Kayaking for Beginners: Plan B

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The adventure continues.

Plan B

A white kayak.

In terms of ability I am way behind where I thought that I should be by now. Right from the start I had assumed a gradual build up over the course of a year to the race at this coming Easter, but what with one thing and another that just hasn't happened. Time is now short and I really don't need any further interruptions to training if I‘m going to stand any chance of making it to the start line.

What I'm now going to have to do is to try to condense six months work into four and get some solid work in with longer mileage trips. Luckily I've found a useful book that records the training efforts of two overnighter entrants in the 2010 event and their schedule which contains some great hints and tips. They managed a very creditable sub 24 hours on just four months training from scratch. Although some of their individual journey mileages are prodigious, and they seem to have taken some hair-raising risks on ice-bound canals and on a heavy flowing Thames throughout the winter. Nevertheless I think that I can adapt their schedule to my purposes for the four-day event.

My first target is to get up to a similar mileage that they managed for the month and a non-stop paddle of ten miles by the end of December. Their mileage for that month was 35 miles with a longest paddle of thirteen miles. At the moment I'm on track to equal the overall mileage, but I don't need a long paddle of thirteen miles at the moment. I'll settle for ten. With that end in view I've used the mostly quite reasonable weather so far this month to get back to where I was before the last couple of months enforced lay-offs. The best I managed back then was a five mile paddle in September which included two or three rests and a capsize. I can really do without the capsizes too.

I've been on a bit of a roll this last week, having been able to get out for three sessions on the Wey while the Thames still has its red warning boards up. The first session on Monday went reasonably well considering that I was coming back from almost a fortnights lay off. The weather forecast for the rest of the week was quite reasonable, bright but cold, with only the odd shower likely. Taking this at face value I allowed a day for recovery and pencilled in the Wednesday for the next session. Tuesday, which I used as a rest day, was as near a perfect December day as anyone could have wished for. It was bright, sunny, clear but cold, and without a hint of any adverse conditions having been forecast, not even rain.

On opening the curtains early on Wednesday morning I was confronted by a white wilderness. It was snowing!

By all the news reports this seemed to have caught most of the country napping. Certainly no one had thought it necessary to grit the roads and of course early morning traffic in my neck of the woods had compacted the snow on the roads to ice making them treacherous to use. Luckily though, the temperature was rising and by lunchtime the snow had stopped and the ice was melting. By the afternoon the grit lorries had been out I had loaded the boat and was preparing to chance my arm down to the Wey. I made it onto the water by about three-thirty, getting in from a muddy and snow covered bank.

By this time the sun was low and heading for the horizon. Unfortunately it was filtering through the trees and reflecting off the water dead ahead of me so that at times I couldn't see in front of the boat. Nevertheless, in the shaded parts it was quite beautiful in a sort of warm, rosy glow kind of way. The paddling was quite successful and I didn't manage too many poor strokes setting me off-balance. Also I was back to completing the stretch without stopping, and someone had also removed the abandoned kayak seen on the previous session.

During the off-days I've also been doing a lot more work on stretching the hamstrings and working the stomach and back muscles to try to alleviate their premature collapse at the end of each session. It seems to be paying off somewhat, or at least the repeated sessions are providing enough exercise in itself as the last session went without having to take a break for them. That's a bonus as up until now that's been the single most limiting factor on my endurance during the session.

After this outing I left another two days for recovery, partly as I had another previously arranged commitment for the Friday, so the next available day for a session was the Saturday. There weren't any surprises sprung by the weather this time and I was out again early that morning. Once again the day went well but the cumulative effect of three sessions in one week was beginning to tell on overworked joints and muscles. In particular, exiting the boat at the end of the session which remains woeful. My paddling action with the new paddle is still erratic, especially when tired, but, on the plus side, at one or two points the technique does seem to come together nicely. Just for a short time the paddle enters and exits the water cleanly and the boat‘s speed picks up, while at the same time it feels almost effortless. If only it was like that all the time. But most of the time it's just ugh!

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