The last time that I stepped into a canoe in anger was over 25 years ago, where I used to paddle two or three times a week on the Thames at Kingston. I never competed in any events as it was much more of a social thing, with more of my time taken up with running and football. I did enjoy it however, but as school and other stuff took over, the canoeing was dropped: like that. I cannot tell you now definitely why, I just know that I walked away from it and never went back. Maybe it was because I did not do anything competitively with it and got bored chasing the pleasure boats that chugged between Kingston and Hampton, trying to surf on the wake at the back of the boat. So, here I am, having another go, but this time with a goal in mind.
So six weeks ago, Jamie and I went along to have our first outing together in a K2. Thankfully for us, they were all out so we ended up having a splash around in a couple of heavy, plastic C1's that would have required a direct hit from the Bismark in order to capsize them. The first thing that became obvious was my back and core strength, or rather, lack of it! Within minutes my lower back was sending out dull achy signals and protesting at being used to prop me up, without a sofa or chair back to rely on. Thankfully, I have just become the proud owner of a swiss ball , so my core exercises have now become routine and I have started to see some improvement already.
A couple of weeks later, we went out for our first paddle together in a K2. We were cocky and thought that we would breeze it: we were, in fact, rubbish. It took an hour before we went in, but in the meantime we meandered, barely in control, as we proceeded to do our best to hit anything that was on the river. Jamie was struggling with the controls in the front and I was struggling to keep in time with him as he kept checking his stroke as the boat would suddenly lurch off again. When we finally went in, it was almost a relief, a bit like thinking that you're going to be sick and then when you finally are, you feel good again. Except we didn't feel good. We dragged the boat upside down across to the far bank and Steve, our coach, laughed at us while he showed us how to empty the boat. An old man in a cloth cap looked on bemused, as we clambered back in and made our way back to the boathouse. By the end of it my right leg was twitching uncontrollably as it seemed to be at completely the wrong angle while resting on the footbar. By the time we got back, we were both glad to be walking away from the boat.
A week after that, we went out again for an evening paddle and this, initially, was even worse. We got in and the boat was rocking all over the place: our confidence was completely shot to pieces. We mananged to capsize again as we got out the boat to portage across Sunbury weir.
Frustrated, I suggested to Jamie that I have a go in the front, my reasoning being that as I am a a stone or so lighter than him it might be easier to control the boat and allow Jamie some paddle time without having to think about the controls. I instantly realised what Jamie had been contending with. Was there actually a rudder conected to this thing? The boat would start a lazy drift to the right (always the right!) so I would put in a bit of left rudder: nothing happened. More rudder and still nothing. All of a sudden, the K2 would lurch over to the left, requiring an instant dab of right rudder but I never seemed to be able to catch it in time. And while all this was happening I was stopping my stroke, checking and counter checking, much to Jamie's frustration.
After half an hour, we were both ready for a break, so we got out and with our aching legs protesting we decided to use the rest of the time to alter our seat positions and get comfortable. From this point of view, the session was really useful and for the first time we started to think about what we were doing and looking at the detail and it was from this point that things started to look up.
Last week we had our second coached session and this time it was going to be a paddle from Sunbury up to Molesey weir. After a quick briefing, Steve and his partner in the boat powered off, leaving Jamie and I to follow them downstream. Jamie was back in the front, but this time with a bit more understanding about what it was like to follow an erratic stroke and with me in the back with more sympathy about how to steer this thing. It was not pretty, but we paddled, slowly, for two hours and didn't capsize. That was a very big morale boost for us and after being in the doldrums with a "We're never going to get this" attitude, things began to look up.
We have done two more paddles since and we have made small improvements both times. Jamie has now got the steering sorted and our timing is getting a lot better. What we do not have is good technique: at the moment it's all arms and no core, which is something that we have to work on over the coming months. Again we got a bit cocky.
"Let's do some intervals."
Within four or five strokes it became obvious that this was a bad idea: the boat lurched and rocked again. Ok, no intervals until we've got the technique to cope with them. We surprised ourselves however when we worked out that we had done the return trip in 38 minutes, compared to 55 minutes the week before, simply by keeping in time and steering straight.
Things, as they say, are looking up!
Posted by Alex Kew
Quick introductions first, methinks!
I am Alex (obviously), a 38 year old teacher who is trying to stay fit and healthy while the years slowly advance. My main 'thing' has been triathlons but this year has been somewhat of a washout with injuries so I have not been as active as I would have liked. I am however, back on the mend and looking forward to training hard once again.
Anyway, my brother, Jamie has joined his canoe club at work and he's been a member for a few months and one of his colleagues suggested they train for the DW. Jamie got really excited about it and really fancied having a go, at just about the same time that his colleague said that actually, no, he didn't want to do it anymore. Typical. So, one trip to the pub later (where lots of fool hardy ventures and plans tend to get hatched!) and Jamie's other crew member is me!!
So why the blog? Well, we are lucky that Jamie's club have some very experienced and good coaches who have already helped a lot, but, there are going to be lots and lots of questions which I am sure you good people can help me with. Allied to that, it seems appropriate that I record what we are doing because the more I read about this race, the harder it is getting.
Anyway, more to follow soon when I get home and get some pics up and running.
Posted by Alex Kew
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Want to read my old blog entries? Browse through an achive of all my posts below:
- October 2010 (1 post)
- September 2010 (1 post)
- July 2010 (1 post)
- April 2010 (2 posts)
- March 2010 (4 posts)
- February 2010 (6 posts)
- January 2010 (5 posts)
- December 2009 (1 post)
- November 2009 (2 posts)
- September 2009 (4 posts)
- August 2009 (2 posts)