As September rolled around, it was time for this older and wiser paddler to conquer the Nor Cal again in the hope of adding to my stash of medals.
In case you forgot, the Nor Cal is the Northern California International Dragon Boat Festival held on our own Lake Merritt. The drill was the same as the year before, shortage of parking, assigned camping spot, vast array of paddlers from all over the Pacific.
The DragonFlyers had enough paddlers to enter two boats, the red boat and the blue boat named for our practice boats, in the race. Coach Lisa Marie must have gained some confidence in my drumming abilities (or was desperate for drummers) because I drummed most races for our red boat. I also paddled a race or two on the blue boat – another split roster situation like in Victoria.
Our camp was next to the Renegades and Summon the Dragon was nearby too, so there was lots of socializing between races, and I was heartened that I actually knew a few people outside ADF.
It was a very festive atmosphere with the vendors, the commemorative jerseys for sale and the chance to win swag from Hong Kong – the lead sponsor. I won a baseball had with an attractive logo. Back at our camp, a newer team member who is a Zumba enthusiast led our warm ups Zumba-style which attracted a crowd as other teams joined in.
They also had chase boats taking photos during the races and offering them for sale in a big tent. That’s how I got the picture of me drumming. In addition, there food trucks, PFD giveaways (limited time only) and team USA members working the crowds offering dragon boat themed tchotchkes in exchange for modest donations.
When all was said and done, the blue team took third place in the Rec C division, same as last year. The red boat came in just seconds behind. Not a bad showing at all.
This time I knew to stay for the awards, and with the bulk of the team I went up on stage to claim my bling. But when we exited the stage with a box of medals, we realized there were only 22 – just enough for the crew of the red boat. It was the boat that won, not the whole team. I hadn’t thought that through.
I tried to remain stoic, but I was devastated. And these medals were particularly handsome. In an effort to appear to be a good sport, I joined a bunch of paddlers and kin for dinner at a trendy pseudo dive in downtown Oakland and did my best to celebrate.
Time went on, and I still missed my medal. A month later at the Halloween Howl race I mentioned to coach Lisa Marie that I was surprised how competitive I’ve become evidenced by the fact that I was pouting over not getting a medal.
To my surprise, she said “oh, no you did get a medal. It was a split roster. I explained that to them and got two extra medals.”
I couldn’t believe it. Whining almost never pays off! It took a few days before I could connect with team captain Carol and collect my booty. Now it shares the place of honor in my office with the 2016 Nor Cal medal and the luggage tag from Victoria.