The first two articles from this training series were written by competitive racers:
Carter Johnson and West Hansen. Dawn Stewart, known as SandyBottom in WaterTribe represents a cruiser approach. She has completed three WaterTribe Everglades Challenges in a sea kayak and the 1200 mile Ultimate Florida Challenge in a Kruger's Dreamcatcher canoe.
Dawn is maintaining a great blog SandyBottom's Sea Kayaking and Kruger Paddling Adventures together with a training diary. Here are her tips for training for paddle races.
First, you need to decide on your intentions; racer wanting to win or place, or, cruiser wanting the challenge and adventure. Both require a good deal of competitiveness; one is directed against others the other is personal. Each of these goals requires a somewhat different training approach. Since I am a cruiser, I can really only speak to this aspect of distance paddle races.
Second do your research and create a training plan from start to finish. There’s a lot of training information out there, talk to others who have completed your race, many races now include forums on their websites. Most all distance endurance training plans can be adapted to paddling events, as they all address strength, core, cardio, speed, flexibility, and endurance work. It is important to understand what each offers so you can customize these elements into a plan that fits your needs and interests. I write out a detailed weekly schedule and I maintain a log and journal (I’m the kind of person who loves to check off lists). Your training plan has got to realistic and work in your life, but must also be flexible. You are going to have good and bad days, and missed training days.
My training as a cruiser is a real mix of activities I enjoy including walking/jogging, biking, swimming, and yoga during the week, then lots of paddling on the weekends. I also include short term goals to keep me motivated, often registering for races and events during my training, like a triathlon or bike race. I race to train, and approach these races as social events so they do not hurt my training or risk overtraining.
Become skilled in your sport; know your comfort levels and limitations. Your training should include skill building, rescue practice, and simulation. Train at night, train solo, train in conditions similar to what is expected in the big event. It’s not enough to be a strong and/or fast paddler. Conditions change during long distance events requiring you to have expert skills under adverse weather conditions, and to make quick life threatening decisions when physically and mentally challenged.
Include preparation and training with gear and food. I incorporate simulation weekends prior to the race. I experiment with gear that is comfortable and easy to use. I practice packing the boat, and then paddle with a fully loaded boat on my last long training paddles. I also experiment with food preferences during training, the race is not the time to find out something doesn’t sit will in your stomach. Even as a cruiser, at 54 years, I find that primarily a liquid diet (accelerade and ensure) during the day allows me the calories and nutrition I need without the heartburn. And I include small treats for rewards, such as a Reisen chocolate caramel chew for every bridge passed.
The mental challenge is as big, maybe even bigger than the physical. These events are tiring, they hurt, and they will test your mental and physical limits beyond what you could have imagined. Expect the physical challenge, then use your mental strength to overcome the physical barriers. Excluding injury, I believe that those participants who drop out or don’t do as well as expected did not do their mental and emotional training (or they were taken by surprise when someone like Carter Johnson showed up :-) ). Throughout my training I constantly visualize my success in the race, I mentally work through problems and hardships and always envision successful solutions and endings. I always see myself finishing an event. Sometimes I even see myself winning...
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