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27 February 2006

Commitment is...

A 06:30 Monday morning personal training session. My new gym membership included one free session with a personal trainer but this was the only time that he and I could get our schedules to meet.

I have now had an expert design and walk me through a weights and stretching routine as follows.

Warm up
Rowing machine 10 minutes (intensity 1-5 out of 10)
Standing pec stretch 1x15

Bent over rolls 3x15
Chest press machine 2x15
Upper back machine 2x15
Squats (holding ball) 3x12
Shoulder press with dumb bells 2x15
Reverse wood chop 2x15
Tricep extensions 2x15
Standing cable pull 2x15
Standing cable push 2x15

Cool down
Core - Ab routine: front, both sides, arched back, kneeling with one arm and one leg stretched out hold each for 20 secs, lying on back touch shins one at a time then both each x 15.

Stretches - shoulders, triceps, chest.

26 February 2006

Bike ride

Another 20km off-road bike ride today. 50 minutes.

23 February 2006

Gym session

An easy 30 minute weight session tonight with a little rowing for good measure.

Cold night for a swim

Well it had to happen sooner or later.

Last night we again paddled on the Regent's Canal, this time from Limehouse Basin to the tunnel at Islington and back (13.5km). It took 1 hour, 38 minutes but might have been quicker had I not fallen in.

We had been getting quite enthusiastic about our portages, leaping in and out of the boats and running around the locks. At one such exit I over did the leaping out part, standing up too quickly in the boat I felt the hull flex dramatically and, afraid that I was going to put my foot through it, I hesitated, wobbled, windmilled and fell in.

Luckily for him, Julien was already out of the boat at this point so I did not take him with me. Luckily for me, the water was only chest deep and I was wearing chest high dry trousers.

22 February 2006

Caught on camera

I was a little disappointed on Sunday that we had no support crew to get some photos of us in our first race. Today I discovered that Craig Hill of Marsport is also a photographer and covered the event. Flicking through his shots, which give an excellent picture of the race, I was delighted to find he had caught us in action.

Myself and Julien in action at Waterside A

Limehouse Loop

Last night we tried out a new training route around the East End that was suggested to us by BADCC. It is a 10km canal circuit starting and ending at Limehouse Basin (convenient for our base at Wapping).

It offers a very different perspective on London from our usual Thames paddles. Whereas the city makes way for the river, keeping a distance, the canal cuts through and under it at much closer quarters. This makes for a fascinating urban paddle, especially at night.

We started at Limehouse Basin and headed North along the Regent's Canal as far as Victoria Park, where the circuit turns right, running along the southern edge of the park via the Hertford Union Canal. Then it is right again on to the Lee Navigation and, finally, right on to Limehouse Cut returning to Limehouse Basin.

It took us one hour and five minutes from putting in to taking out including several portages, which we ran. As with Waterside A, I made a quick Google Earth Tour of the route.

21 February 2006

Waterside A from the air

Start/finish at Newbury (right click to save the Google Earth .kmz file)I had an idea that it might be worthwhile checking out D-W portages with Google Earth to try and gain some familiarity with the course.

My first experiment was to create this Tour, a virtual fly-by of the Waterside A course we paddled on Sunday, showing all 17 portages (right click to download the Google Earth .kmz file, double click and it will open open in GE - don't have GE? Shame on you. Go get it).

Luckily, almost the entire D-W course, except the first few miles from Devizes, is covered by high resoloution imagery so this may prove a useful (and certainly fun) tool.

20 February 2006

Rankings that can only improve

Today I did about forty five minutes of weight training at the gym followed by 2,000m on the ergo machine, in a time of 8 minutes, 14.2 seconds.

I love the ergo machine for its onboard computer and real time stats but especially for the online community at Concept 2, the makers of, what I gather is, the 'world standard' rowing machine.

The site offers a lively forum, a personal log book and a rankings board. Naturally, I have registered so I can track my rowing and compare myself with other users. Tonight's 2,000m 'piece' - in the parlance - is the most typical standard distance and ranks 993 of 1184, or 84%. It will be interesting to see how I can improve it and I am sure the online logbook and ranking will help with motivation.

19 February 2006

First race

Today Julien and I competed in 'Waterside A', the first of the four Waterside races organised, in the run up to D-W, by Newbury Canoe Club.

We were not entirely sure what to expect but we both thoroughly enjoyed the 13 mile race (including 17 portages). We finished in 2 hours, 18 minutes and 59 seconds, placing 20th out of 27 in our class. Not a fantastic time but it felt respectable for our first attempt.

After the race we both felt quite comfortable and wondered if we should not have tried to push a bit harder but equally we were glad to feel we could have kept going. Of course, 13 miles is only about 10% of the distance we will have to do in D-W itself. Frightening.

15 February 2006

Getting comfy

Tonight John and I took one of the new boats out. We decided we were not yet ready to take it on the river and opted instead for a 400m strech of orphaned canal in Wapping. This proved ideal as we were able to simply spend an hour and a half getting used to the boat, paddling up and down, adjusting seating positions and practicing our portage technique.

By the end of the evening I was feeling perfectly comfortable and I am now looking forward to using it in anger on Sunday at Waterside A.

14 February 2006


We have boats!

Until today, lack of boats has been an ever growing concern as the second hand market seems very tight and the few boats that we have seen have tended to be on the tippy side. New boats were not an option due to both the cost, and the 8-10 week lead time required to have them built.

Between us we have been contacting everyone we can think of to find a solution to this problem and late last week we had an offer from a neighbouring club to borrow a pair of boats. It seemed too good to be true but tonight we went along to meet them and, after a quick 5km acclimatisation paddle, we drove home with two 'Stratos' K2's on the roof of Matt's car.

Barking and Dagenham Canoe Club have been kind enough to loan us the boats. After our brief trial tonight they seem to be ideal in that they are proper racing K2s but with a high volume and stability which will be eminently suitable for novice marathon paddlers like us. We really cannot thank the guys at BADCC enough.

13 February 2006

Ergo interval training

Joined the gym today and got to work on the rowing machine:

4 x 5 minutes
4 x 4 minutes
4 x 3 minutes

12 February 2006

Swim 1000m

Today was a 'rest' day so just a gentle swim to keep the body ticking over.

11 February 2006

Passing ships

Two Kleppers at Canary WharfOut early this morning for another run in the Klepper, this time John and I paddled from Wapping Old Stairs to Greenwich and back. Passing Cuckold's Point we met Matt and a pal of his from Newcastle. They were off on a sightseeing tour to Hammersmith where they planned to fold up the boat (another Klepper) and get the train home.

We made Greenwich in about 50 minutes and back to Wapping in 33. Total distance was 12km.

8 February 2006

The Dome

Millenium DomeTonight we paddled the 16km to The Dome and back, as last night, the wind was against the tide and a lot of effort went into steering through the waves. We held a good pace making it there against the tide in 61 minutes and back with the tide, but against the wind, in 50.

Funnily enough, I felt it most in my legs rather than my arms and shoulders but I think it was down to being a bit cramped in the boat rather than any hard pedalling action.

7 February 2006

Increasing the distance

Tonight we spent a good two hours on the water, paddling from Shadwell Basin to Greenwich and back and then the other way to Tower Bridge and back again. Splits were SB to Greenwich:43 minutes, Greenwich to SB: 35 minutes, SB to TB: 16 minutes and TB to SB: 20 minutes. Total distance was 14km.

The wind was a strong westerly blowing against the flooding tide so the river was quite bouncy and it was very hard to get a decent rhythm going. Crossing the river at Greenwich was very wet and I would not have fancied being in a K2.

5 February 2006

20km off-road bike ride

Probably not as good as running but much more fun. I rode on the Downslink from Partridge Green to Southwater and back and enjoyed a beautiful sunset behind Chanctonbury Ring. It took 57 minutes.

4 February 2006

Tippy boats

Today we went to Marsport in Reading to try some K2s as we wanted to get a feel for just how tippy they are before bidding for one on eBay. I have previously wondered whether I might find the Nordkapp, my dream sea kayak, too tippy. I need not have worried. It is a barge.

Marsport and Kirton, the two main UK manufacturers of racing 'K' boats, grade their craft on a scale of 1 to 10 for tippiness, with 10 being the most stable. We tried a Condor (stability rating 8) and a Toucan (stability rating 5).

I had assumed that the Condor would present no problems but the first time I got in it I felt like I was walking a tight rope. A few minutes later, and feeling a bit more relaxed, I had a second go and found it much more comfortable. After a couple of hundred meters and a portage practice I could see us doing the DW in it (with some reservations about training on the Tideway). We then tried the less stable Toucan, again this felt very wobbly at first but I imagine I could get used to it.

Our biggest problem now is getting hold of two boats, never mind choosing what we would like, as there seem to be precious few secondhand ones available. Even if we were to order new ones there is a ten week lead time which means we would only have them in time for Waterside D, a mere two weeks before DW.

3 February 2006

Walk 5, run 10

Pathetic I know but I am no runner. I hope to build this up over the next few weeks to running 20 minutes three times a week so it is a start.

Let the training commence

Last night was my first proper training paddle for DW and the beginning of a new routine. We do not yet have K2s so our training vessel was a Klepper (this is how the early crews did the race when it started in the 1950s)!

It was my first time paddling in a double and the Klepper is hard to move, especially against an ebbing spring tide. We made it from Wapping Old Stairs, by The Town of Ramsgate pub, to Lambeth Bridge in a respectable 57 minutes and back with the tide in 27, a distance of about 5.5km each way. This was only slightly further than our regular Tuesday night paddles (10km) but it felt like much harder work which I guess is the difference between doing it in a sea kayak and a Klepper.

On the way home the endorphins kicked in and I began to feel like an athlete in training for something big.

Doing the DW

I remember hearing about the Devizes to Westminster canoe race when I was about fifteen and thinking it would be a fantastic challenge. At the time I was obsessed with paddling but I was miles away from either Devizes or Westminster and I simply did not have the logistical resources or support to do it.

Since taking up kayaking again on the Thames it has been in the back of my mind and last year I got as far as downloading the entry form. This year, however, over a few post paddle pints, four of us from THCC hatched a plan to do it for real. I was not ready to commit to it just then but over the following few days I could not get it out of my mind and last week I made the decision to do it.

I am both terrified and exhilarated. It is an absolutely daunting prospect, 125 miles non-stop paddling through the night taking twenty four hours or more. We have a very short time to prepare, the race is run over the Easter weekend (15/16 April), and there is much training and planning to do. If we can pull it off though it will be one of life's great accomplishments and the fulfilment of a twenty two year ambition.

Needless to say, I will be blogging our progress.

1 February 2006

Temple Steps

Last night eight paddlers set off from THCC to Temple Steps, we took it leisurely and made a few stops on the way taking 50 minutes to get there. On the way back we had a slight headwind, it was not strong enough to slow us down much but it did feel very cold. The return trip took 30 minutes.