A collection of Technique and Training Recommendations from NYMCRA members and from questions submitted to any of the Paddling Partners.
Any NYMCRA member is free to share recommendations on whatever he/she has found to be a benefit in canoe or kayak racing. Ideal topics are the ones that another paddler has asked you about. Topics can be anything from cold weather clothing to pre-race nutrition, boat transportation to paddling machine training. This is a place where you can let your experience provide a benefit to others and, easy as typing a letter, you can assist in growing this sport that you enjoy.
The fine print... Two limitations apply here: 1) No advertising. If your recommendation includes use of a product or service then, by submission of your article for presentation here, you are affirming that you do not directly or indirectly profit from the sale of the product or service mentioned. 2) NYMCRA reserves the right to include only articles which support NYMCRA's mission of "...improving and increasing the activity of marathon canoe & kayak racing".
And three caveats: 1) The opinions or recommendations expressed here are not those of NYMCRA Inc. 2) NYMCRA Inc. is not responsible for how you choose to use the opinions or recommendations expressed here. 3) Your mileage may vary, no warranty expressed or implied.
A: Rich Butts, December 2009
Here is a design, complete with drawings and photos, of a pedestal that increases the Total Gym platform’s angle and with it the exercise resistance. Along with the increased height the pedestal also improves the lateral stability by increasing the width of the base by 68% (from 16” to 27”).
The Total Gym 1000 series is a terrific piece of exercise equipment for strengthening the muscles used in the canoe and kayak paddling motion. It allows a large variety of arm motions and requires engaging the torso and back while using the arms. Some people using the Total Gym for paddling-related exercises find that the exercise resistance available in the product is too small. This project provides details of a pedestal that increases the exercise resistance. The exercise resistance comes from the angle of the platform and the weight on the platform. Increasing the exercise resistance can be done either by increasing the platform’s angle so that a larger percent of the user’s weight is lifted or by adding weight to the platform via attachment of a bar at the bottom edge of the platform for the addition of barbell plates or by doing both.
A: Rich Butts, January 2010
This report provides photos plus assembly and detail drawings of the leaning adaptation I made for my 2002 Paddle One© and the one I made for the current Paddle One©.
The Paddle One© machines are terrific for exercising the strength and coordination used in canoe and kayak paddling. I own an older Paddle One© canoe version and the arm, torso and leg motions feel very similar to real paddling. A significant difference between the Paddle One© and real paddling is the inability to lean the Paddle One©. My interest in being able to lean the paddling machine comes from three sources – 1) coordinated movement of the hips, arms, legs and torso is important for balancing and steering a canoe so training the balancing skill is appropriate. 2) I have a lack of symmetry when it comes to leaning right vs. leaning left. I have no idea if my lack of leaning symmetry is any more or any less than the average person. Paddling requires symmetry and while paddling I notice my symmetry could be better. The leaning paddling machine allows me to work on discovering the joints, ligaments, motions, coordination, etc. that limit my symmetry and that gives me the opportunity to make improvements. 3) With the machine free to lean it is even more fun to use!
A: Marc Gillespie, November 2008
In the sporting world in general, what makes the most exciting racing, both to watch and to participate in? Take bike racing for example. Is it the neck and neck battles, with the strategy, pack racing, breakaways, drafting, etc? Or is it the time trials?(which are thankfully few in number in my opinion). In marathon running, isn't it more fun to watch the front pack jockey for position mile after mile versus what it would be like if each runner competed only against the clock. Same for car racing. Where am I going with this?
It's my observation that in most of the NYMCRA races, except the Pro class, the races deteriorate into 1.5- 2 hour time trials after the start. There is a line of boats following each other down the race course, separated by 30 seconds or a minute and the relative distance between them changes little for most of the race. Contrast that with the multi boat packs in both the C-2 and C-1 Pro Races, where 2 or 3 boats(or more in big races like the Clinton) paddle together for hours, jockeying for position, conserving energy, working the shallows and sharp corners, exchanging verbal pleasantries and jokes--in other words racing! Therein lies the impetus that Holly Reynolds and I have in promoting the information exchange we're calling Paddling Partners as well as a couple of races in 2009 called the Pro/Am where Pro paddlers team up with less proficient paddlers and race together against other similar teams.
I have put together a panel of Pro Paddlers(canoe and kayak) who have agreed to be available by e-mail or phone to answer questions on training, racing, etc. and possibly even train with what we'll call an amateur. The questions and answers will be published in the Newsletter for all to see and benefit from. I'll make the list and contact info available soon.
As far as the Pro/Am we are tentatively looking at Electric City and the Rochester Race as possible races. We'd pair up Pros and amateurs and race for an hour or so and then rest for an hour and then do a C-1 race for an hour. In my case, I'd be glad to ride along next to my C-2 partner and help him through the c-1 race.
Of course, you have to be a NYMCRA member to participate, so
why not write the check for $20 now and get it over with?
It's my belief--and Michigan is proof positive of it, that
we need to focus on learning to race again and what better
way to get started than this. Go to the Michigan web site
and you'll see they have only 2 classes, Expert 1 and 2 as
well as C-1. Nearly every race is a C-2 Race first( and they
mix up partners a lot) followed by a short C-1 race. Lets
get the racing back in NYMCRA. Marc Gillespie
A: Holly Reynolds, January 2009
This article might also be titled:
"How Bringing a New Paddler Along Can Make You a Much Better Paddler."
I think that most of us started out paddling in the bow of a boat. Why? Because that’s the "easiest" end for a new paddler. The more experienced paddler can steer the boat, keep the boat balanced and all the new paddler has to do is keep his or her head down and paddle.
Unfortunately, we keep this mentality throughout our paddling career.
Bow = strong silent type, keeps head down, paddles, responsible for speed, carries stern runt down the river.
Stern = lightweight, responsible for steering the boat, tells dumb jock bow guy what to do.
You know where this will get you in a race? Nowhere fast.
So I started out a stern girl - with my dad that made sense because he weighed so much more than I did and he had more power. When I came up to Rochester and started paddling with Marc and his daughter Danielle several years ago, I played the dumb bow girl role pretty well. I didn’t know what to do and she controlled the boat pretty well from the back, so I kept my head down and paddled. Danielle and I could have been much better had I been a better bow guy!
Now, I have a unique situation, paddling stern with Marc. Do you really think that Marc keeps his head down and paddles? Definitely not. This puts me at an advantage, because I learned that being a bow guy was so much more than what it initially seemed to be, but also put me at a disadvantage because Marc can completely control the boat from the front if you let him.
So the next step for me was to start paddling stern with brand new paddlers. They aren’t going to help you steer the boat at all because they simply don’t know how to, and you will become quickly proficient at steering from the back.
The next step? Throwing your new paddler in the back of the boat! You will be forced to steer from the front, call huts and help them to learn how to steer from the back. You’ll see that they will let the boat drift too far, they don’t support themselves when drawing and they aren’t being forceful enough with their steering. This will do two things for you - help you to understand how to be a good bow guy, and also through explaining things to your new stern runt, you will better understand YOUR role as stern runt.
In truth, the bow guy should be responsible for fine tuning the steering, making it easier for the stern guy to steer the back and also for initiating top end speed. The stern guy should be more responsible for rough turning (you can’t fine tune anything from the back of the boat) and keeping up the back of the boat. Even if you just aren’t bow guy material, it is a very good idea to spend a lot of practice time in that end of the boat because it will make you such a better stern paddler - and vice versa. Here in the Rochester division of Forge Racing, we switch off probably 50/50. Marc, Jason, Kyle, and I can all paddle both ends of the boat and we switch it up all the time. We don’t really care if we can trim out a boat or not - it doesn’t really matter in practice anyway and it’s just to learn how to handle the boat. And throwing C1 into the mix! Perfect.
The new definitions?
Bow = responsible for keeping the front end of the boat up, fine tuned steering and steering around corners, tempo, paying attention to surroundings.
Stern = responsible for keeping the boat straight, rough steering around corners, seeing the big picture (it’s easier for the stern runt to direct in side waking for instance because they can see the angles at which the boats are etc) and of course holding up their end of the boat.
The best bow guys in the business are also the best stern guys. Think about it. A good bow guy helps out the stern as needed. Of course it’s easier to just stay in your end of the boat and keep plugging along, but if you are interested in going to the next level, I suggest placing yourself in the other end of the boat with an open mind. Practicing what we are already good at it is easy; practicing what we do not excel at may be harder but is far more rewarding.
A: Marc Gillespie, February 2009
As far as intervals go, I never do much speed work til I get 25-30 hrs in the boat. Since my primary emphasis in the spring is preparing for the 70 miler, I spend time at a lower pace for much of the early spring. When I do intervals, they are of 3 primary types. On our creek, we have a dozen designated sprint sections on the upstream leg that start at 30 sec. early in the spring and evolve to 2 min. each with roughly the same amount of rest in between. They are done in shallow water, upstream and often involve a corner. The other type we do is later and usually on a canal or deep water and after a warmup is 8 2-3 minutes all out sprints followed by the balance of the 5 minutes at a recovery cruise for a total of 40 minutes of hard paddling and recovery. The third type is 20 minute race pace time trial efforts in 1-3 ft water. We warm up 20 min, do a 20 min piece, rest 5 min, repeat and then cool down. Hope this helps. Marc
A: Marc Gillespie, February 2009
First of all, it's my belief that it's mostly what you eat the night before that fuels your body for a race or hard training, especially if it's an early start like the 70 or 90 miler, and that you don't want your blood supply busy helping with digestion, but rather have it available for paddling muscles. It's also important to do whatever you normally do and not try some new food or supplement the day of a race. I personally drink 16 oz. orange juice with 2 scoops whey protein, followed by a few cups of black coffee and then a bowl or two of cereal like oatmeal, crispix, Quaker Oat squares and maybe a banana. I try to have all my solid food in me at least 1.5 hrs before the race and preferably 2 hrs if I have time.
A: Marc Gillespie, February 2009
Have you been trying to cartop a canoe or kayak on a set of racks where the spread between the racks is so short (less than 4’ front-to-back) that it is nearly impossible to securely tie your boat down, especially at highway speeds, on windy days or when following big trucks? Do you have to stop several times each trip to retie the boat? Do you put undue pressure on the hull as you crank the bow and stern lines down? If so, there may be a solution for you, assuming you have a set of existing Thule or Yakima racks that are securely fastened to your roof. A company called Kayak Pro ( www.kayakpro.com ) headed by Grayson Bourne — Gray for short, makes a series of Kayak carriers that can be easily adapted for canoes. In a nutshell, they consist of a 7 or 8 foot long, very rigid brace that attaches to your existing racks using bulletproof hardware and normally has a pair of V-shaped kayak cradles at each end. Gray is willing to substitute another set of adapters at each end in place of the V brackets, so that a Thule or Yakima bar could be attached for your canoe to be tied down to, giving you a roughly 7 or 8 feet of spread between the tie down points. You could use one set if you wanted to just carry one canoe or you could use two sets and have a full bar at each end to tie down multiple boats. My friend Jason Quagliata cut a Thule bar into 24” lengths for each end of the brace to create a set up to carry his C-1 along side 2 kayaks, each mounted on their own V-bar setup.
His setup is very sturdy, much better than the former 32” front-to-back spread his Jeep allowed for — especially with the way C-1’s are built near the middle. If you are interested, Contact Gray, firstname.lastname@example.org 914-740-5055 and ask about the “EZ-Vee Pro-Canoe (7’) - $270 or the EZ-Vee Plus-Canoe (8’) - $280.
A: Marc Gillespie, Mar 2008
It depends on your seat height, whether you are paddling a C-1 or C-2, what your torso height is, how long your arms are. The best way to discover the appropriate length is to sit in a canoe, back straight, lean forward slightly, fully immerse the blade, have your lower hand just above the gunwale and your upper hand just at the top of your head. There it is. I usually recommend a 2" difference between C-1 and C-2.
A: Marc Gillespie, March 2008
LEAN UP YOUR TURNS—BUT UNDER CONTROL! In any canoe race there are key opportunities to break away from the pack or conversely—to get dropped and one of them involves corners, whether naturally occurring or man made (buoy turns). The ability to turn your boat while maintaining speed is the key to staying in the race or breaking away. When most racers begin paddling they are hesitant to lean for fear of capsizing and many never overcome that fear. On the other end of the spectrum are those individuals who recklessly drop their hips every chance they get so they can show off their superior balance and in the process make their partners feel very unstable and unable to paddle effectively. Somewhere in between is the ideal. The key principal to understand in leaning a boat, whether it is C-1 or C-2 is that you are presenting a more curved surface to the water while lifting the ends slightly to allow them to slide around versus going straight ahead. The curved surface allows the boat to carve a turn just like a downhill ski does. In fact, a good exercise to get comfortable with how this works is to get the boat up to speed and then lean it while holding your paddle out of the water, but ready to catch you if you go to far. The dished sides of the Pro boats provide a perfect edge to rest on as you lean into a turn which is why they handle much better than the amateur boats with the straight sides did. In most cases, there is no need to lean a boat so far that the cover is under water, especially if one of the partners is uncomfortable with that degree of hip flexion. Along those same lines, both partners can use their hips to gradually and simultaneously initiate the lean, hold it there and gradually drop it back. Smooth, professional boat handling is not enhanced by jerky, momentum shifting movements by either paddler. Once you get the boat leaned up and it starts to carve, you must keep it there throughout the entire turn without letting it continually drop back to level with each jerky stroke. This requires confidence on the part of both paddlers that each one has support of his or her end of the boat. This is where proper paddle stroke comes in. As I have mentioned many times, the canoe stroke is the same whether you are paddling straight ahead or drawing—only the angle of the stroke relative to the boat changes. On a forward stroke, the pressure on the blade is down which anchors the blade and pulls the boat up to the blade. Once the blade is vertical, there is no more support and the stroke is over. Same with a stern or bow draw, or a “sides” sweep in the bow. The blade of the paddle has to be oriented so that it provides the same anchoring support as in a forward stroke and then pressure is applied to either pull the boat sideways to the blade (draw stroke) or push the boat away (sweep stroke). By the way, in the bow you can draw or sweep to turn but in the stern you should primarily be drawing to turn. I see too many people in the stern sitting straight up or even leaning slightly back and sweeping the stern rather than drawing it over. No wonder they can’t turn-they’re pushing the boat the wrong way! What they need to do is lean forward and put pressure on the blade in a drawing motion so the stern of the boat moves to the paddle, not away from it. To summarize, a good, steady, controlled, supported lean is a paddlers best friend for making fast turns. It’s OK to practice to see how far you can lean the boat, but practically speaking, more time should be spent with both partners working on the coordinated motions that allow them both to feel comfortable the the degree of lean, the speed of getting there and back and holding the lean while paddling effectively.
Photo Credit: www.joannekennedy.net
A: Marc Gillespie, March 2008
Kari, Mario Blackburn asked me to reply to your inquiry on developing speed on the Paddle One. On the water, we use intervals or sprints done at a higher intensity for short periods to develop speed. A similar effect can be had using the Paddle One by increasing the resistance slightly and paddling at a higher cadence, while maintaining your form. There are many different progressions you could use, and all involve a short 1-2 minute burst followed by a similar length rest period. So 1min on and 1 easy for 10 reps for example. Or a progression of 1 on,1 rest, 1.5 on 1.5 rest up to 3 or 4 minutes and then back down. Take it easy at first. Hope this Helps.
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