Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

Training Time

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

It has been a slow and uneven start to spring here in Marquette. Some days the ice has blocked access to the lake, at other times the air temperatures have been too cold. After 10 days of this, the past several days have been just right. Well mostly right.

One of the Presque Isle Rocks on a glassy day

Friday and saturday, I was able to do runs out from the Presque Isle Marina up and around the Presque Isle rocks. Friday was glass calm as can be seen in the photo. Saturday had some winds and waves on the lake.

Worked on sustained speed and ended up within 5 minutes both days of my target. Happy given the elapsed time from the previous paddles. Also worked on paddling a range line in the mild conditions on saturday.

Today added a different challenge. The temperatures once again dropped into

The mouth of the Chocolay River

the low 30s and the wind was expected to be gusty. Both of those add up to avoiding the big lake but the good news is the Chocolay River has opened up. It is sheltered offering protection from the wind and as a bonus, this time of year it has a bit of current on it.  An area by the mouth had currents at 3-4 mph. Enough to play with ferrying, eddying out and then the forward stroke grind of paddling against it. After 30 minutes of looping around and paddling against the current, could feel the power increase as the technique improved on my forward stroke.

This time of year the training goal is to reinvigorate rusty skills and be ready for the first instructor workshops that are rapidly approaching. The weather is what it will be. But the rusty skill of adapting to what the weather allows is being reinvigorated as well.


Wilderness Medicine Training

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

On an Outward Bound (OB) trip into the Utah desert, a student rock climbing is injured by a falling rock. Her little finger is broken. But she starts showing symptoms of shock and the then OB protocols state that is time to call for an evac. A helicopter responds but on the way crashes, killing the three crew members. On review, the protocols required an unnecessary evac because it was acute stress reaction – an emotional response that mimics shock and doesn’t need an evac, just calming. This situation led to the formation of Wilderness Medical Associates (WMA) – click here.

It was 12 years ago that I attended my first WMA course near Bayfield. I was amazed, the instructor had actually done CPR on a person. Actually, most of the course he taught from his experience. Altogether I’ve had 6 instructors, all similarly experienced. Quite different from prior CPR/First Aid training where those instructors literally had little to no experience.

Getting ready for my first season as a guide brought me to the course. I learned a lot and it influenced my guiding – “No, I don’t care what Tim said, there will be no cliff jumping on this trip.”. I haven’t had to evacuate anybody, yet. On a couple of trips a person got sick and the training taught me to know the signs that it was serious (none were).

This weekend is my 5th WMA course. Over the years the protocols have changed and so the courses are one way to learn about the changes. It also helps to refresh and reinforce what may one day be some very critical knowledge for me to help a friend or a student.



Sunday, April 13th, 2008

A good size wave to passes underneath as I wait for the next wave of the set. A quick glance and all I see is a huge wall coming at me. As my stern rises, my speed picks up and my bow pearls (dives). A quick calculation and I decide to let it go. In the next instant the boat is vertical, standing on its bow. A quick brace like stroke on the left side pirouettes (spins) my boat 180 degrees to where I find myself eye level with the wave. I drop cleanly down onto the hull and continue to surf the wave, this time backwards.

The wind has been blowing for 3 days now. Yesterday waves were going clean over the Upper Harbor breakwall. Today’s near shore forecast shows the wind dropping and the double digit waves heights gone:

1030 AM EDT SUN APR 13 2008



Driving past the Upper Harbor breakwall today, only spray is going over. At Middle Bay, the scene in the photo is what greets me.


Surfing this time of year one deals with cold water, rusty skills and limited fitness. But today could be some of the best waves of the season thanks to the recent conditions. The risk-reward trade off is getting pushed.

Once out, it takes a while for my hands to stay warm. Each time a breaking wave hits my face, it causes an ice cream headache. But within a few rides I find a good break and start working it. The big waves are dying – their sets are becoming further apart. But waiting ends up proving rewarding for I end up with two enders and about 10 good rides within the hour.

It is exhilarating to surf, it adds an entirely different dimension to the sport. Here in Marquette, we get the best surf on the shoulders of the season, spring and fall. Pool sessions and early training enables pushing the envelope so early.


A New Chapter

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

ice-767-wb.jpgWith all the ice around on the first paddles, it acts as an enticement to get out. Early paddles are relaxed affairs with time for gawking and taking photos of the ice as well as enjoying being back on the water again. Over the years I’ve come to realize, it is important to have the goal of these early paddles be fun and unstructured to rediscover the joy of paddling after the winter season.

2007-044-wb.jpgTraining on the other hand can be anything but fun. Paddling in the rain, cold and sometimes even snow in the quest to build fitness gets old, especially as fatigue starts to build and the call of a warm bed in the morning becomes difficult to ignore. But training despite the sometimes misery is necessary to regain the fitness lost over the winter. Important so the first days of paddling a loaded boat on a trip doesn’t become an even greater misery.

On those early paddles in the ice, some training happens as the endurance to sit in a boat increases. But it takes a new chapter with a different type of paddling to build fitness. In these paddles, distance and speed are important and carefully measured. Initially that starts out with paddling a set distance, in this case, a course four miles long.

One of the goals is to have a constant paddle stroke rate. During those first paddles of the season, the stroke rate is irregular and the paddle is sometimes resting on the cockpit. By keeping a steady rate, it builds endurance in the muscles and the heart & lungs.

Paddling a four mile course is a modest distance but one I can easily monitor my speed over distance. The goal is to stay at a constant 4 mph, close to my regular paddling speed. By maintaining this speed over this distance, I’ve found it builds the physical foundation needed for longer distances.

Over the upcoming weeks, the distance will increase building on the base from these paddles. The end goal is the physical capacity to paddle 20+ miles in 5+ hours.


Pool Sessions

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Often, people think of pool sessions as rolling sessions. But there is more than rolling one can do there. One of the things I do is practice strokes. Why? It increases paddling efficiency. For example, efficient bracing and sweep strokes make a significant difference in a surf zone. Important as locally there is often rough water and surf in the early season from march to may. Also, I can model them more accurately during lessons and instructor workshops. Accurate modeling allows students to be able learn the stroke better by seeing it.

Below are some photos of sculling draw practice. Draw strokes are suppose to draw the boat straight sideways which means for the boat:

  • the bow and stern move the same distance (ie the bow doesn’t move more than the stern)
  • there is little to no movement forwards or backwards (towards the bow or stern)

A pool offers great feedback on what the boat is doing by drawing along the edge. Note in the photos the boat is staying parallel to the pool edge on its beam (side) – this tells me the bow and the stern are moving the same distance. Also note the bow is drawing along the edge by the bow without significant forward or backward movement. See there has been a slight forward movement in the third photo, something that would have been tough to notice without the nearby edge.



Of course, there are three components to every stroke: boat, body & blade. This practice appear to focus on only one part but it helps to refine the others as well. After all, if your boat isn’t going where it is suppose to, chances are your body and/or blade is not doing something correctly.