Dave The Kayaker

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

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Storming of Thunder Ridge, 2016


Yesterday I rode in one of the–if not the–premier cycling events in Virginia, the annual Storming of Thunder Ridge in Lynchburg, VA to benefit their YMCA.  The ride features 27, 45, 75, and 100 mile routes as options.

I have done this ride twice before and completed the Century both times so I knew what level of preparation was needed and what the recovery felt like for the next day or two afterwards.

I knew I was going into the ride unprepared because I just haven’t trained or logged very many miles on the bike this year.

I vacillated between riding the 45-mile route or the 75-mile route the days leading up to the event but decided to try to ride 75 miles.  But I had decided in advance that if I got too achy, felt any sort of twinges or cramps, or if I thought I was pushing too hard that I would just stop riding since this is a fully supported event with plenty of volunteers driving SAG vehicles.  I also knew I had a big week this week with at least 60 miles of kayak paddling/training for the James River Rundown and a rescheduled Tye River Race this coming Saturday.

I made it most of the way up the mountain for the 3,300′ climb but my legs felt like they turned into lead weights at some point and just felt strained.  This wasn’t bonking or “push through it” type stuff, this was, “Dude, you are completely unprepared for this, what were you thinking?” type agony.

I was a couple miles from the summit when I did some quick calculations in my head and realized that I could still peddle respectable miles and I would be in much better shape if I turned around and glided back down the mountain rather that making it to the top and dealing still with a significant amount of climbing over the last 25 miles on the other side.

Besides, I could get some cool video that way, too.

So I headed back down the mountain and kept riding the reverse of the route I had just ridden until a SAG driver spotted me and I gladly took him up on his offer of a lift back to the start.  At that point, I had ridden 44.82 miles.  Respectable, I thought.

Analysis of my first 2.7 hours of riding

And there was something else on my mind.

I had spotted a kayak on Craigslist in Roanoke a couple days earlier and wanted to make sure I had enough of the day left to make the 1-1.5 hour drive to look at the boat.

I’ve been looking for a different boat for my 100-mile ultra marathon kayak race, The James River Rundown, in a few weeks and thought this might be a pretty good boat for the race and at a reasonable price.  I had looked at the same model of boat several years earlier and liked the design of the boat, but at that time, I thought the guy selling it simply wanted too much money for it so I passed on it.

It turns out, I did indeed get some good video of the bike ride yesterday and drove back to Charlottesville with a new kayak on my roof racks, a Prijon Beluga, which is an old-school boat that, in its day, was a hybrid between a downriver racer, ocean kayak, and workout boat.

More about that tomorrow.

For now, enjoy some video from Storming of Thunder Ridge, 2016.

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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.

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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The Storming of Thunder Ridge

On May 19, 2013…the very next weekend…I decided to attempt to ride my first Century on a bicycle.  (For those who might not know that term, it means a 100-mile ride.)

Not only had I never attempted to ride 100 miles in one day before, I had never attempted a ride on such terrain. This ride features 9000+  feet of climbing, technical descents, long stretches of rollers and hills, and the highlight is a 13-mile, no-joke ascent to the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.

I completed the whole ride and felt such a sense of accomplishment that I teared up and became emotional at mile #83 when I realized I was actually going to complete it.

The entire week made me feel like no age is too old to accomplish anything you want to accomplish but the key is to stay in good shape and in turn remain healthy.

I was ready to conquer anything at that point.  I felt invinceable.