The Road to Welland: Tales From a National Team Paddler

Have you ever wondered what is it like to train for hours, making sacrifices, pushing yourself to new levels while preparing yourself for the Dragon Boat World Championship? Team USA paddler Bob Mina recounts his experience.


Bob Mina, pictured above, wearing the yellow hat his daughter chose for him to race in years ago. Photo: Tommy Leonardi


Since 2008, a morning of practice starts the night before. I have to pack three bags – one with dry clothes for the drive to work, one with the clothes I’ll change into AT work, and one with my run gear for any mid-day mileage I can fit in.

I move out of the bedroom. I sleep in the basement on the pull-out sofa so that when the alarm goes off at 4:25AM, I don’t wake anyone else up (except the cat pile that has learned that breakfast immediately follows the chorus of alarms with me downstairs).

I’m on the road to the docks at 5:00AM. We shove off the docks at 5:45 and train for about an hour. I leave the parking lot around 7:05AM, and drive 44 miles to New Castle. By the time I get home at night, between the drive to the docks, to work, and home, I’ll have covered 110 miles – about 2.5 hours in the car.

When the fatigue starts to catch up, when the meetings pile up, when the clock starts spinning so fast that I seem to be going backwards, there are times where I think, “This is too much. I can’t do it. I can’t sustain it…” But I know that it’s just fatigue talking.

My wonderful wife has been putting up with my training schedule for years. She gets it, understands me, and has had my back through and through. I couldn’t have made the National Teams I’ve made without her, and when I’ve almost hit bottom and contemplated if it’s all too much, she’s the one to remind me, “You have to keep training, because you’re impossible to live with when you don’t.” Touche.

It’s a grind. It’s a long-term game that’s more about the process and the journey, than the racing. Medals are the reminders of what happens when things go well, when the hours spent have brought a result, but they are not the sole purpose for the mileage. They aren’t enough; if you’re in it just for the hardware, you’ll never last.

If I add up the time spent racing at Worlds, it’s around 26 minutes total, I’ll put in over 300 hours to get ready for those 26 minutes, knowing that more likely than not, the steps on the podium will be separated by hundredths of a second, or less.

April is tough – the darkness, the cold, the last grip of winter can only be felt in the moonlit mornings on the water by those who dare to venture out. May is still cool from time to time, but this is when you start to feel that spring is really starting to win out, and summer is coming. There is hope in the journey – there are brighter days ahead.

So rise and shine. Today isn’t even halfway gone. What are you going to do with it?

Guest author: Bob Mina, Team USA paddler, husband and father extraordinaire, as well as a darned good friend. Adapted for this blog by paddlechica.

Bob with his daughter Katie after her first dragon boat race in 2014 in Philadelphia where they earned a gold medal.



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3 Discussion to this post

  1. Gerri says:

    wow what a commitment.

  2. Vicki says:

    I have to pack three bags – oh I can so relate! I find trying to cook all the food and the planning one of the hardest parts!
    But we have 12 weeks to go #roadtowelland #teamgb

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