The Northern California International Dragon Boat Festival was the race I had gone out to see at Treasure Island before I joined the team. In 2016, this event became homeless when it’s long-time venue at Treasure Island’s Clipper Cove became unavailable due to redevelopment.
The logical choice was to move the NCIDBF to Lake Merritt, but it’s not as spacious as TI (as we call Treasure Island), and it is part of a public park which has limited parking and has to remain accessible to the public. The organizers stalled for several months, but finally opted for Lake Merritt with the understanding that it would have to be a smaller event.
Unlike the recent friendly local dragon boat festival, we did not have the option of selecting our own campsite for this race. Camp sites were mapped out by the organizers and assigned to teams. And there were an amazing number of teams from as far as the Philippines.
These were some serious dragon boaters. There was also a parking lot full of vendors selling PFD’s, paddles, clothing, gloves, virtually anything a paddler would want.
Parking on-site was not an option. The neighbor who originally recruited me arranged for an Uber that we shared. We hitched a ride home the first day with One of the paddlers who came early to set up camp and thereby obtained a parking place. The second day we Uber-ed over again in the morning.
Knowing that the DragonFlyers are a recreational team, I didn’t have the expectation that we would place. It was just fun to be part of the pageantry of a race. But we weren’t embarrassing ourselves which was good enough for me.
My sister and her husband came for the second day. They were impressed when we made a big surge in the last third of the race. My BIL feted me for weeks which I appreciated, but I was still just happy to participate.
That all changed at the following week’s practice.
Back on our home dock while we were getting ready to head down to the boat, coach Lisa Marie announced she had medals to pass out. Medals!? We had taken third place in the Rec C division. I figured that’s kind of the equivalent of a consolation prize.
But when she put this substantial and well-designed medal around my neck (a first for sure), I felt like I had won the Olympics. I gave it a place of pride in my house. I took it to show it to my parents, I featured it prominently on my Christmas card.
A medal, on a real ribbon appropriate for wearing around around your neck. I’d never even seen a medal before. This experience definitely changed my thinking about racing. But alas the season was coming to a close.