Thursday, May 31, 2007

Paddle Safety

While I'm "preaching to the choir", my previous post this morning, I'd like to say a few more things about paddling safety, at least my philosophy.

It's a no-brainer that water sports have an inherent danger. Kayaks and canoes go in the water, we breath air. Preparation is the only way to prepare for this.

With regards safety, I place wearing a PFD as primary, having skills with rescue practice secondary, and having the appropriate equipment third.

Preparation includes having and knowing how to use the right equipment:
- Basic water safety equipment (PFD, whistle, flares etc...)
- Rescue equipment
- First-aid kit
- Repair kit
- Hypothermia kit or all weather kit
- Spare paddle

There is much on the web about the contents of these kits, I'll not go into detail here.

Probably the most important issue for me is wearing a PFD. As a paddler, a kayak instructor, swift water rescue technician, and more importantly a mother trying to set the right example. I ALWAYS wear a PFD, and have made it a rule (which I rarely break) not to paddle with those who don't.

Interestingly most races do not require that PFDs be worn, only kept in the boat. I don't agree with this philosophy. Of course I understand the hassle, and I certainly understand and have experienced the chafing.

Safety is more important.

Preaching to the Choir

Photo of Steve (KneadingWater) and I during 2007 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge. Note duck tape square on Steve's bottom lip, this for sunburn protection.

Half the fun (even more actually) of doing a race or challenge, is the training and preparation. The event itself is so short lived, and so much more painful, that the enjoyment is all in the training. It's why I race to train and why I always have the next race identified.

If you love your sport, there is no better way to assure you'll get to play a lot. It's not about competition, or being fast, but assuring it'll be an enjoyable experience. Make it a priority, plan your training time, put in the hours, and your guaranteed an active life, and a much more comfortable event. There is no doubt that it is a big time commitment, but if you love it, how else would you want to spend your time :)

I see the Capt'n has also been posting information on training. His latest post is a good review of the basics, the 6 laws of training, for any sport. Lucky me, friends that we are, I get in on some of the secrets too :)

It's interesting how training plans are so similar regardless of the sport, running, biking, triathlon, and of course paddling. I've also found it interesting that training plans for 'winning' vs 'doing well' vs 'just finishing' are also quite similar. All focusing on the most important hours of comfortable distance endurance work, then primarily differing in the amount of speed work that's incorporated. I've always been honest about being a 'just finishing' kind of trainer, making sure I put in the endurance time.

Another friend, paddler, racer, and blogger is Marek (Mountain Wayfarer), his fit2paddle blog is not only devoted to training, but also has quite a bit of invaluable information on technique, great stuff for both the racer or the cruiser. I'm a big believer in incorporating technique work in your training. It's not about your mind knowing how to do it, it's about your body learning, practicing, and remembering it. My philosophy; If you think you know it all, then I don't want to know you.

Don't forget the importance of of simulation training, and please include rescue training. The event is not the time to discover that your food doesn't sit well in your belly, or your shirt chafes, or your cuticles rip every time you stuff your tent into it's tight dry bag. How are you planning to do #1 or #2 during the event :) Simulation training also allows you to acclimate and condition your body for the conditions you'll experience, for the MR340 this will mean heat. Challengers will need to learn how much fluid intake and electrolyte replacement their system will need.

Outside your boat, and floating in the water is not the time to wonder what's the best way to get back in it, it needs to be automatic. I've got the core strength to paddle forever at the right pace, but like many women, I don't have the upper body strength to lift myself up and back into the boat without using aids. I keep trying, but can't get the Kruger Dreamcatcher to roll yet. My kayaking friends and I have great fun doing rescue simulations, including rescuing injured (various kinds) paddlers. If it's going to go wrong, it goes wrong in a big way. Rescue practice is non-negotiable, be prepared, you gotta practice this.

If your new to training and planning for events, keep checking in with your event's website. On the MR340 websites forum, many of the other challengers are posting lots of good information about the river and their training plans and techniques, as well as previous experiences. Di and Chuck, last years tandem record holders, paddling solo this year, posted they were planning a weekend training session to test their lighting systems on the water. Bryan Hopkins has posted great information about paddling at night on this Mighty Missouri. Lots of information out there.

This past weekend, I managed a shorter paddle Friday night, then had a great time paddling 5 hours Sunday night till midnight with my son Alan. We camped out in our Hennessey hammocks, then braved the masses on Monday with another 4 hour paddle that morning. Actually it was great fun with all the chop and confused water from all then boat wakes on the lake.

Be prepared, and happy paddling.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Training Time is Getting Critical

Only 8 weekends of training left for the Missouri River 340, or Misery 340 as my husband refers to it (not just because of the distance, but also the heat and mosquitoes at that time of year). A 340 mile paddle from Kansas City to St. Louis, to be completed in 100 hours. I think I'm where I should be in my training. Now it's time to really ramp it up with some long distance paddles, and adding a few intervals during my shorter paddles.

The Capt'n (Brian Weber) and I compare training notes, and continually encourage each other to keep on paddling and training. It's not always easy to get out there, life gets in the way, and sometimes it doesn't always feel like fun. I actually need the encouragement more than he. Brian is motivated enough by the fact that he is paddling the race in a double Kruger Cruiser with Mark Przedwojewski, racer and owner of Kruger Canoes.

I'm also planning to paddle the race in a Kruger Cruiser with Stan Hanson. Each of us good friends of Mark (my Kruger Dreamcatcher was a gift from Mark, who challenged me to "finish the Ultimate Florida Challenge and you can keep my Dreamcatcher"). Stan was also a good friend of Verlen Kruger, and paddled the Yukon River with Verlen and his wife Jenny for Verlen's 80th birthday paddle.

If your unfamiliar with Verlen Kruger, I highly recommend your reading his biography "All Things are Possible", a very short bio also can be found here.

In addition to being naturally competitive, as a member of Team Kruger, I feel an additional responsibility, as most of us Kruger paddlers do, to paddle these wonderful boats with the same determination and spirit that Verlen did.

I am approaching training for this race, much like I do any WaterTribe event, though I'm finding the MR340 has me wanting to race a bit more than cruise. Maybe it's knowing that there will be river current on my side in this race :)

There are excellent articles on the WaterTribe Magazine site on training and preparing for a long distance challenge. I like the article "Get Fit for a Challenge" written by Chief (head of the WaterTribe), which is located in the archived articles section.

Chief says the long paddles are the key. He recommends a minimum time of 4 hours for each long paddle, and says 8 hours is really better for training. His training plan also suggests a 12 hour paddle once or twice for confidence. "If you are comfortable swinging your paddle for 8 hours, you can do 16 hours in a race". The minimum of 4 hours and beyond allows your body to undergo the significant adaptations for long range endurance, critical for these kinds of events, whether you race them all out, or enter it to finish.

My personal training plan has me paddling a short 6 mile social paddle on Wednesday nights, then a 12-15 mile paddle Friday nights (experience with paddling in the dark is very important in these events), then I'll paddle 15-20 miles on Sundays, increasing these slowly to 30-35. I'll finish my training with 2 30-35 mile paddles twice before the race. Our weather here in NC should have me prepared for the heat and humidity in Missouri. Cross training throughout my training will include biking, swimming, walking, core and strength training, and yoga.

Life is about to get very busy, just how I like it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

You've Got to be Kidding?

The Molokai World Championship surfski and one-man outrigger canoe race was held this past Sunday. It appears there was a bit of an upset with the events usual big names and previous winners not placing, and lots of complaints about the weather conditions. The 37.2 mile race was won for the first time by Tahiti's Lewis Laughlin.

Evidently there were beautiful blue sunny skies in Hawaii, and fairly mild ocean conditions. Surf reports the conditions as "Blistering hot temperatures, zero cloud-cover, counter-productive side-shore winds and minimal ocean swells setting a torrid stage for the race". They said it was the "most brutal conditions". Previous 11th time winner Oscar Chalupsky said it was "worst conditions ever".

The winner finished in 5hrs, 20min, 6 sec (averaging 7 mph). It was also reported that "many of today's competitors had never paddled continuously for more than five hours, let alone six, seven, or eight."

What's with that? I thought this was a distance paddling race.

And what's with the discrepancies in the winners purse, male $3,000 vs female $750 awarded to the 1st place winners. I'd hoped we'd made more progress getting past that.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Paddle Training while Sailing?

We are so proud of Alan and Trey, sailing as Team Velocity in the Tybee 500 catamaran race this past week. With an awesome 2nd place finish in yesterdays leg, and a 5th place overall finish (first in the silver fleet who took penalties for not sailing the Jupiter Beach leg, and not for lack of trying). Only 7 of the original 13 boats even finished the race this year, with 2 dropping out during the last leg, a particularly hard (10-12 ft seas) and long leg (115 miles).

And, it even looks like Alan got in some training for the MR340 paddling race (July 24-28) during the sailboat race.

That's actually more than I've been getting in lately. Only 8 more weekends of training left. It's time I start putting in some real training miles in my Kruger.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Fun and Sun

We drove down to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island in Florida to see the boats come in last night and then leave for their final leg this morning. We are now on Tybee Island hoping the boats get in before dark tonight. It's the longest leg at ~115 miles, but with NE winds 15-20 there should be lots of tacking to get here.

No paddling this weekend, I figured there really wouldn't be enough time with all the other festivities, and I'm hoping to get a nice ride on that sailboat tomorrow :)

And they're off.

For updates, photos, and videos, see Tybee 500, Velocity Sailing, Cat Sailor and their forum, and Team Seacats.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Other Side of Racing

This week, I'm having to experience the other side of racing. Watching from afar. It's been an emotionally exiting and difficult time. I've known that it has always been difficult for Paul waiting, and worrying, when I've been in the WaterTribe Challenges. Now we are both doing that while our son Alan and friend Trey race in the Tybee 500 catamaran race on the East coast of Florida, as team Velocity Sailing.

The last 2 days of the race has seen big surf and high wind conditions. Yesterday only 5 of the 12 boats made it through the 6-8 ft surf zone. Two did not even attempt it and were disqualified. The other 5 made multiple attempts and ended up battered, bruised, and broken, left to repair boats for today's start and with a hefty penalty for missing a leg.

This morning, the wind was a big lighter at 10 kts, but seas were still 6 ft, only 1 boat was taken out, damaged during a collision with another boat in the surf zone. Alan and Trey got out okay. But is wasn't easy, for any of us.

Photo below of Velocity starting Wednesday's leg.

Finishing Wednesday leg (below on right) with photo finish, catching a wave and beating the boat on the left by 20 seconds. A 3rd place and very exiting finish for the day.
Photos below of one of their 3 failed attempts to get out yesterday. Ouch!!

There is some great and frightening photos and video of yesterday's start on the Tybee 500 website. And if your interested in following along, Team Velocity is keeping up their blog during the race.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Full Circle

When I first met Paul, 26 years ago, we played a bit on the Haw River. In those days you could easily rent a white water kayak from an outfitter in Durham. There were even semi-regular rolling sessions at Clearwater Lake in the summer which I went to a few times.

Then we got married, had some kids, bought some windsurfers, mountain bikes, then sea kayaks... About 8 years ago I signed up for a 4 day white water camp at NOC, but again life got in the way and I never really followed through. Flat water paddling at the local lake was much easier to fit in.

But as I worked on my paddling and started to really develop rough water and ocean skills, I'd noticed that the very best sea kayakers came from a strong white water background, including Derek Hutchinson, Nigel Dennis, Nigel Foster, and our own Lamar Hudgens out at Barrier Island Kayaks. These paddlers have skills I rarely see in most sea kayakers.

Much of my sea kayaking interests are now focused on kayaking expedition trips, and long distance paddling races like the Missouri River 340 in July, and my annual WaterTribe Challenges. Wanting to work on advanced skills, and trying different challenges, I decided to dust off my old Dagger Crossfire, and I sign up for a Carolina Canoe Club clinic up in Nantahala. This club is large and very active, and always seems to have weekend trips and opportunities for all levels, and including surfing trips at the beach. Perfect!

Of course I also figured this wouldn't be too hard. Heck I've been sea kayaking for over 12 years, lots of ocean paddling and surfing, and a certified BCU 4* paddler. I'm even mentioned in one of the feature articles in this month's Sea Kayaker Magazine. Ha! Boy was this a humbling experience.

I have an awful lot to learn. I was a beginner again. My paddling experience and combat roll got me into an advanced novice class, which turned out to be almost over my head. More, and recent river experience, would certainly have had me a lot more comfortable and prepared for the class. The skill set in WW is similar yet broader then in sea kayaking, applied a bit differently, much more aggressively, and where mistakes are not as easy to cover up or recover from. No low brace or high brace recoveries here. Everything is a lot faster. Skills I definitely envied and want to get more proficient with.

Matt Moore was my instructor, his wife Linda was the safety boater, both seem to just dance on the water in their kayaks. It was worth the weekend just watching them paddle. A perfect class with only 4 students, Marie, Jeff, Alex (all with more river experience than I) and myself. No whiners or complainers, all willing to try new moves, and offer encouragement (to me) when needed.

My combat roll was a good thing, though my roll needs a little modification for the river. In fact we all had good combat rolls, and there was no swimming either day (except for that last bit at the falls). I have to admit I wasn't expecting much more beyond paddling down the river. Instead we ferried and ferried, caught eddies I didn't even know where eddies, and we surfed, and went backwards, and experimented with the water moving the boat this way and that, and always trying to do it with "style points".

The slide show below are photo's I took the 2nd day of our clinic. All taken while sitting in the safety of an eddy, or roadside at the falls.

Click on the photos for a full screen slide show.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Lots of Excitement

School's out for our kids and there's lots of excitement around the Stewart household.

Tana came home last weekend from Boone where she's a student at Appalachian State University. She just bought her first car, and left this morning to return for summer school and a summer job. This is her first car, very exciting. We were pleased to have helped her find a used all wheel drive Subaru Legacy sedan, and hope it will provide some safe maneuvering in the mountains. I expect she's quite happy not to be driving the family wagon or van anymore with all those kayak racks on top.

Alan has finished his year at North Carolina State University, and is on his way to Florida with Trey, and the rest of the Team Velocity crew. Trey (skipper) and Alan (co-skipper) will be racing in the Tybee 500 this weekend. Paul and I plan to join them on Tybee Island next weekend for the finish. Race results can be found on the race website, but I expect there will be some good race stories reported on Team Seacat's blog (another competitor and friend of Team Velocity).

Photo of Alan and Trey racing in the 2007 Rolex Regatta in St Thomas last month.

I'm getting ready to head up to Nantahala, for a 2 day white water clinic with the Carolina Canoe Club. I'll be taking my old faithful Dagger Crossfire which I've used primarily for pool rolling and shore surfing over the years. At 11 feet long and with it's displacement hull, I expect I'll look more like I'm sea kayaking the rapids next to all the shorter play boats.

And Paul, I think he's just looking forward to some peace and quiet.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

One Minute of Fame

Well, a couple of sentences actually, and a photo.

The new June issue of SeaKayaker Magazine has a feature article titled "A Lap Around the State". This is Warren Richey's (SharkChow) article of his Watertribe Ultimate Florida Challenge (UFC) race held last March 2006.

The UFC was a 1200 mile circumnavigation of Florida, including a 90 mile upriver paddle on the St Mary's River, and a 40 mile portage to the Suwanee River in order to cross over the state at the Florida Georgia border. The 1200 miles must be completed within 30 days, requiring an average of 40 miles per day of travel.

Warren won the race in 19 days, 6 hours, and 48 minutes. And race it was for the top 3 finishers who all came in within 5 hours of each other. The next 2 racers came in a week later, the remaining 2 finished 3 days after that (taking the full 30 days). I was one of these last finishers.

This article about Warren's race, sprinkled with a few adventures experienced by the other challengers (including my encounter with a Manatee) is a great read and really captures the essence of what the UFC was about, and what all WaterTribe events are about.

I am extremely proud to have been one of the 10 challengers, and 7 finishers of this race. Certainly an adventure of a lifetime, though not one that is just completed and then forgotten. This past March, 6 of the 10 UFC challengers, including Warren and myself participated in the 300 mile, 7 day, WaterTribe Everglades Challenge, Warren's and my 4th Watertribe event. In fact, all of the 10 UFC challengers were Watertribe alumni who had previously completed many previous Watertribe events. Once experienced, these challenges become an adventure in your life that you crave every year. The 2008, 1200 mile UFC already has 8 registered challengers, 5 of them repeaters. I'm still thinking about it.

Watertribe challenges are an incredible adventure and personal challenge for any paddling or small sailboat enthusiast. My UFC experiences are documented on my challenge website, which eventually became this blog. The March 2006 postings on this blog contain almost daily UFC race reports from my husband (March 2007 contain race reports of this years EC). Other earlier postings contain information on my training and preparation for the challenge, including my daily UFC training log.

There are still many short clip videos and slide shows (set to music) of the 2006 EC and UFC available for viewing on the WaterTribe Viewer. Enjoy.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Rolling Rolling Rolling

Can't believe I forgot my camera when I went to the lake today. With winds 20-25 mph and 30+ mph gusts, it was completely white capped. The Carolina Sailing Club was partying in the parking lot and with the strong winds, most had opted to keep their boats on shore.

I was on the lake with Eric Bannan, an old paddling friend who had offered to help me with roll practice in one of my old white water kayaks (used primarily for pool rolling and shore surfing), using a feathered WW paddle that Eric was lending me. I'm actually a pretty good roller, but, wanting to try something different, I'd signed up for a WW clinic with the Carolina Canoe Club up in Nantahala, and after having spent the last 8 years or so primarily using a Greenland Paddle with my sea kayak, I figured I might need some help/practice with this Euro blade.

Eric and I go back well over 10 years. We took our first formal sea kayaking class together, and have had many kayaking weekend adventures over the years. It was Eric who spent a winter many years ago going to the pool teaching me my first rolls. And it was Eric who I first went out to Bogue Inlet with to learn to surf in my sea kayak.

Eric on right, me second from left, photo taken at least 8 years ago on the lake.

We put in on a fairly protected cove on the lake, Eric in his NDK Explorer, and I in a Dagger Redline. And I didn't have any trouble with the rolling, on side or off. Then we paddling out into the wind and waves and I practiced some rolls without set-up. We paddled out into the waves a few more times, enjoying surfing the waves back into shore. Actually Eric managed some pretty good rides, I was too busy spinning circles and working hard trying to keep my planing WW boat going straight. More than rolling, I think I just need more practice paddling this short kayak.

Eric doesn't get out on the water as much these days, he and his wife Luanne have an 18 month old son Zane who keeps them pretty busy, and Eric's been more into mountain biking lately, and on free evenings, Eric can be seen and heard around town playing his music (songwriter, lead guitar, and lead singer), .

Thanks Eric, for the lend and the hand.

Friday, May 04, 2007

It's a Boy

The word "boy" is recorded since 1154. Its etymology is unclear; it is probably related to East Frisian boi, Old Norse bófi, Dutch boef "(criminal) knave, rogue" and German Bube. These apparently all have their origin in baby talk (like the word baby itself) (Buck 1949: 89).

Baby Andrew has finally come out to play, congratulations Kristen.

Looks to me like the KiwiBird's Adventures are going to come at her faster than ever now :)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

OK, but Only a Small Notch to Start

The Capt'n is trying to push me a bit with his 'Stepp'n it up a Notch' posting. I get regular emails from him too, as we share our training plans and logs for the MR340 in July. He's been a good friend and a great motivator.

Distance cruiser that I am, rarely ever gets me out of base training, and I really don't like it much when it hurts. Hmmm, maybe this year I should just try and work a little bit harder.

Hey Brian, Scout looks like a real winner, he'll be a great paddling partner, and new family member.