Update on the Prijon Interceptor project

You may recall me bringing home an old-school, Hyperform Prijon Interceptor last summer. https://davethekayaker.com/2017/08/10/a-vintage-downriver-racer/

I finally finished her restoration in between the thunderstorms and decided to make her pretty rough and ugly.

Here’s the back story.

Since the James River Rundown (JRR) is no longer, a new outfit, The Crosswind Paddle Co., is hosting a new race in August, The Richmond Paddle Cup. Rumor has it they added a 17-mile race to try to attract the JRR long-distance crowd.

Well, I have news for them.

It is going to work.

In fact, it is going to work so well that the elite JRR paddlers have agreed to enter the race but we will all compete with kayaks and canoes we purchase from Craigslist for $200 or less. It is known as the Craigslist Challenge and will be a race within the race.

I finished the restoring the old Prijon Interceptor (purchased for $90 from Craigslist) and took her out for a paddle this evening.

She is the most uncomfortable boat I’ve ever paddled and the cockpit opening is so small it is hard for me to get in and out of.

Nonetheless, she will be my boat and I painted her up nice and ugly so nobody in their right mind would ever think of stealing her.

The boat is now a cross between a Swiss Army knife and a candy cane.

I hope her integrity and my lower back will be able to survive those 17 miles on August 11 on the James River.

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New river race in Central Virginia?

I’ve been pondering a new race on my local river for a few years now and have made the first steps toward making it a reality.

First, I asked East Coast paddlers if they’d have an interest in a 44-mile race and they overwhelmingly replied, “yes!”

Second, I went ahead and reserved a domain name this evening.

What are your thoughts?

Are you interested in a 44-mile race–the full length of the Rivanna River–in Central Virginia?

If so head on over to www.RunOfTheRivanna.org and fill out the form so we can determine if there is enough interest.

RR44_b

Rivanna River Race 2018

The Rivanna River  Race has been held every year since 2006 and until this year I’ve raced in every once, except the first year when I did not know about it.

In all previous years the race was organized by one man, Merrill Bishop, who did all the heavy lifting of planning, organizing and arranging volunteers.

For the past several years I have quietly contributed behind the scenes assisting with marketing, public relations, communications and building communities to support the race via the Rivanna River Paddlers Facebook group, http://www.CvillPaddlers.com, and @CvillePaddlers on Twitter. I was happy to help promote kayak racing in the local community and always took great joy in helping ensure the success of our local race and helping others develop an appreciation for paddling.

This year was different.

Merrill decided to step back after last year’s race and I agreed to be a co-organizer this year along with Paddling Buddy Dave.

The amount of planning for an event like this is not insignificant.

There was the development of a race webpage, creating a race flyer, numerous news releases, constant communication via the Facebook group, a radio interview, posting the event on calendars such as PaddleGuru.com, Nextdoor.com, and Blue Ridge Outdoors online, getting and organizing volunteers, etc.

Filing a County Park special event permit application at the last moment because I had no idea we needed to file one.  Applying for ACA affiliate membership and event insurance, subsequent revision of the insurance to include co-insured, creation of an online pre-registration form.

A lot goes into an event like this.

Getting up early on race day to set up tables and chairs at the finish line, helping at the starting line to ensure things went as smoothly as possible for our paddlers and volunteers.   Paddling the route the night before with Paddling Buddy Dave and removing obstacles to ensure a safe race.

The list goes on.

I had decided a while ago I was not going to race this year.  It was a difficult decision but one I felt was the right one.

And to be honest, if we would have gotten a lot of rain with a high river on race day, I might have changed my mind.

But since I have been helping out with communications for years the local paddling community naturally associated the race with me, not the person truly to thank, Merrill Bishop.

I never intended to become the face of the race but I had.

So I decided I needed to take a year off from racing, get some perspective on the race, and avoid any appearance of conflict of interest or seem like the race is self-serving in any way.

As you know, I participate in many races and always write about my experiences and usually do a video of the events because I want to promote all kayak races and promote paddling in general. I do what I do because I love the sport and believe more people could benefit from a more healthy lifestyle and improve their mental state by participating in paddle sports.  Race organizers usually love it when I show up at their events because I help give them a bigger footprint on social media.

But my local race?

Maybe I had lost perspective.

So I helped set up at the finish line early Saturday morning and then drove to the starting line to help there as best I could.

Racers started arriving and registration seemed to go rather smoothly.  Somebody even brought copies of the regional Magazine, Unbound, which featured our local paddling community and race on the front cover.

I swear I did not bring any of these copies of the magazine.

rrr2018_1.jpgPaddling friend and volunteer, Shelli, checking out Unbound Magazine at the starting line

So the racers got checked in and the safety briefing began at ~9:35am.

During the safety briefing Shelli and I headed out in our boats to sit at the first significant set of rapids and serve as safety patrol.

Everyone who knows me fully realizes I’m human and suffer from all the maladies, flaws and shortcomings associated with being human.

As I headed down to the river with my boat prior to launch I felt a bit of resentment that I was not going to participate as a racer this year.  All the hard work.  All the bumps, bruises, stress and skirmishes during the pre-race planning…and I wasn’t even going to enjoy racing myself?

I was not happy.

I did not have the joy in my heart that I had in all previous years.

But a funny thing soon happened.

As soon as I got into my kayak everything changed.

We paddled down and got to our post and took up residence on some rocks and waited for the racers to start coming through the “railroad” rapid.

I brought my video camera and tripod and set up shop.

What then happened was amazing.

I got to see the smiles on every racer’s face as they came through that rapid.

I got to capture video and pictures of every participant in the race.

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I felt their joy and I was able to share their adventure with them, if even just few a few moments as they paddled by.  I was able to cheer on every person as they passed by.  I saw young paddlers, old paddlers, serious paddlers and paddlers who were simply thrilled to be on the water.

After our safety boater, Scott Shaw, came through we knew the last participant had passed through our checkpoint so we jumped back in our kayaks and escorted the “back of the packers” to the finish line.

I gained even more perspective.

I paddled ahead and then waited below rapids to make sure everyone got through alright.  I got out of my boat a couple times to help people get unstuck from rocks and made sure everyone completed the race.

I thoroughly enjoyed the race and, quite possibly, it was my most enjoyable race because I got to see it through the eyes and perspective of others.

The volunteers. The racers. Merrill Bishop.

Two astounding events encapsulated the entire event.

One: An anonymous donor gave a $100 bill to be awarded to the racer with the fastest overall time.

Two: Said paddler taking the envelope with the cash, asked who the race benefits, and when he was told the proceeds were being given to  The Rivanna Conservation Alliance, immediately handed the envelope back and said, “Give it to them.”

That is what it is all about.

I am hopeful that new volunteers step forward to take on organizing responsibilities in future years.  I know I’m not cut out for it.

Now that I’ve been through a full cycle myself I’m happy to help transition the race organization to new volunteers and/or management and I remain 100% committed to ensuring the future success of this race.

But I do want to get back to racing in this race.

Merrill has left a race legacy that deserves the support of our community.

One way or another I will help that legacy endure.

It is a worthy endeavor.


Youghness Monster 25, 2018

Friday afternoon I drove up to Pennsylvania to paddle in the inaugural running of the Youghness Monster 25, a 25-mile paddle race on the Youghiogheny River between Connellsville and West Newton, PA.

youghness

I got to the check-in to pick up my race packet and immediately recognized some old friends and started making new ones.

First I bumped into Brian Ammon, whom you may recall I first met at the Lehigh Classic race in 2016 and then again at the Little D On The Monocacy race in 2017.  Brian hasn’t changed a bit and is never shy to share stories of paddling adventures which is part of what makes him so charming.  He is a wealth of paddling information and history.

me&brian20180505_083752
Me and Brian Ammon

I soon then met Hansel Lucas, owner of Performance kayaks who, along with Stellar Kayaks and others, sponsored the race.

20180504_174812Hansel Lucas, Owner of Performance Kayaks

I then also soon met Steve Bruner, who graciously agreed to an interview with me.

Shortly thereafter I headed to Uniontown where I was staying at the Holiday Inn Express.  The rain starting coming down and questions started coming to mind.

How cold would it be in the morning?
Would it rain all day for the race?
How high will the river be?
How shall I dress?
What happens if continuous Class II rapids are above my skills level in this boat?

I took one last look at my boat and then headed into the hotel for some sleep.

20180504_215815

I had some trepidation about this race because it was the first time I was taking my Thunderbolt-X kayak onto any moving water and I was not sure how skilled I would be with her in rapids.  I’ve only used her as a flat water training boat and the thought of rapids bigger than advertised or possibly smashing her into rocks worried me greatly.

Flipping and filling her full of water would equate to “game over” for the race as it would take long time for me to empty her out and recover.

Hansel Lucas assured me the water was at a good level and that the Army Corps of Engineers agreed to release some more water from the upstream dam so the water would come up at least 8″ overnight.  He said he and friends run carbon/Kevlar boats on that section of river regularly and that anything above 4 ft. at the Sutersville, PA gauge was fine for any construction of boat.

I looked at the gauge on my RiverFlows app one last time and saw the river was well above 4K and was already starting to rise, so I felt better about the situation.

gaugeThe water came up to a great level overnight

The alarm when off 6:30am on race morning and I quickly got ready and ate a breakfast of some scrambled eggs with 2 sausage patties and black coffee before heading back up to the starting line at Connellsville.

I grabbed another black coffee for the road for the 20 minute drive.

It should be noted I had no other food until ~7pm when I stopped for dinner on the drive home.  During the race I only had water in a CamelBak bladder and was not again hungry until well after the race.

Being fat-adapted is great. #NSNG #LCHF

People were starting to gather at the starting line and dropping boats at the ramp.  There seemed to be an inordinate amount of high-end surf skis to me, especially for this land-locked area of the country.

The weather was warming up fast so I realized minimal clothing would indeed be appropriate (even though I brought a wet suit just in case.)  I had safety clothing stowed in my dry bag, but I was not going to start with too much clothing because a body generates a lot of heat when exerting sustained energy.  It is better to get to the side of the river to add layers than it is to try to remove layers due to overheating while trying to paddle and balance a boat.  Just my opinion.

I chatted with several people before the race began and it wasn’t until I was driving home after the race I realized why one particular guy seemed very familiar.  He was Joe White, or JoeDirt22222 on YouTube.

He designed a kayak ergometer which served as the inspiration for my own do-it-yourself, DIY, kayak ergometer design.  Please, purchase one of Joe’s ergometers! Dude is amazing and is an awesome paddler.

There were skis everywhere. Primarily Stellar but Epic skis were also well represented.

 

 

We had a pre-race briefing and then the race began.

We were given ankle bracelets with timing chips and walked across a mat to start our time and then went to the water to get into our kayaks and begin paddling.

I allowed the first big wave of paddlers to start first as I hung back a while since I knew I was racing against the clock and didn’t want to be in the first giant cluster of paddlers.  Plus I thought I might get better video if many of the racers were in front of me.

I got in my boat and pushed out and quickly realized something was wrong.

I worked my rudder tiller and realized I had very little control over my kayak.  Not a good thing in a 21′ craft.

I soon surmised my rudder cable fell off my rudder so I paddled back to shore, got out of the boat, slipped the rudder cable back into its track, and then got back in and started paddling.

Already a loss of two or three minutes which didn’t sit well with me.

Oh well, you can’t change it, you just deal with it and move forward.

So I took off downstream and quickly hit the first set of Class II rapids.

The real test.

I took short, choppy, bracing strokes and essentially “floated” through the rapids trying to remain upright to get a feel for how the boat behaved,  That worked well so I decided that would be my strategy for the day.

Short bracing strokes and conservative through the rapids and give it all I have on the flats.

The strategy worked well and I found myself in 1st place amongst all kayaks at the finish, 5th overall amongst solo paddlers.  With nothing but 4 fast surf skis with elite paddlers ahead of me I felt satisfied with my performance.

 

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Crossing the finish line at Youghness Monster 2018

It felt good to pass so many surf skis!

This section of river is mostly flat water with numerous sections of Class I and Class II rapids.  The flats aren’t so long as to get boring and the rapids are not threatening and they are plentiful enough to keep you on alert the whole time.

I ran a pretty good race and took some risks in term of lines chosen and guessed right most of the time as I was often able to gain on the paddlers in front of me by taking a different path around a few islands or taking a different line through the rapids.  I paddled alongside and chatted with a few other paddlers throughout the race and it just reinforced my opinion that fellow paddlers are some of the nicest, most interesting people in the world.

What really kept me going, though, was the fact that my sister was bringing my parents to the finish line to greet me and I couldn’t wait to see them all.

DSC_1390Mom and dad meeting me at the end of the race, the first kayak race of mine they’ve ever experienced. Astute readers may recall them posing with the boat when it was brand new in 2011.

sis

Thanks, sis!

I neared the finish and my eyes welled as I spotted my parents at the top of the ramp.

We got in a great visit for the next few hours and then I headed back home to Central Virginia through heavy thunderstorms.

It was a long day but a wonderful day.  Physically I felt fine and felt as though I could have easily paddled another 25 miles.

The organizers of this race did an amazing job for a first time race.  The awards ceremony was a bit of a letdown since there were technically no awards, but that did not diminish a wonderful experience on a very scenic river and a very well organized event.

I look forward to paddling this race in future years.

In the meantime, come paddle our local race in Charlottesville this Saturday, May 12 with me!

DSC_1397Yinz paddle?

 

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Here is the entire race from the bow of my boat, reduced down to ~43 minutes.  Happy viewing and happy scouting to those who race in future years!

 

 

 

 

Youghness Monster 25 mile race

I’m in Connelsville, PA tonight ready to race a brand new 25-mile race on the Youghiogheny River, The Youghness Monster 25.

This will be the first time I’ve ever taken my Thunderbolt-X into any moving water or river water so it ought to be fun!

Stay tuned in the coming days for a full report complete with race video.

 

 

All in all its a good life
I got what I want
I can’t complain
I’m living the good life
A toast to you now
It’s all sham pain

Preparing for kayak racing season

littledfinish2017

It has been a late Spring in Central Virginia.

I’ve only paddled ~40 actual water miles so far this year so my on-water training is behind where I’d like it to be.   This is mainly due to a busy schedule and cold weather.  In fact, as recently as this past weekend we experienced snow and freezing rain here in Charlottesville.

As a result I’ve continued to hit the gym hard but will back off starting next week and have several light weeks in a row as I get back on the water to log some serious miles and get back into paddling shape.   If the weather is bad, I’ll be ramping up the miles indoors on my kayak ergometer.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve lost much of my technique as the few sessions I’ve had on the water so far with Paddling Buddy Dave have been very good workouts and my form is still there.

I sold my Pyranha Octane and ordered a new boat which will be revealed in due time. (I don’t want my competition to know what’s coming.)  Keep an eye open as a new boat with a fresh review is always exciting!

I’ve also been busy as a co-organizer for our local river race this year, The Rivanna River Regatta Canoe & Kayak Race on May 12.

I hope you will join us on May 12.  I’d love to meet you.

2018headerStart of the 2017 Rivanna River Canoe & Kayak Race

The end of the James River Rundown

jrr-end

We just found out this week that the James River Association is no longer going to host the annual James River Rundown, which was becoming a popular ultra-marathon kayaking event on the East Coast of the U.S. This is sad news because many of us looked forward to this event each year and its popularity was growing.

Years ago there was a different race to benefit a day camp, The Camp Kum-ba-yah Race, in Lynchburg on the James and that was a great event, but they, too, stopped hosting that race.

So we are left with no kayak/canoe race on the James River in Virginia.

I’m hopeful that somebody else will pick up and run with the idea of an organized marathon kayak race on the James. When they do they can count on me for support.

Paddling Buddy Dave and I have talked about hosting a 44 mile race on our local river, The Rivanna, or possibly making the race longer by extending it onto the James where we could easily turn it into a 55, 66, or 85 mile race. Dave and I might have to talk more seriously about this for 2019. If you represent a charity and would like to take on this fundraising project, just let me know.

In the meantime in 2018, the closest thing we get is a new race called The Richmond Paddle Cup hosted by Crosswind Paddle Company with the longest race being a mere 17 miles. A huge letdown for those of us looking forward to another ultra this year close to home.

To make it more interesting, a couple of us have hatched a plan. In order to make this 17 mile race more interesting and as a reminder that we don’t always need to be looking for the next fast boat or better gear, we are having an event within the event.

We will adhere to all the regular rules of the Richmond Paddle Cup but we will have our own division within the 17 mile race in which we will all have to use a boat we found on Craigslist for $200 or less. It has been dubbed, “The First Annual Craigslist Challenge.”

Let the games begin.

beatupcanoe

Guest blog: First-time racer on the Chattajack 31

This is a guest post by my friend and fellow paddler, John McCue, who completed the Chattajack 31 mile race this past Saturday on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga Tennessee.  I was hoping race it this year but was unable to attend due to other obligations.

John finished 15th place in the Men’s Kayak division, 16th place overall.

Here are his impressions from the race…


 

johnmccueFirst-time Chattajack 31 paddler and guest blogger, John McCue

I just got back from paddling Chattajack 31, the big paddleboard/kayak/surfski race in Chattanooga.  We raced 31 miles down the Tennessee river gorge.

Waiting on the water for the race to start, it was not hard to realize this was quite different from other kayak races I have done.  None of the couple hundred paddlers lining up in the cold rain made a last minute decision to race.  Entry opened and closed months earlier, this indeed was a serious collection of SUP and kayak paddlers.

Two hours earlier before sitting in the rain waiting for the start, I chose to get out of my warm dry car and trudge into the rain.   Dozens of cars parked near the finish all doing the same thing; Discharging dry paddlers into the cold dark rain, to climb onto one of the school busses lined up to shuttle us to the start.

“Basecamp” is what they call the start area and it is alive with action.

 
chattaBasecamp at the Chattajack31
 

Everybody has stored their boats and boards overnight at the start.  Now the sea of multi colored fiberglass, carbon and Kevlar is buzzing with paddlers readying their crafts.

The clothing choices were as varied as the fancy boards and boats.   Water temp of 70, but headwind and 48 degree rain.  What to wear?

Nobody here was a causal paddler, this was not the, “ I hope I can paddle 31 miles” crowd.

Most race starts are choppy, as paddlers surge forward and a dozen blades churn the water.   It smooths out after paddlers settle in to a pace.

Chattajack, however,  has hundreds of paddles churning at the start, and unlike the smaller races I have been to, the churning continues for a while.   Experienced racers know the importance of a good start,  but if everybody is experienced, and is dong the same thing…..washing machine!   For almost 3 miles the Tennessee river was more like the stormy ocean.

My start was poor and I spent 3 miles focusing on not dumping it in the river as I was caught in a sea of SUP’s.

Drafting and draft trains are allowed but only by similar type of craft.   Kayaks can pace behind kayaks but not behind SUP’s etc.   When things cleared out I was able to make good time working with another kayak.   We traded off leading each other while drafting close behind.  It was nice to see 6.8 and 7 mph on the Garmin.

Even while making good time, by mile 4 the race for the lead was already ahead down the river.   We were able to catch and pass plenty of other kayaks and SUP’s.  But the leaders were surely working together further ahead.

My drafting partner backed off the pace around mile 18 and for the next 7 miles I continued on my own at a furious pace.  I knew the top finishers were out of sight but I still thought my time goal of 5 hours was possible.  My average speed was still 6.4 mph at the 25 mile mark despite the headwind.  It is interesting how much mental math goes on paddling a kayak!

Then I got cold.

Of course it was a cold wet day but it had not bothered me until then.   I was turning towards a power boat wake (even on a cold day they are out there) and while the hull of my epic 18x was slapping the water I felt the cold in my arms and hands.  When I am paddling in my “zone” I can block out the wind and rain….. however, choppy water, whether it is from hundreds of paddles, wind waves or power boat wakes requires a different kind of focus.   My brain was ready for more hammering down the river not capsize avoidance i.e.; turning into waves or wakes.   My hands were cold and my judgement impaired.   I did not fall in but my speed did.

Only 6 miles to go but I was now paddling fast rather than racing.   My finish time of 5hr 16min was surprising since miles 25 26 and 27 were only 5mph.

Dreaming of a warm dry car does not push a boat faster into the cold wind.

The last 4 miles I was able to pick it back up again, getting done and getting dry was the driving force, not race performance.

The winning kayaks were all surf skis that were 20 inches wide or less.

Chattajack has a simple rule for boat classification, no consideration for length but only width.   Boats narrower than 20 inches start with the surf skis (second heat) 20 inches or wider is considered a kayak.

My Epic 18X is 22 inches wide and within the normal category of “kayak” it is amongst the fastest.  However, with a rule of 20 inches one can only expect folks to take full advantage and go narrower (faster) and be included in the under 20″ category.

With the choppiness of the water (start, wind waves, boat wakes) a traditional kayak has a psychological disadvantage.  If you dump your surfski you remount and carry on.   In a kayak you may carry on but you are no longer really racing after stopping to empty out the boat.   My Epic V7 is slower than the 18X but may have better for me because of it’s (relative) raft-like stability.

I’ll be back next year for sure.  Under 5 hours in 2018!
-John McCue

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One of my favorite kayaking videos

From my race at the Wye Island Regatta, 2011.  My first win at that race and my first experimentation with “pop up video” style video editing.

Odds and ends

I am not making any announcements, but my friendly UPS delivery man dropped off a new book from Amazon so I can now begin some “research.”  I’m looking forward to reading it and when I’m done I’ll post a review.

MR340bookMissouri River 340 by the Jacksons

I also happened across an interesting article, “Technique: Does Wash-riding Help?” that discusses drafting or wash riding behind another kayaker.

We seem to instinctively know this is a more efficient way to paddle, but Brett McDonald found a way to quantify the gains in efficiency by monitoring his heart rate at two different positions behind the lead boat and while he himself was the lead boat.

It is a short yet interesting read, but this one figure from the article summarizes it perfectly.

washride