Water and air temperature and the use of wetsuits when kayaking or canoeing

With Spring officially here in the northern hemisphere, many boaters will be heading back out on the water to enjoy what they perceive to be warm, sunny days.

But there is a danger.

Bodies of water and rivers and streams will take much longer to warm up so as a matter of survival, know when to wear a wetsuit.

watertempsWater temperatures and the use of wetsuits

Water temperatures are only part of the equation.

If you take an unplanned swim in chilly water and manage to get to shore or back in the boat OK, the air temperatures still have a great impact on your chances of survival.

Use the 120° Rule:

You should wear a wetsuit or dry suit whenever the sum of the air temperature and water temperature is equal to or less than 120°F.

Here is a handy .pdf guide to cold water survival.

Print it out.  Read it often. Learn it.  Live it.

Be safe out there.

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.

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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.)

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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.

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A great day for a workout paddle

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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

Return to the James River Rundown

Today I registered for the James River Rundown to be held on June 24-25.  They changed the distances of the various races this year and did away with the 20-mile, 100-mile, and 140-mile variations and switched to a 120-mile version that requires an overnight stop in the town of Scottsville, VA, a 50-mile, one-day race on Sunday the 25th, and a 5 mile “fun float” also on Sunday.

I thought about it for a little more than a week since they announced the race, not sure if I liked the idea of a required overnight stop, but also not sure if entering the 50-mile version would be too big of a step backwards.

Since last year I’ve been mulling over a return to the 100 or stepping it up to the 140, so that’s where my mind has been.

After careful consideration, I decided to register for the 120-mile race. It might actually make logistics a little easier for my support crew since I can self-support myself at the starting line in Lynchburg, VA on Saturday morning and then really only require some help at Scottsville in terms of supply replenishment Saturday night…and that is the closest the race will get to my home in Charlottesville so it actually means I could just have somebody meet me there for a few hours Saturday night with fresh supplies and then meet me again at the finish line at Tucker Park in Goochland County at the end of the day on Sunday to take me back to Lynchburg.

It would be a HUGE help if I found somebody in Scottsville willing to let me have a room for the night or just let me use a bathroom with shower Saturday night and Sunday morning.  I’ll also probably eat dinner Saturday night at Tavern On The James, so meet me at the boat ramp in Scottsville and let’s walk over for dinner together.


The race route

As odd as it might sound, I think the toughest part is going to be getting off the water Saturday evening and then getting back on the water again early Sunday morning.  I would much rather do it in one, straight shot like last year, but I fully understand why race planners might not like the idea of having people paddling through the night.

So there it is, on my calendar for June 24-25.  My official on-water training begins within the next two weeks.

It will be good to paddle the Lynchburg section of the James River again.  I haven’t been on that section since 2012 when a day camp named Camp Kumbayah coordinated a race there.

I’ll be staying in Lynchburg Friday night so if you want to get together for dinner that night just let me know.


Camp Kumbayah Race, 2012, starting in Lynchburg

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Starting to wind down in the gym

My gym workout this evening started to look different than it has lately.

I did some relatively light calf raises and shoulder shrugs before hitting the Concept II rower for 25 minutes or 4656m of HIIT’s, 8 minutes of intervals on the elliptical machine, and then finished off with some dumbbell lateral raises.

I’m transitioning to lighter weights and more cardio to get ready for paddling season.

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Exercises for kayakers

A few of my favorite exercises…

Raised leg dumbbell flies:

Raised leg dumbbell pullover:

Reverse dumbbell fly:

Barbell back squat:

Close grip front lat pulldown:

Wide grip front lat pulldown:

Seated cable row:

Rowing ergometer:

Kayak ergometer:

Winding down the heavy training

It doesn’t seem like October was all that long ago, but that was when kayaking season ended and my in-the-gym, off-season began.

Now that the new season is just around the corner, I find myself absolutely crushing it in the gym, trying to get in as much volume and muscle mass gain as possible.

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Another high-volume gym session for me tonight

In just another week or two I’ll shift my training and start getting ready for a new kayak racing season.  That means cutting as much fat as possible off my body to get to the best muscle-to-weight ratio I can achieve.  I’ll change my training to try maintain as much muscle as possible while getting as light as is reasonable.

In short, I’ll take 3-4 weeks to lean out and lighten up.

I live my life about 90-95% #NSNG (no sugars, no grains) most of the time, but during this month before the first race I have a tradition of going #NBNW (no beer, no wine) and also watching total calories, something that I don’t typically believe in.  During the off-season I try to lift heavy and consume just above maintenance calories but now will shift to lower weights and lower volume in the gym and eat at just below maintenance calories.

My first race will be April 29, when I jump right into it with a 19-mile race, “Little D on the Monocacy” in Frederick, MD to open my season.  This is a new race to me and I don’t have any idea what to expect.

Then the first and second Saturdays in May I’ll be at the Nelson Downriver Race and the Rivanna River Race, respectively.

I’ll be racing several other races, too, but the big event will be the James River Rundown.  I just got word that there is only a 50-mile and 120-mile option this year, so you know I have to go for 120.  Unfortunately, the 120-mile race requires an overnight stop in the middle of the race at the end of Day #1.  This will be new to me.  I’d much prefer paddling straight through and getting it done in one day.

So if you find yourself in Lynchburg, VA very early on June 24 or in Scottsville, VA that evening, let me know and we can meet up and share some stories.

Extra credit (a free hat) if you buy me a beer in Scottsville that night.  (I hope The Tavern On The James  sees this and offers us a couple of bar stools.)

My #NBNW will pretty much be done at that point, but I’ll still have to paddle 50 miles the next day, so nothing crazy.

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James River Rundown 2016, my experience.

Missed training day yesterday turned into gold

I had to leave town on business yesterday and thanks to heavy traffic and an accident on the D.C. beltway and then another wreck on the Garden State Parkway, I arrived at my hotel late, tired, and hungry and decided to skip my workout and do it this morning.  A rare event for me because I am generally not a morning person and evening workouts have become part of my routine.

So I popped some ZMA before bedtime last night, went to bed early, woke up a little before 6am to hit the fitness center, and got in a pretty good workout.  I got an even better night’s sleep and my fitness tracker rewarded me with the highest “sleep score” I’ve seen since integrating it into my training.

Sleep has been a real challenge for me lately.

This reminded me of a few things.

1) If you aren’t physically and mentally ready to hit the gym hard on a training day, it is OK to skip the workout. Just improvise and squeeze it in as soon as you can.

2) Use a hiccup in your training as an opportunity. I saw my missed workout as an opportunity to go to bed early and try to get a good night’s sleep. As a result, I feel great today.

3) Listen to your body. Sometimes that tired feeling means you need to drop down into low gear and get some rest. Know when your body is fatigued and screaming for down time and don’t mistake that for lack of motivation.

I think anyone who takes their training seriously runs the risk of becoming a slave to the routine and a prisoner to the training schedule or plan. Don’t be afraid to alter course every once in a while.

Tomorrow I’ll be right back up on the horse after only a minor detour that was a net positive.

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The results of going to bed early and getting up early for a rare, morning workout.