Late season kayak paddling

I got out on the water today and was able to at least log 7.5 miles.  I was hoping for more but more than half our local reservoir is frozen so I had to do some laps on the clear parts with Paddling Buddy Dave.

The full wet suit restricts full motion somewhat, but here is a look at my wing stroke in slow motion.

A good training day

I finally made it back out on the water today during a well-earned day off.

I managed to paddle 10 miles in the Thunderbolt-X kayak and took it easy so I only averaged 5.7mph.  It was a cold, breezy day so I had to wear a full wet suit which definitely constrains the natural paddling motion.

Nonetheless, it was an extremely enjoyable paddle and the water was clear as crystal.  I also spotted a flock of turkeys on shore which was a bonus.

12-8-17_kayakTaking the Thunderbolt-X out for a spin with full wet suit

Then after attacking an item or two on the “honey do” list, I dropped off my son and his friend for basketball practice this evening and hit the gym while they were at practice.  It wasn’t my typical #MFN (massive Friday night) workout, but I managed some good volume in a somewhat crowded gym for a Friday night.  Usually I can have the place to myself on a Friday night but not tonight.


I focused on bent over rows and flies and worked in some squats.

It was a good training day.

Oh, and I’ve gotten myself into dietary ketosis and I hope to stay here for a good, long while.

And in the interest of transparency, here is my starting point for this current “cut,” according to the Skulp Aim.



Compared to Jan., 2016.  They obviously re-scaled the index since then as it now appears as though Muscle Quality is on a scale from 1-100.  It’s a shame I don’t have a direct comparison.

Short workout paddle today

I headed out to the South Rivanna Reservoir late this afternoon to get in some more training base miles.  I got some video on Ivy Creek while I was warming up a bit.  Once I got on the main part of the reservoir it was very windy and the water was choppy.  I started at the twin bridges at Earlysville Rd. and paddled to Reas Ford bridge and back.

It wasn’t a very long paddle, but at least I was able to add 8 more base miles to my training.

I also did my first ever Periscope session once I got home so I continue to educate myself on the latest social media platforms.

Training for the James River Rundown

I had the day off today for Good Friday and after waiting a bit to see if it was going to rain (it was very overcast with some sprinkles this morning,) I decided to head out to get in some base miles in preparation for the James River Rundown 100 mile race.

I got up and ate about 4 strips of bacon and 3 eggs and by the time I hit the water it was noon.

I skipped lunch.

I should also point out that I got myself into a state of dietary ketosis this past week.  (I’m never more than 2 or 3 days away from being in ketosis.)

I hit the water with my Thunderbolt-X kayak (my go-to flat water training boat) and new custom wing paddle and made the conscious decision to paddle for 20 or so miles rather than my typical workout which is geared toward maintaining relatively high speeds for 10 or 12 miles, with an all-out sprint for the first 5.

This was a huge mental shift.

It was very windy and the water was choppy.  I had to force myself to start out at a much slower pace than what I’m used to on my training runs.  I normally like to start out sprinting for 5 miles but today I wanted to paddle more miles to build calluses and log some base miles for my ultra-marathon in June.

I logged more miles on my local reservoir today than I ever have in one day before, and the wind was definitely a factor.  At one point when I was paddling directly into a brisk wind I remembered the words of one of my paddling heroes, Oscar Chulupsky, in a interview in some article when he stated, “You have to shift gears.”  He was talking about adjusting his wing paddle due to changing or different conditions on the water.

So with Oscar’s words reverberating in my head, I started playing with my paddle.

I normally paddle with a 30 degree offset but I tried different settings and found that a 50 degree offset seems to work well for me in windy conditions and seemed to favor a better stroke for a marathon pace.

I ended up paddling 20.7 miles and averaged 5.5mph. That was slower than I thought it would be, but not unexpected given the windy conditions.

The only nutrition I had with me on the outing was a 25 ounce water bottle with water and BCAA’s.

I was fine.

In fact, I didn’t need to eat again until a few hours after I got home at around 7pm.  That’s a full day with 21 miles of paddling on 3 eggs and 4 strips of bacon.

Being fat adapted is great!

I learned a few things as take-aways for my upcoming James River Rundown adventure.

  1. I need to paddle a boat with a bit more stability that will allow me to lean back, twist my torso, and stretch my back without fear of overturning.  My back isn’t going to be able to handle a tippy kayak for 100 miles.  I’ll need to move around and fidget more.
  2. I’m going to have to remind myself to start out at a steady, slower, marathon pace which is counter to all the training I’ve ever done.  Marathon not a sprint…marathon not a sprint.  I’ll be repeating this mantra for 90-95 miles.
  3. I need to continue to experiment with different offsets and lengths with my wing paddle to figure out what might be the best starting settings for race day.  I’m so used to the same settings that it is going to take me a while to play around and figure out what works and what doesn’t.
  4. Loose hand grip on the paddle shaft will be essential
  5. I need to be in dietary ketosis on race day.

It was a great day on the water and I have an early season sunburn on my arms and shoulders now.

Let the training continue.

3-25-16bFeeling a little grizzled after 21 miles


Vendor and boat selection

That summer of 2011 I stalked a lot of boats online and eventually picked up the phone and called Doug Bushnell at West Side Boat Shop. Doug seemed to have some really fast and cool boat designs and he was very gracious over the phone and we had a nice, long chat about his boats and how they might match-up with what I was looking for. A few weeks later I was able to swing by his place in Lockport, NY and he took me to his local water, the Erie Canal, and we paddled together.  He was in his Marauder which looked impossibly skinny and he put me in an “EFT,” which stands for “Extra Fast Tourer.”

We paddled a few miles out and back together and Doug gave me pointers on how to improve my stroke with the wing paddle.  We passed another couple of kayakers at one point and briefly chatted and one of them commented that he did not know how we could paddle such skinny kayaks.

Some more chatting with Doug at the boat ramp after the paddle and I knew I must own one of his boats. They were some of the most beautiful things I had ever seen and Doug personally hand-crafted each and every one of them.  The only question I needed to answer to myself was, Which one?

Doug had commented to me at one point that he didn’t know what my current boat, the Cobra Viper, was but he could see that it taught me balance.  He suggested the EFT was probably best for me based on my skills as the paddler he witnessed that day.

I called him up a week or two later and placed my order.

I wanted a Thunderbolt-X kayak in the Kevlar layup with overstern, pull-up rudder.

Once again I was buying a boat that was probably above my skill level without ever paddling one.

Based on my brief encounter with the EFT, however, I knew I could soon be able to master it and wanted to push myself to even the next level of paddling.

Over the next few weeks I also contacted Cliff Roach at Goodboy Kayaks to purchase a Vbar rack from him since my existing vehicle racks would not work well for such a long, skinny boat as the Thunderbolt-X.

Cliff was another great guy and exactly what you would expect from a member of the paddling community.  I called him when I was passing through on business so I could pick up my set of Vbars, and Cliff suggested I meet him at his local reservoir to not only collect my rack but to paddle with him.  He would provide an Epic surf ski for me to paddle.

I met Cliff and we paddled together and that Epic ski was the tippiest craft I had ever attempted to paddle.  He had me simply sit in it for a while with my legs hung over the sides for stability until I got used to it, and within a short while I was ready to go (or so I thought.)

We paddled out and the boat was insanely fast and tippy but I was proud at one point from the fact that I got it going fast enough that I could hear the venturi drain making a sucking sound which meant I had hit the critical speed for physics to start draining any water from the cockpit.  I said something to Cliff about it and he said, “Good!  Sometimes it takes weeks for paddlers to hear that sound.”  Heck I had even impressed myself at that point.

But then, a  few seconds later, I was swimming in Cliff’s local reservoir.

I had no idea what happened or what went wrong but I lost my balance and had tipped over.

I tried to follow Cliff’s instructions on how to get back onto the ski but I couldn’t do it.  I had to swim to shore with the boat and re-board it.  At that point I just wanted to get back to the dock, get my vbars, and drive away with my tail between my legs.  And that was pretty much exactly what I did.

A couple months later I was back in Doug Bushnell’s part of the country and picked up my brand, new Thunderbolt-X.  I drove it home to Virginia and stopped to visit my parents in the Pittsburgh area for a day along the way.  I had them pose with the boat and they probably thought I was just a little bit crazy asking them to pose with a crazy looking kayak.

Mom & dad with the Thunderbolt-X kayak on my way home with it

I was not able to get the boat in the water as soon as I got it home, but a day or two later my family was able to join me after work to watch me paddle it for the first time.  My wife was kind enough to record some video from the dock and I had a camera on the boat so I’m now able to show you that first paddle in the Thunderbolt-X.

I was very respectful of the tippy craft at first, but as you can see, it did not take me long to start getting comfortable in the boat.