Sunday, 26 February 2012

Tales from Teddington lock

DW 2010 - At Teddigton Lock
I was flicking through my old photos on the computer the other day and came across this one. It was taken at Teddington in the 2010 DW race and the funny thing is I remember very little about being there. I do remember the fact that I had spent the proceeding 30 minutes in tears, gently sobbing in the back of the boat sitting in a pool of my own wee, barely able to lift the paddle shaft above the cockpit. It was not a good place to be. As hard as that was and as low as I got it was still infinitely better to be there and ready to go into London than not there at all. For Adam and I, it is all about Teddington. Whether we catch the tide in the morning or have to wait until the afternoon then as long as we get there then we'll be ok.

Having to wait those few hours for the afternoon tide, should that be necessary, will however bring its own problems. Being members of the Royal which is only a stone's throw from Teddington Lock means that we've got a nice comfortable base in which we can refuel, change and get our heads down for a couple of hours in the warmth until we are let through onto the tidal section. If any members of the Royal are reading this and you see two people that look and smell like tramps lying down in the clubhouse on April 7th, then please do not be alarmed. It's just us. But then, after all our muscles and joints have nicely seized up, tendons have had time to get inflamed after the nurofen's worn off and blisters popped we'll have to get back in the boat and then paddle the tidal Thames in the middle of the afternoon on Easter Sunday, when every boat and everyone and their mother will be out on the river. We are reconciled  to the very real possibility that we may have to do that but we'll be doing our best to ensure that we catch the morning tide, even if that means squeaking through at 8 o' clock. We've got to know the area around the lock very well, with us pounding up and down the Kingston straight and the fact that we are both former Teddington School schoolboys also makes this quite a home from home for us.

On Friday night we headed out from the Royal. We were both clattered after a long day at work so we decided to do a DW paced effort. We paddled down to the lock first which we now use as a short warm up to get settled before we turn back to head up to Hampton Court. As we made our way down to Teddington there was a small group of boats moored on the bank. In front of them was a small speedboat and as we got within 5 metres of it we saw that there was someone in it and they suddenly gunned the engines causing an enormous wash that broke over the front of the kayak sending water into my cockpit. it was obviously done completely on purpose with the intention of capsizing us. We rode it out fine but we were screaming our heads off at him, only to then see another 2 speedboats waiting on the bankside with another 2 morons in them. What kind of dick would think that it's fun to try to capsize a kayak in the dark? They were gunning around well above the speed limit for this section of the Thames without any lights visible!!  Frickin' unbelievable.

We turned across the river and had a great paddle up to Hampton and back and as we got back to the clubhouse we saw one the boats right in the middle of the river. He saw us and started waving a light, not at us, which was the queue for the other 2 speedboats to come through at high speed causing another huge wave. Unfortunately this time we were beam on with a lot of reflection waves coming off of the hard bank from the sailing club next to the Royal, so we were really bounced around this time, but again we stayed upright pretty comfortably. I sincerely wish those 3 blokes a slow and lingering death. I am still wondering whether we should report it to the Police.

In other news......

I went with Mrs Wheezy to the Kingston Phoenix Annual Dinner and Awards evening last night and had a fab time. Had a few cheeky beers and got a couple of medals for some handicap places which was nice and I won a Phoenix mug in the raffle. Today I ran the Nonsuch Park 10k as one of Simon's relatives couldn't run it, so I had his number. As usual, I went out too fast and by halfway I was blowing hard, but I held on to take 4th place and just missed out on ducking under 40 minutes. Next time.......

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Reality Check

You may have gathered that my last post was written in a bit of a sulk. I apologise. I'm over it now. It was written on the back of 2 rubbish paddles (the other one was me in a K1, just not on it at all) and a feeling that it's all getting too close and we haven't put in enough long miles. That last K2 paddle was meant to be all about miles in the bank and it wasn't and it seemed that in the course of a 2 hour paddle we had regressed 6 months.

But of course, we hadn't. After a few days we got back into the mystere. Originally we were going to K1 but we decided that we needed to do another K2 paddle so we headed out on Sunday night. The aim was to do a solid 90 minute paddle and include some good quality reps. After a warm up to Teddington lock we turned back and started doing our 4 minute reps but really trying to nail our technique. For me, it's all about the catch and setting up the stroke at the beginning as I seem to have developed a tendency to slap the water when tired so I've really been trying to get the paddle vertical and spear the water. I am better at this when I slow the stroke down so while the reps were about increasing our speed and aerobic workrate we were not going so fast as to become ragged. We were on our seventh rep when I felt what I thought was something hitting my BA and I saw someone running after us along the towpath. I assumed that it was someone throwing stones at us only for Ad to tell me that we'd snagged a fishing line. The fisherman wasn't particularly happy that we'd dragged his brand new, £120 carbon fibre rod into the water. Adam politely pointed out that we had 3 lights on the boat and he was practically invisible. Thankfully after a few minutes we were able to unhook us from his line and after a bit of gentle persuasion, his fishing rod appeared from the deep. No harm done. Anyway, 10 miles done with the best part of 28 minutes bouncing along at a tempo pace. If nothing else it was enjoyable. Last night we were back out again, this time in the laances doing more technique work. We were both clattered so after an hour we called it quits.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Do or die

Right now, I would like to write this post with a lot of expletives. Working in the profession that I do writing something on the internet for everyone to read that involved a lot of fruity language would not do me any favours so therefore I will exert a large degree of self control and merely use this forum to whinge. What's the reason for this downturn in mood? Paddling, or #*@!$~g paddling as I currently call it.

Adam and I went out for a paddle this morning and to put it mildly, it was not good. I could tell within the first 10 seconds that Adam was not comfortable again and we had 40 odd minutes of the boat twitching, support strokes going down and the boat being absolutely rigid beneath us. I tried the good cop / bad cop routine, Adam 'had a talk with himself' and we finally got the boat running pretty well as we pulled up at the portage at Hampton Court. However by that time the effect of the preceding hour had taken its toll on me. Being a weedy runner I need to get my lower body engaged into the stroke but when things are so tense in the boat I have a tendency to revert back to 'all arms' paddling so as not to roll the boat any more than necessary. As we came back towards Kingston I wasn't a happy bunny; I was a bunny in the death throes of myxomatosis, thrashing in the water getting progressively more black in mood, wanting nothing more than to be out of the boat with my arms and shoulders aching more than I would expect. The situation was now reversed with Adam now calming me down and encouraging me to keep my form until we got back to the club.

It is very frustrating for us both as all we want to do is to get out on the water, put the miles in and do the race. Ad genuinely cannot get his head around what's happening and it is purely a mental problem, block, whatever you want to call it that stops him relaxing in the boat. The upshot is that we end up using a lot of energy in the process of merely staying upright in perfect conditions, like it was this morning. We have paddled in some truly foul weather this winter and paddled REALLY well in those conditions. It simply does not make sense and the uncertainty of what paddle we're going to have when we go out on the water is pretty draining on us both. I feel for Adam, I really do. Short of us employing the services of a sports psychologist, I cannot see what else he could do to resolve this, but it seems that at the moment we are just going to have to live with it, keep paddling and believe.

The upshot of all this is that it's got me thinking about the DW in the future and I've decided that this is going to be my last crack at it for a while and quite possibly for good. I am ultimately a triathlete, not a good one but significantly better than I am as a paddler, and at the moment I am not doing either of them particularly well. I am simply spreading myself too thin. So, we ARE going to finish this bloody race and then my Dad can have my paddles so he can do it next year. I'll be back on my bike.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Achieving the bounce

A frozen BA; always a good sign of a DW training session.
We had a long K2 paddle scheduled for last Sunday but we only ended up doing one hour. We were going to meet early in the morning and head upstream from Teddington to Walton and back but neither of us were on it at all. I had been out in Chinatown until late so I was feeling pretty delicate, while Adam decided that he was no longer able to paddle the mystere. After having such a great paddle a few days before this one was in every way, the complete opposite despite the conditions being perfect. We splashed about along the Kingston straight, just about staying upright and then turned round and came home. We put it down to being out early and having not warmed up properly. I did remark that at some point in the DW we would be paddling pretty early and cold so we might need to sort that out. :-0

Anyway, we were out again on Wednesday night and the conditions were a lot more sketchy than they had been on Sunday with very gusty wind and a high wind chill so it didn't look good for a confidence inducing session.  But we had a brilliant paddle. I am really working on getting my paddle as vertical in the water as possible and we are more often getting 'the bounce', a point when the boat seems to be pulsing through the water and we've got that simple harmonic motion with the boat rocking gently underneath us, instead of it being flat and lifeless. We don't achieve that state all the time but we are gradually getting there more and more often, which I am hoping is a sign that our technique work is starting to pay dividends.

Both Adam and I went out individually in K1's as well this week. I was out on Friday night and it was very cold. I spent an hour paddling the Kingston straight again, doing some technique work and drills and 4 x 2 minute hard efforts. I just tried to ensure that I was not dawdling at any point and had a solid paddle for an hour. I was the only person on the river and it was beautiful. :-)

Our DW plan has come together and we've got 2 support crews this time. We've got my Dad and my father-in-law John and then we've also got Phil and Alex D. Dad and John have a combined age of 138 and Phil and Alex are ginger. Success is assured!! it's going to be great having them help us as they are all top blokes and having more than one support means that no one crew has to go through the entire event supporting us.

We've pencilled in our long paddles although in the next 60 days we are probably going to be doing a lot more K1 work than last year as both Adam and I have family and friend commitments that will need to come first and actually means we cannot do any of the Waterside events. So we'll be doing Devizes to Newbury on our own and also Dreadnaught to Marlow and Marlow to Old Windsor will be our other longer paddles. We've purchase a Garmin etrex GPS so we'll accurately know our speed on the water but we'll use it in the race for accurate pacing to ensure that we stay on schedule. Having said that we've worked out our provisional start times and are confident in our plan and confident that we'll finish if our pace is not what we expect or if it drops.

60 days to go. Keep paddling. Keep the faith.