Monday, June 25, 2007

Paddling with Angels

Dan Colodney, my dearest friend, paddling partner, teacher, and mentor passed away last evening. He's taken a piece of my heart with him.

I'm so happy that I was able to be with him on Saturday, visiting with him and his wife Ellen, celebrating his birthday, laughing, and hugging, and telling him how much I loved him.

It was Dan who gave me the confidence and opportunity for real expedition, and to find my passion in distance paddling. He was one of the the first friends I wrote about when I started this blog, see Friends in Need, Friends Indeed.

He's has been one of my biggest cheerleaders in WaterTribe, even after a shoulder injury left him unable to participate as we had originally planned. We'd also always planned to return to Newfoundland to finish that part of our original 2004 trip beyond Burgeo where we were fogged out. He hated that we wouldn't be able to do the trip; I will never do it without him.

It was only 3 months ago he learned of the horrible stomach and liver cancer that would quickly take his life. For the past month he has been home in hospice care with Ellen and his dogs, and his family and friends. He was amazed and happy to realize that so many really cared. If you knew him, you knew a curmudgeon, yet to know him was also to love him.

I take comfort in thinking that Dan is now paddling around the clouds, and waiting for me. For now, he'll be expeditioning with the angels.

Some history about Dan from his family:

After a lifetime of adventure, Daniel Colodney died peacefully at his home on the Yeopim River, June 24 - two days after his 67th birthday.

Although he thought of himself a curmudgeon, that was his perception only! With his lifetime of activity, he was anything but! Dan brought joy and laughter to the hearts of all who were lucky enough to know him. He will be missed terribly.

He was born in Bronx, New York in 1940 and lived in White Plains, New York through high school. Dan served two years in the Air Force. He earned two college degrees, including a Bachelors Degree from Allegheny College, as well as a Masters from the University of Rhode Island. His professional life began as a research scientist at Colgate Palmolive Company. Dan developed the technology for clear gel and tartar control toothpaste.

After making significant contributions to Colgate, Dan and his wife Ellen moved to Edenton in 1996 so that he could play full time.

Dan was a man of passionate interests which he loved to share with others - if they could manage to keep up! He was certainly a gifted athlete. He participated in marathons, major wilderness backpacking and canoeing adventures in the US, Canada, and the Northwest Territories. He was an avid bicyclist. He did some very intense sea kayaking excursions off the coast of Florida, Maine, and Newfoundland.

His less adventurous, but no less passionate hobbies included a fish room for his African and New World cichlids, being surrounded by his dogs and cats, and a good cigar.

Dan is survived by:
Mother Beatrice Colodney
Wife Ellen Jennifer Colodney
Son Michael Colodney
Daughters Jill Colodney and Debbie Debias
Sister Marion Marks
Brother Rich Colodney
Dogs Mickey & Jessie
Many Fish!
Predeceased by Father Bernard Colodney

A celebration of Dan’s life will be held at his house in Edenton on
Saturday, July 7 at 1:00 pm. All are welcome.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


The MR340 will be a new experience for me in many different ways, it's a race on a major river, and I'll be paddling in a tandem boat. I'm registered as one member of team Kruger Cruisers with Stan Hanson.

When Stan and I agreed to double up for the MR340, it was done without much thought and planning (at least on my part). It seemed a great idea, I hadn't planned to paddle the MR340, the company in a double would make it a fun event, and it would be a faster race. Since we'd both completed previous WaterTribe Challenges, there was little question about our abilities.

We'll be paddling Stans' Kruger Cruiser. The Kruger Canoes are far from being considered a racing canoe/kayak, but they are a great boat for distance, and have much success in long distance racing events. I am still a dedicated sea kayaker, however, for long distance events I love the single blade and the comfort of the Krugers.

In some ways this race is a challenge that has already begun. Stan and I have never paddled together before, nor have I ever paddled double in a race. And with Stan living in Illinois and I in North Carolina, we will not have had any opportunity to paddle or train together prior to the race.

Thus far, preparing for this race has been more partnership than teamwork. In partnerships, there is a mutual cooperation and responsibility to achieve a specified and agreed upon goal. Our partnership is realized by common goals and interests for the race, realized through our email and telephone communication. Interestingly, through this communication, we have also realized very individual differences in each of our approaches to preparation and training.

Teamwork is the concept of people working together cooperatively. Once in the race, we will have to quickly make that switch to teamwork in order for us to be successful in meeting our goals. We expect our individual differences will blend and meld together such that our team is even stronger.

Those that follow my blog have surely noticed that I'm really big on planning and preparation. To me, it's all part of the fun. As part of my preparation, I've also been learning about paddling tandem; what tandem teamwork actually means, what are the unique challenges and specific duties of each paddler, and most importantly what is the proper etiquette in paddling tandem.

Over and over I've read that the advantages of tandem paddling (more power, more speed, less work for each member of the team) are often wasted on inexperience and ill preparation. And of course we've all heard the term 'Divorce Boat'. I worry a bit for Stan as I'm the one with inexperience in the double, but, I will be prepared :).

Below are some of the guidelines and tips I've collected from various articles on tandem paddling (primarily from 'Paddling a Tandem Canoe' by Tim Sprinkle, published on These are all designed to help maximize time on the water, and minimize the common and easy-to-overcome problems about tandem paddling.

"Know your role: As a general rule, the paddler in the stern of the boat does the steering (and is the Captain). Usually, that means that the more experienced paddler sits in back (for steering), while the other does the grunt work up front. Beyond that, however, it's the responsibility of the forward member of the team to set the cadence, scout upcoming obstacles, and help pull the boat through the water. "

Stan's Kruger Cruiser has a rudder with steering capabilities from either the stern or bow. We will take turns steering as needed. For the MR340, Stan will take the stern, I'll paddle bow.

"Cadence: There's a reason that soldiers are taught to march in time: the cadence, or rhythm, helps the group move and function as one; maximizing their impact and streamlining their efforts. The same principle applies to successful tandem paddling. Both members of the team need to work as one, and cadence is a big part of that. "

I have found cadence to be a very personal and individual paddling trait. Like a persons natural gait, it is not easy to change and still be comfortable. I have 2 natural cadences with a single blade, 50-55 strokes/minute is my low gear, this the cadence that I easily maintain forever, 40-45 strokes/minute is my "dig in" high gear that is not sustained. A similar cadence between 2 tandem paddlers is critical. I've reported my cadence to Stan, until we are in the boat together we won't realize our similarities or differences, yet Stan has assured me as bow paddler I can set the pace and he'll be able to follow.

"Opposite sides: The importance of paddling on opposite sides of the boat (bow on the left side, stern on the right, for example) is the first things many tandem paddlers learn. This, coupled with a proper paddling cadence, will all but guarantee that the boat tracks straight through the water with little need for correction. As with cadence, the paddle side is set by the bow paddler, who should occasionally switch sides to reduce fatigue. "

Proper cadence to help with boat tracking is likely not as much an issue with a rudder, however, it is more efficient to not have to use the rudder to continually correct for cadence differences. And a similar cadence will make for a smoother ride and even workload.

"Communication: As with any partnership, communication is the difference between a successful effort and a day of tiny power struggles and petty bickering. Speak up. "

Stan and I have already been training this aspect, getting experience with communication through emails and phone calls, without even dipping the paddle. I believe each of us will feel comfortable here.

"Practice: It doesn't matter if you've known your paddling partner for 25 years or 25 minutes, an on-water team doesn't develop overnight. You'll be amazed what a few hours of tandem practice before your trip will do for your paddling skills. And it doesn't take much effort. Just paddle around on some flat water, get to know each other's quirks, and you'll be surprised how quickly you develop a cadence and paddling style that you can both live with. "

As I prepare for this race, I have been a bit concerned about our inability to paddle and train together. I figured that discovering differences during the stress of the event would not only make for difficulties, more importantly, it would take the fun factor completely out of the race. Alan (my son who is also registered as a solo male in this race) and I plan to hook up with Stan on Saturday and we will all arrive in Kansas City on Sunday (race starts Tuesday morning). We plan to get in some paddling time together on Sunday and Monday to work on the important teamwork issues, as well as to get the Cruiser properly outfitted for each of our needs.

I can't wait to meet all the other Challengers, and hope to get to know them a bit (dinner?) before the race starts. Only 30 more days.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Racer or Cruiser?

Marek, also known as Mountain Wayfarer, has posted a list of Paddling, Training, and Racing Blogs on his fit2paddle blog. I am honored that my blog is included among the group, which includes many blogs I regularly visit myself. However, being listed among these accomplished racers has me wanting to explain myself a bit, especially since I don't really consider myself a real racer.

Don't get me wrong, I am a very strong endurance paddler, and I'm not that slow. I am also very competitive, at least such that I've always got the next race planned and on the calendar, and am always training. But my racing is done for the shear pleasure and fun of it. My finishing times are not very impressive, and in fact I often end up taking all the time offered by an event. As such, it's easier to call myself a cruiser rather than racer, though I sometimes think many misinterpret or underestimate my definition of cruiser. Being a cruiser is very different than cruising. When on the water I paddle hard.

My finishing times are usually the result of pairing up with others during a race. A nice social and fun thing to do, but it'll kill you if you have a time goal in mind. The more paddlers in a group, the slower the group. I also love to camp. In my WaterTribe challenges, unless I'm having to paddle all night to meet a deadline, camping is usually my undoing.

This past years Everglades Challenge was more vacation expedition then challenge actually. With ideal weather, the miles went by very fast, and I found I could actually spent almost as much time off the water as on the water, paddling and camping with fellow challengers every day and night, and still getting to Key Largo a day before the big party. I'm almost embarrassed to post the table below showing my on-water and off-water times, this is supposed to be a race.

Table of Paddling Hours during 2007 WaterTribe EC

Footnote: During the 1200 mile WaterTribe Ultimate Challenge in 2006, I paddled every day of the 3o days, averaging 5 hours off the water each night, and had a few all nighters, quite a bit harder.

So, I'm not an example of a real racer. But just the same, I think I fill a niche of paddler who loves a challenge, albeit hard challenges, having as much fun as possible, and finishing.

Speaking of finishing, this is where I draw the line, and where my competitiveness really come in. For me, to not finish is complete failure, it is not in my vocabulary, it is not a possibility. I train to race, I train to finish.

Maybe next year I'll train and race to place :)

Monday, June 18, 2007


What a great weekend! With none of our kids home, Paul chose to spend the day visiting with his Dad for Fathers's Day, while I got out my Kruger Dreamcatcher's bimini top to stay shaded during a hot 20 miler on the lake. I got quite a few curious looks and questions about my boat.

Saturday Paul and I went for a bike ride, to the bike store. Paul hasn't ridden much since he had a bad downhill crash (front tire blowout) a few years ago resulting in a badly fractured collar bone. He's finally ready to give up his 30 year old Browning, we're shopping for a recumbent bike, he's wanted one for years. Every member of our family has gone through 2, 3, and even 4 new bikes over the years while Dad's kept riding the old (heavy :) faithful.

We just celebrated our 25th year wedding anniversary last week, the bike is going to be his anniversary present. What do I get? The pleasure of his company, it's the best gift ever.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

He Did It Again

Carter Johnson, the holder of the Class 1 solo record in the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge, the Yukon River Quest, and the Guinness world record for longest distance paddled in 24 hours, just set a another new solo record at the Texas Water Safari race, he was 2nd overall (1st and 3rd place was made by 6 men canoe teams).

The Texas Water Safari is advertised as the world's toughest canoe race, 260 miles on the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers. All manner of boats from recreational kayaks and canoes to surfski's enter (Carter was paddling his surfski).

How tough was it? Here is Carter's report on the race:
I will not down play the race at all, it was a BRUTE!!. With 100’s degree temps, 15+ portages, log jams, rocks, dams, sweepers, more mud than Florida bay, Snakes, alligators, 300 lb gars and wild boars as well as some stiff competition, It may be truly the worlds toughest Canoe/Kayak race. Like the watertribe, there are no distracting boat rules and regulations either as well as no mandatory layovers. The race is coordinated to perfection.

My only comment is that there is a great comfort and inner peace knowing that you will not die of hypothermia and directly in path behind you on the river are 100's of boats coming to help you out if you get into trouble. This comfort does not compare to the shear terror of being alone in Florida bay or off the coast of the everglades at 3:00am in a small craft advisory, where if you mess up, you may just fall off the face of the earth.
Check this site for some unbelievable race photos (his sister put together). I think this race is one I'll skip :)

Marek, also known as Mountain Wayfarer, is also both a Watertribe and Texas Water Safari alumni. He sat the Safari race out this year, but his "Fitness Paddling Blog" contains lots of information, stories and photos from this years and previous years races.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Always Working It

People are always asking me how fast my Kruger Dreamcatcher is, and often want me to compare it to my speed in my sea kayak. Most paddlers are pretty obsessed with speed, and I'm certainly one of them. Nothing to do with racing, just something fun to measure. On average, I think I'm still a bit faster in my sea kayak, but it's not a fair comparison, the boats are so different. And I know many who paddle a Kruger who can leave me in their wake. It's not about the boat but the engine (paddler).

Under good weather conditions (winds ~5mph), on a lake (no current), my typical cruising pace in the Dreamcatcher for a 6-8 mile paddle is 4mph, 10-15 miles is about 3.8 mph, and 20-25 miles at 3.6 mph. These are training paddles (not social paddles) non-stop, paddle always in the water, and with a steady continual yet comfortable pace. In my WaterTribe challenges, where I'm paddling 40-50 miles a day, my moving pace generally stays about 3.5 mph (if no headwinds), but my overall pace drops to 3.0-3.2 to account for eating, peeing, stretching, breaks, etc...

Mark Przedwojewski, owner of Kruger Canoes, taught me how to paddle one handed, while eating with the other. It took a while to develop enough strength in my wrists, and it's kinda like a party trick. As Verlen said, "your not moving if your not paddling". But as Silbs would say, "I digress".

This afternoon, I went to the lake for an 8 mile paddle, I was especially interested in what my overall pace would be.

I've been spending a lot of time working on my technique of switching hands, and was really curious to see the benefit, not so much with speed over this distance, but with efficiency. Using a single blade, 20 strokes per side feels optimal to me, but I've been amazed at the loss in speed and the effort needed to quickly get back to speed if you miss 1, 2 and worse 3 strokes with a lazy or bad hand switch. During a 300+ mile challenge, efficiency becomes very important.

Also, I was curious what impact there would be on my speed without the GPS in front of me the whole time. I almost always have my GPS with me (remember, I'm a statistician, I really like studying and working on the science of paddling, a GPS and heart rate monitor provide me with great data to play with :). As strange as it sounds, I've suspected that having the GPS in front of me actually slows me down, by allowing me to settle on my "usual" pace, rather than working at a paddling pace based on how I feel. I've noticed that I rarely feel like I worked very hard, or even feel like I've gotten a workout, even after a 20 miler. I think my "usual" pace might be outdated.

So I put my Garmin Forerunner on the deck where I couldn't see it, and planned a nonstop 8 miler to the 64 bridge and back. I paddled a pace that by feel, was a good hard cruising pace, and that still allowed me to sing along with my MP3. I figured I was still in a heart rate zone between 2 and 3. I'm wishing I had the heart rate monitor on, but I don't like it paddling with my torso rotation and PFD.

As I suspected, my pace was much improved. The overall stats were 8.48 miles, 153:07 minutes, average pace 13:20 min/mile or 4.5 mph. I think 4.5 mph is quite a decent pace for a 8 mile workout, and I'm especially pleased at how consistent and sustained the pace was.

The true test will be how I feel tomorrow when I wake up :)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Family Fun and Training Continues

Everyone was home for the weekend, so Paul and I packed up the kayaks, Alan his Hobie18 and we all went camping at the lake.

A weekend of sun and fun, sailing and kayaking, and a big birthday cookout to celebrate Tana's big day.

By noon Sunday we'd packed up and everyone left, while I went on to get in a 20 mile training paddle in my Kruger Dreamcatcher.

Up until the MR340 in July, I'll only paddle during the heat of the day on weekends. Not only are long (20+ miles) endurance paddles required for physical conditioning, but paddling during the heat of the day will help me acclimate for the conditions we'll have on the Missouri River during the race.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Where Does the Time Go

From a cute little girl to a wonderful and beautiful woman. Happy 19th Birthday Sweety. I love you the most! Mom

Thursday, June 07, 2007

You Can Do It Too

The large numbers of kayaking/paddling blogs out there (Derrick maintains the most complete list), and the various paddling trip reports submitted to websites and forums like makes one realize that there are many many people doing incredible expeditions, journeys, and challenges.

You don't have to be a famous 5* paddler, a sponsored paddler, a symposium junkie, an author, or a paddler whose trying to make a living at it, to have adventure. And you really don't have to live through other people's adventures to have your own (though this might possibly be enough for some). There are a lot of average Joe's and Jane's out there doing incredible things.

Reading other's adventures can be very inspiring and motivating, but none so much as those of the average Joe or Jane, to really know that anyone can do it if they want to. And then especially reading about those faced with difficult or unusual challenges.

Dexter (also known as ThereAndBackAgain, or TABA among WaterTribe) a double leg amputee, has started a blog to address his preparation and planning for the 2008 WaterTribe Ultimate Florida Challenge. Read all about it at