lose steam in the second half of the race (there may have been 1-2 races where this didn't happen). He said this was expected based on the training he has prescribed to date in preparation for CCWC.
Right now, our technique and fitness are nowhere close to where they need to be but as long as we have 100% buy in, we will be at our peak in July. It will take a lot of work, dedication, discipline, some frustration, and pain to get us there (yes, where would we be without pain?).
Finally, I will leave you with a quote by Kevin McHale - a hated Boston Celtic - "Outwork your talent." Think about that one for awhile. It's what the great ones do. It's time to be great.