Viewing entries tagged
Surfski Racing

Super Tuesday at Deep Cove

Comment

Super Tuesday at Deep Cove

Not every night that you get a chance to line up with the fastest paddlers in the world and go race in such a beautiful location. Huge turnout as always (93!).

We did a staged start with the average Joe's (main group) lining up first, then the Bro's (SUP's / Prone) who did a slightly different distance, and finally a group of twenty or so Pro's four minutes back in chase mode. I love this style of racing, because it's fun to blend the fields. 

Below is a video of my race, I wound up 7th, and worked with up coming talent Ryan Paroz to try to stay close to the leaders. Sean Rice picked up a win in a classic sprint finish over Jasper Mocke and Kenny Rice. Dawid was just a moment behind in fourth. 

Comment

Bellingham Bay Rough Water Race, Take 2

Comment

Bellingham Bay Rough Water Race, Take 2

Spring racing season is hard to beat here in the Pacific Northwest. Loads of great races, venues and fast racers. We've just wrapped up the Bellingham Bay Rough Water Race and the PNW ORCA Winter Series Championship Race... and we're only at the half way mark with the Dan Harris, Tour De Indian Arm (both part of the Think International Challenge), Lake Whatcom Classic and the Ski-to-Sea looming large on the horizon. Particularly stoked to hear that we'll have some visiting elite paddlers with Carter Johnson and Austin Kiefer in addition to our usual cadre of fast paddlers to test myself against. 

If that weren't enough, the mid-week race series will all be up and running again soon. If you're a racing junkie like me living in Bellingham, you can race Tuesday in Deep Cove, Wednesday on Lake Whatcom and Thursday night in Vancouver with the Big Chop series... Wow we have it good, and the sport is clearly booming.  

Bellingham Bay Rough Water: After having the race cancelled due to gale conditions the race itself went off a week later with the exact opposite of conditions: glassy water, no wind and sunny warm skies. Despite a schedule conflict with another race, the turnout was solid with a lot of the region's paddlers eager to test their conditioning in a fast, tough race over 10 miles in Bellingham Bay. 

Note to self: Pre-race meetings are apparently a good idea to attend if you want to know where the finish line is. Photo by Michael Lampi. 

Note to self: Pre-race meetings are apparently a good idea to attend if you want to know where the finish line is. Photo by Michael Lampi. 

The race unfolded like many do when the conditions are flat, with an initial burst off the line and a hang-on-for-dear-life pace to the first buoy marker.

We have an incredible mix of paddlers in the PNW; from promising juniors, world record holders, national champions, Olympians and current pros to living icon's like Duncan Howatt, racing into his 70's and showing now sign of slowing down anytime soon. 

We have an incredible mix of paddlers in the PNW; from promising juniors, world record holders, national champions, Olympians and current pros to living icon's like Duncan Howatt, racing into his 70's and showing now sign of slowing down anytime soon. 

Our initial mix involved two fast double skis, Kirk Christiansen, Brandon Nelson, and myself with Jeff Maloney chasing hard. The double ski's were powered by Joost Jeegers / Paul Clement and Eric Wermus / Elana Ecker. Joost and Clement choose a slightly faster line to the buoy and put a touch more steam into the pace, with Brandon and I happy to have their wash.

After the initial turn, the hammer came down and myself and Joost / Clement got a small gap that grew over the next mile to become about a minute on the chase pack led by Wermus / Ecker with Kirk and Brandon in tow, and Jeff Maloney just out of reach behind them. 

Jeff Maloney doing well to stay in contact despite being no-man's land with no wash to ride or pace to share. 

Jeff Maloney doing well to stay in contact despite being no-man's land with no wash to ride or pace to share. 

I traded a few pulls with Joost and Clement, and we worked to keep the pace in the low to mid 8mph range. Our gap grew with the hot pace, until the final couple of mile's when the double team offered up some testing accelerations.  

In a race that is in the 10 mile range or longer, it's impossible to think that you'll go full tilt the entire distance the way you might in a 10k race (6.2 miles). You simply can't, so planning for brutal over-max intervals and then using threshold intervals to manage your reserves carefully is key to getting the timing right to make your best move really count... but not letting the pace drop too much to let other's back into contention. In other words, you have to find a way to turn a ten mile race into a three or four mile race. 

The Epic V14 GT has been a dream ride, and offers tremendous advantage when it comes to making or managing tough accelerations. 

I decided to hang tight and wait to make my move in the last kilometer to the finish. I gave it all I had and managed to get a small gap on the Joost / Clement which I held on to until the finish for the win. Having missed the race meeting, I was a bit unsure of where the finish line was but won the race none-the-less. Note to self: finish what you start. Wermus / Ecker were the next boat in, with Kirk Christiansen the next single ski followed by Brandon Nelson, and Jeff Maloney rounding out the front pack. 

   

Comment

Invite Only Racing?

Comment

Invite Only Racing?

We are at an interesting intersection of the sport at present. Tremendous growth, new paddlers turning up all the time, and race organizers who are caught in the middle trying to ensure the safety of new paddlers and gratify the desires of the experts. This has been an ongoing issue for us in the PNW, and was brought up once again this weekend with the cancellation of the Bellingham Bay Rough Water race due to high winds. 

In particular, what is just right for some paddlers is an absolute no-go for others, and attempting to have a race that appeals to such a broad spectrum in talent and ability ends up reducing racing to accommodate the lowest common denominator or caters to the interests of the elites, which ultimately lessons the potential of the sport on both ends of said spectrum. No one really wins. Newer paddlers are far more likely to push their limits in a race setting than on a casual training paddle with a feeling that the safety boat has their back. When I started racing a few years ago, I know I did. Or, the expert paddlers will simply stop coming to yet another flat water lap fest, as I have also been tempted to do. Race venues like the Gorge Downwind Championships and the Canadian Surf Ski Championships offer much to both groups and everyone on the journey in between, which is a remarkable accomplishment in the age of attorney dictated race courses and participation medals. These are legitimate races that attract top tier talent from around the world in inspiring locations and with spirited conditions. 

As we continue to grow the sport, at some point it may make sense to go the path of cycling's USA Cycling category system and form a governing body to help with organization, insurance and athlete ranking and appropriate even participation. 

Below is another possible take that is remarkably similar to where the sport started in the first place: invite only events that are extremely limited in their nature. Just a core group of proven, solid paddlers duking it out for bragging rights over beers at the end of the day in extraordinary conditions. Less rules. Less Liability. Less money. Way more fun. 



Comment

Turning On the Off Season

Comment

Turning On the Off Season

As the surfski racing year winds down the warm, the dry and long days of summer mutate to become the cold, wet, blunt instruments of winter. It's the off-season. A welcome break from the long hours of training, hard racing and many self-indulgent sacrifices athletes of all types make to pursue the fantasy that is sport. It's time to kick back, rest up and crack a few cold ones. Or is it?

I recently took the opportunity to ask a few top athletes and coaches that I respect about how they view the off season. Here are some of the insights they shared with me. 

1. The numbers don't lie. 

It's understandable to feel tired and a bit burnt out this time of year. That's your body turning on fuel light to let you know that yeah, you're pretty tired and it's time to get some long overdue rest.

While that might sound obvious, for many competitive athletes who have become acclimated to making steady progress, the temptation can be to not let off the gas peddle at all lest you loose ground. In my mind, the thought sometimes goes like this: "I worked so hard to get to this point, no way am I going to ease up now. Maybe if keep hammering I get a little bit faster?" 

The very nature of the physiological response to conditioning makes this impossible. The tear down and rebuild cycle required to enable and sustain development mandates a cycle of stress and rest. It's true on a weekly, monthly and seasonal basis. Put another way, there are no peaks without valleys. Try to stay on the peak too long, and you'll fall off. And if you aren't seeing peaks, then you're on a plateau. Factor in the psychological demands of training and racing, and maintaining perspective on how you're actually doing is a slippery slope indeed. 

A practical example would be that when I am in my surfski, my natural impulse is to GO AS FAST AS I CAN AS LONG AS I CAN!  Like a dog chasing the ball, it's exactly the behavior the surfski is designed to reward. 

But the numbers tell another story; one of diminishing returns. In the last two weeks, I've recorded a gradual fall-off in my 1000 meter times, and my heart rate numbers also indicate a season's worth of stress catching up to me. I am working ever harder and going slower.

Photo by David Schramm

"When I do go and hit a few hard sessions, I can only benefit from a training session as much as I am able to do it to its full potential. So even if you are only doing 3-4 sessions a week, if you smash the first one and don't recover enough to do the second or third one properly then it’s pointless. You have to learn to listen to your body. So when I start a session and I can feel that i am not getting out of it what the actual session is designed for, then I back off immediately and do something else. Similarly, I can feel when its time do some really hard intervals as opposed to an easy paddle." -Dawid Mocke

Push until broken. 

Another indicator that your in need of rest is when the "MORE!" button stops working. Like a lab rat with a bad cocaine habit, the more button is the one you push when you need to dig deep in a race to make a key move or stay within reach of a much faster competitor. When the more button stops responding, it's a clear sign that you're not adequately recovering between workouts. If you are not recovering, you're overtraining and it's time to think strategically about how your utilizing your time between workouts. 

2. The great must first get good at rest. 

The basics of rest are obvious. We need it in order to recover. No rest, no recovery. Know rest, know recovery. But it is also the word "rest" is easily misunderstood to mean "doing nothing". If you think of rest as a purposeful discipline, then it becomes possible to get good at it. 

Good recovery is rooted in the fundamentals of sleep, nutrition, hydration and your mental well being. For us weekend-warrior-family-types with delusions of greatness (or my case, fastness), the mental wellbeing aspect is often to key to a good recovery. 

The commitments to work, family and friends pile up fast. We're stretched thin, and ordinary days can become loaded down with too much "extra" as everything blends together and sets off a chain reaction that negatively impacts my sleep, nutrition and hydration regimens. By creating boundaries for each commitment, I am better able to prevent the hot mess of life-soup from boiling over and randomizing my life. 

This principal is known as containment, and is founded in your personal ability to create boundaries in your life by letting your "yes mean YES", and "no mean NO". Containment facilitates focus, and focus allows you to "be where your feet are" in life to get the most out of every opportunity. 

3. Every strength is a response to weakness. 

The temptation in the off-season is to focus on improving your strengths, but it's actually the perfect time to work on your weaknesses as well. If you think of your season as one very long race, it's in your best interest to make sure you start your next season with a full tank and the fundamentals of being fast firmly ironed out. 

The off-season presents a unique opportunity to examine and improve on these fundamentals that your season will be built on. To identify the fundamentals, I use a matrix from the business world called a SWOT analysis. 

STRENGTHS: List and rank (on a scale of 1 to 5) each of your natural attributes. Examples of strengths: mental toughness, balance, power, endurance, speed, recovery etc.

WEAKNESSES: List and rank each of your natural weaknesses. Examples: Training, Discipline, Recovery, Balance, Speed, etc. 

OPPORTUNITIES: List and rank each area where you believe you would benefit most from seeing improvement (based on the strengths and weaknesses listed above). 

THREATS:  List and rank those things that might impair, interfere or end your season. Example: Injury, Illness, Work or relocation to a North Korean labor camp. 

At the end of the scoring, circle those items that have the most equity and liability. This is also a handy exercise to do with your coach or a training partner for more perspective. If used wisely, the SWOT analysis can be a fairly simple way to dimensionalize and better understand the areas that most need improvement without conflating them as you identify your key objectives for the next year.

It’s one thing to say you want to do well or win a certain race, its another thing entirely to put a systematic plan in place to do so. In the end, you may not succeed as you intended, but at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you gave it your best shot and made progress attempting it.  

Comment