Power Paddler: Roxane Robinson

Many of you have read my posts about the value of coaching, clinics and on-going training for technique and fitness. mental attitude is another aspect of training that is invaluable. (Click TRAINING in Categories) Over the years I have been fortunate to become acquaintedf with the dedication and expertise – and a huge dose of fun – that KIALOA ‘Elele Eveelyn O’Doherty brings to her clients.

You’ll enjoy this story of training and transformation by her client, Roxane Robinson who tackeld the daunting Chattajack this year. In Roxane’s words, “I’ve known Evelyn O’Doherty (Mind Body Excursions) for about 5 years or so.  We both began paddling about the same time, but she came to the sport after surfing.  I’ve never surfed. I paddle with Evelyn, and will be working up a plan with her for my upcoming race season (2016). She is one of the most amazing women in my world.  A great coach, amazing motivator, and she has this incredible ability to make sure you know how great you can be and are.”

We asked Roxane, “What was your favorite part of the training?”

rr-2Roxane was quick to reply, “Well, I loved the comraderie of the women that I train with.  They have become my friends.   We all seem to have this same obsession.  I really enjoy pushing myself to be better and get stronger at a sport that I truly love.”

Elder SUP: What was the biggest change you saw in yourself from the beginning to just before Chattajack?

Roxane explained, “The biggest change was being nervous about the undertaking of such a race (the distance).  There were two time cutoffs, the first 10 miles had to be done in 2 hours and 30 minutes and race had to be completed in 8 hours and 30 minutes.  I wasn’t worried about race cutoff, just the first 10 miles.  I had never paddled that distance in ven close to that time.  Only closer to 3 hours.  But there was the hope that the dam had been opened and we would have a helping current.  In reality, the dam was not opened and there was really no current.  I paddled the first 10 miles in 2 hours.  Yea!!!  After that, I was fine.

But, the Tuesday before Chattajack, while everyone else was nervous, panicky, and freaking out, I had this sense of calm lay over me like a blanket.  Comforting.  Warm.  Calm.  I was serene.  Not nervous anymore.  Not worried about the 10 miles.  Knowing, that I was strong, and there was nothing I could do that would change how I did in the race.  I was going to be fine.rr-1

My feeling before the start of the event was that I was ready.  I was going to paddle 31 (32.48) miles down the Tennessee Valley Gorge.  I was going to paddle my own race.  Look at the scenery.  Breathe it in.  Have fun.  And finish.  I was ready.”

That is all powerful stuff from Roxane. She also shared a bit of back-story.

“I had my 59th birthday  14 days after this race.  I have been paddling for about 6 years.  I am afraid of open water.  I don’t surf.  (But I did swim competitively for about 8 years.)  I was bored.  So deathly  bored.  I saw an article in the local paper about paddling geared toward women.  I made the call, had a private lesson, fell in (ick), paddled again the next day, fell in, and started dreaming about owning my own board.  It consumed me.  One of my best friends is 65.  She races and has been paddling about the same length of time as I have.  Then I met a woman in Tennessee that was doing the Chattajack 31.  She started paddling in June, no lessons, no knowledge, just thought it looked like fun so she gave it a try.  She did great in the race.  She was 65.”

AWe absolutely agree with Roxane on this next comment, “Age is only a number in your head.  I’m proud of my age and that I’m trying new things.  A few years ago I got a tattoo on my wrist.  ‘Be Fearless.’ My son said to me recently, I love that you’re not afraid to be bad. I asked him for a little clarification on this statement.  He said that you aren’t afraid to put yourself out there and try something new.  And you might be bad at it, but you don’t care because you’re having fun.  And he’s right.  I love to have fun.

I have finished last in more than one race.  Dead last.  And those races are some that I am most proud of.  Because  quitting is easy.  Finishing is AWESOME!!!”

We celebrate SUP athletes like Roxane. When you think you don’t have the skills – you can get them. Roxane is a busy career woman, wife and mother. She had many duties over 2015, caring for her husband with serious health issues – and we all know how draining such a responsibility can be.  We can all say, “too busy,” or we can find the support, training and way to paddle toward our passion. Way to go Roxane and Evelyn.

And Roxane continues to copete – her last race was Hamptons Paddle for the Pink! There were brutal conditions out on the bay but Roxane placed 2nd in the women’s 14′ 6 mile race. It’s YOUR life – go for it.

Outrigger to SUP – Seat to Feet

Understanding the basic mechanics and physiology of stand up paddling can increase both motivation and effectiveness of our training.  Recent winner of the Kanaka Ikaika Racing Association Women’s Overall SUP Unlimited Hawaii State Championship in April 2015, Jane McKee (profile article here), has taken the time to share some of her solid insights with us. After decades racing OC1 and OC6, Jane began focusing on training for SUP downwind and events in August 2014.

janemt1Jane provides these tips, “The one thing I noticed immediately after training for SUP is what a huge energy expenditure SUP requires. On my one man I am sitting comfortably on a foam seat, locked into my craft as though I was part of it. On the SUP the only thing locking me onto my board is the bottom of my feet. Every large muscle group comes into play, and in the first month I was completely gassed after about 5 miles. I felt like I was doing squats the whole time, and, well, you pretty much are.

Training Nugget:Technique is a big factor in SUP. Leading with the hip, using the big core muscles and leg muscles to balance and drive the board forward, all come into play.

I found that the principles of the stroke are pretty much the same in outrigger and SUP. Keep the start of the stroke way up front, and finish the stroke by the feet. Because the SUP paddle is such a long lever, triceps, lats and biceps get a healthy workout. I never weight trained for one man, but find weight training to be beneficial in SUP to keep from getting injured. Also I had to train my legs more. It is very much a leg sport. I did notice that after 2 or three days a week on the SUP and I had to cross train. This is when I would get back on my one man. It is a perfect combination to alternate. The one man gives your body relief from the rigors of the standup while allowing you to train similar muscles and keep your endurance training. And you avoid burnout while still getting to be on the ocean.

Training Nugget: Consider weight training, especially the legs and add some cross training to your SUP routine.janemt2

Everyone has told me I have picked up the sport fast. I have to attribute that to many years of training basically the same muscle groups used in SUP, racing outrigger a LOT.  Primarily it is my ability to read the ocean, linking up the waves and finding the path of least resistance. You either have it or you don’t. Some people never get it. It is an absolute must if you want to compete in open-ocean or downwind paddling. When I give OC1 clinics this is a favorite topic. People want to know HOW. I can explain the physics, and dynamics, analyze wave patterns and currents, but you have to get out on the ocean and understand what it is doing that day. You have to really look; pay attention and most of all FEEL the ocean and hear what it is telling you. It is, in my opinion, a gift.

Training Nugget: To read waves and succeed in down wind and open ocean events you need to spend time in the ocean and practicing “reading” all aspects of wind, wave and current. It is a life long practice – and a gift.

janemt3I decided to race SUP this year in the Kanaka Ikaika race series that culminates in the State Championships in April. As I only had my one board, the 17’4 Unlimited, that is the board I raced every race even if it was flat or upwind. People thought I was crazy but I figured if I could push that big board on the flat just think what I could do if it were windy? In the months leading up to the States race I had to really pay attention to not over training by eating well, getting enough rest and learning to say no. Learning to say no if I were tired, even though the conditions were excellent.

Your body repairs itself during sleep. Adequate rest is vital to improve your fitness.

Training Nugget: As an older athlete, recovery takes longer, and I have learned to listen to my body. I could write a book on training as an older athlete, and have learned by trial and error that you can train as hard as your younger competition, but you must recover longer.”

Thanks so much for taking the time to share this with us.  Those few training nuggets could make all the difference this season. Aloha.

Train Smart – Train Safe: Annabel Anderson

Annabel trains smart - and it shows. Photo © Ben Thouard :  - www.benthouard.com
Annabel Anderson trains smart – and it shows. Photo © Ben Thouard : – http://www.benthouard.com

That sound when the catch just doesn’t catch, that “gurgle.” That, “Ouch,” when your neck, traps, lower back or shoulder lets you know something is tight or off in your technique.

During standup paddling, as we work on technique, getting the “reach and catch” solid is a direct driver of our speed and power. While  a great coach and lots of water time can provide improvement, really refining the catch is a long term commitment. In order not to get bad habits, consistent feedback is a must.  When the feedback is discomfort or pain, you know you need some technique tweaking.

I FOLLOW many elite standup paddlers via their Facebook, blogs and the great publications that allow us to gain information. A recent interview with Annabel Anderson (Starboard) by SUP International was packed with exactly the sort of information we need to train smart and avoid injury. (Full article here)

Preparing for SUP demands with balanced training is key. © Ben Thouard :  - www.benthouard.com
Preparing for SUP demands with balanced training is key. © Ben Thouard : – http://www.benthouard.com

Harry at SUP International asked Annabel,Can you talk about signs symptoms that a paddler should look out for that would suggest they are over reaching?
By over reaching I am assuming you are meaning that the entry point of the blade is too far out in front? A stroke that does not engage power as soon as the blade touches the water may be suffering from ‘over reaching’. There are many different philosophies associated with perceived ‘stroke technique’ in this sport. Due to the lack of credible and biomechanically sound information people have sought refuge in references from the internet.

Annabel Anderson (Starboard) connects advice to experience - to our benefit
Annabel Anderson (Starboard) connects advice to experience – to our benefit

Annabel advises, “Be careful as to who you reference information from if it is from a free source. My suggestion is to ask yourself what and who the source is where the information is from. If you’re in pain or are feeling uncomfortable, something is likely not as it should be and if you continue to do it repetitively, you will do damage over time.”

Great insights – very relevant for me. How about you? Take the time to read the entire interview with Annabel . You might just save yourself from an injury and the resulting “down days.” Each step of the stroke is important and needs to be practiced.  Good reach and catch are important before applying the power.  A reputable and experienced coach and reliable online information can help us all train smart and reach our goals.


SUP Lessons from Seat 2

Timing and “The Catch”

That sound when the catch just doesn’t catch, that “gurgle.” Something about that sound screams, “Wrong!”

During standup paddling, as we work on technique, getting the catch solid is a direct driver of our speed and power. While  a great coach and lots of water time can provide improvement, really refining the catch is a long term commitment. In order not to get bad habits, consistent feedback is a must. When I train for standup paddle races and events I do my best to get the stroke right, but what is missing is a constant feedback loop so only my good technique and habits stick.

oc6-1When reach, the power stroke and a hasty return is perfect in timing, the feel and the sound is pure music and synchronicity. While we can practice these parts of the stroke while standup paddling, every aspect of our technique is even more easily analyzed while paddling with your team in an OC-6. A team provides feedback on so many levels: feel, tips and visual cues from others.

I have had the good fortune to paddle in Seat Two behind one of our more experienced team members, Lisa Jakubowski, as she brings us through a practice as stroke in Seat One. We don’t talk while training but recently she mentioned how she was trying to refine her stroke to avoid the “plunks” and “gurgles.” Being so close behind her, mimicking her style and technique, working on timing the best i could, I decided to work to eliminate the gurgle as well.

Focusing on the one thing was amazing. It began with watching her upper arm and shoulder as she moved through her power and return phase. As if we were connected, my upper arm/shoulder attached to hers. I began to get some solid timing, great for seat 4 and 6 to follow.

Next I matched her hip rotation, working to drive with my forward foot and hip at the exact same time that she did.  Mid way through our 10-mile training drills she mentioned, “When I really drive with my hip, rather than over – reaching with my upper body, I actually get an ideal amount of shoulder rotation. That results in a greater reach. I pause that nano-second at the reach then make sure i get a solid catch.” (Here is a great coaching video from KIALOA Paddles ‘Elele Luke Evslin – coaching Lisa Jakubowski. Thanks to Lisa for sharing it)

Lisa gave me a few tips on how to “feel” that perfect moment between momentum and power when the catch can be ideally executed. At that moment the canoe seems to be moving with exquisite smoothness. The paddle matches the speed of the boat. As I began the return with my paddle I gave a gentle punch with my lower arm. This momentum opened my joints  and stretched my muscles.

The energy of following the action of Lisa in front of me and the timing of the entire team in the canoe fed my ability to maintain speed, power and intensity as needed for all 4 laps of our 2.5 loop on the Deschutes River.

Luke Evslin demonstrates the REACH
Luke Evslin demonstrates the REACH

KIALOA Paddles ‘Elele Luke Evslin demonstrates the Catch



SUP Addiction: The Glide

Innocently, you join friends and fellow competitors for your first down wind SUP adventure. River, lake or open ocean – when the wind and the bumps cooperate the experience is incredible.

There’s so much to think about – paddle stroke, wind and wave direction, safety around rocks, channels, tankers or current and your own stamina and ability.  Whether your first run was 3 miles and easy or a kick-your-butt challenge, it’s likely you emerged from the adventure a different person.  Perhaps, like so many of us, all you can think about is doing it AGAIN! Yup, you’re hooked.

In between opportunities to do down winders, SUP Magazine has an online series that can provide tips and insights any time.  Take a look at the Glide Guide.

Some take-away tips from the video (see below) of Jeremy Riggs training Justin Gordon include:

The key thing keeping up your momentum.  Shorter rapid paddle strokes keep momentum going – keep speed up

Don’t go right up the back of the wave in front of you – that will slow you down and you paddle UP.

Look for the place to keep the momentum going, a place to guide the board into the trough where you can catch the next bump – and have tons more FUN!

TRX Rip Trainer Day 4

It looks simple, in reality it’s GENIUS!

First of all, what is the Rip Trainer? Well, it consists of a resistance cord attached to a pole. You get a workout DVD and guide and a door anchor which works really well. If you have a door (or a tree or a banister) you have a fix point.  In summer and fall we will use the TRX Rip Trainer in our garage, but during the winter we will bring it into the house where there is HEAT! We can easily move our training are to any room with a door and adequate space for moving.

Our first step was to watch the DVD included in the purchase. We buy a lot of fitness and sports equipment. Too often the DVD training is less than stellar. We were 10 – star impressed with the professionalism and information shared by each of the experts in the DVD. While too many knee and shoulder surgeries have provide us with lots of insights on rehab and the physiology of the body, the careful explanation of how the spine works and why the TRX system provides movement challenges in many different planes of motion was enlightening. 

It wasn’t long after watching the dvd that we set out to do the Beginner Workout. After the warm-up we did a few planks, a practice we like for controlled rotation using the entire body. Next we were ready for a session of producing rotation with the RIP Trainer. As Ed is returning to standup paddling after 5 months of shoulder rehab, mitigating the risk of future injury is a top priority. The expert guidance throughout the beginner workout was exactly the confidence-building we wanted.

This is certainly NOT to say that the beginner workout was easy-breezy. It’s incredible how versatile the workout intensity can be. Simply increasing the frequency of the movement or stepping further from the fixation point of the cord UPs the intensity. Both the spiral movement patterns and the unbalanced rotation of the force provided a controlled activity that worked the core and specific parts of the anatomy safely. As we are learning how complex even the easy to follow exercises are, we moved relatively slowly during our first session.

As the weather is turning cooler here in Oregon we won’t be able to get into the water as often as we like. For me, simply standing on my board in bare feet is fun. I love to practice balancing on my Indo  board with its smaller roller. With the addition of the TRX RIP Trainer to our workout area I decided to try using the Gigante cushion with the Indo board as the platform for trying some of the TRX training moves. I am absolutely NOT a fan of sit-ups.

After a summer of paddling an hour or so 5 days a week I gained solid evidence of SUP as an ab exercise that delivers core strength and balance. What a foundation! In order not to lose that foundation during cooler months I decided to combine some moves. I fixed the TRX RIP Trainer a bit lower than usual (with the door connection, included). Standing in a stance with feet parallel on the Indo board on the Gigante cushion facing the door, I began to mimic paddle strokes. My lower hand was closest to the cord, on the low end of the “paddle.”  Slow and steady didn’t seem like much of a workout until the next day – wow! Quads and abs, even my lats were definitely worked! Be sure to do the same movements on each side for symmetry.

I have been following some great training suggestions on Suzie Cooney’s blog so I decided to quickly review some of her tips for using the TRX. If you search through the site you’ll find solid information and have the ability to connect for a custom session via Skype.