Thursday, 28 October 2010

New boat - Kirton Mystere

Ad and I have been paddling most mornings and all-in-all, it's gone very well. Due to reasons beyond our control we have got back into the Discovery as the K1's we have been paddling have not been available. All we have been doing is a quick 45 minute paddle each morning focussing purely on technique. Ad has got really comfortable in the Disco so it seemed time to move up a step an get into a wobblier boat, so today we went out for our first paddle in a Kirton Mystere. The first thing that was noticeable was how much more space Adam had in the back cockpit and the seats were a lot lower which would help lower our centre of gravity.  The steering was also a lot lighter and more responsive which made my work considerably easier as we ploughed between Walton and Sunbury.We had a couple of wobbles as we pushed out but we put down some splash supports and once we got going the boat felt very stable and by the end of the 45 minutes we had stayed dry and it was another massive feather in Adam's cap. What was also noticeable was the fact that our lean seemed to have cured itself in this boat. I cannot say why but we think that a big part of it is our con=mbined core strength (or lack of!)

We still need to try to sort out our own boat for the race and Mystere's and Marsport Condor's second hand are as rare as rocking horse poo so we might have some problem getting hold of one. For now, we've got a club boat we can train in and we potentially have an exciting development which will hopefully come to fruition in the next week or so. In the meantime, I'm off to get my swiss ball out the garage.

Monday, 25 October 2010


Last week was a good week. September had been a month of me trying to ignore the fact that my achilles does not want to play ball as far as attempting running a marathon is concerned and it's taken me a while to reconcile that fact but from that I have managed to focus on the other things that I need to be doing, completing a solid 14 hours this week. A few months ago I bought a heart rate monitor with the intention of using heart rate zones to inform my training more accurately instead of my usual, 'That feels like the right pace / tempo / cadence' etc. I learnt a lesson about buying second hand goods off the internet the hard way when the monitor turned up intact but with the operating instructions in French. :-/   It then took me the best part of six weeks to finally get it synched up so that I could actually download the data to my laptop and analyse what I was seeing. Doh... So this week I started the process of collecting some data by doing a CP20 test on the turbo as described in Joe Friel's book, 'Going Long'. Basically, the protocol was to warm up for 10 minutes and then hammer the pedals for 30 minutes as hard as I could, recording my heart rate for the duration. The average heart rate that I would achieve for the final 20 minutes would give me my lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR), my heart rate where, in rough terms, my body stops using fat as its primary energy source (lots of it but harder for the body to utilise) and begins using glycogen, which is stored in the muscles (easy to utilise but not much of it). The trick is to find that spot which allows a triathlete to be at the top of their aerobic zone, burning fat, without straying into their anaerobic zone which is where glycogen starts to be burned and the resulting by-product of lactic acid being produced which causes fatigue. The test was hard; really hard. My legs found it increasingly more difficult to maintain the cadence that had seemed relatively easy minutes before while my heart rate took a long time to begin to climb. When I hit the stop button and looked at the results I found that my average heart rate (AHR) was a relatively low 148bpm. This may seem like a good thing. When running, 148 would be a slow jog so would it not be the same when cycling? Errr, no.  The results prove (I think) what I already know; my key limiter is muscular endurance, i.e. the power that my legs can produce is so low that my heart rate is not actually able to climb very high. The legs are giving out well before the lungs. So it seems that I need to keep working at this threshold level in order to improve this over the winter and find a way to develop more power. Not easy for a weedy runner with weak ankles.  :-/

I have also completed a swim tt as part of the winterswim challenge which I will be using to give me some swimming targets over the coming months. (6.39mins / RPE8 so more to come). Swimming at Hampton Pool has been great fun, it's a really nice environment to swim in, apart from the old lady doing a simultaneous arm back stroke with breast kick; strange.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Happy holidays

I had an absolute blast yesterday. It's been a good few weeks since I have got out for a long ride and with the weather perking up a bit, the kids at school and me on holiday I found myself with a couple of hours to spare. I was a bit worried about it because I have only been doing my commute rides with a turbo session once per week doing some threshold intervals so I felt that I had probably lost some aerobic endurance over the last month. During my commute rides I have been working very hard as well, at a rough guess I would say that I try to go at slightly sub-olympic distance pace, so definitely not dawdling, but at only 20 minutes in duration it seemed that this would not really be enough to maintain my bike fitness. I was only planning to do 2 hours but I soon found myself enjoying the hills around Dorking, sprinting up  them and revelling in the quiet and, for once dry roads that allowed me to stay off the brakes on the descents. The only problem was that I suddenly found myself still on the wrong side of Dorking and I was meant to be at home in 40 minutes time so I ended up getting my head down and time trialling home. 3 hours on the watch :-) I had only taken water with me as I intend to limit my calorie intake during these rides in order to stop me relying on sports drinks to see me to the end of the session and promote fat burning. I was pleased that I felt pretty fresh and strong at the end despite the lack of bike volume.
Swimming is improving and becoming more regular (couldn't really have become any more irregular!) I did my first 400m tt in a very long time (6.39 :-/ plenty of room for improvement) and this morning I completed another 1 hour set at Hampton. I am purely focussing on the catch phase and stroke length at the moment, slowing everything down and extending my  stroke as much as possible without over-gliding. I am going to do one more 400m tt as part of the #winterswim program and see if I can duck under 6.30 in the next 2 weeks.
Running's been 4 x 30 minute runs last week and will be much the same this week. Can't see me doing any speedwork for quite a while.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Wobble Factor Part 2

This clip (not me and Adam) shows what I mean by The wobble Factor and how important it is to select a boat that you are comfortable in. I am not sure if these chaps made it in the DW, but I really hope so.

Friday, 15 October 2010

The Wobble Factor

Another paddle last night and it's been a bit of a make or break time with the sudden drop in air temperature meaning that the prospect of either Adam or I capsizing could prove very uncomfortable. It was also important for Ad to start feeling that things were improving and he was getting to grips with his K1. I felt it was important that we tried to take the difficult he had with steering out of the equation so that he would just be concentrating only on stability and stroke technique and the best way to do that was for him to stop paddling if he was straying off course and stern rudder the boat back into line, then start again.

We got to the boathouse to find the K1 I normally use unserviceable, so I decided to take out a Marsport Hobby and we had a good look at the control wires and found the nut holding the main pulley loose which was causing the rudder to slip; almost definitely not helping Ad's steering issues. We put in at Sunbury and as I edged the hobby out as I waited for Ad to follow me in.

"Ooh, this is a bit more ti...."

The rest of the word 'tippy' was said underwater as I over-corrected a wobble and was plunged into the water. Thankfully it was not too cold but as usual I started shivering pretty much straight away. :-( I didn't want to hang about so got back in (watched by another 2 bored fishermen) and bashed quickly up to Sunbury to portage into the cut. The boat was considerably more responsive than the expedition that I had been using and rolled a lot more easily so I had to really concentrate on my stroke ensuring that I was pressing firmly on the footbar. It felt faster but I had to hold back to ensure that I didn't take another swim. Ad was looking a lot more comfortable and before long we were ploughing up and down the cut, not doing intervals but just really concentrating on a high straight lead arm and good entry and paddle exit. After an hour I was getting cold as I was still ringing wet and I followed Ad back home. He had cracked the steering completely; it seemed that a lot of the problems he had been having was this loose nut on the rudder assembly. I think we can say that he's well and truly cracked this paddling malarkey.

When I went home I googled the Hobby K1 to find out what its wobble factor was. Racing kayaks are given a wobble factor to ascertain how easy they are to keep upright. Generally, the thinner, faster hulls are more unstable (wobble factor 1; like trying to balance on a wire) while at the other end of the scale is wobble factor 10 (like the Discovery we did the DW in; only a direct hit from a battle cruiser's going to turn that thing over). Most of the popular DW boats, like the Condor, Toucan and mystere etc are in the range 5 to 8 in order that the crews can have a stable boat in the sometimes tricky conditions that are encountered. There is little point in having a 'fast' boat if it is virtually impossible for the crew to stay the right way up so there is a balance (pun intended) between stability and speed. Anyway, I was expecting a wobble factor of 5 or 6 for the Hobby only to find, rather disconcertingly that it was an 8! Nay bother, it was really good for me to have to concentrate a bit more and it will help me smooth out the bumps.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Lost weekend

A song by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions if I recall correctly? Really showing my age now. ;-)

I would like to report some big numbers in my training hours but I would be lying. All week I have felt under the weather. For most of it I have been able to get out and train but not with any enthusiasm even though I have my brand new spreadsheet detailing the sessions that I should be doing. It came to a head on Saturday when I had a headache all day and just couldn't keep my eyes open, so ended up taking myself off to bed at 7.30. I slept like the dead and woke up to go for an early morning paddle with Adam. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) he had a sickness bug for the previous 48 hours so he text me to say that he was going to cry off. I crawled back into bed and didn't resurface until 10.30, which is absolutely unheard of for me. I spent the rest of the day being broody, annoyed and frustrated that I could not get out to catch the last of the autumn sunshine to do something, but at the same time I was feeling so wretched that I didn't have the energy to do anything anyway. By the evening I had perked up a little and did an easy hour on the turbo by the light of my headtorch suspended from the ceiling; utterly soul destroying.
I am back running again, but only very defensively. I am trying the 'little and often' approach which means runs of no more than 30 minutes, no speedwork and lots of stretching. I really am getting frustrated by all of this. I enjoy running so much but it's becoming hard to stay motivated when I cannot really get my teeth stuck into running fast, doing fartlek, intervals, hill reps; all the stuff that I really enjoy. I've just got to suck it up and get on with it at the moment and I guess it beats not running at all
Adam and I have enjoyed another paddle last night, out in K1's again. The conditions were much more tricky with a gusty easterly wind which threw up quite a bit of chop on the water. The highlight was Adam's capsize which resulted in me having to climb out my K1 at a very high bank in order to then lift both boats and him out. A fisherman sitting 10 meters away said "Ooh, I'm sorry you went in." Obviously not sorry enough to actually get up and help though.
We were concentrating purely on technique again with me following Adam as he paddled around the Sunbury weir stream, followed by a half hour run afterwards. He's still quite frustrated at his progress but I think that he's doing really well. Controlling a K1 is quite a black art and it just takes practice and it's not helped by the fact that he's trying to master it at night, with very little visual references to help him with his stability. I remember when I was trying to control a K1 and K2 for the first time and it's so unresponsive that it takes a lot of getting used to. I still remember taking most of the paintwork off the side of our Discovery when I smacked into the side of the Savernake tunnel during the Waterside D and it felt that the boat was in control of me and not the other way round.
Thankfully, those days are now behind me.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

K1 carnage

So we have been having problems with a lean that has been causing us to capsize and therefore it was time to get in a K1 so that Ad could work on his stability and technique independently. Sometimes, it can be the position of the seat that can cause a lean if it has shifted out of line, but it was obvious that was not the case so we have decided to spend the next 2 weeks or so solely in K1's, working on technique. I know that my paddling technique is far from perfect so it was going to be good for me to spend some time doing some drills and smoothing out the bumps.

The focus was going to be on Ad's paddle entry and exit and keeping his hips relaxed. On previous paddles we had worked on keeping a straight, high arm so now it was time to think about getting the blade in near the hull at a good, steep angle and then ensuring that the paddle came out at the hips. I figured that if these two points could be improved, particularly the exit then he would be much less likely to tip in.

We started again by doing some bracing in the shallows just to give Ad a fighting chance should he start to roll before paddling down to portage at Sunbury and Ad was maintaining a high stroke and was looking comfortable. His steering was interesting, but then I spent more time hitting the banks than in the water this time last year; now was not the time to worry too much about keeping a straight line. ;-)

We spent a good hour plodding up and down the Sunbury lock cut, Adam leading, me either following behind or alongside, watching his stroke. He went over quite a few times but kept at it and by the end, things were improving. It was good for him to feel his own stroke without me compensating and he felt that he was pulling harder on the left rather than the right. It was interesting to note that he was going over on the left most of the time (the same as was happened when we were in the Discovery) and therefore it will be worth focusing on how his stroke is working on that side. I'll get a video camera on him at some point so that we can have a really good look at what's going on.

At the moment, it's a little bit academic anyway as we have just found out this week that we will not have a club boat for the DW. :-( We have a couple of irons in the fire in order to get our own and it will not stop us being able to get out and paddle in the meantime. Anyone got a mystere knocking about?

I have to say, Ad was really plucky and stuck at it. He's very stubborn and will not be beaten by a piece of glass reinforced plastic and remained positive even though the session did not go as well as he had planned. I felt bad because at times I thought I was giving him too much to think about and overloading him. I know it's only a matter of time before he cracks it and then we can get down to some serious training. We just need to keep getting onto the water.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

2 steps forward; one step back

Adam and I ventured out for our first paddle in daylight and while the wind had picked up and here was a little more flow around the conditions seemed pretty good. A quick portage over Sunbury and we bashed our way up towards Walton Bridge fairly uneventfully. I had left my usual boat shoes at home in my early morning stupor so had to try and steer while wearing crocs; not exactly ideal and I was finding it harder than usual in the slightly increased flow. Despite that, we made it into the Desborough cut feeling good, passing a few rowers and enjoying the scenery. It was then that we took a swim completely out the blue :-( After emptying the boat we got back in only to be swimming again 30 seconds later. That was it, confidence completely shot, we plodded back to Sunbury with the wind rising all the time.

Basically, we have a lean problem and we are going to need to do some work to correct this, probably by going out in the K1 boats a lot more. I am leaning right to compensate for Adam and as soon as I straighten up we are rolling to the left. It seems to get worse the more tired we get so coupled with some core strength work we should be able to sort it. Thankfully the water was not too cold but it will not be so funny in a few weeks time.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Good news, good swim, great paddle.

Important stuff first. After scaring the begeezus out of us I'm really pleased that my mother's back at home and on the mend. Last week and the start of this week was not good and she's still got a lot of recovering to do but she's now in her own house and getting some decent sleep.

Cycling has been more commuting with most of it being at Olympic bike pace (ish) and I manged to extend my ride on Tuesday evening so that I ended up cycling to Hampton Court before gunning it back home.

Wednesday became swim night. :-) My focus over the next three months is going to be focussed purely on technique, concentrating on the drills that I can execute fairly well. The problem with doing drills on your own is of course, that you cannot actually see what you are doing and therefore it's fairly difficult to be able to correct your errors which is the whole point of doing drills. Somewhat a catch 22. :-/ That is where the club swim sessions will come into play, with the swim coaches there giving me things to work on. To make them easy, I have designed most of my sessions in 100 metre blocks, so for example wednesday's main set looked like this;

4 x 100 as 25 catch up / 25 finger drag / 25 catch up / 25 finger drag

4 x 100 as stroke counting, working on stroke extension (averaging 21 / 22 spl) :-(

4 x 100 as 25 catch up / 25 full stroke / 25 catch up / 25 full stroke

4 x 100 as 25 catch up / 25 finger drag / 25 catch up / 25 finger drag

So lot of short reps without trying to batter myself, although it was getting tough by the end. I was not happy with the stroke counting and should be comfortably down in the 17 / 18 strokes per length but as this is my first session in eight weeks I cannot really moan too much.

It's my catch that needs the most work at the moment. I am not cranking my arm and getting my forearm paddle working so the front part of the stroke is a dead spot, developing very little propulsion.

Running is non-existent. The Luton Marathon will not be happening as my achilles will not take the punishment of a full marathon program but I am hopeful that I will be able to get some halves in before the new year.

Adam and I paddled last night and it was our best one yet, with a strong tempo paddle from Sunbury to Walton and back. A big milestone for Adam in particular as he was feeling really relaxed and the boat was running a lot more smoothly.

It's time to put the Van Nic on the turbo tonight and start working up to some threshold intervals. Nice......