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McKee proves age no barrier

Saturday 20 November 2010 | Published in Regional

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Jane McKee, 53, is living proof that age is just a number.

She is definitely one to watch in today’s women’s OC1 race.

McKee placed third overall in last year’s race, only a minute behind winner Lisa Curry and shows that age is no barrier when it comes to being competitive.

McKee will again be paddling with Team Makana Alii in her second Vaka Eiva and is excited to be back.

Originally from California, McKee took up paddling 19-years-ago with a club in Santa Barbara.

“It was so neat to have a Hawaiian sport in California,” she says.

Back in those days they paddled super long and heavy one-man canoes.

Around 1999 the modern one-man canoes started coming out and when single man canoeing really took off, so did McKee, who has been paddling around for the past ten years. Moving to Hawaii in 2002, she further embraced the sport.

“Hawaii is just a big playground,” she says.

She took out the Hawaiian State Championships in 2003, 2004, 2005 as well as this year at age 52.

A highlight of her paddling career was placing third in the Molokai Solo world championships race in May this year, her first attempt at the solo.

Aside from beating most of the women in the field she also beat all the men in her age group! McKee went on a couple of weeks later to win the Kauai world challenge relay with her partner Kristen Foster.

Tahitian crew Venus Vaa picked McKee up to join them in the Molokai Na Wahine O Ke Kai in September where they placed an impressive eighth despite three of the girls getting seasick. “I was thrilled to paddle with the Tahitians,” says McKee who adds the high stroke rate took some getting used to, and it was basically a sprint the whole way.

“The Tahitians are nothing but pure fun,” she smiles.

McKee is no stranger to the Molokai channel having crossed it some 30 times both in outrigger and sailing canoes.

“It seems like a walk in the park now. It’s our backyard.”

One of the highlights was an extremely close second placing to six time winners Team Bradley in 2006, when her crew Hui Lanikila finished only 16 seconds behind, the closest finish in the history of the race.

McKee says to be competitive in six-man now you pretty much have to train and race in the off season in the single canoes.

McKee says the competition has really stepped up, with people getting a little faster each year.

“It’s getting tough out there, which is good because it’s bringing the sport to a new level.”

McKee herself paddles maybe 4 times a week, although when it’s super windy she’ll go every day.

She also includes circuit training, running and swimming in her programme, and has also tried crossfit in her off season.

While it sounds strenuous, McKee says being older means she trains smarter, not harder. Regardless of what her training programme McKee says if she’s tired she’ll take a day off.

“I probably rest more than I used to. You have to pay attention to your body otherwise you get overtrained which can take months to get over.

“People think once they turn 50 it’s over. It’s such a mental thing. It’s just a number, what you make of it,” says McKee.

Coming from an active background all her life she says has paid off.

At age 20 she tried out for the US equestrian team, and has a background in windsurfing, track, and volleyball.

As for today’s race, she believes it is bad luck to be too optimistic, but says top 3 placing would be great.

Her mom, she says is her biggest fan, and will be watching keenly for results and updates online during the week.

Over the next year McKee is looking forward to a good one-man season and topping it off with the Molokai solo once again.

“I would like to see if being an older paddler I can be consistent and hopefully be an inspiration for other older paddlers and younger paddlers too.”

From what we’ve seen she already is.