It Takes a Village

kneeAs March delivers more daylight and some warmer weather, we’re back on the water more often these days. Having survived this much of ski season with knees in pretty good shape, it was a surprise when I managed to make them sore when paddling. As a precaution, since a few meniscus surgeries indicate I have very little cushion and some arthritis in the old knees, I had some injectable medication called hyaluronan delivered. It is a once a week procedure over 3 weeks (ouch!)

Using some GoPro footage (which should be done again from the back-of-the-paddler view) I was able to share my technique with some experts kind enough to provide suggestions.  I tired out the very good advice from Karen Wrenn, Naish team rider,  over the weekend.  With knee braces on, a more narrow stance and full attention on keeping my torso rotation a bit higher toward the upper ribs I had a great time!  The entire process of awareness and concentration almost made me miss the awesome sun on water and mild breezes, but not quite.

Keeping my knees tracking more forward really seemed to make a difference in my ability to “drive power through the board” for consistent acceleration. Karen mentioned that I might expect more after exercise soreness in the upper ribs area when i was getting the rotation closer to what might be ideal. I can vouch for that – in a good way.

bridget

Bridget Fitzpatrick Evans joyfully shares yoga with us bright and early in the morning.

Even greater reinforcement of how a body could be gently nudged toward a new (and hopefully, better) technique came with my 6 am yoga class at Groove Yoga Bend this morning. We were going through our moving-breathing-meditation led by Bridget Evans and we were deep into Warrior Two when I noticed a light “coaching” toward moving hips to the side as arms pointed forward and back. With another barely noticeable touch, Bridget coaxed my thigh to bend just a bit more toward parallel with the ground – and “LIGHT BULB!”

It might have been 1/16th of an inch more of a torso rotation, but I caught a twinge of that upper rib exertion from the paddling and my hips moved a bit more – and there was the reminder. If patience and awareness team up, even a tough old body can learn to move in new (and more effective) ways.  A little shaky and really sweaty insight.

Later as we moved into single pigeon, I babied my left knee and did a variation on my back. My cooler and healthier right knee found its way into the pose a bit easier.  Breathing in and then breathing out and deepening the pose I was feeling really good about how it was all settling in. Maybe Bridget noticed some tense areas that were holding me back – who knows. Whatever, she appeared at just the right time and managed to relax some large back muscles, some teeny neck muscles and gently coax a bit more deepening of the stretch.  Wow! it was such an easy transition, and reinforced hope.

Consistent practice and listening to one’s own body – partnered with professional advice – can make training an adventure and a journey.  I guess the take away is paying attention – what do you think?  We welcome your comments, e-mail and insights.

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.

Radiating Insights and SUP Aloha

I live in Oregon and have had the good fortune to meet Karen Wrenn a few times. From those experiences I recognized that on top of being an incredible athlete and a stellar Mom, she is extraordinarily giving when it comes to what she’s learned through SUP. So I follow her blog, and follow her posts on Facebook.  You may want to as well.

Karen Wrenn introducing her group to proper paddle technique. Photo by Ed Shasek

Just last week at the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge we arrived on Friday just in time to attend the Positively Kai Grom Clinic.  There, nearly engulfed by several dozen eager pre-teens was smiling, calm Karen.  Kids at that age can behave like a herd of cats, but they remained focused and attentive throughout the land training. Parents hovering around the edges seemed particularly pleased when Karen made sure the kids got their PDFs or borrowed one for water time. One worried mom pulled Karen to the side, hands holding tight on your young son’s shoulders. After a few moments’ conversation, with a smile, the mom handed off the boy who no longer seemed so hesitant. Confidence at each step of the way seemed to be the theme.

With the clinic on Friday, a course race on Saturday and a blustery down wind run on Sunday every on of the top athletes had plenty on their plates. Just the same, Karen took some time to answer my questions about what would be my very first experience on the Columbia River. I haven’t determined what race board to buy just yet and have only about 4 lake races using a 12’6″ Hobie or Amundson. Steve Gates had already hooked me on the benefits of using a race board like the Naish Glides he carries at Big Winds.  As a Naish team rider, Karen showed me why she chose the Glide as well.

I had never been in the Columbia River, not had I ever paddled any board larger than 12 feet long. I asked Karen, “Would it be crazy for me to use my 11’3″ Amundson surfboard in the conditions we’ll have in Sunday? Will I be like dead last, or crazy slow?” The winds were expected to be 30-40 mph and i was freaking out more than a little.

That was the beginning of a valuable conversation. I learned where to go on the river and what to do should a barge come along. (A HUGE double barge did send me almost to the Washington side of the river)  She explained the sort of swells I might encounter and how to surf them to connect the most glides. Best of all, her easy assessment of my ability to not only do the race but also enjoy it gave me one more level of confidence.  Cool too, was being able to watch Karen’s technique in the course race, rounding marks, planting her paddle for the “catch” and using her legs and core. And did her Glide ever “gliiiiiiiide!”

Karen Wrenn rounds the bay buoy in the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge course race. Photo by Ed Shasek

I guess it all added up. Holy cow! I am solidly addicted to the sort of conditions we had on the Gorge Paddle Challenge downwinder. Totally jazzed I can’t wait to get back there to do it again – Summer 2013.

It hadn’t been too long ago that the ultimate SUP race, the Molokai 2 Oahu race took place. I have been a swimming, sailing, surfing, ocean person since birth and crossing big ocean expanses (with safety and support) has been a dream. (I wrote about that dream in an earlier blog)  Could I ever train enough in this seventh decade of life to manage that? Deliriously I thought – maybe?

With further insight I realize that the novice attempting that crossing – in or out of that event- would be somewhat disrespectful to the power of that channel and the esteem of the challenge. Karen wrote a powerful blog about Molokai 2 Oahu not too long ago. The article wove the challenge with the tradition. It underscored the dedication and training commitment the athletes who successfully cross the channel have invested.

I know that the Molokai 2 Oahu will always be what it has been to me – a dream. But it is also a window to what the top athletes in SUP can do. In my own way, at my own level I can be my best by keeping personal abilities in perspective. Training as much as I can as wisely as I can toward the events that make sense for me might be more fulfilling than chasing a dream.

Karen Wrenn with her signature smile racing to the finish.

Thanks to the athletes like Karen, Candice Appleby, Brit Oliphant and Suzie Cooney we can all aspire to our best. Follow their blogs, see what they dedicate to the sport through Facebook and YouTube video. Be the best YOU can be and celebrate the journey. Smile!

SUP Leaders Grinnin’ and Givin’

KIALOA paddles and Naish team rider, Chuck Patterson and his signature smile

Perhaps every sport has its heroes, good karma ambassadors and experts eager to share their time, skills and experience with newbies – but SUP seems to have more than its fair share.  As with most categories of leaders in most any field, the busiest seem to be the most eager to share.  Chuck Patterson and Karen Wrenn gave clinics at the 2011 Bend Paddleboard Challenge. Before and after their clinic they shared freely with any paddlers hammering the questions their way – and always with a smile!  Karen is a busy mom and competitor, but like Chuck she’s and incredible ambassador for our sport.

When my husband and I were in Maui last May for the Olukai Ho’olaule’a race, we tried the shorter course from Paia Bay to Kanaha – rather than the full Maliko Gulch run.  Local SUP trainer and world class athlete, Suzie Cooney consistently gave of her time and experience before and during the event. The absolutely amazing spirit of the team for Olukai and the encouragement from Suzie infected us with a focus on getting prepared for the 2013 Maliko Gulch run as part of the Olukai Ho’olaule’a. We plan to learn from her online training tips and some actual training runs over the next months. If she hadn’t been so willing to share from her first meeting with two old SUP downwind “wannabees” we might not have had the confidence to complete training enough to compete (term used loosely – LOL)

KIALOA paddles team rider, Brit Oliphant

Most recently I have had the good fortune to know one of the younger leaders in  standup paddling, surfing, and all types of racing, Brit Oliphant. We share the same home town, and often cross paths on the Deschutes River that flows through town. As Brit offers training to all ages in groups large and small the constant is enthusiasm and a great smile. Day after day! Just out of high school, Brit has a love of life and maturity that’s rare at any age. While disciplined training has provided the fitness background needed to compete at the highest levels, an absolute love of oceans and rivers adds a special something else.

So, as I wavered in my commitment to watch-participate-watch, maybe, or participate (should I?) in the upcoming 2012 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge I went out for an easy paddle with a friend yesterday. “Hey, Judy!” I heard as I walked past the Sun Country SUP rentals at our RiverBend Park. It was Brit, back from a one day training trip to Hood River where she and fellow paddlers had done a few rounds of the 8 mile downwind course.

In chatting, she heard me mention that I was still wavering about doing the event and might just rent the Naish race board my friend Steve Gates recommended in case I decided to do the downwind on Sunday. Now, I know that Brit recently got a brand new Joe Bark designed Candice Appleby Model 12’6″ race board. She’d paddled it to a win at the recent Gerry Lopez Elk Lake WPA race and was obviously thrilled.  That said, without a moment’s hesitation Brit said, ‘Judy, if we aren’t racing at the same time you can use my board on Sunday.” Sharing a brand new anything is generous – but a race board – what a cool gesture, Brit.

Generosity like that is rare.  I won’t be borrowing her cool race board, yet the offer was easily sincere. The confidence I gained from Brit’s wholehearted advice, hints and belief that not only could I do the event but I would have a world of fun (if the wind cooperated) at the same time.  Let’s see what Sunday brings. My guess is that we will see Brit competing toward the front of the elite class, smile shining, having a blast whatever place comes her way. For me, I hope I muster the nerve to give it a go. Better register now!  

10 Ways to Win a SUP Race

  1. Warm up before the race. Practice steadily whenever you can and get used to how “enough” feels.  Use a heart rate monitor now and then – so you learn what “enough” for you REALLY feels like.. The day before the race, work out a little and then rest up well. Stretch after you paddle for practice and get used to what “nicely warmed up” feels like. Honor your current ability and fitness. In the recent “fun paddle” part of the Olukai Ho’olaule’a, Suzie Cooney lead a group stretch and warmup before our 3 mile paddle. It got us ready physically and relaxed mentally.
  2. Be chilled out and friendly. Smile, joke and chat with others before the start, noticing who really needs to simply be left alone. There is bound to be a jittery someone you can calm a bit with a few words and a smile.
  3. Keep a steady start. If you get a shaky one you won’t get a good position. Wait a minute here!  If you are reading this article, chances are you will not be gracing the podium and accepting an award (unless you win the raffle prize). Yes, keep a steady start but keep a stead attitude too. Watch confident paddlers at or about your skill level and stay a bit behind them. They will help you learn to judge the local current, winds and start situation.  Do you see the paddler to the far (far far far) left of the photo, the one in the cool blue KIALOA hat? That is me getting confidence and timing from some of the best. YES, that is as close as I got to Karen Wrenn at the 2011 Bend Paddleboard Challenge – except when she lapped me!
  4. Don’t sprint at the beginning of a distance race. This is a waste of energy and it tires you out. Just sprint a bit for a couple of seconds to help you keep in a good position, then just turn your paddle strokes into a rhythm more like a “jog.”  If you have completed the distance that you’ll be
  5. Stay humble. Each person you pass delivers a chance to share a smile and “Go for it!” – if you have the breath (LOL). But keep your self confidence saying ” I can do it”.
  6. In a long distance race keep your hands loose around the paddle shaft. Wiggle your fingers now and then and use a loose grip and focused, strong paddle stroke. Remind yourself of your technique when you feel fatigued, it will bring you back into your best rhythm.
  7. Use your sense of touch. If you get tired during a long distance race or even a sprint, take a moment to breathe and feel. Feel the water on your feet (are you barefoot?) Feel the wind on your face – even if it is blowing stink and making it hard to paddle. Savor the opportunity to be moving yourself through the natural and sometimes wild outdoors.
  8. Use your hearing. Hear the steady lap-lap-lap of the water on and under your paddleboard. Hear your own breathing and monitor it. Hear your own voice humming or singing a tune to keep you in your aerobic zone – that matters in the longer races.
  9. elder sup and eldersup in Clayquot sound vancouver islandUse your sense of sight. After all, our “race courses are usually staged in oceans, bays, lakes and rivers in places most people would love to be. Got polarized sunglasses? See the bottom, see the colors, the rocks and the vegetation along the shore.
  10. Smile!  Your body will love you for the expenditure of energy you allot to a great big grin. Fun and relaxation will join the smile – after all, how many people get to experience the amazing sport of SUP racing. By the way, if you follow these 10 easy steps you WILL be a winner in any SUP race you choose to enter.


Summer SUP – Winter Training

Sitting here in the wintery world of ski-season, quads wonderfully shredded from 3 days finding off-piste fun, I started thinking about some compression tights to wear pre and post exercise. I remembered that Karen Wrenn was wearing something when she visited one of our river races last summer so I took a quick look at her website to determine what brand was good for SUP. Bummer, I can’t tell from this photo.  No problem though. I had the chance to explore Karen’s website and blog – great information right when I need it.

Just in time for paddling season this year I will be turning 63 (for real???) and staying ready to paddle in races and long tours is a priority. I “enter” races but I don’t “race.” While every stroke is the strongest I can muster at the time, and the camaraderie of the race is so much fun, I am usually the last to cross the finish line on my 11’3″ Amundson.  Occasionally I borrow a race board, most recently from Dave and Meg at Kialoa, but my agenda is all about the paddle in the water, the connection between heart/lungs/muscle/sights/sounds and friends on the water. Training for all that is important.

Reading about Karen’s busy life as mother of three and the off-season whether she deals with in Portland was inspiring.  She suggests ways to stay motivated and carving out the 45 minutes or so needed to stay in shape.  Especially interesting is her explanation of her cross-training routine.

On her blog, Karen explains,  “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.

Bye, for now! I am heading to the gym and then to the trail. SUP season will be here before we know it. How do YOU train off-season?