Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Gotta have goals

December has been a rather slack month. In terms of swim (what's that?), bike and run I have been very much in recovery, doing sessions as and when, with very little in the way of any structure. It's no coincidence that with the major race on the horizon being the DW, that's where my focus has mainly been. The really good news for Adam and I is that there is now a small group of us who are preparing for the DW and who can meet up to go for a paddle. Last Monday was one such paddle with Adam and I being joined by Rob, who is hoping to crew up with someone for the race in 2013. It was a perfect night for a paddle; not cold, beautifully clear and with very little traffic on the river, except for an unusually large amount of geese and swans. Normally my high powered Petzl headtorch and a rather eccentric  high pitched squeal is enough to get them out of the way. As the three of us paddled up to Kingston Bridge in Laances I found myself plunging into a group of Geese, one of which ended up bouncing off the front of the boat. Thankfully, the combined mass of 85kilos or so of boat and paddler didn't seem to do any lasting damage and it honked noisily away into the air. As Adam and Rob chatted I kept on with my 3 stroke pause drill to accentuate the catch and was slowing the stroke down again. On the way back after we had looped around Raven's Ait I was passed by a rowing four; I was completely distracted by them and there followed an almighty clang and the K1 came to a complete standstill instantly. I had run straight into a  floating mooring, but instead of it being a lightweight plastic ball it was a floating metal beer barrel. Oh s##t!! A quick check revealed that the boat didn't have a scratch on it, let alone a hole, but with two collisions in one paddle, it was time to get off the river before I hit something more substantial, like a bridge, pontoon, floating home, fisherman etc. Once January hits though, Ad and I are going to have to start getting some solid miles in the boat. Technique focus is still really important but we will also have to get those two hour paddles in. I will have to build up my tolerance to Ad's sense of humour, extreme flatulence and generally rubbish jokes.

So as I said, December's been slack. I have lost fitness but I have done just enough to make the decline relatively small. More importantly, I feel ready to get back into some good quality training and one of the things that's going to help me with that is the Marathon Talk podcast's, #Jantastic campaign. Basically, you sign up to do a certain number of runs each week (in my case 5) and you accrue points for meeting it and lose them if you don't. There's no prizes to be won, but as I found with the TriTalk's  October of Running Challenge, it's enough to make me take that first step out of the door, which is always the hardest one. This will give me the impetus that I need to start my preparation towards the Edinburgh Marathon in May and a sub 3.10 time. In order to give me a triathlon goal I have entered the Cotswold113 half ironman. Slap bang in the middle of the season it should give me the springboard that I need to work towards an end of season Ironman. My feeling is that if I can get down to sub 5 hours at Cotswold then that will give me the base I need to realistically go sub 11 on a long course. Both big asks, but you've gotta have goals.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Seeing how it should be done

I spent an hour yesterday sorting out my paddles. I was galvanised into action by Adam receiving his shiny new blades a couple of weeks ago and I realised that I had never set my blades up properly. I had been given some basic advice along the lines of  "You should be able to grip the top of the paddle when they are standing up, but make them shorter than that for marathon paddling" and "reduce the feather angle" (from what, to what I wasn't exactly sure) . So, I stripped them down and started to muck about with them. I had always felt that they were rather too short, almost stopping me from getting my hands high enough, particularly the lead hand and I believed that extending them would allow me to ensure that I got my hands placed on the paddle correctly and I ended up extending them by 30mm. In order to help my rotation I increased the feather to 60 degrees as I had them set to a very shallow angle. My paddles had a large plastic locknut which had jammed on very tightly, this being one of the reasons why I had never reset them, so a copious amount of WD40 and a hefty pair of mole grips got it off, to be replaced by a jubilee clip that will now let me adjust them more easily and allow me to break them down for transportation instead of the kids having to climb over them in the car. My Kynysa paddles had a grip on them which I had been told by more than one experienced paddler I should get rid of, so a couple of minutes hacking at them with a stanley knife removed that, then to be followed by the addition of electrical tape on the shaft to show my optimum hand position (then to be covered up with pogees; doh.) At least now I can make some quick changes to them and find out if it will help my technique.

With that in mind, Adam and I went out in a couple of club Laances with Bob and we were joined by Laurence and Lesley who will also be doing the DW next year. It was the first time in the two and a half years that I have been paddling that someone has paddled alongside me and coached me on my technique and it made such a difference getting some simultaneous feedback from Bob. The main point that came of it was that I was leaning forward too much and not getting my torso upright. My lower back was quite tight and interestingly Bob asked me if I had problems with my hamstrings. Yep, they're a mess, so that's something I need to continue to work on. I worked on the catch again, doing the 3 stroke pause drill Bob had shown us on the ergos and I even had a go at a one sided drill to develop the catch further. I was a bit wobbly for that one but if I can master it then it will help me be more attacking during the catch and pull.

My paddles felt a lot better. I just felt like I was gripping the water more and applying more force and impulse to the boat; my hands were higher, although I still tend to cross the centreline, particularly with my right hand.

Adam looked so much better and more confident and we both probably got more out of that one hour of paddling than doing another 20 on our own. Despite it being a very cold night, paddling with others and genuinely feeling that we had made some real progress meant we came off the water happy and quite excited about the next few months training. Bob's being a star and is keen to keep paddling with us which is fantastic and will only help and improve our chances of success.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Ergo Drills

It was raining stairods tonight so Adam and I took the soft option and spent an hour on the ergos. I felt somewhat better than on Wednesday night and seemed to be getting a bit more rotation and generally felt  I was producing more power (all relative for a weedy little runner). I spent most of the second half trying to get my recovery elbow and hand in the correct position ready to 'spear a fish near my feet', as Bob was prompting us to do. I was almost, almost enjoying it at one point.

Adam's focussing on the whole hip rotation thing and like my efforts on Wednesday he was struggling to get one side forward and the other side back and was getting pretty hacked off with it. At least it's something we can work on at home.

Going to spend this week running and we have a paddle planned on Wednesday evening. Then, Christmas.  :-)

Phil - Many thanks for your extremely kind offer, but not at the moment. London to Brighton however......

Friday, 9 December 2011

Best hip forward

On Wednesday night I headed off to the Royal for a coached session on the kayak ergos. For some time, the Captain of the club, Bob, had been in contact to try to arrange a few sessions whereby he could look at Adam's and my technique, and finally I managed to get away in time for a session. Bob is one of those talented swines with broad shoulders and narrow hips who is just a natural and talented paddler (with a lot of hard work thrown in as well, I'm sure). he came second this year in the four day race in a stupidly fast time so I felt pretty confident that he'd be able to iron out a few bumps in my technique. Also in the session were a couple of relative newbies who are planning to do the DW next year and Stephen, the club President.

I had this idea that Bob would take one look at me on the ergo, give me a big thumbs up and congratulate me on the magnificent self-coached style that I had developed. Not for the first time do I find myself typing 'how wrong was I?'

I know about hip rotation and thought that I was pretty good with this; it turns out I'm not. The first thing that we sorted out was the angle of my legs in order to ensure that when pressing against the footbar my leg would almost straighten, but not quite. I had not realised how critical this is to the stroke and my hip rotation. What I was able to do was get one side of my hip back but I was really struggling to get the other side of my hip forwards. It was to frustrate me for the whole hour, with me instead rocking my torso to compensate.

We moved onto the catch and spearing the paddle at the correct angle by my feet. I have always known that my recovery arm has not been doing the right thing, but unfortunately I didn't really know what the right thing was, but it turns out my main wrong-doing is that I was bringing that arm through the stroke too quickly. So Bob got us doing a drill whereby we delayed at this point to get our hands in the correct position before we started the catch. For the whole session I tried to get my hips and recovery arm in the correct position and got increasingly frustrated at my ineptitude; everything felt out of synchronisation. Bob was very patient and was kind enough to say that he felt I had made progress but I am not sure that he believed it. I know I didn't. I went for a run afterwards. That requires very little thinking on my part. :-)

I have a LOT to work on.

Adam and I will be paddling in the Frank Luzmore race in January; a 12.5 mile paddle from Elmbridge down to the Royal at Teddington. I am quietly confident that we will be last.

In other news...
My triathlon season next year is in a state of disarray. My main race for next year was going to be the Outlaw but I did not get an entry in on time. With Christmas fast approaching I had to make the choice of presents for the kids or getting my entry paid. I quite like my family, so the thought of ending up being divorced because we had no money left because I had decided to spend in on 12 hours of fun was not appealling. But what now? To be honest, I have not got a clue. Challenge Henley falls on a bad weekend, and Ironman Wales, while being a race I would really enjoy seems too far away. I even found myself straying onto the Tritalk double Ironman thread for a few minutes (that's your fault Wilson; thankfully, I came to my senses). At the moment, all I want to do is run, paddle and ride my bike to work. When I want to do more, I'll think about it some more.