Recently joining the Riviera Team, Florida based Kim Barnes traveled west to compete in Race the Lake of the Sky in South Tahoe, California.
Only casually knowing a few people, this 38 year old mother of two young children was venturing into unfamiliar territory. “Im used to competing on the east coast where my husband and kids usually accompany me, and I know a majority of other competitors. There were a lot of big name racers in Tahoe and I was nervous about how I would measure up. This was all new and a little scary.”
Kim has been tearing it up on the Atlantic race scene and has become a familiar face on the podium. Tahoe would be her first race on the west coast, on a lake, and would be her national race scene initiation.
Training in Florida at sea level, Tahoe would present the challenge of altitude and how it would affect her breathing and oxygenation. In addition, Barnes would be receiving and racing her new custom Riviera board, which was narrower than what she was accustomed to riding.
Shy by nature, Tahoe would be totally stepping out of her comfort zone and Barnes had to push herself to do things she was uncomfortable with. She recalls feeling nervous about meeting the Riviera Team, including the President and Promotions Director, but “It couldn’t have gone better. Everyone at Riviera and the entire Race Committee and racers were so helpful and welcoming. They all were phenomenal.”
How would you describe your race experience?
“The 5 mile technical course had a ton of buoy turns. While racing i could feel my chest inhalation and exhalation just starting to kind of hurt. On the buoy course you would sprint, sprint, sprint….stop….turn your board….then sprint, sprint, sprint…stop.…turn your board, etc. because the buoys were fairly close together. Inhalation and exhalation really factored into how i was breathing and how my body felt. I was concerned if I was getting enough oxygen to the rest of my body.
The next day was the 14 mile race which is far for me to paddle since I don’t train distance. I wasn’t sure with the altitude how i would measure up but I got into a draft train and felt strong throughout the whole race. I ended up doing well. I felt confident once the race started and was proud of how I was able to deal with the different courses, the altitude, and being on a new board.
Did you find anything in particular different between intracoastal waters and lake racing?
I realized really quickly that a lake doesn’t have the same buoyancy as salt water. The lake levels were really low so they moved the race further out so we could get a full paddle blade in. Parts of the technical course I couldn’t get a full blade in. It was almost like a vacuum that happens under your board in shallower waters that creates a bogged down slow feeling. Realizing the different conditions made me think more of how deep is the water? Am I going to hit the bottom? Am I going to feel that sluggish motion? How much do I have to pull? How much do I have to start using other muscles so I have enough left for the remainder of the race?”
Barnes took 5th place on the technical course with only seconds separating the 3rd, 4th and 5th place finishers. With the distance course she placed 4th, again just a few seconds behind 3rd.
As for being the new kid on the block, Barnes conveys to other newbies “Don’t be afraid. Fear is the biggest factor of so many racers. What I try to think about is, What is it that I’m afraid of? Is it failure? Falling off my board? Not racing well? All of those things could happen, and do. You just need to go out and do it and not be afraid if a mishap occurs. If you never get there and never try, you’ll never give yourself the opportunity to do well. Just go for it, no matter the outcome.”
Photos and Article by Lori Griffith