Kayak – surfski Wing Paddle Stroke Analyzer

Looking to analyze your wing paddle stroke but you don’t have a self-following drone or a friend with a power boat and video camera? Try this DIY kayak ergometer to analyze your stroke on land and indoors.

All it takes is a homemade ergometer and a video camera with tripod.

Learn more at: https://bit.ly/2t7m5Ew

Losing Body Fat or Gaining Muscle Mass: Which is more important?

From Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength podcast.

I find this one interesting as I now weigh what I did 5 years ago, but my body composition is entirely different.  Yes, I dropped a lot of weight and now got back up there in a very good and different way.

It is not about weight on a scale!

Paddling the Rivanna River when it is high

Last Saturday I paddled on our local Rivanna River at the highest level I’ve ever paddled it.  The Palmyra gauge was somewhere between 3800 and 4000cfs when 3 paddling friends and I launched at 10am from just below the South Rivanna Reservoir.

I knew for sure the river had crested overnight and was dropping, so I felt confident at this level.

The rapids under the railroad trestle became standing waves that were Class II+ – Class III.  I was paddling my Nelo 510 surfski in the most challenging conditions yet and I stayed upright the whole time.  The bucket filled with water at least 3 times, though, and I learned to open the drain before entering a set of large rapids.

One of our members capsized in the largest of the rapids and her boat had very little buoyancy since there was no foam or flotation in it anywhere.  This could have been a very serious situation but we rescued her and her boat, though getting it out of the water to drain it was a challenge with so much water in it.

We arrived at Riverview Park and then I paddled back upstream to Darden Towe Park where FLOW: The Arts of the Rivanna River Renaissance Festival was taking place.  There were artists set up along the walkway along the river and there was a boat decorating contest.

It was most enjoyable and I think my favorite were the Earlysville Bluegrass Boys, 3 brothers who are very talented musicians.  I wish I could have stayed and listened to them for hours.

I then paddled back down to Riverview Park with a few other paddlers with decorated boats and then joined the after-party at Rivanna River Company.

I came away concluding the Nelo 510 is probably the most versatile boat I’ve ever owned.

And this celebration of our local river is a wonderful event I hope continues.  It sure came a long way since last year.

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Guest blogger: Salli O’Donnell

I recently caught up with Salli O’Donnell who earlier this year completed the Yukon 1000 Canoe Race, the longest canoe race in the world, with her teammate Paul Cox.

I simply asked her to share her experience with you.

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Salli O’Donnell:

“The hardest thing for me [is] to try to summarize not only 1000 miles of the most amazing stretch of nature I could ever want to explore, but how to include or exclude all the other facets that overwhelm ones senses during so.

After a long day of airports, planes, delays and lost baggage, we arrived at our hotel in the small mining town of Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon Territory.  It was not long before midnight on Thursday, July 19th and we were already exhausted. My paddle partner Paul Cox – who flew in from Atlanta, GA and I from Norfolk, VA – connected in Vancouver for the final flight into Whitehorse. We were about to embark on what is billed as ‘the longest canoe race in the world,’ the Yukon 1000.

Friday morning we met the Kevlar Seaward Passat that would be our home and ‘wheels’ for a good 8 days. This is a type of boat that neither Paul nor I had ever been in; we had a lot of ‘getting to know it’ to do!

After a few hours of deciding how and where all the gear, food and water we would need for this race would be configured, we took it on a 12-mile test ride. After discovering and fixing some major issues with rudder control (thank you Team Kiwis!), we felt a bit more comfortable.  The rest of that day was spent gathering supplies and food for the race.

This is truly an unsupported race in that we must carry all we will need for the full extent. There are a few little pockets of civilization along the 1000 mile course but we are not allowed to take advantage of any of them unless we’ve an emergency, which also means we forfeit the race.

Saturday was full of boat adaptations, race and safety briefings, gear checks, satellite phone configs and tests (which were later sealed and only could be used in emergencies) and last minute purchases.

My favorite boat adaption was my footboard.

Being mostly a surfskier, the idea of having to use widespread foot pegs for 1000 miles was not thrilling. I searched the surrounding area until a found a decent plank of wood that would span the pegs, then I duct-taped closed cell foam pads to its base on either end – it made a fantastically strong and stable footboard for me to drive against.

Sunday morning the race began at 7am. The water on this part of the Yukon River is crystal clear and pleasantly cold (when it is hot out). Within the first mile, we settled into 3rd place and for the next 20 or so miles, we had a nice push from the river. Then came Lake Laberge, a 30+ mile stretch of open, slow and potentially choppy water but at the far end it necked back down to the river and we were cruising at 10 to 11 mph!

Unfortunately those speeds didn’t last too long but it sure was reinvigorating to have them and periodically over the next few hundred miles we would see them again.

Late in the afternoon, we came across the 2nd place team, Team Hobo Squad. They had stopped to get a bite to eat and were surprised to see us come by. They scrambled to get back in their boat and eventually caught up to us – they were definitely faster than us. We went back and forth a couple of times but by mandatory stop/camp time they were ahead of us.

As part of the race rules, we must stop and make camp for a minimum of 6 hours every day. The race managers said the beginning of this 6-hour stop must fall between 11pm and midnight, but they would allow a little leeway on either side of that hour. The Hobos stopped around 10:45 and, although they offered us to join them, we pushed on to find our own spot…and later wished we had accepted their offer!

About 30 minutes later – tired, wet and cold – we found our spot. Paul changed into dry camp clothes and I threw on a wind breaker. We unloaded our gear and set up camp. For safety, we had to position our food and water away from our boat and tents. In doing so, I noticed numerous moose tracks and bear prints, a skull and other bones, fur etc. I mentioned this to Paul and he, too, had come across some on the other side of his tent…we were NOT in a good place!

After looking around more, we realized we were in a ‘killing field’ (aka a good place for bear and moose to enjoy their supper) and knew we had to re-position.  Aack, that night we learned a lot about properly scouting out our potential campsite before investing too much time and energy into it! Oddly, that first night was our most mentally challenging night as it seems from that point on our rationale appeared to be more intact.

For the next couple of days, we went back and forth with the Hobos because they occasionally took breaks to get out of their boat, we didn’t.

On the 2nd night, we camped with them on the same little island just past Fort Selkirk although they reached it first. It was on that 2nd day they asked if we ever stopped and, in retrospect, we should have lied and said that we did! They quickly adjusted their strategy and we did not see them again – or any other racer – until the morning of the 4th day.

By this point, the waters of the Yukon River had already been insulted by the confluence of the White River. Around Race Mile 364 (afternoon of Day 3), it was mesmerizing and sad to see the silty plumes of the merging White River obliterate the beautifully clear Yukon waters. From that point on, not only did we listen to the hissing of the silt as our boat glided along and our paddles dipped in but we had to find clear sources of drinking water to filter as the silt was so pervasively thick that it clogged Paul’s water filter in less than 2 seconds.

To make matters worse, we ran into our first of several fires at the White River confluence. Visibility was not good, smoke was thick, burnt flotsam everywhere, water now silty white and hissing – not my most favorite portion of the race.

Day 4’s anticipated highlights were passing Dawson City (Race Mile 440) and entering the United States (Race Mile 532). Dawson City is the race’s only supported drop out point. Up to then, we knew if we had any issues and needed to pull out of the race, as long as we could hobble to Dawson City, we’d be taken care of.

After seeing the Hobos off and on in the distance on the morning of Day 4, we stopped to filter some water at a clear creek just past Dawson; we did not see the Hobos again until that night. We paddled through another huge section of fires and smoke and finally crossed into Alaska, 11 miles farther we arrived at Eagle. It was within the mandatory stop window that we climbed up the steel stairs to Eagle, found the phone and called US Customs to announce our arrival into the United States. Not wanting to make camp there, we pushed off for the island across the way and came across the Hobo’s camp. They invited us and we joined them for a windy, windy few hours of rest.

Day 5 was full of fires, wind and rain. We thought we saw the Hobos late in the day (they confirmed they did see us) but that was the last glimpse of them until the finish. That night we found a comfy little place to camp, enjoyed taking in the beautiful surroundings, then tucked ourselves away for a nice little rest. Little did we know how dramatically different the next couple of days would be.

Up until this point, the Yukon River carves a path through mountains and bluffs but on the morning of Day 6 we hit Circle, AK (~Race Mile 700). For the next couple hundred miles the Yukon River meanders through an area referred to as ‘the flats.’ There are no mountains nor bluffs to slow down the winds and the river itself works its way around multitudes of islands and sloughs that are transformed annually by the spring’s ice movements. The river gets very wide, several miles wide, with competing currents that you had to fight against not to be taken down a path adding miles to your race.

Unfortunately, we did not read this section well and by the afternoon of Day 6, we were passed by Team Kokura and later by Team Independence Poland. We went back and forth with Poland and even camped together on the same little beach that night but since they arrived there first, they left there first the next morning. After that, we saw no one until our finish on Day 8.

By the way, we did see much wildlife along the way – eagles, moose, bears, beavers, links, and wolverines. There were 31 teams that applied for this race, 14 teams accepted and 13 teams completed it. At the finish, the race managers were there to greet us with a Yukon River chilled beer, a race T-shirt, a commemorative coin, pictures, interviews and assistance in unloading our gear.

The logistics they endured to put on this race for us was phenomenal and I only hope I can return and do it again.”

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Actofit: Take II, Actofit Rise review

Actofit just notified me that they are sending a replacement unit for my original device, the Gen 1 Actofit fitness tracker.

The new device is called the Actofit Rise and it looks good on paper with continuous heart rate, GPS and is IP67 waterproof.

rise

The thing I liked most about this device in its first incarnation was its ability to track reps and sets in the gym along with the ability to train new exercises, such as kayak paddle strokes.  Unfortunately, the first release of this product was buggy and not quite ready for prime time.

If this new device delivers on gym tracking abilities and is a reasonable all-day, every day fitness tracker then it might displace the Amazfit Bip as my main device.

We shall see.

Update 9/24/18: The device arrived in the mail today.

I was expecting to set it up through the app on the phone but it took me a while to realize the device itself runs a full version of Android and all setup of Bluetooth, Wifi, etc. happens through the device itself.

As you can imagine, my reading glasses were required once the keyboard popped up on the device and inputting things likes my Gmail user name and password and wifi password should qualify me as a world-class surgeon.  And, no, a stylus did not work, so it took me several attempts.

The device is large compared to the Amazfit Bip, the Atlas Wearables 2 and the first generation of the Actofit, yet the virtual keyboard on the device is very, very small.

I’m reserving judgement until my first gym workout, but I have visions of wearing reading glasses to the gym and fighting with sweaty fingers to input numbers for amount of weight used and correcting the number of reps in case it gets it wrong.

I can’t imagine battery life will be very good considering it is running a full version of Android, but the device is so big they might have a big battery packed in there.

I think the key is going to be keeping BLE and wifi turned off until I need to upload my workouts to the cloud to then be able to pull into the app on the phone.

Reserving judgement, but it is not at all what I expected.

20180924_155440Out of the box

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Size vs. the Amazfit Bip

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Size vs. the Atlas Wearable 2 (well worn!)

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Size vs. the Gen 1 Actofit


Actofit Rise first impressions and early review video – Part I

Update 9/26/18:

I was unable to get the device to track workouts and then Actofit informed me that freestyle mode is not available yet and will come in a future update, so for now you have to follow guided routines.  The good news, though, is that you can create your own, custom guided workouts.

Well, that didn’t exactly work at first either, until a new app update came via Play Store overnight last night.

So I updated the app today, created 3 different guided workouts, and when I hit the gym to start the workouts and track them, the Actofit Rise failed to recognize even a single rep of any of the 4 different exercises.

So for now, the product is useless and falls short on promises.  I’m shocked they took so long to develop the gen 2 tracker and it still has so far to go.

I’ll re-review it if and when they do any major upgrades or improvements, but it is going in a drawer until then.

I’d really like to hear from other users of the new device to see if their experience is any different from mine.  I suppose it is possible I got a faulty device.


Actofit Rise review, Day 2 after app update

 


Final, composite review after 2 weeks

My next kayak

I’m developing the short list for my next boat. Think Evo 2, Epic (gasp) V8 Pro, Stellar SEL and Nelo 550. What else belongs in the consideration mix?

Let me know if you are interested in buying my: Phoenix Mini Slipper, Prijon Interceptor, Wenonah Orion, Phoenix Match II or, possibly even my Cobra Viper.

I need to free-up some cash.

The Thunderbolt-X now becomes my winter trainer, which is weird because not too many years ago I bought a winter trainer as an alternative to her.

Wye Island Regatta Kayak Challenge 2018

Yesterday I returned to Wye Mills, MD to compete in the Wye Island Regatta Kayak Challenge.

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It has been 5 years since I last raced this race, last in my Thunderbolt-X kayak in the Racing Single division which put me in with all the surfskis.

Prior to registering for this race I contacted the race coordinator to ask what class I should enter.  I explained my Nelo 510 is a surfski but plastic and 16’9″ long with a beam of 21.6″.

He replied and told me the technical specifications put me in the Recreational Kayak division so I grudgingly accepted that but told him that if anyone at all complained, to please bump me up a class or two, either into the Fast Touring or Racing Single.

Since my boat didn’t fit neatly into any category, I really didn’t know which division to choose.  I certainly did not belong with recreational kayaks but I certainly did not belong with composite racing skis either.

So I registered in the recreational kayak division and at the time I registered I was the only entry, which I thought was odd.

When I raced the first year of the Kayak Challenge, there was a plethora of kayaks in the event, so I figured maybe everyone was waiting for the last week before the event to register.

Sadly, there were only 4 or 5 true kayaks there plus myself, and the rest of the field were all males on racing skis.

I hope the organizers address this issue at some point and try to appeal to a broader range of kayakers in the future.  I realize this is primarily a rowing event, but if it wants to include kayaks then I think it ought to try to appeal to paddlers who are below the level of advanced or elite surfski paddler, perhaps with a reduced entry fee for true kayaks or some other level of recognition.

Trust me, the people who showed up in kayaks yesterday worked harder than anyone else.  It was a shame there weren’t more of them.

The organizers bumped up the starting times by 30 minutes to try to beat impending storms, but as luck would have it, as we launched at 8:30am it started raining before we even paddled to the starting line.  By the time the race started at ~8:45 the rain was coming down steadily and at times became very heavy with strong winds and choppy waves.  This lasted for much of the first 5 miles of the race.

By the time we rounded the far end of the island and started paddling back east, the headwinds were very strong and choppy waves were coming straight at us.  In fact, in this race, the wind and waves came from all different possible directions over the course of the race so those with the best balance and skills in a variety of conditions were rewarded.

wyecompositeMy Nelo 510, my tracks from GPS and step count

As I reached the far side of the island, the Kent Island Rowing Club in a 6-person outrigger canoe came up from behind be and slowly passed me into the wind.  We chatted back and forth and a couple times I was able to retake them over the next couples miles.  Their wind profile was so high it was holding them back so I was evenly matched with them under those conditions purely based on out-of-the-water wind profile.

I paddled very close to them for the final 3 miles and tried to catch the last of the composite surfskis toward the finished line, but still came in about 10 seconds behind him.

I ended up taking home the winner’s medal, but I did not feel good about it knowing I beat a really nice guy in a regular 16′ recreational kayak who poured his heart into it.

I felt like I brought a gun to a knife fight.

But there were no Fast Touring kayaks and only 3 men and 3 women in the Recreational Kayak division so even if I entered in the Fast Touring Kayak division (20″ beam or greater & 17′ or longer,) I would have been the only entrant and the race organizers would likely have combined kayak divisions

I wish there was more competition in the kayak divisions.

This was a much different scene from the early years of the Kayak Challenge when there were many more true kayakers. In 2010 there were at least 10 participants in the rec kayak division and more than that in the Fast Touring division.

I’ll probably not come back to this race unless I buy a composite surfski and compete with the more elite racers.  Lack of participation from other kayakers doesn’t make me feel very appropriate in this race.

The race organizers should either embrace kayaks or announced this race is for rowers and surfskis only.

I have my eye on the Think Evo, the Nelo 550, the Epic V8 Pro, or the Stellar SEI, but I would only use one of those boats in one or two races per year and they would not suit my needs for the vast majority of the paddling I do where rocks are an issue.

So I find myself in No Man’s Land with regard to the Wye Island Regatta as I don’t want to invest 3 or 4 grand into a boat that is only suited to a couple races per year, and I don’t feel good about competing with far superior plastic against a limited field.

I wish there was a more affordable option to get into a composite surfski.

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Below is my video from the race.  I had two cameras but the rain was so heavy and the water so choppy there was water on the lenses for much of the race so much of the video is unusable.

 

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Lemfo LT02 Fitness Tracker Review

20180828_161806The Lemfo LT02 Fitness Tracker

Lemfo reached out to me and offered me a free device in exchange for a fair and honest review and that’s exactly what this is.

In my never-ending quest for the perfect fitness tracking device for kayaking, this device ranks highly in that it counts paddle strokes as steps.  Other than the Amiigo that I had to “train” to recognize paddle strokes, this is the first device I’ve had that actually counts paddle strokes as steps.

That’s a good thing.

Step counting seems accurate, sleep tracking is awesome and it can be set to automatically measure heart rate and automatically illuminate the display when you lift your wrist (I turn this latter feature off to prolong battery life.)

The band detaches and the device is charged directly on a USB port so no charging cable is included or required, which is a huge positive to me. One less thing to break or need to be replaced.

I ordered the black and green band and it also came with a spare grey/black one, which is very good to have a spare or switchable band.

The only downsides I see so far are the fact that sleep tracking can only take place during the hours of 10pm and 8am, so if you sleep outside of those hours or take naps, that sleep will not be tracked.  Also the device does not have built-in GPS.

But you probably don’t expect GPS in a device under $40, do you?

I like the looks of the tracker and it fits well on my wrist.

If you are on a budget or are looking for a basic tracker for steps, sleep and heart rate then I think this is a good option for you.

Readers of this blog get a special discount from Lemfo on this device.  Click the Amazon link below and enter code LEM66V88 and save $12.95.  That means you can get this device, regularly priced at $36.99, for only $24.04.  Exclusively for you reading this blog right now.

https://amzn.to/2N4f00c