Yesterday I went out with Coach Dan on the canal at his home. It was a beautiful crisp fall day, brilliantly sunny and about 50 degrees F. I was thankful for my farmer john wetsuit and thermal shirt, even if Dan mocked them when I first showed up.
To give you an idea of how far I’ve progressed this year, we paddled a mile just for the warm up. We did a number of technique drills, adding one more element to my technique each time. Meanwhile, since all my paddling in this boat before has been in races, group work-outs, and leisurely paddles with my family, I was getting more confident in allowing the boat to move around me. I’ve read, and Dan has mentioned, that one major difference between a sea kayaker and a racer is that a sea kayaker locks into his foot pegs and thigh braces and uses his hips to rock the boat, while a racer tries to stay disconnected from the boat and lets it rock on its own. So one thing Dan encourages is to put a plastic bag on your seat so that when you push on the foot pegs on the power side of the stroke, your whole body rotates freely. It actually made a big difference – afterwards my legs were more tired than they’ve ever been in a work out.
So anyway, we were paddling along, adding new items to my technique at each drill, going slow to emphasize the item, then doing a “pick up” – paddling about 200 metres increasing the speed every 10 paddle strokes until I got up to past race pace. Dan watches and every time I mess up and forget the new item, we stop and recover and try again. It was very effective, and by the end of it I felt like my stoke was really starting to look and feel like some of the really best racers I’ve seen. I’m sure that just means that the things I need to fix are increasingly small and subtle, but I can really feel the difference, even over the course of one workout.
At the end, we practiced a bouy turn around a large piling. I was going to approach it about 2 boat lengths away, which would put the center of the turn right on the piling itself. But Dan pointed out that the water on the other side of the piling was shallow and the shore was near, so he showed me how to take it further out, so instead of turning around the piling, you come out of the turn just a metre or two away from it in the deepest possible water. So I was doing my turn, and as I started to straighten out Dan yelled “now accelerate out of the turn”. I put on a bit of speed, and suddenly I felt the most amazing thing ever, as my technique was good, I was getting a good recovery, and the boat was absolutely flying. It was like a “Rode Super Blue” day in cross country skiing. I love that feeling.