Wednesday, February 3, 2010

paddling: ... you can't call me lazy

Last night we had a good paddle, 2 OC6s (11 people total), with the Dougs steering. Our workout: (1/3, 1/6, 1/9) x 4.

The night was calm, the water glassy, and though it was not warm, it was windless and that meant we could go out onto Lake Washington. I love heading out to Lake Washington. The other option on these winter nighttime paddles is to go down the ship canal to the locks and back, sometimes circling Lake Union before or afterward. That's fine, but not nearly as interesting to me as going out on the big lake.

This time, instead of heading south toward I-90, we went north towards Magnuson Park. Because we had 11 people and 2 canoes, one was short a paddler. I was in the canoe w/ 6, so we had a bit of an advantage over the other canoe, but for the most part it wasn't particularly difficult for us to keep together.

Here's our track:
And our stats:

I've been having a few back issues, mostly courtesy of sleeping on an old and unfamiliar mattress out at the beach, and lugging L around. On Monday I wasn't sure how well I'd be able to manage paddling, but Tuesday morning things felt better and I decided I'd give it a try. I felt it a little, but managed to both semi-ignore it and not make it any worse. It helped that I was paddling in #1 and had to focus on keeping as steady and smooth as I could.

I'm starting to enjoy sitting in 1 -- there's no one to have to match up with, there's no "dirty" water from other paddles, there's nothing but my own stroke rate. That's the trick, to find a rate that feels right for me and for the boat, and to stay regular so everyone else can follow without too much trouble. I think I'm only just beginning to learn how to manage all this, but so far it's been ok, and no one has complained.

I find that I warm up slowly, so start at a slower pace and increase over the course of the workout. By the end I'm using a rate that feels pretty fast (for me). I'm not sure what the strokes per minute might be, but according to Sabine, it's most important to be using a rate that feels comfortable to me.

Last year, my first one paddling, I tried to focus on technique over anything else. Technique means both individual paddling technique, and blending technique. It seems like the minimum a paddler should aim for is to "do no damage" -- that means being in sync with everyone else in the boat. That's the baseline. Even if you're not pulling hard, not strong, if you can keep in the rhythm of the other paddlers you don't cause any harm (or not much). After that, having a good personal technique means making the most of your pull, actually contributing to the forward motion of the canoe rather than simply not holding it back.

Now I'm working to get in shape, to improve my conditioning so that I can work harder all through the races, and contribute the entire time. Along with conditioning there's the challenge of keeping technique when tired. That's what I focus on late in practices when my shoulders are complaining and my breath is ragged. I try to lean forward, to maximize the forward part of my stroke, and to stay in time.

One bit of excitement: we nearly hit a large buoy as we were working through our last 9minute segment. We were heading to Montlake Cut, pushing hard, and suddenly this buoy loomed up out of the night in front of me. "Buoy buoy buoy!" I yelled. Nothing else. Nothing useful like "11 o'clock" or "25 feet away!"

DougN called out "hold up" and we dug our paddles in to slow down. He turned the canoe right, and we slid past it. Then it was "gogogo!" to get back up to speed from 0 again, and we were off once more. There was a bit of nervous laughter in the aftermath, but mostly we kept it together and managed to return to cruising speed fairly quickly and fairly well.

I don't have super night-vision anyway, and having our bow light immediately in front of me and ruining my night eyes makes it hard to see in the dark. I'm just glad I noticed it in time. It would have caught us right in the iakos and probably flipped us.

No comments: