Friday, December 30, 2005

New Years Training Resolutions

Only 8 training weeks left for the Challenge. It's time to get serious.

There are a number of archived articles in the WaterTribe Magazine that address planning and training for a Challenge. I have followed the article 'Get Fit for a Challenge" as I trained for my last two Everglades Challenges, and am basically following these recommendations for the Ultimate Challenge as well.

With 8 weeks left, it's time for Phase 2, " Ratchet Up and Working At Night". This entails:

  • Paddling with a loaded boat for every training paddle.
  • Paddling 3 days per week, 2 days are 1 chunk days (i.e. 4hr paddles), the third will alternate weeks of 2 and 3 chunk paddle days.
  • Practice camping and transition drills (see excerpt from article below). Part of my drills will include setting up camp in the Dreamcatcher, both on land and on the water.

"On the 2-chunk training day practice our stealth camping drills. Can you hit the beach, change clothes, set up camp, eat a meal, and be in your hammock in about 30 minutes? On three chunk training days practice transition drills. When you transition form one chunk to another you need to stretch, eat, take a dump, reload your hydration bladders, maybe refold your charts, review your plan for the next chunk, etc. All in 15 or 20 minutes."

In addition to weekly paddling, I'll continue my yoga and core strength and weight training, and ramp up the biking (portage training). With the cold mornings here, I"ll be taking a spin class twice a week, then a longer training ride during the weekend on a 1 chunk day. On some of these training rides I'll need to hook up my Dahon folding bike to the boat and practice towing with a loaded boat getting ready for the portage.

This is a lot of work. It'll be important to avoid over-training, to eat well, and to find time for rest. There is also continued mental training, and route planning and other preparation still to do.

I also keep a training dairy and update it daily, this is to try to help keep me stay on track with my plans.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Kokatat's the Best

Kokatat is a name that is almost synonymous with paddling. Their paddling wear is of the highest quality one can find. And, they have a full line of women's specific technical paddling clothing. I consider myself to be extremely lucky to be sponsored by Kokatat. Thanks Kokatat!

I'll be paddling 28 full days in Florida during the WaterTribe Ultimate Challenge. And will likely encounter all kinds of weather. During my 2004 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge we had 2 nights of temps in the 20's. Both the 2004 and 2205 Challenges also had 2 days with small craft warnings, in 2005 we had torrential rains for a day and a half.

So what am I planning to wear in Florda?

During the day and in the full sun, I'll be wearing Kokatat's Destination Wear, including their Destination Paddling Shirt and Sunwester Hat. Made of Relaxed, durable Supplex®, this outfit will keep the sun off, the wind out, and still allows perspiration to escape. The shirt is quick drying and with mesh ventilation built in.

Once the sun goes down, and after being out on the water all day, I easily cool off. Night time gear includes Kokatat's GOR-TEX Paclite Paddling Jacket and pants, feather weight, supple, quite, and packable. Great for layering under if additional warmth is needed. The GOR-TEX Nor'wester hat is perfect in rain and adverse conditions.

I've worn these paddling clothes now since August, on my Lake Michigan trip when I picked up the Kruger Dreamcatcher, and at home during training. They are the best.

Paddling in front of the Manistique East Breakwater Lighthouse, Manistique Michigan.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Dealing with the Mental Challenges

"The WaterTribe Challenges are long, grueling races that are extremely demanding, both physically and mentally."

This is how the WARNING PAGE on the WaterTribe site begins. It's worth following the link and having a quick read, it's really quite interesting. The warnings attempt to list some of the hazards, dangers, or other safety considerations one must prepare for when attempting a WaterTribe Challenge. Some are no different than any paddling consideration, others are specific to the geographical area, and the rest are warnings related to the extreme physical and mental demands of a long endurance challenge. Some are certainly things I'd never thought of when I was considering entering my first WaterTribe Everglades Challenge in March '04.

Yes, this warning page is really about releasing WaterTribe from liability, and forcing the paddler to be responsible. The warning includes " We do not and will not even try to make this event safe for anyone. This event is not safe for anyone. This is no joke." It certainly forces you to think twice about your abilities and why you want to do it, not to mention what it does to your friends and family.

The physical demands are really not so hard to figure out, it's going to be really hard, training for them is just lots of exercise. It's the mental demands that are really the hardest, the hardest to prepare for, and the hardest to deal with during the event.

So how do I prepare for the mental demands, and what am I the most afraid of:

  • I never even consider anything other than finishing, in my head and in my dreams I always finish, sometimes I'm even first. I tell everyone I know about this race, failure is not allowed. And then I ask my husband to do everything he can to talk me into continuing (even if he doesn't want me to) just in case I call and say 'it's too hard'.
  • The hardest for me is the night paddling. My imagination is overly creative (I'm always seeing things that aren't there), distances are hard to judge, it's hard to figure out where you are, hard to find landing places and a place to camp, I always feel cold, and my mind starts screaming 'Why are you doing this'. In training, I try and paddle a regular Friday night 15 miler.
  • Being alone, and often in conditions you would never choose to be in if this was a recreational paddle can be pretty scary. You must use your experience and know your skills to know when you should be off the water. I continually work on my skills, practice rescues, take advanced classes and try and paddle with others more skilled than I, even after 12 years, I'm always learning.
  • One of my fears is not finding a safe landing or possible camp spot when I'm so tired. When you really want to stop, it seems there is no place to land. I spend a lot of time preparing, researching charts, reading trip reports, looking at satellite photo's, using Gazetteer's, everything I can to have options before I even start.
  • This challenge has me particularly worried about the Miami to Ft Lauderdale area, and the inlets on Florida East Coast. I've had many warnings that the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) is a zoo, too many boats, big ships, confused boat wakes, narrow channels, totally developed with bulkheads, no landing spots, and no camping spots. I'm planning many options including: going ocean side if weather permits, paddling at night and resting during the day, and hooking up with an ad hoc partner during this portion.
  • Yea I'm afraid of sharks, and alligators, and snakes and all that, but, I honestly don't really think too much about that very much

I'm not afraid to work hard, or work through discomfort, I can battle the physical demands very well. Challenges like this are only successful for those who spend time preparing appropriately, having the right equipment and safety gear (thank you sponsors for helping me with this), knowing how to use it, and then spending some time working on how to deal with the mental challenges.

Just having a place like this to think about it and write it down helps :)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Lighted Compass

My husband Paul helped me devise a light for a compass to use in the Watertribe Everglades Challenge 2005. During the 2004 Challenge, I thought my built in compass would be fine, however, it sits so far up the bow that I couldn't see it at night with my headlamp. I needed a lighted compass, and one with a red light would help prevent night blindness.

We used a portable compass from Suunto that bungees over the deck in front of the cockpit, and found a small red waterproof LED light with a clip on the back (internet search).

The underside of the compass had a small depression in the clear plastic base that is just big enough for the diameter of the light. You may have to smooth away some rough edges in the plastic (seams from the mold) with a sharp knife.

The light clips onto the bungee that runs under the compass. It may not be a perfect flat fit onto the deck, but the compass casing is rubber and will give to let you have a good fit on the boat (or on the top of a deck bag).

We ordered the light ($12) at :


I used this system in the EC'05 race and did not have any problems. I was able verify the compass reading with my GPS, and there were times I could do visual checks of my direction since there were landmarks I could use. However, there is no room for error so I will do much more testing before suing this in the Ultimate Challenge, and will report back on the blog my testing results. I've tried many other ways to get a nice lighted compass, and this worked the best, so hopefully my testing will be complete and I'll have good results.

Thanks for the comments.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Route Planning for Watertribe Ultimate Challenge

There is lots of work to be done planning my navigational routes for the Challenge. Naturally I want to work out the shortest routes, but for safety sake, I need to have backup plans, and even backups for the backups, so when the weather turns I'll be able to quickly find a safer route or a place to get off the water.

There are intercoastal waterways, rivers, the Gulf coast and the Atlantic ocean, and various inlets that I need to become familiar with. All this including marking out the checkpoint and stage locations. I'll need to research tides and currents, and try to find potential campsites.

This Ultimate Challenge, will require many more charts and hours and hours of planning and routing. I spoke to Maptech about charts ( I think theirs are the greatest waterproof paper charts), and they offered me a new product, their Chart Navigator Pro GPS software, to use for my route planning.

I've just started working with it, WOW AM I IMPRESSED. The package contains 13 ChartPack DVDs that cover the entire United States coastline with detailed raster charts, vector charts, Contour 3D charts, Navigation Photos, Topographic Maps, integrated Gazetteer and more. It’s all the software and charts I need in 1 box!

Lots to learn (so many great features), and very easy to use. I am really enjoying the simplicity of quickly switching back and forth from a NOAA raster chart of a specific area, to a satellite photo of that area, to the topo map of the area. Waypoint and route setting are easy and quick to set, and change as needed. The software also has tide and current information that is extremely helpful in my planning.

As I prepare, I will post updates on my progress, features of the software that are most helpful, and decisions I'm making regards routing. I am also hoping to develop a new page on my website that will cover planning and preparation for the Challenge. This will include my work on navigation plans as well as topics on equipment lists, boat packing, camping plans, etc....

So much to do, so little time left.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Boat Tow Training

Got the new bike, and had it tuned up at The Clean Machine. Dahon has sponsored me with a Presto Light folder, 16" wheels, 18 lb bike that will fit in the back hatch of the Kruger Dreamcatcher. I've started experimenting with a tow. Paddleboy Designs has donated the "Heavy Lifter" boat cart.

I can fairly easily maintain an 8 mph pace on a flat course, and can get speeds up to 11 mph while towing the boat with an additional 30 lbs of weight (I'll have 60-70 lbs during the race). My goal will be to finish the 40 mile portage in 5 hours.

See more photos on my website, the challenge page.