Moving on from ‘Let’s Move’

I’d like to take a moment to direct your attention to an article in today’s Washington Examiner, “Moving on from ‘Let’s Move,’” penned by my fitness trainer, Vinnie Tortorich.

I congratulate Vinnie on this accomplishment.

You see, in my real life, I am a marketing and branding guy with many outside interests which include kayaking and fitness.

When I began my exploration into fitness just a few short years ago, I found Vinnie and found his message to be compelling, simple to communicate in a way that cuts through the clutter and most importantly, truthful.  As a communicator and marketer, Vinnie nailed it.

He was the one who summarized proper diet and eating habits in the simple terms, “No sugars, No grains.”  He wasn’t trying to sell his own line of diet food or diet plan.  No, he was simply trying to get out a message to help people improve their health and their lives.

I’m happy to help him get that message out because I believe it is critically important.



James River Rundown practice run

If you would have told me a few years ago that I would paddle an ultra-marathon in a kayak I would have told you you were crazy.

If you would have told me that I’d paddle an ultra as a training run I would have just laughed uncontrollably.

Yet here we are.

Paddling Buddy Dave and I got on the river at 7am this morning to paddle the full length of the Rivanna River and then 10 miles of the James River from Columbia, VA to Cartersville.

We’ve gotten a lot of rain in the past couple days and the rivers were very high, so we kept our eye on the gauges and visually inspected the rivers to make sure we would be paddling within our skill level and not putting ourselves in any danger.  The levels dropped overnight on Friday, just as expected, so we had a “green light” for a day of paddling.

As we shuttled vehicles Friday night I guestimated it would take us between 8 and 9 hours based on our projected river flows.

55 miles, 8 hours and 8 minutes of paddling with ~30 minutes of rest/eating/water-replenishing later, and we completed our mission.

We are tired and sore.

At one point on the river the only thought that came into my mind were the song lyrics, “I focus on the pain, the only thing that’s real.”

The last 7 miles of the Rivanna seemed slow and boring and my back was shot by the time we hit the James so I just did what I had to do to get it over with.

Paddling Buddy Dave showed no signs of fatigue on the water and I continue to hold him in highest regard as an absolute paddling beast.

The Pyranha Octane and Epic V7 seemed very evenly matched and any advantage of one over the other seemed purely attributable to the paddler.

Nutrition for me was water with BCAA’s, almonds, Pistachios, beef jerkey, and two Epic bars.

Training run tomorrow

Paddling Buddy Dave and I are doing a training run tomorrow.  We’ll be running the full length of the Rivanna River from Charlottesville to Columbia and then down the James to Cartersville.

We believe it to be the longest single day trip reported on the Rivanna/James.



The Nelson Downriver Race 2017

The Nelson Downriver race, or locally known as “The Tye River Race,” is normally held the first Saturday in May each year.  It is also typically my first race of the year, one week before my local Rivanna River race so I usually treat it with respect and use it as a gauge for my general preparedness for racing season.

Not this year.

The race got postponed this year until today due to high water on the scheduled race day so the Rivanna Race actually occurred first this year, and since I kicked arse on the Rivanna last Saturday and had added a 19-mile race prior, I felt no need to try to prove anything on the river today for the rescheduled Nelson Downriver.

So I experimented.

I took my Pyranha Octane surf ski with me today to test her (and my skills with her) on our first flowing water together.

I picked up Paddling Buddy Dave on my way through Charlottesville in the morning and we made our way to Nelson County.

When we got to the river it looked very low and I quickly surmised I had the wrong boat on the river on the wrong day with the wrong paddler.

This was my first time in any sort of flowing river or rapids with the boat and I saw the river would require maneuvering and I knew my comfort level with her on flowing water was zero.  Literally.  I’d never paddled her downriver.

When I got on the river I felt twitchy in the river current and decided to keep my over-stern rudder up so as not to snap it off in the low water.

Shortly after Paddling Buddy Dave and I started together I realized I would be no match for him today as he was very comfortable in his Epic V7 and kept his rudder down.

So I picked my way through set after set of rapids, making major correcting and steering strokes which greatly killed my speed.  I bumped and scraped on many rocks.  The pollen was so thick in the air that not even my vasodilator/pump supplement trick nor allergy pills did any good and I hacked and coughed my way down the river.

Then the headwind picked up and started blowing me all over the river.

I realized the Octane has a significant amount of rocker and constantly wanted to get sucked into the eddies below rapids.

So when the water was deep and slow I dropped the rudder and when I approached rapids I lifted it up and out of the water which required me to steer via my paddling with corrective strokes again.

I realized how comfortable I’ve become using a rudder to steer and otherwise concentrate on optimizing my strokes for maximum efficiency.

I just wasn’t able to do that today.

Very often when I plunged my paddled blade into the water to try to take solid strokes, the end of the paddle blade immediately hit and bounced off a submerged rock.  Too many times for me to count.

The river was very shallow.

So I worked my way down the river using correcting strokes that were also shallow.

As you might predict, I didn’t do too well and even managed to overturn through Rockpile Rapid.  (Oh, how I hate thee!)

DaveDolakOverboard-14Trouble, again, at Rockpile Rapids

In the end, I finished in second place behind Paddling Buddy Dave, but most importantly I gained downriver experience with the boat and became much more comfortable in it.

The James River will be easy in this boat compared to the Tye.

I’m not happy with the way I paddled down the river today, but I am happy with the fact that I gained river experience with the boat and now have some confidence with her.

It was a beautiful day on a beautiful river with old friends and I met some new friends and hope to paddle with them again soon.

Oh, and nutrition?’

Grabbed a large cup of coffee along the way to the race with some beef jerky and string cheese for breakfast.  Didn’t eat again until 5pm when I had a Caesar salad with bacon.

PS – After I got home and inspected the bottom of my boat (which was fine) I discovered the Octane has a spring-loaded, kick-up rudder that would have been fine to leave down the whole time.  DOH!  Is it too late for a do-over?  All part of the learning curve I suppose.


Rivanna River Regatta Race 2017


Ahhhhh, my local river race.

The one for local bragging rights.

The one I don’t have to drive a ridiculous number of miles to get to.

I woke up at 6am Saturday morning, 40 minutes before my alarm, fully awake and excited to paddle in my local race, The Rivanna River Regatta.

This was the 12th year of the event and I’ve been primarily responsible for promoting it so I’m always a bit nervous the morning of the race, hoping it will be a success but not knowing how many people will actually show up.

It had rained (lightly but continuously) here in Charlottesville for two days prior to the race and people are generally averse to showing up for outdoor events in the rain. And if that event happens to be a river race, they assume the river must be at flood levels.

This latter part makes no sense, but I think it has to do with human psychology tricking people into sleeping in.  It certainly has nothing to do with USGS river gauges.

Friday after work, concerned that maybe the river would be too high or have obstacles too dangerous for novice paddlers, I threw my whitewater boat on the top of my truck and headed to the put-in a few miles from my house to run the race route to make sure it would be safe to race the next morning.

It was free of obstacles and not even very high so I communicated with race organizers who then decided there was no reason to cancel or postpone the event just because of a little rain.

When I arrived at the starting line on race morning, the river indeed was up several inches from the night before, but still very safe and manageable.  The rain even stopped in the early morning and by race time the sky started clearing.

By the time my fellow racers and I got to the finish line the sun was starting to shine through.

It was a perfect day for racing.  Somewhat overcast for most of the race so it wasn’t too hot, water level up but not pushy or dangerous, and great people with which to share the river.

Many of the side channels and rocks I saw Friday night were all washed over so the river provided more options and a greater margin for error which is great for race day.

I decided to once again paddle my Cobra Viper kayak but was a little worried when I got to the start of the race to find a fiberglass wildwater boat, an Epic V7 surf ski, and a long Necky ocean something-or-other made from Kevlar or fiberglass.  On top of that was a home-built design that looked fast and a few other crafts that seemed highly competitive.

The race began and I started a few boats back in the pack.  I suffered through the wash from other boats at the start and some of my fellow paddlers jumped out to an early lead.

I figured I was in for a tough race and was starting to question my decision to “go light” and not even bring water with me for the race.  By the looks of things early, it was going to be a neck-and-neck, bitter fight to the end and I feared I might need to drink water later in the race, but I had none with me.

In fact, I took nothing with me except for my car key in a dry bag.

That was very unusual for me.

I almost always paddle with plenty of water, a GPS unit, my phone, and an emergency first aid & repair kit.

I was also a little worried about my nutrition beyond just water, especially if the sun came out and heated things up.

You see, in my morning excitement and with an earlier-than-planned departure from home, I assumed I would drop my boat at the starting line, grab something to eat, and then take my vehicle to the finish line and shuttle back, so I left the house with nothing but a cup of coffee in hand.

Well, I got busy helping out at the starting area and chatting with fellow racers and then led a parade of 4 other vehicles to the take-out, caught the shuttle bus provided by The Rivanna River Company, and next thing you know, it was race time and I had nothing in my stomach but a cup of coffee.

I had taken my allergy medicine when I woke up but that was it.  A nasal allergy pill and a cup of coffee.

Just before the race I also did something unusual that I’ll share with you.

As an allergy sufferer, I’m always worried about breathing and getting enough air into my lungs when I’m outdoors and working hard physically.

Two weeks prior, at the Little D On The Monocacy race, I experimented with something new.  (I love to experiment on myself and try to biohack.)

Along with a recent order of some sports supplements, I received a free sample of something called NaNOX9 Next Gen by MuscleTech.  This particular supplement is a vasodilator and “nitric oxide amplifier,” something bodybuilders use to “get the pump.”  (I do not benefit in any way from promoting this product and am not associated with NaNOX9 or MuscleTech in any way.)  Well, at the “Little D” race I thought I’d try this vasodilator product sample to see if it would help my breathing.

It seemed to help.

So in the two weeks since that race, I bought a bottle of the stuff and planned to take 1 serving (4 pills) at the starting line of the race.  So I did and washed them down with a bottle of water.

The stuff worked as planned.  I’m sure this off-label use of the product was never foreseen or tested, but I am now a believer and I pass this ‘pro tip’ on to you as something to research and consult your physician on if you suffer from seasonal, nasal allergies.    I am not a doctor and am not qualified to diagnose or treat anything, but in my untrained opinion, this particular dietary supplement helped me breathe freely for the race.

So I was off and racing on nothing but some water, some coffee, and this “pump” supplement.

I wan’t too worried, though, because I knew I was in a state of dietary ketosis and my body would be burning fat as its main fuel source.  I’ve been adhering to the “NSNG” (No sugars, no grains) lifestyle promoted by Vinnie Tortorich, my fitness trainer,  and got even more rigid with my diet for several weeks prior to the race to ensure I was in ketosis.  I didn’t have much fear of fatiguing or bonking, but there was that nagging “what if” thought in the back of my mind.

Well, like I said.  I like to experiment and this would be a true experiment.

Back to the race.

The racers got off to a fast start and I found myself in a near sprint for pretty much the first mile.  I managed to work my way to the head of the pack but knew people weren’t too far behind so I kept paddling really hard for the entire 6.2 mile race.

The race video

Once or twice I settled into a marathon pace for 10-20 seconds, but for the most part I felt great and when I began to realize I might be able to set a new course record, I went right back into sprint mode.

I tried to crush it on the flat water and was liberal with bracing strokes through the white water to avoid doing anything stupid and making catastrophic mistakes.

At one point somewhere around mile 5 or 5-1/2 there was a nice family gathered on the bank of the river, cheering and whooping at me as I went by.  I quickly said thank you and asked how close the guy was behind me and they replied with words I wasn’t expecting to hear.  “We don’t see anyone behind you yet.”  That was when I knew I had a bit of a lead.

Everything worked out and I crossed the finish line in 43 minutes and 5 seconds, a new race record.

It was another couple hours after finishing the race that I had a chance to eat, but I did not feel starved or depleted.  Just really hungry.

It was a great day and a great race with a very good result.  I think all the participants had fun and it was great to see old friends and meet some new people.

Next Saturday it is on to the Tye River in Nelson County, VA for the rescheduled Nelson Downriver Race.  Come join me.  And come to Charlottesville on the second Saturday in May next year to run the Rivanna Race.

Boat cam of the entire run. condensed time




A little leg work

Between paddling a 19.5 mile race last Saturday, 5 miles last evening to stay loose, and with an 8.5 mile race coming up this Saturday, I decided to work my lower body tonight and give my arms, chest and lats a little break.

See you Saturday at The Nelson Downriver Race.

*** UPDATE: This race has been postponed until May 20, 2017 due to high water ***



The “Little D on the Monocacy” race


Yesterday I paddled in my season-opening race on the Monocacy River up in Frederick Maryland and was blown away by what I discovered.

Danny Sullivan, or “Little D,” was diagnosed with Metachromatic Leukodystropy a few years ago.  It is a terminal disease that affects the growth and development of myelin, the fatty covering that acts as an insulator around nerve fibers throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems.    Symptoms include muscle wasting and weakness, muscle rigidity, developmental delays, progressive loss of vision leading to blindness, convulsions, impaired swallowing, and paralysis.

Friends and family of Little D organized this race a few years ago to raise money for the immediate family to allow them to do as much with Little D as they can while he is still with us.

The sense of community and purpose I discovered was inspiring.

I woke up at 5am, grabbed a shower quietly so as not to wake the family, got ready quickly, and then made the normally 3 hour drive up to Frederick and was pleasantly surprised when it only took 2-1/2 hours.

Traffic through Leesburg, VA is certainly much easier before most decent folk are awake and on the roads.

I had my boat (Cobra Viper kayak) and all my gear loaded in the truck the night before so I could get on the road as quickly as possible.

I had entered the 19.5 mile race this day but there was also a 6 mile version.  I opted for the longer race as a test of my physical conditioning so early in the season to use as a benchmark for my training for the rest of the season.

I arrived plenty early and had a chance to chat with Steve Corbett, event coordinator, and learn a little more about the event and river conditions. The participant turnout for the 19.5 mile race was a bit disappointing but Steve told me there were 30 or more paddlers gathered at the starting line for the 6 mile race.

Before the race even began I helped a local kayak fisherman finishing up for the morning load his kayak on his trailer and when he heard about the event he walked up to the registration table and made a donation on the spot.

We got on the water and I asked a fellow paddler to turn on my bow camera for me and he was happy to do so.

Turns out, he was Brian A. from Pennsylvania and as we chatted we learned that we had paddled together last year at the Lehigh Classic Whitewater Race, but didn’t know or recognize each other.

Brian is an outstanding paddler and he and his Epic Touring Endurance 18 fiberglass kayak would turn out to be more than I could handle on this day.  The Touring Endurance 18 was the predecessor to what is now known as the Epic 18X.

After a quick bit of research, I was able to find a photo of Brian and me at the Lehigh Classic last year.

It is a small world and an even smaller community of kayak racers.


Brian and me at the Lehigh Classic in 2016

The race began and I allowed the other racers to get off ahead of me so I could capture some video.

As luck would have it, Icarus Air was there with a video drone and they graciously volunteered their services and allowed me to use some of their video.

We started in overcast conditions at the 10am start but the sky cleared, the sun came out, and it was very hot by 11:45.  Normally kayakers hate a headwind, but the headwind during the end of the race was actually very welcomed as it helped us stay cool.

Two sets of canoers in racing canoes jumped out to an early lead at the start of the race and that just left Brian in plain sight of me for the entire race.  I burned more energy than I wanted to early in the race just to stay close to him thinking I’d wait for the latter parts of the race to try to make a move as he tired, but it turned out Brian kept as much gas in the tank as he needed and chose all the right lines on the river so that by mile 15 I realized I was unlikely to pass him.

This section of the Monocacy River is slow and winding so this was almost entirely a flat water race.  Had I known this, I would have chosen a faster, lighter boat.

So I settled into  healthy pace and enjoyed the remainder of the race by mile 16, with Brian still in sight, but with a wider gap than I had allowed previously.

At the end, I came across the finish line in second place for kayakers on the 19.5 mile race, 2-1/2 minutes behind Brian with an official time of 2:55:27. My GPS showed exactly 19.5 miles with a moving average speed of 6.6mph and a maximum speed of 9.3mph.

I’ve never been at a race where there were so many people cheering at the finish line.  The supporters and volunteers for this race are awesome!

There were tents with food and drinks at the finish line and an awards ceremony.

The idea behind this race is to help Little D’s family now and then serve as a living legacy to his memory.

I encourage all paddlers to participate in this race next year and every year after that.

I’ll be back.

Come paddle with me.

See you next Saturday at the Nelson Downriver Race.

See also:

Frederick New-Post Story

The Race page on Facebook