First paddle of the Winter 2016-17 season

Jim and I went for a paddle. This is my first paddle since early November when I had discovered that I’d started up paddling a bit too soon after the carpal tunnel surgery. I’ve erged a bunch since then, so I felt like I was ready.

It’s my first time wearing the dry suit since spring, and it was a bit of a struggle to remember what to wear. I remember my feet being cold last year, so I wore two pairs of socks under the dry suit and neoprene socks and paddling shoes over them. It turned out that it was a tight fit and still wasn’t warm enough – possibly the lack of room negated whatever advantage the extra pair of socks gave. I think I may have to try Jim’s idea of using a chemical heater and one pair of socks.

The funny thing is that when I was paddling I was sure I could feel my feet getting wet, but when I checked my socks afterward, they were only a tiny bit damp. Most of my other under clothes were damp as well, but that was definitely from sweat.

The current was ripping. We did a pretty consistent 10 mins/km upstream, and 5 mins/km downstream. My foot strap let go when I got in the boat and with all the clothes and the excess fat, I couldn’t reach it to fix it so I had to put my GPS on my wrist, but then it was hidden under my pogie so I couldn’t see it unless I stopped. Wearing the GPS on your wrist means your speed is crazy up and down depending on whether your arm is going back or forward when it takes a reading, but also it means that it recorded a stroke rate.

Other than my hands, I was remarkably comfortable. I’m out of shape and out of practice, but it sure felt great. I’d rather paddle than erg any day.

Is there such a thing as a camera sponsor?

My kayak videos attract a lot of attention from other paddlers. When I go to places like The Gorge or the Canadians or Lighthouse to Lighthouse, people recognize me and tell me how much they love them. I find that very gratifying because originally I was just doing it to analyze my technique and race strategy.

But I’ve been cheaping out on my cameras and getting less than stellar results – it was so bad that at the last race of the season I was paddling along and I could see the mount for one camera had been loosened where I hit it on a rock while portaging, and rather than asking the people in a canoe I was passing to rip it off and hand it back to me I figured that if it fell off I’d be rid of this horrible camera. As well as that one, this year I bought a no-name GoPro ripoff that had a horrible picture, and a refurbished GoPro whose case hinge broke and it leaked water and died at The Gorge. I also had a Polaroid that was pretty nice but I made a modification to improve the battery life but that ended up leaking and dying as well. And I bought a Contour Roam 3 but I’m not thrilled with the picture quality and it’s let me down once or twice by not recording when I thought I’d set it up right.

So I’ve resolved to stop cheaping out on cameras. Experience has shown me that I really need 1080p/60fps to get smooth action, and I’d really love to experiment with 4K. Some of the new 4K camera have built in image stabilization which I think would be a major improvement. Another kayak/surfski video guy, Jim Smith, sent me these really nice camera mounts for bow and stern that I can’t wait to try out. He told me that the optical image stabilization in the Sony XDR-X3000R/W camera is way better than the electronic image stabilization in the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 or the GoPro Hero 5 or the Hero 5 Session. Watching side by side comparisons on YouTube, it seems to check out. So that’s my new wish-list camera.

If I had all the money in the world, I’d have two of these Sonys- one for the bow and one for the stern, as well as a third camera, possibly a Hero 5 Session, for my head. I don’t think I need stabilization as much for my head because my head is pretty self stabilizing.

Of course the problem with all of these cameras, besides the price, is that nobody makes a camera with decent battery life. Well, except the Contour Roam 3, but like I said, I’m not thrilled with the picture on that one. That’s probably what did in my GoPro Hero 3 – I had a third party extended life battery and case back, and I can’t be sure but I bet the third party back overstressed the hinge closure and that’s why it failed. The four cameras I mentioned above (two GoPros, Garmin and Sony) have remote controls. Maybe the solution to battery life is to turn the camera on for the first part of the race, and then turn it off after things have settled down a bit and turn it back on for the finish and other parts where something is happening. Not ideal – I don’t like the thought of taking my hands off the paddle in the middle of a race to start and stop one or more cameras and it will make synchronizing my heart rate and speed data hellishly difficult. The only other idea is to continue my experiments with trying to tap a wire through the case and get power to the cameras that way. I’ve seen third party taps like that for older GoPros. But I’d need a sacrificial case or two to experiment on so I don’t wreck a $400 camera. What I’m most surprised about is that nobody else seems to have these problems. Maybe they don’t paddle as slowly as me so they don’t need three hours of battery to cover a race. But I’ve read that the Virb with ANT+ and GPS and WiFi turned on is only good for 30 minutes recording. Nobody is that fast!

But once again I’m stuck on the money issue. All these camera cost money. I’ve wasted money on cheap cameras and I don’t want to do that any more. But I also don’t have $1200 to plunk down on cameras right away. And you can’t make money off of YouTube if you only get a hundred views a month. Which leads me back to the semi-rhetorical question in the title. I need a sponsor/sugar daddy to buy me a camera or two.

Fitness Device for kayak racing

Back in April of 2015, I wrote a “wish list” for what I considered the idea fitness device for kayak racing. At the time, I was using the Garmin Forerunner 910XT, and most of what I wrote there was based on my experience with it and previous devices (Garmin Forerunner 301, 310XT and 910XT as well as a brief flirtation with a Polar RC3 which sucked. I had also been looking at Garmin’s website for their new Forerunner 920XT and was trying to justify buying one. “Fortunately” I left my 910XT on my car roof and drove off, and it got run over by a truck so I had to buy the 920XT soon afterward. So let’s just see where we stand with the 920XT versus my wish list, shall we?

Wish List Item How the 920XT stacks up
As big a display as feasible. The 920XT continues the downward slide on display sizes. No relief in sight because Garmin wants these things to work as watches as well as training devices. I don’t think the Edge or the various remote displays from Garmin or Wahoo are waterproof enough for kayaking.
Compatible with polarized sunglasses To be honest, I was avoiding sunglasses this year because of all my video cameras, so I don’t know if the 920XT works with them.
Don’t scroll the fields that don’t change Sadly, no. Even though I have the same heart rate field on the top of three screens in a row, you can briefly not read it as it switches between the screens
Support for multiple profiles While Garmin Connect had some glitches in the last year, my “Paddling”, “Paddling Intervals” and “Paddling Race” profiles all upload as Paddling activities in Garmin Connect. Unfortunately so does my “Indoor Paddling”, and then I have to manually change it to “Fitness Devices/Cardio”.
No holes in the case 920XT continues that feature of the 310XT/910XT. The fact that this 920XT on my wrist spend a couple of weeks immersed in a river and in river mud proves how well it works.
ANT+ and Bluetooth 920XT supports both.
Bluetooth uploads and live tracking I’ve never used the live tracking. The only person who would care is Vicki, and she uses “Find My Friends”. But it’s awesome having your workout uploaded to Garmin Connect as soon as you finish.
Great battery life The 920XT’s battery life is so great I use it as a daily wear watch. I couldn’t tell you how often I charge it, but it’s probably no more than once every three days.
Course map if you load a course I tried this at Lighthouse to Lighthouse this year and it worked great. Except they changed which way you went around the second lighthouse and that confused it, and so the distance to go was wrong for most of the second half of the race.
Virtual Race Again, that was working great at Lighthouse to Lighthouse right up to the point where we went around the second lighthouse. I’ve tried it on a few training runs and it works well.
Start on movement. Still a problem – if you want it to start when you start moving, it stops when you stop moving, even if it’s for a buoy turn.
Louder beeps. Still a problem.

I’m trying to think if I have any new wish list items. The only thing that springs to mind right away is that I bought a Wahoo cadence device, and Garmin won’t allow me to add a cadence field to a Paddling activity – if I want to use it, I have to make a cycling activity. That’s pretty annoying and arbitrary. I could probably think of a few for Garmin Connect.

I did it!

I’ve been thinking of getting a tattoo for years and years. Mostly I wanted something that celebrated my Canadian heritage, so I have been thinking in terms of a Canadian flag almost all that time. But when I went to the Canadian Surfski Championships in 2015, they gave me a nice sticker with their logo for my boat.
It was nice, but it didn’t really grab me. But in 2016, they gave me another sticker with an improved version of the logo.

I started thinking that this would be the solution for my tattoo – it celebrates Canada (with the maple leaf on the bow of the boat) and it celebrates my love of paddling. Plus it comes from an event that I loved both times I went, and I hope to go again.

I’ve been putting off getting a tattoo for all these years – I knew that getting one would require sitting out paddling and maybe even other exercise types for a week, and I rarely do that. Plus with my relationship to pain, I was reluctant to subject myself to anymore But when Vicki and Laura had tattoos last week, it struck me that I had all the elements needed – I have Vicki’s assurance that it didn’t hurt as much as I thought, I’m not paddling because of my wrist surgery, and the weather sucks so I’m not bike riding much either.

So I wrote to Bob Putnam, the organizer of the Canadian Surfski Championships, to make sure he wouldn’t think I was stealing his intellectual property and he wouldn’t mind if I used his design without the sponsor logo and the words on the bottom. He turned out to be very enthusiastic about the idea, and he even sent me two designs that they were still deciding between for the 2017 Canadian Surfski Championships. These designs were even better than the 2016 logo – he’s made some changes that make it look like it was influenced by west coast Indian art.

I chose the one where the maple leaf was more obvious, printed it out and took it to the tattoo artist. I’d even found a web site where I could convert it to an outline because I thought that would make things easier for the artist. Also because a friend told me that fill needles are painful and I might want to just get it as an outline.

When Bob had sent me the designs, he had mentioned that I might want to move the maple leaf to where the sponsor logo normally goes. And the tattoo artist had agreed – he said that trying to fit it on the boat would make it too hard to get the corners sharp and stuff. He also talked me into getting at least some fill.

The process was painful. Not as bad as I’d feared, but there were a couple of points where I just wished he’d finish. But I could see how well it was going and I was extremely pleased. Here’s what it looked like when he finished and wiped the blood away. I’m thrilled. It’s everything I’d hoped it would be.

Looking Back, Looking Forward 2016/2017 Edition

I did one of these at the “end” of 2014, and another one in 2015. So maybe it’s time for this year’s.

Ok, by the numbers, racing/training hours:

Activity Last Year This Year
Total 296:50:30 296:00:58
Paddling 197:39:19 223:17:07
Cycling 80:14:04 33:15:14
Erging 18:02 39:02:54

Not much change in the total hours, but a decrease in cycling and balancing increase in erging and paddling. I think if there was a way to compare it month by month there would be a lot more hours in the early season, and a lot fewer later – especially since October was mostly a wash out because of my carpal tunnel surgery. I think last year I cycled more than paddled in the fall after the racing season was over.

I’d stated in last year’s summary that I’d planned to do more muscle strength and speed work. I think I did more intervals, but I don’t think I did any appreciable muscle strength work. I need to work on that for next year.

I went to most of the races I put in my 2015 Racing Calendar. I didn’t make it to Ride The Bull, and I skipped Black River because I’d been told the river was shallow and rocky and didn’t seem like it was going to be fun. I did the Old Forge race the day before. I had some good times, some disappointments. My biggest thrill of the year was going to BC and Oregon for the Canadians and the Gorge – although I had strained something and couldn’t manage to do two runs a day like I’d planned. My biggest disappointment was the Seneca Monster, which turned out to be a weedy mess. Obviously, the big story of the year was my near death experience when I lost my Thunderbolt.

I used my V10 Sport for nearly everything this year. I paddled the V12 mostly as a way to build up my balance skills and balance muscles, but I never managed to paddle it in waves or in any races. I’m ok with that, I guess. I’d been leery of risking the V10 Sport in the Round The Mountain race because of the fragility of the “Ultra” layup, but I didn’t drop it or hit any rocks, so it was fine. And after losing my Thunderbolt, it’s not like I had a choice. I also got frustrated out west with how slow I am compared to most of the other people there. I have to keep telling myself that most of them paddle on waves a hell of a lot more than I do. Maybe someday I’ll be as good as some of them.

Next year I won’t be going to the Canadians or the Gorge, unfortunately. It’s Vicki and my twentieth anniversary and I’m super stoked that we’re going to do a European River Cruise as our big vacation. And with the timing of the cruise we’re looking at, we’ll probably miss the TC Surfski Immersion weekend as well. So I guess I’ll have to find waves nearer home.

Everything I used to bore people on newsgroups and mailing lists with, now in one inconvenient place.