Round The Mountain 2016

We arrived at the start fashionably early (or as Vicki would say, “ridiculously early”). But registration was open, so it wasn’t as early as I usually arrive. The weather was quite warm, the wind was still and it wasn’t raining. But the Round the Mountain gods have fooled us before so there was still a lot of discussion of clothing options. And sure enough, about fifteen minutes before the start the wind did pick up quite a bit – but not enough to require a clothing change, just enough to make me glad I’d decided on the V10 Sport instead of the V12. 

I appeared to be attracting some attention with my head mounted GoPro as well as my two boat mounted cameras. I’m hoping I can make a good video from this, but unfortunately the head mounted camera and the one just behind me got discombobulated at the portage and the other one’s battery didn’t last much beyond there. So I’ll see what results.

At the start I lined up between Jim Mallory and Matt Skeels in an act of huge optimism. Pete Gugel and Roger Gocking were lined up well on the other side of the start line and I probably should have been near them. At the gun Jim and Matt took off like a shot. A couple of canoes got ahead of me as I was accelerating, but I quickly started moving up through them. I could see Pete surging ahead and Roger trying to keep with him. In a short time Pete was out front and I and a C-2 were fighting for his wake, with Roger on the C-2’s wake. I won the fight and got Pete’s wake.  Just as my GPS beeped at the 1km mark, I pulled ahead and said to Pete that I’d pull for a while. I think we had a gap on the canoe by then. I could see Jim and Matt well ahead, and we were passing a bunch of NPCs from the first wave. (“NPC” is a gaming term meaning “non player characters” – in online games they are bots, in a kayak race they are people who aren’t relevant to your category. In either case, you may be able to use them, but mostly they’re just obstacles to be worked around). 

After another kilometer, I started glancing back to see if Pete was still riding my wake and wondering if I should ask him to take a turn. But at the 4 kilometer mark, Pete said “if you want me to take a turn, you’re going to have to slow down, I can’t pull at this pace”. Well, I felt great and I didn’t want to slow down, so I kept leading.

We headed into the river. We’d been warned that the water level was low this year, plus I was in a different boat that both had an under stern rudder and was considerably more fragile than my old Thunderbolt, so I was being cautious about taking short cuts out of the channel. It added a little bit here and a little bit there – overall my GPS track was about 300 meters longer than last year. At one point this very heavily laden power boat came in the other direction, and its wake caused a little consternation, both to me and this women’s C-4 I was just passing when the wake hit. I heard Pete saying something to them and so I first became aware that I had a small gap on him. I didn’t hear what he said, but he’s a single guy and it was a boat full of women, so I assume they were trading telephone numbers. I wanted to keep this gap, so I started pulling even harder. I also took a few risks on cutting inside the channel markers, one time nearly hitting a rock because of it.
At the bridge

Going under the bridge, I could hear Vicki cheering for me so I attempted to turn towards her and make a big fake looking smile, knowing there was very little chance she’d be able to see it. I was listening to hear from the cheering whether I still had a gap on Pete, but I couldn’t tell.

In the small lake that comes after the bridge (imaginatively named “Second Lake” because there is another small one before the bridge named “First Lake”) there was a guide boat rowing for all his might. I couldn’t remember how far it was from there to the portage, but I was damn sure I didn’t want to be behind him on the portage trail because those trails are narrow and those guide boats are wide and heavy, so I pulled past him. I tried to ask him whether Pete was still nearby but I don’t think he understood my reference to “my passenger”. Afterwards Pete told me he’d gotten information about how far back the kayak behind him was, which was over 30 seconds. I hadn’t heard that conversation at all, so I still don’t know where Pete was in relation to me at that point. Both of us were assuming at this point that the only kayak that could possibly be threatening us from behind would be Roger, but we found out afterwards that Roger had had a mechanical problem and pulled out of the race at the bridge. There is a large bald dude with a beard who paddles an Epic 18x (same boat as Roger, but Roger’s is so old and beat up it’s more patch than boat now) who won Touring class, so he was probably who the one the guide boat was seeing.

Nearing the portage, I hear Pete right behind me asking where the take out was, so I knew he’d made back up whatever gap I’d had before. I resolved to do a good portage, just like I’d been practicing. It went pretty well, all things considered (except some discombobulation of the cameras that I referred to earlier). The only war canoe in the race was just ahead of us at the top of the hill and I was a little perturbed because they seemed to be stopping to sort things out, but they actually pulled off the trail a bit to let me and Pete go by. The descent wasn’t the slippery mud that it has been in previous years and I didn’t have to worry about dropping my fragile boat.

I paddled off with maybe 10 meters lead on Pete. I knew there was a possibility that Pete would now ride my wake to the finish, and then out sprint me – not that he isn’t a great guy, but racing is racing – so I had to shake him. There was a pontoon boat just coming out of the lock, so I got on his wake to recover a bit from the portage, but as soon as Pete caught up, I took off passing the boat – I wanted to deny him a chance to recover. I got a small gap again, but Pete closed it by taking a shortcut through some stumps while I stayed in the channel. I pointed out to him the famous “sneak” that I wouldn’t be taking this year because of the low water. I don’t think Pete took it last year. We could actually see other competitors through it, though – probably the C-4 that ended up winning.

I had opened up another small gap when we encountered a C-4. I did the same thing I’d done with the pontoon boat, and I think Pete opted to take a bit of rest rather than chasing me right away, because I now had a gap that I could keep. For the last couple of kilometers, I just paddled a hard steady tempo and concentrated on not slowing down. I passed a Lake Placid canoe very close to the end. For some reason, Lake Placid canoes seem to the only canoe that is paddled by people with kayak paddles – I’ve never seen another canoe paddled with a kayak paddle except maybe a Ruston Wee Lassie, and I’ve never seen a Lake Placid canoe paddled with a single bladed paddle. He was working hard and throwing out quite a nice wake. I called to him as I passed that if he got a racing kayak he’d be amazing.

Looking at Vicki’s video of the finish, it appears Pete never actually got past the Lake Placid canoe. But it was a darn close finish and I’m really going to have to keep working hard if I want to fend him off in the future.
It was an awesome race, and we had great results as a team. Jim and I were first and second in over 50, and the youngster Pete was second in under 50. Matt Skeels ended up beating Jim by half a boat length or so, so he won the overall and was first in under 50.

And it wouldn’t be a race if something weird didn’t happen. Vicki and I packed up the car afterward, and she drove because I was so tired. But we got back to Doug’s place and I realized that I’d left my paddling clothing drying on the v-rack on the drivers side of the car, figuring I’d see it when I got in to drive off. But because I hadn’t driven, I hadn’t noticed it, and Vicki hadn’t been looking for it either. So we drove from Doug’s place back to the town of Saranac Lake. We found my top just where you accelerate away from a sharp corner in town, and my bottoms soon after the town speed limit ends and you accelerate to highway speed. Whew. As if I hadn’t lost enough kayaking gear so far this year.

Official results are at

Posted in Kayaking, Revelation | 3 Comments

Focus on Bootstrap modals

Today’s discovery which I’m going to post here because I know I’ll need it again:

$('body').on('shown', '.modal', function() { $('textarea,input', this).filter(':visible:first').focus(); });

Will make sure that when any modal pops up, the first input or textarea field on it will receive focus. If you’re lucky enough to be upgraded to Bootstrap 3, that shown changes to or something like that.

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Another boring post about video workflow

Well, it turns out that iMovie does have a chroma-key ability. And it’s pretty easy to use, actually, once you find it. The trick is to drag the two clips on top of each other, just like I do when I’m doing split screen, but on the same menu as split screen, there’s another option called “Green/Blue screen”. So I’ve generated some solid color backgrounds with ffmpeg. Then I bring them into VIRB Edit and overlap the GPS data gauges on them and export that result. Then I bring the resultant exports into iMovie, and I can overlay them on the multiple camera shots. I just have to figure out how to make sure the GPS gauges stay in sync with the camera shots. The easiest way seems to be to do an audio countdown before hitting start on the GPS that’s picked up on the cameras, or look for when I start paddling in the case of a race. But then I’d have to export each full clip with the overlay and bring it back in as a new clip. I’ll have to work on that.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out what color to use for the chroma-key. Green is the standard, but my gauges have green in them. The results aren’t that great. (Note that the video and the GPS track aren’t from the same paddle, it’s just for testing.)

Then I tried red. There’s very little red in the gauges. The results are better, but still not great.

Blue isn’t much different from red, but does save one whole click because you don’t have to click in the red area to tell it which color to key on.

Testing continues.

Posted in Geekery, Kayaking, Revelation | 1 Comment

Another wild thought about video workflow

So in the past, I talked about combining video from two cameras with the VIRB overlay (GPS and heart rate data) and how complex it is. Well, I’m about to throw another complexity into it, because now I have three cameras and I don’t just want to split the screen for the whole duration. This means I’d need to go through VIRB Edit three times to put the overlay on each video (and maybe a couple more times if I want to use split screen for some of them), which is incredibly time consuming.

But then I thought, why do I need to do this? Why don’t I just make a VIRB overlay over a solid color, and then use a Chroma-key (aka “green screen” although it’s not necessarily green) to composite that with each clip as needed in iMovie? Sliding stuff back and forth to match up time lines isn’t that hard in iMovie, and VIRB Edit sucks as a video editor. Hmmm. Even better, I found I can use ffmpeg to generate the “background” solid color clip of the desired resolution and color.

The only problem is that iMovie no longer has Chroma-key. It used to, but then they took it out when they made it “more user friendly”. And I suspect that going back to iMovie 9 for this would mean I could no longer use the current iMovie.

I know you can do Chroma-key in ffmpeg, but I’m not sure how you’d match up the start times since I never start my cameras and the GPS at exactly the same time.

Maybe it’s time to start looking at third party software?

Posted in Kayaking, Photography and other Art, Revelation | Comments Off on Another wild thought about video workflow

What is the secret of balance?

Every time I “move up” to a new tippier (and hopefully faster) boat, there is a huge learning curve. The first time I paddled the Thunderbolt, two ducks paddled past and their wake nearly dumped me. The first time I tried to race the V10 Sport, I nearly dumped reaching for the start button on my GPS, and I gave up halfway round the course because there was a tiny little swell from the side and it was making me nervous. These days, I consider both of those boats pretty stable (although I did fall in at the Canadian Surfski Championships and then repeatedly at Blackburn in the V10 Sport).

Two years ago, I bought a Think Legend and I found it extremely tippy. I just couldn’t get on with it – I got some miles in it but I never felt like I was getting better. Although I did use it in two races on the canal – and nearly fell in on the 180 degree turns at each end. Also, I couldn’t remount it. It was something about the high narrow side walls on the cockpit, I think.

Last year I gave away the Legend and bought a V12. Immediately I found it easier to learn than the Legend, but still pretty unstable. But it looked and felt like an Epic ski, so I figured I’d be able to remount it – and sure enough, I could. Last year I paddled nearly 300km in it. So far this year I’ve paddled 200km in it. I still feel pretty squirrelly in it. Leaving the dock, it’s an act of faith when I let go and go to make my first stroke that I’ll get to apply power before I fall in. As a matter of fact, one day I set the offset on my paddle wrong so when I went to apply power there was no resistance against my pull and I fell in. Every time I cross even the wakes of another paddler I feel uncertain, and hitting an actual power boat wake will mean my heart rate spikes up about 20 beats per minute and I’ll have to stop paddling to brace at least some of the time. This is unfortunate because I really wanted to use this boat for the Round the Mountain race in 4 weeks, and the first 25 minutes of the race is across a lake with waves that used to make me nervous in the Thunderbolt. That’s one reason to find somebody’s wake to ride for that part of the race – it gives you a tiny bit of reduction of the waves.

I wish I could recall what it took to get comfortable in my previous boats so I could see how much progress I am making in this one. If I end up not being able to use this for Round The Mountain, I’ll be forced to use my V10 Sport. And there are two drawbacks to this:

  1. The V12 has an over-stern rudder, which might be handy in some of the shallower sections. The under-stern rudder of the V10 Sport could hit a submerged rock and either jam or damage the rudder, or knock me out of the boat.
  2. The V12 is “performance” layup, as well as being a bit of a clapped out old beater, so I don’t have to worry so much about damaging it. The V10 Sport is “ultra” layup which is quite light, but very fragile. There is a down slope in the portage where I’ve dropped my boat in the past – an “ultra” layup boat could easily get a hole or a crack if dropped on that slope.

On the other hand, the V10 Sport is light and I’ve been pretty fast in it. So if I can avoid dropping it and smacking it on a rock, it could be good.

Posted in Kayaking, Rant | Comments Off on What is the secret of balance?