James River Rundown 2016

Yesterday I registered for the James River Rundown, an epic kayak and canoe race in Central Virginia now in its third year.  The James River Rundown began as a two-day 100 mile paddling race in 2014 with all proceeds supporting the James River Association.  For 2016 they’ve added a challenging 140-Mile race in addition the the classic 100-Mile Rundown and the  20 Mile Rundown.

The race will be held June 11-12, 2016, and I entered the 100-mile race in the Elite division.  This will be the longest single day kayak trip and my longest kayak race ever attempted.

If you recall, I raced in this race last year when they had a 40-mile race option and ended up coming in first place.  That was my way of testing the waters, so to speak, to see if I might be ready for the 100-mile race in 2016.

Well, it is 2016 and I’m going for it!

The weird thing is, I’ve been hitting the gym and lifting heavy for the past few months, trying to pack on a few pounds of lean muscle while also trying to gain some strength and the training plan I created for myself has me continuing to lift heavy and eat at a caloric surplus through the end of February and then start eating at maintenance or just below through March and April while lifting moderate weights and rep ranges to try to lean down while not losing too much muscle and strength.

But now I find myself in a sort of mental no man’s land where I want to stick to the plan but feel the urge to jump the gun and start backing off the weights and ramping up the cardio to get in top paddling shape for the Rundown.

I hopped on my basement kayak ergometer after work and planned to put in 30 minutes of paddling (the local water is frozen,) but my shoulders are a little too sore from lifting moderately heavy at high volume yesterday to paddle that long so I hopped over to my gym after 5 minutes and put in 30 minutes on the Concept II rowing ergometer, then did some leg presses with calf raises and then three sets of 10 back squats with 85 pounds on the bar.

6300 meters with high intensity intervals on the Concept 2 rowing ergometer

I’m exciting to start training hard for paddling season and will keep you posted on how my training changes now as the seasons change and my fitness goals change.  I’m going to back off any and all overhead work that stresses the shoulders like wide grip lat pulldowns and focus on moderate to maybe even light weights at moderate to light rep ranges while ramping up the cardio with a primary focus on paddling and working on my stroke technique.

Maybe it is time to read the excellent book,  The Kayak Coaches’ Manifesto, one more time.


As soon as the temperatures rise and my local water thaws I’ll be hitting it hard on the water.


Wye Island Regatta 2013

The weeks passed during the summer of 2013 and I continued on my journey to shed some pounds and get “healthier” by eating at a caloric deficit most of the time and by doing as much cardio as possible much of the time.  I also paddled quite a number of training runs in August and September to get in racing shape.  My typical training run is either 10 or 14 miles on my local reservoir, depending upon how much time and daylight I have to work with.

I also continued weight/resistance training and had no idea what I was actually doing but I knew I was starting to have chronic pain in my shoulders and elbows.  My tendons almost always ached.

I had peddled my bike hundreds of miles that year and I had paddled kayaks 317 miles prior to September 14, 2013 which was the date of the Wye Island Regatta.

I drove up to Easton, MD the day before and stayed at my usual Holiday Inn Express so I would be in place and ready to paddle the following morning.  Thankfully I went out and had a big meal that night and woke up and ate a big breakfast the following morning, hours before the race.

It was another year where the weather was questionable so the race organizers once again re-arranged the course to be an out-and-back on the more protected side of the island.

I had two cameras on my Thunderbolt-X kayak and the one on the stern malfunctioned before the race even began and the one on my bow almost got knocked out of commission, but friend and fellow paddler, Cliff Roach, from Keystone Kayaks saved the camera so I would have the video below to share with you.

I took a disappointing third place that year in my division and found I had to make many bracing strokes to deal with the chop from the wind.

I would be remiss at this point if I did not give a shout out to Hoos In Treble, an all-female acappella singing group at the University of Virginia for the soundtrack for this video.  I adopted these young ladies when my niece was a member of the group and I like to share their talent with as many people as possible whenever I can.  You can even buy their music on iTunes.



Tour de Greene

Two weeks later on Saturday morning I woke up early  and decided to take a bike ride before the rest of the family woke up.  I was starting to get used to interrupted sleep and waking up very early.

I then found myself on the “other” side of Route 29 in Greene County at Springhill Baptist Church and then signed in for the Tour de Greene…a bike ride through Greene County, VA.

I rode the 41 mile route but since I rode from my home to get there and then rode back home afterwards it was a 50 mile ride.

I indeed got back home before the last child was out of bed.

Just in time for a cup of coffee and an episode or three of Phineas and Ferb.

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.

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.


Tye River, Nelson Downriver Race 2013

I spent much of Spring 2013 either on my bike or in a kayak getting in shape for racing season…or riding season…I wasn’t even exactly sure what I was training for at this point.

I had ridden hundreds of miles on the bike, eaten way too few calories for months, and paddled 153.47 miles leading up to my first kayak race of the season on the first Saturday in May, 2013.

It was back to the Tye River in Nelson County, VA for the Nelson Downriver Race.

I was ready to compete with the best and since the water was on the low side that year, I chose the Phoenix Match II kayak with wing paddle and I was ready to crush it.

I was feeling good.

As an aside, up to that point in the year my typical daily eating might have been a yogurt and apple for breakfast (or skipping breakfast altogether,) a can of soup for lunch, maybe a protein drink or another apple as a snack, and a chicken breast and broccoli for dinner.

I look at the picture of me racing that day and cringe when I see the sunken cheeks and the look of chronic cardio and semi-starvation.  But hey, I was dropping belly fat and I knew I had weight to lose so all was good, right?  I thought I was doing a good thing.

nelson2013Nelson Downriver Race, 2013

I was doing well in the race until I got to a point known as Rockpile Rapids.

There were other people in the rapids at the time so I chose a path that I normally would not have chosen. The line I wanted was already taken by another paddler but rather than hang back and wait for a clear path I decided to choose another route through the rapids and muscle on through it.

Big mistake.

I hit a submerged rock that I did not see and it was the most powerful impact I’ve ever experienced between kayak and rock.  It almost took my breath away and it took me a second or two to recover from the impact in the middle of the river while I was trying to not overturn.  The impact put a hole in my boat and I was taking on water at a moderately fast rate so I spent the rest of the race paddling and then stopping to pump out all the water from my boat.

I knew I was done in terms of placing in the race.  Now it was simply about just getting to the finish line.

It was a disappointing result and I feared it was a very bad sign of what might be to come that year.



Also at the start of 2013…

I decided to take kayak training a little more seriously and work on my balance skills so I built myself a balance trainer.  It was the first iteration of a much more impressive design that was yet to come.

Back on the bike

One of the first things I did in the new year in 2013 was to purchase a road bike and get back on the bicycle.

I loved long distance riding growing up in the 1980’s and often would ride an entire day or sometimes even pack up camping gear with my friend and ride hundreds of miles over a long weekend.

BradysBendRiding and camping in the mid- 1980’s, Brady’s Bend, PA

Now decades, a marriage, and three children later, I noticed that no matter how I stared at myself in the mirror and sucked in my gut, my gut was sure to get anywhere I was going slightly sooner than the rest of me.

I removed the clothes and other debris that were hanging from my multi-station exercise machine in the basement and also decided to invest in a new piece of exercise equipment that I knew I loved–the bicycle.

So I started exercising and riding a bike again and decided to start watching what I ate so maybe I could lose some pounds of fat.  I wasn’t fat, per se, but was skinny fat.

This soon would lead to a journey of overdoing it on cardio, eating way too few calories for far too long, and crashing my metabolism.  Of course I had no idea what was happening at the time, but now that I look back I can’t believe how ill-informed I was on diet and exercise.  I simply thought that burning tons of calories while eating far fewer would lead to weight loss and good health.

I was wrong.

In any case, the bike I chose to purchase was a Diamondback Podium Sport since I wanted a reasonably good road bike but didn’t want to overbuy a full carbon bike.  My decision even got a nice write-up on the Diamonback Bicycles blog later that year.

podiumDiamondback Podium Sport

So I started riding 15-18 miles per outing, 3-4 times per week with a longer ride thrown in on the weekends.

I was having more fun on the roads than I had since I sold off my motorcycles and felt like I was getting healthier and reclaiming my health.

This lead to many good things and health benefits…for a while.