Wednesday July 5th 2017
Appropriate hydration and fueling is critical for race performance especially as the length of race increases. Nothing can derail your race quicker than dehydration, cramps or the dreaded 'bonking' when your body runs out of fuel. Proper race day nutrition starts well before race day. In the days leading up to a race it's important to make sure that you're well hydrated and that you are eating lots of healthy foods with a focus on making sure you are getting lots of complex carbohydrates.
On race day make sure to start your day with a healthy breakfast. Don't try new foods on race day; it is always best to try to eat food that your body is used to and that you have trained on. A lot of paddlers experience nervousness on race day which can lead to digestive issues so best to stick with simpler/blander foods if that applies to you.
During the race you will need to make sure that you take in enough fluids, electrolytes, and fuel. Your required water intake will depend significantly on the weather conditions as you'll use more on a hot day. For a warm summer day a good rule of thumb is that you'll use around one litre of water per hour. It's unlikely you're body will be able to process more water than that so there is no need to take in more. Generally you can trust your body to tell you if you need fluid. If you feel thirsty, you are likely getting dehydrated so take in more fluid. In addition to fluid you need to consider your electrolyte needs. The most common side effect of electrolyte deficiency is muscle cramping. There are many commercially available electrolyte products. In general, look for one that contains a number of electrolytes, not just sodium. The choice to include electrolytes in your fluid or to take them separately as capsules is something to consider, but most paddlers will have some in their drink and carry some backup capsules in case of cramping.
Fueling is a very complex topic, but the most important point is that you should practice taking in calories during training to find out what does and does not work for you. Trying out a new fuel on race day is never a good idea. There are lots of products available including gels, bars, blocks, powders to mix in your drink, etc. that you can try out to see what works. It's worth noting that you will almost certainly burn more calories during the race than you can intake. In most cases your body will not be able to process more than 250-300 calories per hour so there is no benefit to intake more than that. Some paddlers prefer to eat more solid food while others like to get their calories as part of their drink. There are pros and cons of each approach. There are really no right or wrong answers as long as you find a method that works for your body.
Wednesday June 28th 2017
Buoy turns are places in a race where you can gain or lose ground significantly. Learning how to execute a turn efficiently is an essential marathon paddling skill.
For buoy turns, the bow paddler needs to place a "post" in the water around which the boat will turn. This is either a post, or a crossbow post depending on which side the bow person is paddling on.
When placing a post in the water, make sure the blade is solid and not slipping. It should stay in a fixed position relative to the boat, and it shouldn't feel like its slowing the boat down too much. Adjust the angle of the paddle blade subtly as needed. The bow paddler doesn't have an easy job here - they need to do all of this while allowing the boat to lean away from their paddle side, which feels very awkward.
When approaching a buoy, don't take too close a line to it. Come in a bit wide; its's a lot easier to clear it properly especially if you are headed upstream. Lean the boat to initiate the turn, then move to sides to accelerate the arc. Turn tightly around the bow paddler's post and then accelerate out of the turn.
Wednesday June 21st 2017
When a wave travels from deep water to shallow water, the friction of the wave on the bottom causes it to slow down. This results in a shorter wavelength and a higher wave.
When the water is more than 2 feet deep but shallow enough to affect waves, it’s called suck water (among other names). It feels heavy and difficult to paddle through. There’s nothing much you can do but try to keep the boat speed up and get through it.
When the water is shallower than 2 feet you can surf your own wave. This is called “popping” the boat. Put some speed on before you hit the shallows and you will feel your stern rise up and the boat speed suddenly increase and feel easier. You can really fly with your boat popped up and it’s one of the reasons you want to be the first boat to the shallows.
What happens when you approach shallows and are riding another boat? Your “sweet spot” gets shorter, so you have to be more precise about where you are on the wave. And because the waves are higher, it’s a more intense ride that can quickly go wrong if you aren’t in the right spot.
Surprisingly, the right spot to be is sometimes farther back on the side wash than you would think. Watch the waves, feel the boat, and you’ll learn where you need to be.
Wednesday June 14th 2017
Understanding how water flows down a river channel gives you a great advantage in paddling. Current can hinder or help you whether you are going downstream or upstream. If you know how to use the current and riverbed topography to your advantage you will be a far more efficient paddler and racer.
Simply put, when paddling downstream you want to be in the fastest navigable current and when paddling upstream you want to be close to shore where the current has the least effect against your boat.
Understand ferrying, front and back. Ferrying is moving across the current by using the force of the current to push your bow or stern. If you angle your boat to the current, it will push it towards that side. This is an excellent skill to practice, both forward and backward, and requires both paddlers to maintain the correct angle to the current.
A meandering river has a predictable pattern. In the absence of complicating factors, the current will be fastest on the outside of curves. On the inside where the current is slowest you should find the shallowest parts of the river. When paddling downstream you need to determine which is the best route: staying wide in the current or cutting the shallow corners. Often popping your boat up in the shallows is the quickest route but it depends on how much energy you have to spare, how big the corner is, and if/how you are traveling in a pack.
As the current moves around corners eddies are created. These are areas of dead water or water flowing upstream. Often there is a clear eddy-line which is where many boats tip due to the unpredictable forces of the current. You can use eddies to pull you upstream more quickly, dump boats off your wash and other fun things. When crossing strong eddy lines you may need to lean the boat downstream to present more hull to the current so it doesn’t pull the boat right over.
Almost every river has obstacles. Watch the water: if you see waves that stay in one place, they may indicate a rock or log under the water. Shallow corners can be dangerous if there is any debris in the water. Anywhere there is an obstacle the current will be affected: watch where the water is going and use it to your advantage.
Unless you live on the wild side, don’t pass boats on the inside when going upstream. Their wave can drive you straight into the shore. This is worst on shallow corners when you think you’ve got a good chance to fly by on their side wave and suddenly find your boat nose-deep in the riverbank!
Wednesday June 7th 2017
When a boat travels through the water it creates waves. Another boat can ride, or surf, these waves. It gives the riding boat a boost. There are two places to ride another boat: on the side wash and on the stern wash.
Side wash is the best ride if conditions are right. It is also safest: if you fall off the side wave you can always catch the stern and maintain contact with the lead boat.
Ideally you want your boat about 3-4 feet away from the lead boat when riding side and a about a third of the way behind. (You can think of being in a vehicle’s blind spot.) However these are very rough guidelines – you really need to see and feel the waves to ride wash effectively!
The wave will change depending on wind, water depth, the course of the other boat, etc., so don’t rely on a formula – aim to develop your understanding and feel of the waves and how they affect your boat.
If you are too far forward on the side wash, the bow wave will drive both bows away from each other. This is frustrating for both boats. If you are too far back on the wash you may find your bow getting sucked in to the lead boat, which can be difficult to fight. The key in this situation is more speed (if you have it!) to get back up to the sweet spot on the wave.
Shallows change the wave and will affect how you ride wash. ...for a future lesson!
Riding stern, try to keep the nose of your boat close to the lead boat and within the V of turbulent water created behind the lead boat’s stern. The best ride is on the first stern wave, but you can still ride the stern waves behind it; they just get weaker and weaker. Anticipate the lead boat’s direction and use small leans instead of larger correction strokes. If you have a train of boats, nobody likes playing whiplash!
To ride both stern and side wash, both paddlers need to work together. The stern paddler’s job is to put the boat generally in the right spot; the bow paddler makes fine adjustments to the boat direction and also controls how far up or back the boat is on the lead boat.