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29 March 2006

A tough paddle on the Thames

Tonight we were only three again as Matt was still resting so we took to the Thames in sea boats for a second night running.

We set off for Lambeth Bridge as before and, although it was not as windy as last night, we were nearer to the peak of the ebbing tide and had to work very hard. Julien set a tough pace and we got there in 56 minutes, returning in 35 (13 km round trip).

Sea boats on the river

Matt's tendonitis is still bothering him so he is taking it easy this week in the hopes that he will be OK for Waterside D on Sunday. That meant that as we were three last night we paddled with the club on the Thames in Sea boats.

We went upstream against the wind and tide to Lambeth Bridge in 1 hour and 5 minutes and back again in 39 minutes, a round trip distance of 13km.

It was my first paddle on the river in daylight for several months but the squally showers darkened the sky quickly after we set off and we were switching on lights by the time we got to Tower Bridge.

26 March 2006

Wet wet wet

Despite my paddling plans for the weekend not working out I managed to get very wet.

Yesterday I persuaded an unsuspecting friend to join me for a 10km hike on the South Downs (in the rain). When we got back I headed out for a qucik 3km/19 minute run (in the rain).

Finally, today I went out for a 20km/59 minute off-road bike ride (in the rain).

24 March 2006

Lost weekend

I had to drag myself to the gym tonight. I was feeling fed up because our grand plan to paddle the (non-tidal) river section of the DW course over the weekend fell through and I have had an especially tiring week at work. All I wanted to do was to sit down in front of the TV with a pizza and a beer. Now, after a weights session and 10 minutes/2,264m on the rowing machine, I feel reenergised.

Matt and I were going to head off to Reading first thing Saturday morning and paddle 27 miles to Windsor, stay in a posh riverside hotel and cover the remaining 26 miles to Teddington on Sunday. This morning Matt rang to say that the tendonitis in his wrist, which has been afflicting him sincce Waterside C last Sunday, was too bad and that he could not paddle.

Since I have no one to paddle with I will have to do some running and cycling over the weekend instead.

23 March 2006

Wash hanging

Last night the four of us, John, Mattias, Julien and myself took to the Regent's canal to practice our wash hanging. Wash Hanging is the art of catching a ride from the bow wave of another boat, rather like drafting on a bike. We plan to take it in turns between the two boats to lead and wash hang during DW.

We tried several different positions and found that it worked best paddling alongside the other boat about a meter and a half away with the front paddler in the wash hanging boat between the two cockpits of the lead boat. When this works well it is amazing what a tow you get and I hope we can use it effectively to share the work.

The session was 14 km and took about an hour and a half.

21 March 2006

Waterside C photos

Paddlepics caught Julien and I in action again at Waterside C but missed John and Matt.

Trying to keep in sync (click to enlarge).
Trying to keep in sync.

Slamming on the brakes as we prepare to portage the Crofton flight (click to enlarge).
Slamming on the brakes as we prepare to portage the Crofton flight.

20 March 2006

Waterside C - race report

Yesterday we competed in Waterside C, a 23 mile race from Pewsey to Newbury with 35 portages. Julien and I finished in 4 hours, 25 minutes and 34 seconds, placing 24th of 35 starters. John and Matt fared rather better placing a creditable 11th in 4 hours, 2 minutes and 37 seconds.

It was a tough race. The wind was a fresh north easterly which we were fighting hard against for at least the first 12 miles and the course included a couple of challenging features.

Firstly, the 460m long Savernake tunnel. Overtaking is not allowed in the tunnel and there were rescue crews stationed at either end. Paddling through was a slightly unnerving experience as one can hardly see the boat or the paddles, meaning that everything is done by feel and it was hard not to wobble a couple of times.

The second feature was much more of a challenge. The 'Crofton Flight' is a set of six locks in close succession over about a mile which most crews choose to portage. We simply did not have the strength to run this distance carrying the boat and so we walked most of it which was tiring and demoralising as crews who might have been slower than us on the water were busy running past us.

It took us until about halfway through the race to find a good pace which then began to make up for the two demoralising factors early on of Matt and John disappearing into the distance, and our struggles with the long portages. By the finish, however, we both felt shattered.

After feeling very upbeat about our DW prospects last week I felt disheartened as our pace over Waterside C would indicate a DW time of around twenty four hours, which is what we have been targeting. Yesterday we found it exhausting to maintain that pace for four hours, never mind twenty four.

This morning I am trying to see things in a more positive light as I firmly believe that mental attitude is the most crucial factor in DW. Yesterday we were battling a headwind and we were perhaps a bit unrealistic in our expectations. It was also the first really long paddle we have done and I think we need to pace ourselves better to be more efficient and less tired. We have a few lessons to take away and I hope we can use them on Waterside D in two weeks time.

16 March 2006

Waterside C fly through

I have made a Google Earth Tour of the Waterside C course to try and get some familiarisation ahead of Sunday's race.

There is no high resolution imagery for the first 12 miles (which I assume includes the first 19 of the 35 portages) so I have only shown way points every 3 miles, thereafter all the portages (locks) are shown in detail.


They say that when a K2 crew gets it together the boat flys. Last night Julien and I found that flying pace for the first time and it has put a spring in my step this morning.

We swapped seats in the boat and I think this was, indirectly, what got us going faster. Up until now I have been in front stroking the boat (setting the pace). When we set off last night at Julien's faster stroke rate I was initially concerned that I would not be able to maintain it but after about fifteen minutes I realised that we were flying along and that I could comfortably hold the pace as, although the rate was faster, the strokes were lighter and it actually felt easier than before.

I should have realised this sooner as I have long known the theory that a faster rate is more efficient (much like a lower gear on a bicycle) but it actually took Julien to sit in front and take the rate up for me to feel the benefit.

We paddled from Limehouse Basin up the Regent's Canal to the last lock before the tunnel at Islington and back, a distance of 13 km. I forgot to time the outbound leg but the return took 43 minutes at the same pace (5.6 mph).

Now we look forward to Waterside C on Sunday, 23 miles from Pewsey to Newbury and 35 portages (almost half of those on the DW).

15 March 2006

The Dome

Last night Matt was not feeling well so we were down to three and therefore went along to the club to paddle on the Thames in sea boats.

Low water (London Bridge) was predicted for 20:12 so we figured it would be best to go down river with the ebb and hope to get some tidal assistance on the way back after the tide turned. Unfortunately, and as previoulsy noted, tidal predictions are just predictions. We flew down to the Dome in 40 minutes but the return trip took 57. Total distance was 15km.

13 March 2006

Weights session and a run

Back to my own gym tonight and a 10 minute row (2,313m) followed by weights. Then a run on the treadmill. I could not believe how slow my pace was until it dawned on me that the machine was displaying miles. I gave up after one ~ 1.6km in about 8 minutes.

11 March 2006

Walk 5, run 15

Back to cold Blighty. A brisk walk up Mill Lane and then a 15 minute run around Partridge Green (3 km).

9 March 2006

Swim 1,500 m

  • 7 x 200 m (4 minutes each with 1 minute rest in between)
  • 1 x 100 m

8 March 2006

Swim 1,000 m and gym

  • 5 x 200 m (4 minutes each with 1 minute rest in between)
  • Weight session as before

7 March 2006

Bike and gym/run

A gentle 18 km ride along the length of the seafront promenade and back with an additional off road section above Papagayo beach. Very scenic but too many pedestrians to avoid in Playa Blanca itself.

Gym session as before with an additional 10 minute/2 km run on the treadmill.

6 March 2006

Swim 1,200 m and gym

  • 6 x 200 m (4 minutes each with 1 minute rest in between)
  • Gym session as Saturday

5 March 2006

Swim 1,000 m

I used to swim competitively years ago in school and it has always been an exercise routine that I can slip back into quite easily so, as I could not paddle on holiday, I figured swimming was the next best thing (and might even be preferable to paddling on a cold canal).

Kidney shaped pools at the Princesa Yaiza hotel

Our hotel had several very attractive kidney shaped pools which are normally awkward for swimming lengths, happily, one of them had a couple of straight edges at opposite ends about 20 m apart, making swimming up and down much easier.

Also, as the water was too cold for most of the other holidaymakers, who were merely lounging in the sun by the edge, I was the only person swimming and had no one to get in my way (normally a big problem in the gym at home or in UK public pools).

  • 280 m warm up
  • 3 x 120 m
  • 360 m

4 March 2006


A week in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote meant no paddling but, fortunately, the hotel where we stayed had a decent gym and plenty of swimming pools (it seems there is an outfit renting sit-on-tops in Playa Blanca but they were not yet ready to open for the season).

Today I did my regular weights session, substituting an elliptical crosstrainer for the rower as a warm up and a lat pull down instead of an upper back machine since the gym was not quite as well equipped as my own.

1 March 2006

K2s on the Tideway

It was low tide this evening so we decided it was time to take the K2s out on the river. We paddled from Wapping Old Stairs to some steps at the end of Emmett Street, near Canary Wharf, as this was the nearest public access we could find from the river to Limehouse Basin. We then portaged the 750m into the basin and paddled our Limehouse Loop route.

We survived the river, despite some ferry wash, but once on the canal Julien and I could not seem to get it together. He felt we were leaning right and I thought we were leaning left. We seemed to be working hard and barely moving while all the time John and Matt were getting further ahead of us.

By the time we finished the loop and carried back to the river for the final 2.5km home against the tide I think we had both had enough and it was the first training session that I could say I did not enjoy. For the first time I had a taste of how we might feel during the long night time portion of DW when we will be tired and cold and wanting to give up and go home.

Learning to deal with that low is part of the mental challenge of the event so maybe tonight was good training after all.

Our total distance was 15km, 5 on the river, 10 around the Loop. Timings were 15 minutes from Wapping to Limehouse with the tide, 1 hour 10 minutes around the Loop and 20 minutes back along the river.

Tidal predictions

Last night we paddled from THCC in sea kayaks rather than the K2s. After a few sessions in a K2 the sea boats felt slow.

Julien, John and I went to the Dome and back, a distance of 15km, taking 40 minutes out and 1 hour and 4 minutes back. The tide prediction we used indicated low water (London Bridge) at 20:15 which would have given us tidal assistance in both directions but it is at times like this that one remembers they are only predictions.

The river was flat calm and I quickly settled into a good rhythm which I felt I could have kept up indefinitely and, for once, I found myself at the front of the group while the others were making hard work of it.

It was a cold night and as I man handled my boat back on to its rack it seemed unduly slippery to my numb hands until I realised that the deck was covered in a film of ice!