Nature’s Intervals: Focus, Pace and Legs

sb-intervals1

Elder SUP ready for “nature’s intervals” – up wind and up current

It was a cloudy, calm summer morning, about 60 degrees and the flags at the Deschutes River were lying lazily calm as I headed to the water for a few hours of intervals. Board of choice was the 12’6″ Starboard Astro Inflatable Deluxe – great glides and fast! My paddle was the adjustable Tiare from Kialoa.

The water looked invitingly glassy – then the first gust powered down the canyon in my face as I started on the first up current .7 mile segment. Holy cow – Mother Nature was master of these intervals. The deal was: paddle hard or go backwards.

OK – I was in! Today my focus was on really using legs to drive the board forward with each stroke. Grabbing insights from a number of recent clinics the goal was keeping form and technique on every interval segment.

Fiona Wylde (at Santa Cruz Paddlefest)- Bend your knees more and get your bottom hand lower. (Check)

fiona-wylde-carolina-cup-2016-starboard-1000x665

Photo by OnIt Pro

Zane Schwetizer ( at Standup 4 the Cure) – Use your legs. Keep your hips facing forward during the rotation of your stroke then bring your board to your paddle. Quads are powerful drivers.

dave-techniqueDave Kalama (at Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge)- Drive your paddle quietly and solidly into the water on your catch – be sure you have a solid catch before you start to bring your paddle back.

DownstreamIt’s amazing how a race pace interval against wind and current can fly by when the mind is fully focused on technique.  When I got to the rapids that marked the turn point it was down current and down wind recovery time.

Whooooosh, in a nanosecond I was back at the put in – ready for lap #2. And so it went for almost 2 hours.  I usually balk at training when the up current river segments are 15-25 mph wind in the face – but today “nature’s intervals” were all about focus and surprisingly were FUN.

healkyEveryone wants to make the most out of their training and get faster. Everyone wants to paddle faster, but actually paddling faster still tends to be elusive. Lets review a few things that can help you either increase, or keep up, the speed while you’re on the water stand up paddling.

Focus:

To go faster we need to focus on our technique! When you zone out or stop focusing on your cadence and reach, form breaks down and you start moving slower. Take your own game plan to the water, rely on your training, and focus on your technique.

Reach:

You’re focused and you have a solid cadence, now you want to really reach. When paddling, you want to get every inch of reach you can to propel yourself forward. Further reach gives you a longer pull, this means your blade is in the water for more time. In theory you keep your board moving, as opposed to when you’re recovering the blade and your board is decelerating. The companion of reach is exiting your paddle from the water – at your feet, not behind them. The moment your paddle begins pushing water up rather than powering your board forward it’s wasted effort.  An entire training session can be an exploration of catch and reach. (Bend those legs)

Fun

Make it a game. Train with a buddy. Set a goal. And best of all, celebrate when you’re done. A session out on the water is what we live for – make it great!

 

Odell Lake: The Wind is Free

John Milandin wrapping up the 33rd Annual Odell Lake downwind race

John Milandin wrapping up the 33rd Annual Odell Lake downwind race

Nestled between the peaks and tall pines of Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest, and offering a vast shoreline access to a plethora of water borne activities and breathtaking vistas, Odell Lake Lodge & Resort is every sportsman’s paradise, lover’s hideaway, and family recreation cornucopia. It’s also the home of a 33 year-long tradition of laid back, down-wind “races” across the lake -followed by tall tales, a great BBQ and warm hospitality from John and Janet Milandin.

Central Oregon SUP paddlers join surf skis, canoes, kayaks, outriggers – anything that can be paddled – for this annual event.  In windy Central Oregon we often curse the blasting winter blizzards that hit us while we ski, toss us around as we cycle and push us back as we paddle upstream in the Deschutes.  This same wind becomes our friend when we plan to let it hit our backs and give us some great glides as we paddle the 6 miles from Shelter Cove to the Odell Lodge.

In the mix of paddle craft on the water, there were 11 standup boards. That group consisted of 10 guys and one grandma (yup, me).  For the life of me I annot figure out why there weren’t 3-4 times as many SUP paddlers and at least a few dozen women.  Here’s the opportunity missed (but easy to access almost any time.  The “race” is not a competitive monster in which anyone needs to grind out a personal best time. John Milandin specifically guides the “race” spirit.

11 SUP paddlers at the start

11 SUP paddlers at the start

Go Granny! We need 15-20 women for Odell Lake 2014.

Go Granny! We need 15-20 women for Odell Lake 2014.

We all get on the water and hunt for little waves here and there to play on for a delicious 6-mile paddle. The wind always seems to bolster up a bit by mid-course, so the glides get longer and the assistance gets stronger.  If you have never tried a down winder there couldn’t be a better (and safer) situation.  Everyone is required to have a PFD and a whistle. Crash boats circle the course and watch out for wipeouts or stragglers.  The more participants the greater the chance you will be paddling for an hour or so nearby someone who’s all, “Wooohooo!!!!” after a glide. The energy is refreshing.

A number of us had so much fun that we are returning to Odell Lake on the next windy weekend with our own shuttle planned just so we can ride the glides again.

Catching a finish line wave

Catching a finish line wave

Take a look at the video below to get a sense of the spirit of fun at Odell Lake. If you are looking for the results of the”race,” you won’t find them here.  Grins and friends set the tone of the day, not times or wins. Search your local paddling community for a similar lake event this summer. Register, prepare and then go have fun. It’s a win-win for sure.

SUP: Da Feet

That moment after a too-steep take-off when the nose of your surfboard buries deep, that moment just before you rocket through the air tightly clutching your paddle – you know! You know that your feet were not in the ideal position to trim your board successfully – it’s obvious.

Karen Wrenn posted this very cool photo - great color and an easy way to study foot position and technique.

Karen Wrenn posted this very cool photo – great color and an easy way to study foot position and technique.

More subtle are the changes in board trim and efficiency or glide that occur with where your feet are place and the balance of weight on those two feet when going in flat-water or downwind. A good example is the way Karen Wrenn is positioned in the photo to the left. She was kind enough to explain, “If you notice how my feet are really far on the left side of the board… it’s because there was a super strong side wind coming over my left shoulder. I had to position myself on the far left of the board to keep from getting pushed by the wind to the left. With my body weight on the left side of the board it allowed me to get my left rail down and prevent getting pushed and tipped.”

Knowing the force of winds in the gnarly Columbia Gorge area where Karen spends a great deal of training time, that is good to know. As the weather warms, our local SUP community plan many jaunts to the Hood River and Portland area for down wind fun.

With just a few weeks before the most challenging down wind adventure of our lives at Maliko Gulch and the Olukai Ho’olaule’a, we have been barefooting it on the sleek 14′ Naish Glide as winter hiccups into spring.  Balance as we maneuver is crucial – falling into the barely above freezing Deschutes River is not an option.

There’s the rub! Tail turn practice goes tentative – and immediately balance becomes sketchy.  It’s a great mental practice to feel the right movement to position and coordinate strong paddle strokes.

Evening light adding to our bliss!

Evening light adding to our bliss!

Our puzzle remains – what’s the best foot position for the various aspects of conditions we’ll encounter on the Maliko down wind route?  We will be sharing this post far and near, hoping for insights and input. While we will be participating in a “race,” our goal is safe completion of the journey.

Wondering how this foot position is for strong "wind in the face" situations

Wondering how this foot position is for strong “wind in the face” situations

Ed is experimenting with feet further back, noticing the impact of the tail drag vs speed and efficiency

Ed is experimenting with feet further back, noticing the impact of the tail drag vs speed and efficiency

We know we have awesome equipment with our Naish 14′ Glides underfoot, so we hope to refine our skills so that we can make the best of the famed “glides” we’ll be earning along the way.  How incredibly cool is it going to be to feel that first rush of wind after going beyond the cliff at Maliko Gulch! What a thrill it’s going to be to be surrounded by hundreds of other paddlers as the swells start rising on our quarter and from directly behind!

Butterflies – yup! We can’t wait to practice in the warm ocean – to fall as often as needed into WARM water – and to peddle forwards and back along the foot-friendly deck of the Naish Glide.  The best and right equipment for the adventure adds so much confidence and fun to the mix! Yeah, the stoke is fueled.

Please share your insights and comments on the blog or via e-mail eldersup@gmail.com – some comments we have received so far can be read at Aloha of the Paddle.

This seems to be a good foot position for flat water up wind and down - comments?

This seems to be a good foot position for flat water up wind and down – comments?

SUP MUSE: Karen Wrenn

There are many meaning of “muse” – both as a noun and as a verb. One meaning I like is describing a muse as an inspiration, a catalyst for change. We can have many muses on our journey in life, in sport and adventure. Karen Wrenn inspires many  – an active “verb” of a person. She’s also a true catalyst for change. Do you want to be better at something and reach new goals? I know I do, and I know that I can do it better when a muse helps along the way. Karen, Naish team rider, seems to always be on the move sharing her spirit and aloha for standup paddling.

KIALOA captured the determination and drive that Karen Wrenn harnesses during winter training

KIALOA captured the determination and drive that Karen Wrenn harnesses during winter training

Ask a busy person! I did, and Karen generously shared some time and insights. First, some background: Few are more busy than Karen – wife, mother, friend, athlete, teacher and SUP superwoman. We all know that honing our skills and keeping whatever our personal “athletic edge” might be is a full-time effort. In the cold and wet Pacific Northwest, staying trained and motivated takes a bit more psyching up. The recent photo used in a cool ad for KIALOA paddles captures that “brace yourself for a cold an challenging training run” moment perfectly.

I have been less determined to brave the wet and cold through January and February – then March arrived with a few days that shouted “SPRING” with abundant sun and little wind. No question! It was time to head to the Deschutes River and take a few loops. No one else was out that day. It was a visual and sensory wonderland to be gliding up-current and getting cobwebs out of arms, trunk and legs. Luckily, I had my GoPro with the board suction mount. It stayed on solidly and could be shifted from front view to back view easily.

The next day was full of OUCH! I watched the video of my paddle (see above) noticing a strange inward rotation of my knees and a waggle of the hips that seemed out of place. I had just gone through my first of three series of knee injections (yup, the old meniscus has apparently vanished). The last thing I want to do is annoy my knee further. So I sent off the video to Karen for some insights. We had connected at the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge last year when she encouraged me as I tried the fast and sleek Naish Glide for the first time.

You may want to have your own technique guide do what Karen suggested, film from behind for a better view of body mechanics. The second suggestion was to adjust my stance from time to time. Karen explains, ” One thing I do all the time when something is bothering me is to play around with my stance. I think with a bit of a narrower stance you might not be able to lean the knee in so much Or, possibly a slightly staggered stance might help to. If you haven’t already… play around with that. Try a narrow, try a wider than usual and a slightly staggered stance and see what happens.”

Karen’s next suggestion reinforced my commitment to the twists and stretches of yoga, “Try to also focus on the torso rotation being a little higher making it happen through the rib cage instead of  by your hips. When I am paddling really hard and efficiently I feel sore through my the sides of my ribcage. If the rotation is happening a little higher you might find that your hips stay a little more fixed and that would cause less inward knee movement. It would give you the torso rotation and take it out of so much arms.”

There is no doubt that I will take these few suggestions to the river and to my indoor TRX training. Motivated even more – it’s only 56 days until Ed and I head to Maui, get our Naish 14′ Glides and prep for the Olukai Ho’olaule’a Maliko Run. Yipppeee! And thanks so much for your suggestions, Karen!

Winter SUP Training

January warm in my Sweet Waterwear paddling top and compression pants

January warm in my Sweet Waterwear paddling top and compression pants

Just took a virtual tour drooling over the Naish line of Glide raceboards (have you ever seen that GX? Yeah!)and Mana line of SUP surfboards.  It seems like forever until we head to Maui for some surf and downwind fun at the Olukai Ho’olaulea.  In reality, it’s just about 100 days.  With so much snow and ice on our local paddling locations, we are waiting until late May to get our Naish boards. Meanwhile we prep and dream. I did have the pleasure of going a few miles in the Deschutes River on a recent 50 degree afternoon. It was the first time I’d paddled since our fun in Maui in early December. Other locals, like Randall Barna paddle regularly – every freezing month of the year. naish randall winter

I was paddling on my Amundson 11’3″ all round fun board.  Everyone knows that I have had endless hours of flatwater and surf fun with that board.  Heading up river on a calm day I was surprised to notice – my Amundson just didn’t have that “glide!” In Maui we had been blessed with a few glassy days with small surf so the actual glide of the Naish 14′ Glide was obvious. A set of 6-8 strokes on one side generated some serious acceleration with minimal effort.  It reminded me of some technique suggestions from KIALOA paddles’ Dave Chun.

When asked about paddling technique, Dave Chun says, “Listen to the board, Don’t worry about what you look like. Listen to the water coming off of it. Feel what makes it go fast and smooth.” I was doping that observation during my January paddle and realized how much the design of a board impacts the glide, the sound and the result of a series of paddle strokes.  Even though I love the sound of the chop-chop-chop as the bow skims across the ripples in river current and breeze bumps, having aboard that slices right through all that with more of a “swish” is simply faster! So glad we’ve got a 14′ Naish Glide reserved for the Ho’olaule’a.

We don't have the beach (and I certainly don't have the body) but we can train and prep with guidance from Suzie Cooney, CPT

We don’t have the beach (and I certainly don’t have the body) but we can train and prep with guidance from Suzie Cooney, CPT

While a great board is key to having a great experience during SUP events, the bottom line is getting ourselves ready to be strong, safe and prepared for the physical and mental challenges. To that end we have been poring over Suzie Cooney’s SuzieTrainsMaui website for ideas and training tips. Luckily she has SKYPE sessions available for some true custom training opportunity. I know we will be filming some sessions with the GoPro to get solid feedback that we need.

Since Karen Wrenn experiences much similar winter weather we looked for some training tips that power her fitness and competitive success.  This is from Karen’s blog with a link to Stand Up Paddle Annapolis’ blog

“I do a lot of cross training in the gym in the Winter. Circuit training is great because you can get your heart rate going, build muscle and muscle endurance. I will first do something that elevates my heart rate followed by a couple exercises that include strength and balance. For example, I might do 20 double jumps (or you could do 100-150 single jumps) with a jump rope and then move right into 20 kettle ball swings (from a squat position swinging the kettle ball to shoulder height coming to a standing position) and repeat. Then I would move into a plank position with elbows on a ball and roll the ball forward and back for 20 reps. I would do this circuit 3 times and then move on to another circuit.

Another idea of a circuit is to do 15 split jumps on each leg (http://www.livestrong.com/video/5310-split-jumps/) and then 20 tri-cep dips then 20 reverse crunches (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVVlXA0dqGg) and repeat this circuit another two times.

Basically, come up with some circuits of three exercises. Have the first exercise of the series be something that will elevate your heart rate ( jump rope, running stairs, sprints on a rowing machine) add a strength exercise (kettle bells, push ups, tricep dips, pull ups, etc…) then add in a core exercise ( reverse crunch, plank, medicine ball sit up and throws). After you finish one circuit of three then move on to another.

I run a lot during the Winter. Running is a great way to keep up your cardio endurance and a great thing to do if you only have 45 minutes to spare. If you are not a runner… biking and swimming are great options too.”

From Naish Stand Up Paddle's Facebook page

From Naish Stand Up Paddle’s Facebook page

Excuses for not getting ready? NONE! Have fun, just be sure to be safe and paddle with a buddy when the water and weather is cold.

RPE, SUP and Neutral

My best paddle last week came about 10 days into my training with the TRX RIP and TRX Suspension trainers.  As I dropped my board into the brisk Deschutes River I was thinking about fall colors and maybe the last barefoot paddle of the season. There was not a cloud in the sky although we were predicted to get a few inches of snow by late evening. I felt great! 

In order to monitor a bit about my training paddles I use Nike+ on my iPhone to get feedback on minutes per mile. I wear a Polar heart rate monitor because sometimes I tend to go too hard for too long and start to erase the fun factor. I always bring along the GoPro HERO with at least two mounts. The suction mount on the board works well in the river, and the head mount captures awesome views. On this particular day I was simply out for color and the brilliant day. Training wasn’t on my mind.

Imagine my surprise when I heard the robo-voice from the Nike+ app say, ” One mile. Average pace 18 minutes per mile.” Okay,” I thought to myself, “When the breeze is in my face and I am going up current in this section of the river I average 21 minutes a mile.” Weird, I wasn’t trying so hard, my rate of perceived exertion (RPE) was medium, maybe a 6 out of 10.  Heart rate was in a manageable range. What was making a difference?

I believe I was cranking out the miles in a quick but seemingly easy manner because of two things.

First of all, I did feel powerful. My feet seemed to be gaining power from my legs with each paddle – and the only thing I was doing differently was maintaining a neutral spine. Core engaged and tail tucked. A neutral spine is a prerequisite to doing the TRX system. Perhaps 10 days of practice at that had provided me with a better “engine.” I have had a habit of bending at the waist, particularly when skiing. Muscle and body memory around creating that more upright, neutral spine might be a valuable transfer to more than just my SUP technique. Good news since ski season is just around the corner.

Technique makes all the difference. I get a great deal of insight by reading Dave Kalama’s blog. He recently wrote, “Paddling most of the time needs to be a very flowing and rhythmic action, not a tense muscle flexed series of positions, but rather a constant continually moving movie. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place to exert yourself, but if your base stroke comes from a place of rhythm and flow, when you exert yourself you will be much more effective and efficient. The best fix for it is to greatly reduce your power level and learn how to use your technique as your driving force, not your power output. Decrease your power to the level that you don’t feel like you’re doing any work at all, and just concentrate on technique. You’ll be surprised at how fast you go.”

I have no doubt that my neutral spine and effective technique made all the difference on speed.  How satisfying to have things come together – awareness of technique, reach, proper hand and arm placement as well as on-land training.  What’s been your best “surprise” when it’s come to RPE and SUP?

Are You RED-y For Fall Paddling?

Flip flops and bikinis, shorts and suntans – summer paddling has a personality all its own. Late in the summer, we did an article on the awesome colors we experience while standup paddling. The summer focus was blue.  Now that the clouds across much of the globe are more gray and the temperature more chilly, paddling on our rivers, lakes and bays has morphed from a world of sun and blues to the brilliant reds, oranges, gold and grays of fall. While those in cooler climes tend to have a bad case of “tropical-envy” during the long dark months of winter, there is a treasure of color during our Fall season.

I usually try to capture some of these colors while paddling. Last weekend, local standup paddler Dennis Oliphant took some pictures while hiking along some of our favorite sections of the Deschutes River in Central Oregon. It’s much more common to see Dennis, owner of esteemed Sun Country Tours,  paddling rivers, rapids, surfing oceans, and down-winding lakes.  Dennis has been on and around the water both as a professional and as an athlete his entire life, but on this day he was on the shoreline.

The transition from summer to fall catches us by surprise, often with a cover of clouds banking across the usually cloudless skies of the high desert region. In the next three photos, the blue of summer is toned with the gray of impending fall. With a few frosty nights under our belts, we are now being treated to the flaming reds and golds that reflect on the water and make every paddle almost sensory overload. Dennis captured a series of photos that share the diverse personality of the Dillon Falls section of the Deschutes River south of Bend. Celebrate the energy of this season. Put on your booties (and your safety gear, brrrrrrrrr if you do fall in) and immerse yourself in the brief, but exquisite, gift of fall color. Don’t forget the camera.

Elk Lake in the Fall. Photo by Peter Simons (Bend, OR)

Dennis Oliphant captures the serene mood of glassy water.

Healy rapids near Bend, Oregon

Photo by Dennis Oliphant

Photo by Dennis Oliphant

Photo by Dennis Oliphant