The first race of the season is in two days, and I have to admit I’m worried. On the surface, I probably shouldn’t be – I’ve put in a ton of training this season. According to Garmin Connect, I’ve done 335.3km in my Thunderbolt, 75.3km in the V12, and 16.7km in my favourite boat, the V10 Sport Ultra.
But one of the things that worries me is that I’ve done most of that training cruising along with a heart rate around 120 or so. Even in interval training, I’ve almost never exceeded 150 bpm. In races in the past, I’ve *averaged* over 150 bpm. How will I be able to keep my heart rate over 160bpm for 90+ minutes if I’ve never had it that high for even 8 minutes? Does that mean I should shoot for a lower heart rate this time? What heart rate should I shoot for?
Another thing that worries me is that my shoulder started to hurt a week or two ago, and it hasn’t been getting any better. And yes, it’s the same shoulder that’s had two surgeries, each of which cost me a year off paddling and then another year of trying to recover my form (basically no races between Sept 2010 and Sept 2013). I’ve been trying to take it a bit easier this week and stretch more and take something for the pain, and it’s a little better, but what if I completely blow it at this race? What if I blow it so bad I have to stop racing? What if I don’t blow it, but it never recovers completely? Will I have incentive to keep fit and paddle with my friends if I can’t race?
Another thing that worries me is that I never sleep well before a race, and due to scheduling problems we’re probably not even going to get to the place we’re sleeping that night until after my usual bed time. Knowing me, the slight shortening of my sleep time will be minuscule compared to how much sleep I’ll lose obsessing over my lack of sleep. One of the first books I read about competitive cross country skiing said that lack of sleep before a race is normal, and the trick is to make sure your muscles aren’t tired by holding very still when you can’t sleep, so you’ll show up at the start with a fried brain but rested muscles with is better than fried muscles and fried brain. I’m not sure if that is really what the author intended, or if making you hold still instead of tossing and turning is just a good strategy to make you fall asleep. But I’ve tried to practice it whenever I race.
I’m going to race my Thunderbolt this weekend. The Thunderbolt is old, it’s beat up to shit, and I just had to put a big strip of fiberglass under the seat because the seat was wearing through the outer skin. And it looks like this is the second time it’s been patched there. The foam “beams” that are supposed to keep the back from flexing too much are broken. Also one of the screws that holds in the seat wears a hole in my hip. I’m much rather use my V10 Sport for this race, but it has some shallow water so an overstern rudder is a bit of a plus, and it has a portage – last year I slipped on the muddy hillside and dropped my boat. If I’d been carrying my V10 Sport instead of the Thunderbolt, I probably would have put a hole in it. That Thunderbolt is a tank. I’d love to buy a new one (and Roger Gocking has a new one for sale that he’s barely paddled) but since I basically stop paddling it after this race every year, I can’t really justify it to myself. Actually I’m kind of hoping that I’ll get good enough at paddling the V12 that I can use it next year, because it’s got an overstern rudder and it’s Performance layup so it’s more robust than the V10 Sport’s Ultra layup.
I guess my strategy this race will be to go out at a more moderate pace than usual, monitor both my heart rate and the condition of my shoulder, and if I feel up to it, increase the pace after a while. And hope that nothing horrible happens.