Dave The Kayaker

Kayaking, musings, and my mid-life fitness journey. DaveTheKayaker


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James River Rundown practice run

If you would have told me a few years ago that I would paddle an ultra-marathon in a kayak I would have told you you were crazy.

If you would have told me that I’d paddle an ultra as a training run I would have just laughed uncontrollably.

Yet here we are.

Paddling Buddy Dave and I got on the river at 7am this morning to paddle the full length of the Rivanna River and then 10 miles of the James River from Columbia, VA to Cartersville.

We’ve gotten a lot of rain in the past couple days and the rivers were very high, so we kept our eye on the gauges and visually inspected the rivers to make sure we would be paddling within our skill level and not putting ourselves in any danger.  The levels dropped overnight on Friday, just as expected, so we had a “green light” for a day of paddling.

As we shuttled vehicles Friday night I guestimated it would take us between 8 and 9 hours based on our projected river flows.

55 miles, 8 hours and 8 minutes of paddling with ~30 minutes of rest/eating/water-replenishing later, and we completed our mission.

We are tired and sore.

At one point on the river the only thought that came into my mind were the song lyrics, “I focus on the pain, the only thing that’s real.”

The last 7 miles of the Rivanna seemed slow and boring and my back was shot by the time we hit the James so I just did what I had to do to get it over with.

Paddling Buddy Dave showed no signs of fatigue on the water and I continue to hold him in highest regard as an absolute paddling beast.

The Pyranha Octane and Epic V7 seemed very evenly matched and any advantage of one over the other seemed purely attributable to the paddler.

Nutrition for me was water with BCAA’s, almonds, Pistachios, beef jerkey, and two Epic bars.


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The Nelson Downriver Race 2017

The Nelson Downriver race, or locally known as “The Tye River Race,” is normally held the first Saturday in May each year.  It is also typically my first race of the year, one week before my local Rivanna River race so I usually treat it with respect and use it as a gauge for my general preparedness for racing season.

Not this year.

The race got postponed this year until today due to high water on the scheduled race day so the Rivanna Race actually occurred first this year, and since I kicked arse on the Rivanna last Saturday and had added a 19-mile race prior, I felt no need to try to prove anything on the river today for the rescheduled Nelson Downriver.

So I experimented.

I took my Pyranha Octane surf ski with me today to test her (and my skills with her) on our first flowing water together.

I picked up Paddling Buddy Dave on my way through Charlottesville in the morning and we made our way to Nelson County.

When we got to the river it looked very low and I quickly surmised I had the wrong boat on the river on the wrong day with the wrong paddler.

This was my first time in any sort of flowing river or rapids with the boat and I saw the river would require maneuvering and I knew my comfort level with her on flowing water was zero.  Literally.  I’d never paddled her downriver.

When I got on the river I felt twitchy in the river current and decided to keep my over-stern rudder up so as not to snap it off in the low water.

Shortly after Paddling Buddy Dave and I started together I realized I would be no match for him today as he was very comfortable in his Epic V7 and kept his rudder down.

So I picked my way through set after set of rapids, making major correcting and steering strokes which greatly killed my speed.  I bumped and scraped on many rocks.  The pollen was so thick in the air that not even my vasodilator/pump supplement trick nor allergy pills did any good and I hacked and coughed my way down the river.

Then the headwind picked up and started blowing me all over the river.

I realized the Octane has a significant amount of rocker and constantly wanted to get sucked into the eddies below rapids.

So when the water was deep and slow I dropped the rudder and when I approached rapids I lifted it up and out of the water which required me to steer via my paddling with corrective strokes again.

I realized how comfortable I’ve become using a rudder to steer and otherwise concentrate on optimizing my strokes for maximum efficiency.

I just wasn’t able to do that today.

Very often when I plunged my paddled blade into the water to try to take solid strokes, the end of the paddle blade immediately hit and bounced off a submerged rock.  Too many times for me to count.

The river was very shallow.

So I worked my way down the river using correcting strokes that were also shallow.

As you might predict, I didn’t do too well and even managed to overturn through Rockpile Rapid.  (Oh, how I hate thee!)

DaveDolakOverboard-14Trouble, again, at Rockpile Rapids

In the end, I finished in second place behind Paddling Buddy Dave, but most importantly I gained downriver experience with the boat and became much more comfortable in it.

The James River will be easy in this boat compared to the Tye.

I’m not happy with the way I paddled down the river today, but I am happy with the fact that I gained river experience with the boat and now have some confidence with her.

It was a beautiful day on a beautiful river with old friends and I met some new friends and hope to paddle with them again soon.

Oh, and nutrition?’

Grabbed a large cup of coffee along the way to the race with some beef jerky and string cheese for breakfast.  Didn’t eat again until 5pm when I had a Caesar salad with bacon.

PS – After I got home and inspected the bottom of my boat (which was fine) I discovered the Octane has a spring-loaded, kick-up rudder that would have been fine to leave down the whole time.  DOH!  Is it too late for a do-over?  All part of the learning curve I suppose.


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The “Little D on the Monocacy” race

littledcollage

Yesterday I paddled in my season-opening race on the Monocacy River up in Frederick Maryland and was blown away by what I discovered.

Danny Sullivan, or “Little D,” was diagnosed with Metachromatic Leukodystropy a few years ago.  It is a terminal disease that affects the growth and development of myelin, the fatty covering that acts as an insulator around nerve fibers throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems.    Symptoms include muscle wasting and weakness, muscle rigidity, developmental delays, progressive loss of vision leading to blindness, convulsions, impaired swallowing, and paralysis.

Friends and family of Little D organized this race a few years ago to raise money for the immediate family to allow them to do as much with Little D as they can while he is still with us.

The sense of community and purpose I discovered was inspiring.

I woke up at 5am, grabbed a shower quietly so as not to wake the family, got ready quickly, and then made the normally 3 hour drive up to Frederick and was pleasantly surprised when it only took 2-1/2 hours.

Traffic through Leesburg, VA is certainly much easier before most decent folk are awake and on the roads.

I had my boat (Cobra Viper kayak) and all my gear loaded in the truck the night before so I could get on the road as quickly as possible.

I had entered the 19.5 mile race this day but there was also a 6 mile version.  I opted for the longer race as a test of my physical conditioning so early in the season to use as a benchmark for my training for the rest of the season.

I arrived plenty early and had a chance to chat with Steve Corbett, event coordinator, and learn a little more about the event and river conditions. The participant turnout for the 19.5 mile race was a bit disappointing but Steve told me there were 30 or more paddlers gathered at the starting line for the 6 mile race.

Before the race even began I helped a local kayak fisherman finishing up for the morning load his kayak on his trailer and when he heard about the event he walked up to the registration table and made a donation on the spot.

We got on the water and I asked a fellow paddler to turn on my bow camera for me and he was happy to do so.

Turns out, he was Brian A. from Pennsylvania and as we chatted we learned that we had paddled together last year at the Lehigh Classic Whitewater Race, but didn’t know or recognize each other.

Brian is an outstanding paddler and he and his Epic Touring Endurance 18 fiberglass kayak would turn out to be more than I could handle on this day.  The Touring Endurance 18 was the predecessor to what is now known as the Epic 18X.

After a quick bit of research, I was able to find a photo of Brian and me at the Lehigh Classic last year.

It is a small world and an even smaller community of kayak racers.

lehigha

Brian and me at the Lehigh Classic in 2016

The race began and I allowed the other racers to get off ahead of me so I could capture some video.

As luck would have it, Icarus Air was there with a video drone and they graciously volunteered their services and allowed me to use some of their video.

We started in overcast conditions at the 10am start but the sky cleared, the sun came out, and it was very hot by 11:45.  Normally kayakers hate a headwind, but the headwind during the end of the race was actually very welcomed as it helped us stay cool.

Two sets of canoers in racing canoes jumped out to an early lead at the start of the race and that just left Brian in plain sight of me for the entire race.  I burned more energy than I wanted to early in the race just to stay close to him thinking I’d wait for the latter parts of the race to try to make a move as he tired, but it turned out Brian kept as much gas in the tank as he needed and chose all the right lines on the river so that by mile 15 I realized I was unlikely to pass him.

This section of the Monocacy River is slow and winding so this was almost entirely a flat water race.  Had I known this, I would have chosen a faster, lighter boat.

So I settled into  healthy pace and enjoyed the remainder of the race by mile 16, with Brian still in sight, but with a wider gap than I had allowed previously.

At the end, I came across the finish line in second place for kayakers on the 19.5 mile race, 2-1/2 minutes behind Brian with an official time of 2:55:27. My GPS showed exactly 19.5 miles with a moving average speed of 6.6mph and a maximum speed of 9.3mph.

I’ve never been at a race where there were so many people cheering at the finish line.  The supporters and volunteers for this race are awesome!

There were tents with food and drinks at the finish line and an awards ceremony.

The idea behind this race is to help Little D’s family now and then serve as a living legacy to his memory.

I encourage all paddlers to participate in this race next year and every year after that.

I’ll be back.

Come paddle with me.

See you next Saturday at the Nelson Downriver Race.

See also:

Frederick New-Post Story

The Race page on Facebook


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#NBNW #NSNG

And so I begin.

The kids’ Spring Break is over and after returning home from out-of-town visiting family last week and after two weeks on the road, one of them out of the country, I had to mow my overgrown yard after work today and skipped the gym for a rest/recovery day.  Even being on the road last week I managed to hit the gym 4 times so a rest day was not unreasonable.

lastbig4-10-17My last big workout last night after driving 6 hours home

Tomorrow I start my no beer, no wine (#NBNW) regimen in support of my mostly #NSNG (no sugars, no grains) lifestyle.

I started the NBNW tradition last year to try to drop a few pounds to lighten up for kayak racing season.

It worked.

So this year I’m going to do it again and I’m also going to eat at a slight caloric deficit most of the time as I try to put myself into dietary ketosis to even further boost my fat loss while I’ll still hit the gym to try to maintain as much muscle as I can.

I won’t lift the way I have been, though.  The weights will be lighter and the sets will be fewer.  I’ll also start cycling more.

Wow, I really miss my road bike.

If I know my body the way I think I do, dietary ketosis should set in by this Friday, April 14 and I will try to stay in that state at least until my major race, The James River Rundown on June 24-25.  That means from April 29 to June 25 I will will paddle more than 160 miles in 4 different kayak races, not to mention the many training miles I will also lay down between now and then.

I want my body running on fat for fuel and I want to have the best muscle-to-fat ratio I possibly can.

If bodybuilders have final contest preparation in terms of dieting then this is kayaker’s contest prep.

So that’s where I am in my journey.

I started to take fitness seriously in early 2013 when I weighed 180lbs at ~22-23% body fat (“skinny fat”) and am now at 177 lbs at ~16-17% body fat.  I was at my lightest–and most unhealthy state–in May of 2014 at 158 lb. Far, far too skinny and unhealthy.

In retrospect you can see things you couldn’t at the time.

I don’t miss those dark days of eyelids twitching, crashed metabolism, sleepless sweaty nights, endless cardio, brain fog, and sore joints.

It has been an up-and-down transformation and I can’t thank my fitness trainer, Vinnie Tortorich, enough for putting me on the right track and pulling me out of my tailspin.  I also thank Anna Vocino for her wonderful recipes and cookbook that make a low-carb lifestyle easy, enjoyable and healthy.

I’ve managed to add muscle mass in my late 40’s and now 50 while also losing body fat.

It hasn’t been fast or easy, but I feel good about what I’ve worked for and can’t wait to see  where I am in mid-June.

atlasweek4-10-17
Last week’s summary

weight4-10-17
Tracking my weight.  Imagine starting at 180 on the left.


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Monday night workout

I was back at my local Gold’s Gym after work today and focused on “push” and leg movements since I did a lot of paddling over the weekend and my last workout focused on “pull” movements with the upper back and lats.

It felt good to be back in the squat rack and also hit my calves with some much-needed calf raises using the trap bar–two bits of equipment my neighborhood fitness center and basement gym lack.

The Atlas Wearables Atlas Wristband 2 is turning out to be a very useful training partner.  I only hope they soon make exporting data a possibility so I can track my progress over time via a spreadsheet.

The “heat map” of tonight’s workout

When I got home I made a grain-free, sugar-free pizza and topped it with chicken and buffalo sauce.  This has become one of my favorite meals.

4-3-17cMy grain-free, sugar-free Buffalo Chicken “Fat Head” pizza in the oven.  Yummy and way better than a protein shake!


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Training and tracking

If you haven’t picked up on it by now, I am a firm believer in tracking and measuring as much as possible when it comes to training.  If you can’t measure it then you can’t manage it.

bodyfocus

That’s why I was one of the first people to buy a Skulpt Aim when it came to market. (I actually pre-ordered it before it was commercially available.)

SkulptAimHand

The Aim is a small, handheld Electrical Impedance Myography (EIM) device that attempts to measure body fat and muscle quality.

I very much loved the device when I first got it but then they changed the firmware at one point and the measurements for body fat were significantly higher than they were before the firmware upgrade. (Less accurate in my opinion.)  For a device that claimed to be more accurate than a DEXA scan when it launched, I couldn’t but wonder, did they lie to me about that accuracy before the firmware update or are they lying to me now?

Within the past few days they’ve rolled out a new version of their app and I’m happy to see they now allows users to export historical data.  It is important to see how you are trending and performing over time because measurement-to-measurement variations seemed to be fairly high in my opinion.

Now that the device seems more useful, I’m blowing the dust off it and will start using it again in my training in addition to the Atlas Wristband tracker for in the gym, the Amiigo wristband for Heart Rate Variability (HRV) while sleeping, the Amazfit Arc for general steps and sleep tracking, and GPS and heart rate monitor while I’m training on water.

Yes, I’m a tech geek and a gizmo guy.

NewSkulpAppMy user history from the Skulpt Aim (last used in January) at least indicates I’ve been moving in the right direction, body fat down, muscle quality up.

I’ll keep you posted on how I like this device post-software upgrade after I return to using it for a little while.

PS – And after a new, full body measurement tonight and only plotting the data since November, I can see I did indeed make progress in the gym over the winter. Now let’s see how much I can make that body fat % drop in the next 6 weeks to be lighter on water.

skulpt3-20


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A great day for a workout paddle

meoctane

The weather was nice mid-day today in Central Virginia (in between morning and evening rains) so I loaded up the Pyranha Octane and headed for my local reservoir.  This is the third or fourth time I’ve paddled it but the first time I’ve paddled it more than 5 miles so I feel I have enough miles at this point that this can serve as my review of the Pyranha Octane surf ski.

The day was a bit windy and my back was tight and achy, but once I got out on the water I got more and more comfortable in the boat and loosened up a bit.

After a short while, I realized the boat is very stable for a surf ski and quite predictable.

The hull of the craft is more flat than round so it is much more stable than most surf skis.

Wiggling around and reaching to open and close the drain was no problem.  The seat is very comfortable and the narrowing of the craft at the point of paddle entry was well thought out.

Being the first open cockpit craft or surf ski I’ve owned, I was somewhat amazed by how much water splashes up from the paddle and into the long, open cockpit.  I was opening the drain more often than expected. I guess I’m used to that splash hitting a deck and rolling over the sides.

Now I fully understand why there is a drain.

The boat is quite fast (I got her up to 7.5mpg without wind at one point) but at times suffers from ground effects in shallow waters due to is underwater profile and weight.  It just plain seemed to bog down in the shallows more than what I’m used to.

I started out with my Camelbak Podium Big Chill water bottle in the cup holder between my legs and at some point realized that bottle is so tall that it interfered with my legs so I pulled it out and bungied it to the rear deck.

That was a huge improvement which allowed me to have a more natural motion with my legs and provided much more room.  In the future I will keep a shorter water bottle in the cockpit with me.

A minor annoyance was the foot straps on the peddles.

The boat came from the factory with one piece of strapping with the “hook” piece of hook-and-loop fastener anchored in its middle in between the peddles with the ends loose to wrap over the top of each foot.  Then each peddle has a “loop” bit of strap on the outside of each foot that then also wraps over the top and joins with the other strap.

The system firmly secures your feet to the peddles, but what I found very annoying was the fact that the inside part of the straps rubbed together when I worked the peddles and since it was exposed loops against exposed loops, it made a crunching sound each and every time I had to make a peddle adjustment to work the rudder.   A small detail, but an annoying one.

I don’t know why they didn’t use the smooth side of the strap in between the feet so it doesn’t rub hook against hook the way it does.

peddlesWhy oh why are the insides of the straps rubbing hook on hook?

When I got home I immediately removed the foot straps and I’ll see if I like it better next time without them.  If not, I’d design my own foot straps and reinstall.

gps3-18-1711.3 miles with a top speed of 7.5mph.  Not bad!

Another small gripe is the fact that the gap behind the carry handles is too small for adult hands.  Just a little more room in the handles would have been great.

Overall the boat is very fast for how stable and heavy it is. As I look at the photos, I see how much rocker it has which prevents it from floating just a little bit higher in the water.  I suppose that’s the trade-off between speed and maneuverability.

I’ll accept that trade-off in this boat because it is obviously made for rivers more so than for ocean surf or flat water sprinting.  With that said, I believe this will be a good entry point for those new to surf skis who are scared by the extreme tippiness of other options in the surf ski category.

My average speed was meaningless today because I stopped several times to stretch and at one point just sat for a short while and watched as a Bald Eagle perched above me on a branch.

The boat is slower than my Thunderbolt-X and most likely also slower than my Cobra Viper, but not by much and with its plastic construction and relative stability, it fits a clear niche and is going to be a great long-distance river runner.  Exactly what I wanted it to do and be.

As an aside, it was somewhat fun to explain to the fine folks at Appomattox River Company that I was actually buying this boat for its stability and then watching their facial expressions  as they tried to compute that statement.  I don’t think I am their typical customer.  🙂

I love the fact that it has a large rear hatch for storage and also a storage compartment in the bow with access in front of the feet.  It will be interesting to paddle this alongside my paddling buddy with his V7 to see how the two compare, but on paper the Octane (also branded as the Think Nitro) is marginally longer and narrower.

I love this boat!

As I got home and reviewed the video, I realize how sloppy my form got over the winter.

I’ve got a lot of things in my technique to straighten out and fix in the next few weeks before racing season begins.


My first long run with the Pyranha Octane today


My first ever outing with the craft