Dave The Kayaker

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


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Paddling the Rivanna River –the whole thing

I hate the phrase “bucket list,” but yesterday I was able to check off an item that has been on my bucket list for a couple years.

Paddling buddy Dave and I jumped in our kayaks and paddled the entire length of the Rivanna River from just below the dam at the South Rivanna Reservoir in Charlottesville to the James River at Columbia, VA.  This was a training run for our upcoming 100-mile James River Rundown.

I paddled my new-to-me Prion Beluga and Dave paddled his Epic V7 surf ski.  He definitely, once again, had the boat advantage and I probably pushed myself a little too hard trying to keep up.

We started at 6am but paddled through the heat of the day on a very hot day and it has taken me most of today to recover.  Maybe a little heat stroke or maybe a little sinus infection, I remember rolling on my side in my sleep last night and waking up and feeling dizzy.  And again this morning, when I bent over I felt dizzy.  So I took it easy all morning and early afternoon and am back on track this evening.

Nutrition yesterday consisted of bacon and eggs with coffee for breakfast, a couple of Epic bars and water along the way, a “cheat” snack of a MusclePharm Combat Crunch bar at one point when the heat was getting to me and I felt weak, and 1 Nuun tablet in water.

Now I’m feeling good and I have a sense of accomplishment.  It took us 7-3/4 hours of paddling at 5.8mph over the 44.1 miles and we saw countless turtles, Herons, heard a few beaver tail slaps, and were even treated to two American Bald Eagle sightings.


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Rivanna River Race 2016

I raced in the Rivanna River kayak race last Saturday and had a wonderful time.

The race organizers did a great job of coordinating a well-run event and the volunteers were outstanding.

I arrived plenty early to drop my boat at the starting line and then drove to the finish line/takeout to try to catch a shuttle back to the start. This year, a new outfitter in town, The Rivanna River Company, provided a complimentary shuttle with their bus which made life extraordinarily convenient.

There was another guy at the put-in with a Cobra Viper, my buddy Dave with his Epic V7, and several other fast boats so I knew the competition would be fierce this year. Organizers reported a record number of ~70 racers and with that many competitors, you never know what is going to happen.

The starting horn sounded and I got off to a fairly good start. A few boats were out ahead of me and I was able to pass them fairly quickly. All except for one, Dave S. in his Epic V7.

I paced behind Dave for a short while and then saw an opportunity to make my move to get in front of him about a quarter of a mile into the race. I passed him fairly easily but heard him file in behind me and I knew he was close.

We approached a bend in the river less than 1 mile into the race, and I thought Dave’s bow was at or ahead of my stern and we followed the main current where a tree was protruding from the left bank of the river. Rather than use my rudder to make a quick adjustment to the right and possibly bump into Dave, I decided to cut as tightly as I could to the tree and stay as tight into the bend as I could.

That was a mistake for a couple reasons.

First, my boat hit and branch that was just under water which forced me into another branch that hit me in the left shoulder and chest. While either one of these would normally have been recoverable events, combined they caused me to lose balance and I overturned. I thought my race was over.

The second reason the decision to cut it close to the tree was a bad decision was the fact that Dave wasn’t actually just behind me. He had split river right, so unbeknownst to me, I had plenty of room to maneuver around the tree. I should have spun my my head around to know for sure where Dave was.

After I overturned, I was able to quickly get to some shallower water and when I looked up, Dave was paddling back up river to check on me to make sure I was OK. I yelled at him that I was OK that he should turn around and keep racing but he kept coming back upstream. I yelled at him again, “Go, go set a record,” and he said, “no, I can’t leave you.”

I quickly flipped my boat over to try to drain out as much water as I could and watched as least 5 or 6 boats pass me. I jumped back in my Viper telling Dave, “I’m fine, go, go!” At that point he turned back downriver and started racing again.

It took me another 10 or 20 seconds to get my boat turned around and start downriver again, but I probably lost at least 90 seconds in total and now had an inch or so of water in the bottom of the boat which represented a great deal of extra weight.

I realized quickly I had two choices. Paddle leisurely knowing I was defeated or start racing again to see if I could catch up to the front pack.

I decided to continue racing.

Much to my surprise, I was able to catch up to and pass most of the other paddlers. All of them, in fact, except Dave.

I kept him in sight for the rest of the race and tried as hard as I could to catch up to him just to see if I could do it, but I had decided that if I caught him, there was no way I was going to pass him. His selfless act in helping me earned him the right to win this race if it came down to just the two of us. I was able to close in on him but wasn’t able to entirely close the gap.

When I crossed the finish line, Dave was already there and I gave him a high five and thanked him for his help and concern. He finished in 52:47 and I finished in 53:41, a little less than 1 minute behind him. The next closest time was just under 58 minutes so even with my mishap and Dave’s sacrifice, we pretty much smoked everyone else.

I don’t think I ever felt so good or had as much fun in a river race! Adversity threw itself at me and I was able to quickly recover and overcome.

I also know that I have the best paddling partner possible for the James River Rundown and I predict right now, if we complete that 100-mile race together, we will have exactly the same time as we cross the finish line together.


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Last Saturday

As feared, the water levels were very high last Saturday on the Tye River, forcing the race organizers to postpone or cancel the Nelson Downriver Race.

It was a disappointment.

But I used the morning to take advantage of the high, local water on the Rivanna River and took my whitewater play boat down river and tested out a new helmet cam.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be racing in a kayak on the same section of river.

See you there.


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2015

2015 was an odd year and my outdoor training took a huge hit.

We made a local move to a new home in the Spring of 2015 and between getting the old house ready for market and settling into the new home and all that goes with it, my free time for kayaking and cycling was limited.

The upside in terms of fitness, however, was that we moved from the country into a neighborhood with a fully equipped fitness center so I started spending a lot of evening hours in the gym.  If I couldn’t be outdoors training during the day then I’d at least be training hard in the gym in the evenings to build some muscle and drop some fat to enhance my skills on the water.

On the first Saturday in May I took time out from unpacking boxes and maintaining two properties to race once again in the Nelson Downriver Race on the Tye River.  I wanted to race this race in my Phoenix again to make it past Rockpile rapids without incident.

NelsonDownriver2015RockpileMaking it through Rockpile Rapids with ease, although a tree branch stole my favorite paddling hat

I did not get a great start as another paddler went perpendicular in the first rapid and I wound up tangled with his boat for a while, but I soon recovered and had a fairly good run downriver in my Phoenix Match II kayak.  I thought I would place well because I passed a lot of people on the river during the race and when I came across the finish line I did not see anyone in front of me.

As it turned out, two paddlers finished well ahead of me and one more started behind me in a different heat but would end up posting a time more than a minute faster than me so I took forth place overall.  It was a finish that was not at all unsurprising since I had only been on the water two times that year prior to the race and wasn’t in any sort of condition.


Crossing the finish line at the 2015 Nelson Downriver Race in my Phoenix Match II kayak

As has become tradition, the very next Saturday I was back at my local race, the Rivanna River Regatta Canoes & Kayak Races.

I was unsure of the water levels that day so I loaded up two boats on my vehicle the night before and would decide at race time which was the better choice.  That is to say, I knew what the river gauges were telling me the day before but I held out hope for some rain overnight.

The rain did not come.

I checked out the finish line first thing and saw that the water was low and I also heard reports that there was a fallen Sycamore tree across the river that left only a narrow passage, river-left that most likely would require a portage during the race.

So I decided one again on the Phoenix Match II because it was shorter and lighter than the other boat on top of my vehicle and it would skim off rocks more easily in low water.

The starting horn blew and I got off to…the absolute worst start ever.

I still don’t know what exactly happened to me at the starting line that morning, but somehow I started river-left and my boat started drifting into the center of the river within the first few paddle strokes.  Rather than kill my speed and make the proper correction early, I decided to try to power through a gradual correction and that, combined with the waves from others’ boats, only made matters worse and pushed me more to the right, right across the river in front of almost all the other racers.


My embarrassing start at the 2015 Rivanna River Race

I was very embarrassed and felt I had already blown the race but I kept my eye on the leader and decided to sprint to try to catch up to him.  He was paddling a Perception Wavehopper kayak and I knew he would be tough to catch.

I spent a lot of energy catching up to him but I did, and then passed him.  I did not know if I had enough energy and endurance left to hold him off for the rest of the race but I was able to and never lost the lead after I got in front.

It was close, though.

I would put some distance between us in the flat water and he would narrow the gap through the rapids.  This cycle repeated several times.

We both made it through the narrow, shallow section around the fallen Sycamore tree without getting out of our boats, though.

I came across the finish line in first place and found myself in a position I did not expect to be in. A three-peat winner of the local race.

rivannapostrace
Chillaxing after the 2015 Rivanna River Race

I competed in one more race that year, and that was the 40-mile James River Rundown that I described when I started this blog back in November.

And that, my friends, is where I started revealing this journey to you.

I created this blog to tell you my story and to document my journey not only for my children to read at some point but for others who might just be getting into fitness mid-life.

From this point forward I’ll be essentially “live blogging,” but will also fill you in on more of my diet and exercise routine along the way.

Before I started taking things seriously a few years ago  I weighed ~180 pounds and was ~20% body fat.  At my lightest weight immediately after the 2014 Storming of Thunder Ridge 100-mile bike ride I weighed in at 159 pounds and was ~13% body fat.  That was way too light and unhealthy for me considering I got there in ~16 months.

I’ve under-eaten to the point where my metabolism and hormones crashed, I’ve suffered brain fog, tendonitis, twitching eye lids, sleeplessness, night sweats, and irritability under the guise of losing fat and getting healthy and there is one thing for sure I can tell you.

Eating at a significant caloric deficit for any length of time is not healthy and is not sustainable.

After figuring out how to eat and train to add muscle and lose fat, I’m now at ~176 pounds at ~16% body fat.  I’m just about where I want to be, but am currently in a cutting phase for Spring.  I think I’m safe to lose 3-4 pounds.

I’ve been eating at a slight caloric surplus for months (by design) and I know I’ve added muscle mass by lifting heavy and then high volume in the gym over the winter months and am looking forward to shedding a few pounds to strip off a bit of the fat to see what is left underneath.

It is time to maintain my muscle for kayaking season but to also lighten up to float higher on the water.

I’ve tried just about everything when it comes to weight lifting, training, dieting, and supplements and would like to share one pearl of wisdom with you at this point if you are trying to lose weight and get in shape.

Figure out how many calories you need to maintain your current weight and do not go over or under that caloric intake by a drastic amount whether you are trying to add muscle or lose weight.

Do not do a drastic bulking phase and do not do a drastic cut/crash-diet phase.

Proper diet (i.e. What you eat) and patience are 95% of the game.  Aside from that, be active, keep moving, and lift heavy things regularly to maintain or add muscle mass at any age.

It can be done.

No sugar, no grains, lift heavy things, don’t eat significantly over or under maintenance calories, and keep moving!  Use it or lose it.

 


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Rivanna River Race, May 11, 2013

One rainy week passed and as a result the rivers were up the following weekend for my local Rivanna River race in Charlottesville.

Since the water was high I decided to paddle the Cobra Viper because I had established that it excels in deeper water when there is little chance of hitting rocks.

I gave it all I had for most of the race and was rewarded with a first place victory, covering a distance of 6.2 miles in 46 minutes and 29 seconds.  A race record that stands to this day.

It felt great to finally win my local race.

 


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Running with the Big Dogs but coming up short

The week following the Tye River race in 2011 I decided to try to paddle my Cobra Viper kayak down our local river, the Rivanna, where our local canoe and kayak races were to be held the following Saturday.  I was nervous about the trip because I was still somewhat fearful about turning over in the craft so I asked some paddling friends to accompany me downriver.  I used my normal whitewater paddle because it provided me a level of comfort and security if I should need to brace or if I flipped over and lost my paddle.

So we paddled down river without incident.  I was very tentative in some of the bigger rapids but I made it the entire way without flipping.

I decided to paddle the Viper on Saturday for the race.

Race morning came and I found myself at the starting line in the Viper–my first river race in the boat.  Again, I decided to use my flat-bladed whitewater paddle because I was a little too nervous about combining this boat with flowing water and a wing paddle.

I started in the first heat with one other boat that was 16′ or longer, and that paddler was one of the top 2 area paddlers.  He and one other paddler had been winning this race year after year, usually trading wins back-and-forth from one year to the next.  The horn blew and Rick and I were off!

I jumped out in front and stayed there for the first two miles of the race, but Rick was just behind me the whole way, trying to find ways to get around me but every time he tried, I found a way to kick it up a notch and stay in front.

I was fine until the first set of shallow rapids where we actually dragged bottom.

My plastic Viper seemed to stick to the rocks and Rick’s fiberglass boat seemed to skim off them as he zipped past me.  I struggled to free myself as I pushed along the bottom of the river with my hands but at one point I found the paddle in my hand worked its way under a tree branch or a piece of rebar at the bottom of the river.  I had to work some more to free my paddle and then I saw the other top paddler catching up to me as I remained stuck.

I managed to free myself but a lot of my energy was sapped.  I tried as best I could to catch up to Rick but I never did close the gap enough to even be able to see him again.

Meanwhile, I had a new threat behind me.

Dave S. behind me also just skimmed through the rapids that I got stuck in as the Carbonlite material of his Eddyline kayak seemed highly resistant to grabbing the river’s bottom.

Dave S. was close behind and closing the gap.  My goal at that point was merely to not let Dave pass me.  He started in the second heat so I knew he had already gained about 2 minutes on me so I figured he would post a faster time, but I wanted to do whatever I could to at least not give him the satisfaction of passing me.

He never did pass me but it was very close at the finish line.

I had a respectable finish and proved I could compete well with the fastest guys on our river, but I wasn’t fast enough that day and I lost a lot of time being stuck on rocks.

I knew that if I could combined that boat with the wing paddle downriver that I’d be hard to beat next year.

So that was the plan for 2012.


Rivanna River Race 2011 video


The 2011 Rivanna River Canoe & Kayak Race as videoed from my kayak