New video workflow?

I just discovered that Garmin VIRB Edit is available for non-VIRB video. I’ve been looking for a way to overlay data from my GPS onto the video and this might do the trick. I would like to see the same stuff on the movie that I’m looking at during the race, like speed, heart rate, distance and time. I downloaded it last night and did some playing around. It’s pretty rough edged – it’s even worse than iMovie in terms of getting into states that I have no idea how to get out of.

The biggest rough edge is that it won’t touch videos that have a name that ends with .mov, but if you rename them to .mp4 they load just fine. The second biggest is that if your camera breaks a recording session up into a bunch of different files, it will only apply the GPS data to one of them. So what I did last night was I

  1. Appended all my movie clips into one big one in Quicktime
  2. Exported that big one.
  3. Renamed it from to big.mp4
  4. Imported that into VIRB Edit
  5. Exported my GPS data from Garmin Connect as a .GPX file
  6. Imported that into VIRB Edit
  7. Tried to sync the video file and the GPX data
  8. Exported that file from VIRB Edit
  9. Imported that file into iMovie and started editing

Unfortunately when I looked at it in iMovie, I realized the GPX data wasn’t synced exactly right. So I went back to VIRB Edit, and found that when I tried to fix the sync it instead just lost its mind and decided that I was going 0 mph with 0 heart beats for the entire movie. So I don’t know what to do about that except maybe throw the whole thing away and start again.

Canadian Surfski Championships

After Thursday’s downwind, I got a bit of advice on strategy. Evidently by going in close to Watts Point into the relatively calm water, I ended up too close to where the outflow from the river curves around and hits you from the side. I was advised to stay further out of from the point, and at first to aim towards the wharf where the big ships are loading instead heading directly to the channel where the finish is (Mamquam Blind Channel), and only cut over at the last moment. This strategy would supposedly mean you get a better ride down the second part of the Sound and also not spend too much time in the “Potato Patch” that gave me so much trouble on Thursday.

The schedule for Saturday was a bit of “hurry up and wait”. Packet pickup was scheduled for 9am at the O Siem Pavillion (which doesn’t appear on Google Maps, by the way), but they posted on Facebook at 8:30 using the words “set up” making me think they had set up and were ready. I drove down there and found they were actually still setting up. So I came back at 9. Then I had to apply my race numbers and sponsor stickers to my boat, and drop it off at Porteau Cove. Then I drove back to the hotel and hung around biting my fingernails. At noon, a bus ran from the O Siem to Porteau. There was very little parking at Porteau, and this was their way of making sure people didn’t park up there until after the race. There was some time for socializing with the other paddlers. I managed to introduce myself to Greg Barton (founder of Epic Kayaks, only American ever to win Olympic gold medals in sprint kayak, and old friend of Jim Mallory). Then there was a mandatory paddlers meeting, and then it was time to paddle over to the start area to warm up. Vicki and Mom came over to watch me set off but the start ended up not being in the same cove as the launch area so I guess they didn’t see me go.

Earlier in the day there were some grumbles that the wind wasn’t going to be high enough, but as seems to be the pattern in Squamish it built during the day and was blowing pretty well by race time. The organizer said after the race that we were lucky because it was high enough to be useful to the pros but low enough that there wasn’t massive carnage – as it was there were about 8 DNFs with the safety boats bringing in various people and their skis. If it had been higher winds, I likely would have been one of them.

The wind whips straight down Howe Sound at the top part. Howe Sound has a nearly 90 degree bend in it at about the halfway point in the race, which causes some interesting effects, first with rebounds off the rocks, and then on the second half of the race with the swell coming at an angle to you as it rebounds down the Sound while the wind is coming from another direction and kicking up some other waves at a different angle.

So at the start, we have to paddle exactly 90 degrees to the waves out to the Think Kayaks Hot spot. That sucked for me. I was convinced I was probably last until a guy right in front of me dumped. So yeah, not quite last.

After the hot spot, I turned downwind and started to get some good runs. Most of the waves were in the 3 foot range, but there were some 4 footers or higher. Looking down the sound was an awesome sight as there were boats spread out in front of me from one shore to the other for as far as the eye could see. As I caught and passed a guy in a V8, he was whooping and hollering every time he caught a run, which was slightly annoying at first but later I started to feel respect for his strength – he ended up winning the “18 foot” class, finishing about 50 seconds behind me. There was this woman just in front of me who I had finished slightly ahead of on the Tuesday night race, so I was holding out good hopes of catching her. I got a couple of good runs and thought I was going to do it, but she caught several runs that I didn’t and the next thing I know she’s at least a kilometer ahead of me. I did catch and pass a guy who as I was nearly catching him he suddenly veered 90 degrees in front of me and I had to swerve to miss him. I’ll be charitable and assume he veered because of things beyond his control. I completely lost sight of the woman from before.

As I got close to the point the only people I could see ahead of me were well inside of me towards the point, contrary to the advice I’d been given before. Maybe that’s because everybody else who knew the secret was already around the point, I don’t really know. I kind of hedged my bets, getting closer in than I’d planned but further out than I’d done on Thursday’s downwinder. And after I turned, I headed for the big wharf.

Staying further out actually seemed to be working because even though the water was showing distinct signs of “potato patch”, with a strong swell coming from about 45 degrees off my stern on the left, another coming from about directly to my right, and even some coming from directly in front of me, it wasn’t completely throwing me off. I wasn’t sure if it was the better line, or the distraction of competition, but I seemed to be handling it much better than I had on Thursday. But eventually I had to get over to the entrance to the channel, which meant going through the worst of the potato patch, as well as dodging kite surfers and boats coming out of the channel. And at almost exactly the same place as Thursday, I dumped. My remount was actually a bit better than Thursday’s because I didn’t catch my paddle under the boat. But as I was remounting, who should I get passed by but that same woman who’d been over a kilometer ahead of me at the halfway point. I can only think she must have taken a much worse line or dumped. I put down every last bit of energy I had, but I was unable to catch her and she ended up finishing about 30 seconds ahead of me.

Just looking at the results, you’d say I sucked. I was 60th out of 71 finishers and 4 DNFs. But on the other hand, I raced in conditions far more challenging than anything I’ve ever done before, and I managed to finish. I even managed to have some fun on some of the runs. So I’d say it was a success. I went to bed happy that night.

Downwind in Howe Sound

So today at breakfast in the hotel, Jasper Mocke was sitting at the next table with somebody who I later found out was Carter Johnson. They were looking at a laptop and discussing details of this weekend’s race course. I couldn’t see the screen, but I was trying to subtly eavesdrop and figure out their tips for the race. But as they’re leaving, Jasper comes over to my table and says “Hey, Paul, we’re going out to Britannia Beach to do a downwind on the second half of the course, do you want to join us?” Well, you don’t have to ask me twice.

So at the appointed time (well, actually a few minutes late because I got slightly lost on the way there) I met up with them and loaded my boat on Carter’s trailer. Carter has a bunch of boats on his trailer – evidently he’s bringing boats for people doing the triple from Squamish to the Oregon Paddle Festival to San Francisco. There was an woman in the truck who I think had come up with Carter – I thought she was Australian, but I heard from somebody else that she might be from New Zealand. Just as we were ready to leave, a guy named Ryan from Australia met us almost by accident, and he jumped in the truck – his boat was already on the trailer.

On the drive up to Britannia, Jasper and Ryan were comparing notes on this years Molokai versus last years and whether it or Mauritius was a better race. Evidently Ryan is as well travelled as Jasper and paddles many of the same races. HIs boat had stickers from Clint Robinson Racing and other sponsors.

When we arrived, Jasper said that they were going to wait half an hour for the tide to get closer to what it will be at race time on Saturday. I decided half an hour head start is probably appropriate for me, so I set off. The waves were coming at a bit of an angle rather than straight down the sound, so I paddled out a ways so that I could avoid being pushed directly into the shore at the point. In retrospect I probably should have gone a bit further because I had to take the waves from behind at an angle.

But it was amazing. I’ve never paddled anything like it before – the waves were huge and powerful and going just enough faster than me that with some work I could hop on. I got some great linked runs, although I was working harder than I’d ever worked in my life. I was averaging about 11-11.5 km/hr, but according to Garmin Connect I hit a peak of 17.1 km/hr on one wave.

Around the point, the Sound curves nearly 90 degrees and at first I was in relatively calm water. This is more like what I’m good at – enough of a tail wind and small waves pushing you along, but nothing you have to sprint on to ride. I managed a nice steady 11 km/hr through that without working too hard and with no real highs or lows.

But I was gradually allowing myself to get out into the bigger waves, and that’s when I got into trouble. There is a section on Lake Ontario that some of our local paddlers refer to as “The Potato Patch”, an area around the mouth of the Genesee River where you have waves and wakes hitting you from every direction at once. Well, imagine that except all the waves are bigger than 4 feet high and there is a 20+ km/hr wind behind you. It was like that about 2km from the entrance to the river. It was really rough, and I was barely hanging on. I was making very little progress, and I was seriously concerned that if this were the conditions on Saturday I’d have to scrub the race, provided I managed to make it to shore alive today. I was also sure that if I dumped I was a goner because there would be no way to remount in this wind and these waves, and the water was as cold as you’d expect from glacial meltwater. So of course, 2 minutes later I dumped. I did it fully by the book, going under the boat to get upwind of it, elbow in the bucket, pause for a rest once I had my body up on the boat, and pivot. Somehow my paddle ended up wrong way round, but it didn’t matter. I paddled a bit with my feet in the water and gradually got up some speed and put my feet back in the boat. At this point I headed straight to the nearest land, even though it wasn’t in the direction I should have been doing because I just wanted to get out of this stuff and call for help. But almost immediately I found myself out of the worst of the waves and still with the wind behind me, so I paddled on. I even started to enjoy it again.

I wasn’t 100% sure where I was supposed to go at the end of the sound because there are three major branches of the river delta emptying out into the bay, but I used logical reasoning: the cars were parked on Loggers Lane, so I took the branch that had a big logging operation and log booms nearly completely blocking it. Turns out I was right – except I stopped at the first boat ramp I saw instead of paddling on a few hundred meters or so to a non-descript little beach that was right opposite the park where “Race Central” will be on Saturday.

I actually got my boat on my car and tied down before the woman whose name I didn’t catch showed up, followed a few minutes later by Jasper and Ryan. I tried to make myself useful by helping to carry boats and hold them down while people got a strap or two on them. It was still pretty windy.

I guess if the conditions are the same on Saturday, after the point I will make an effort to stay in closer to shore where it is slower, but it fits my abilities better. It’s not racing if you’re not making forward progress.

Paddle With The Stars

I’m in British Columbia to participate in the Canadian Surfski Championships. On Tuesday, I picked up my rented V10 Sport Ultra (just like the boat I have at home) at Deep Cove Outdoors. Bob Putnam, the owner of the shop didn’t like the look of my jury rigged pool noodle “rack” and convinced me to buy an inflatable kayak rack (mostly by telling me that the cost of getting it wrong would be “you break it, you bought it”). I got the boat tied down and then headed to Deep Cove’s kayak center on the water for the Tuesday Night Race, billed as the “Paddle With the Stars” because several of the pros who are coming to the champs were going to be there.

While warming up before the race, I introduced myself to Sean Rice, and he suggested I move my foot plate forward a notch – I’d been experimenting with different distances and I thought I’d found the right position, but evidently not. I’m looking forward to my clinic with him on Sunday. I also introduced myself to Jasper Mocke – I’d signed up for a clinic with him on Wednesday, but it got cancelled because I was the only person to sign up.

The race was a mass start, and there were a ton of boats there. They started amateur surfskis in the first wave, then the SUPs, then the pros. I’ve never seen such a tight group of skis at the start of a race – at Adirondack races there is usually a wider start line and at Lighthouse to Lighthouse Mike and I deliberately lined up outside of the main pack to take advantage of a better line. But here it was such a narrow line that just before the start I actually pushed another guy’s boat forward so I’d have some place to put my paddle for the first stroke.

In the first mad rush, the wakes from the other skis as well as the various boat wakes and waves in the cove were challenging, but I think I did a good job of using what I could and not getting thrown off by the ones I couldn’t. Better than some of the locals, I think. After a bit, I was trying to get on this guy’s side wake, but couldn’t quite get up to it so I tried for his stern wake, but there was a woman there already. She and I paddled side by side for a while, both of us not quite locked into this guy’s wake but getting some benefit from it. After a wave from the rear quarter shoved us all to one side, I found myself on this other guy’s stern wake just as the first pack of pros came through. A minute later, another big wave hit us from the same quarter just as another one of the pros came through, and I was handling it better than the guy whose wake I was on so I passed him. I then tried to chase back to the guy whose stern wake I’d been trying for earlier, but I lost him in the big knot of people rounding the first island. It was nice back there, shady and sheltered from most of the waves, but there were also big rocks lurking just below the surface, and a couple of people hit them with their paddles and disrupted their strokes. And I was here to race, not enjoy the scenery so I pushed on.

Out from behind the island, it was into the wind and I used my size and power to grind my way back up. I found what I thought was the guy from before, paddling beside the woman from before. It’s only reviewing the video afterwards that I realized that it was a different guy. But I’m 90% sure it was the same woman. Anyway, I paddled beside and behind and beside this guy under a bridge, around the island, across the little strait, and along a shoreline. As we rounded behind the island, the woman who was still neck and neck with me hit a submerged rock and dropped behind me. We passed a pack of paddlers, some of whom I had to wonder how they got ahead of me in the first place – there was one woman in a green top with big numbers on the back who was holding her paddle with her hands way too close together, but somehow getting decent speed out of it, for instance. I think the guy was trying to scrape me off, because twice he passed a SUP very close on the side that I was on, forcing me to go all the way around the SUP. But we had a tiny bit of swell from behind and I was using it, which is why I had managed to get up beside him in the first place. Somebody, I don’t know who, was on my stern wake and tapped my stern three times in quick succession. Possibly the yellow Think ski which shows up in the video. With about a kilometer to go, I don’t know if he sped up or I slowed down but he dropped me in the finish “sprint”.

I’m not sure who the guy I was chasing is because there are a couple who finished a few seconds ahead of me. However I did identify the woman I’ve referenced several times here as Cynthia Wonham because she has a distinctive boat and I got introduced to her in the pub afterwards. Oh, did I mention that after the race, everybody went to The Raven pub to drink, eat and watch a video of the race? Also, did I mention that one of the large boat wakes that was interfering with us all the way around the course was Bob Putnam on a power boat attempting to film us? He referred to his boat as the “unsafety boat”. Unfortunately he hasn’t published much of the video he shot online, I suspect because what I saw at the pub was pretty shaky.

At the pub, I was sitting pretty close to Jasper Mocke and I repeated the joke that Joe Glickman had put on my Facebook page about how after Joe’s show about the 2012 US Champs had aired, Jasper had had a bunch of contracts with major record companies offering him big bucks if he’d just promise never to sing in public again. Jasper said that Joe had goaded him into singing. And then he turned to his other side and talked to Sean Rice and a woman who came in with Sean for the rest of the evening. I hope I didn’t annoy him.

I’m happy with my results, coming 29th out of 77. Considering how much more experience these people have in these exact conditions than I do, I think that’s respectable. Only time will tell if I do as respectably this weekend.

Next couple of weeks

This coming Sunday, I have to go down to Owings Mills for work. The following Saturday, I leave for British Columbia. The Saturday after that I participate in the Canadian Surfski Championships in Squamish, British Columbia. The Saturday after that, I participate in the Blackburn Challenge in Glochester, Mass. I would not be exaggerating to say that these are the two most important and highest prestige surfski races of my life.

I obviously need some way to stay in shape while I’m down in Owings Mills, which is why I’m going to drive down with my bike on my roof rack. There are practically no paddle options within a reasonable distance of Owings Mills, except “Liberty Reservoir”. There are only two problems with Liberty Reservoir:

  • I’d have to buy a yearly pass from the City of Baltimore. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve given enough money to the City of Baltimore and I would be happy if they never saw another cent from me.
  • They require you to sign an affidavit that your boat will never be used anywhere except their reservoirs. I’m not about to sacrifice a boat for them, not even my ancient V10 Sport club which I haven’t paddled in two years.

Also, because I’ve got an early flight on Saturday morning, I’ve put my colleagues at Owings Mills on notice that I’m leaving no later than noon on Friday. I repeated this over and over again when we were planning this visit, and I’m still anticipating a fight when I need to leave, because 2 out of 3 times I go down there nothing actually gets done until the Friday afternoon. That’s going to be their problem, not mine.

My problem is that even if I leave on the stroke of noon, I probably won’t be home until nearly 8, and I’ve got a 6am flight the next morning. That doesn’t give much time to get all my kayaking and other shit together for the flight. And also I want to get some last training paddles in this weekend including the Sunday before I leave for Owings Mills, which means it’s going to be tricky pre-packing my kayaking gear *and* making sure it’s somewhat clean.

As well as the logistic problems of getting back from one trip and immediately leaving on the other with completely different packing parameters, I also worry about the fitness aspect.

I’ll probably get a couple of long paddles in before I leave for Owings Mills. Then when I get there, really the only option for fitness will be bike riding, as I’ve said before. Bike riding isn’t great preparation for paddling, but it will at least keep my cardio fitness up. I’ll bring some rubber bands and I think the fitness center at the hotel has some hand weights, so maybe I can do something for my core. I have this mental picture of me taking my paddle into the hotel pool and trying to do stationary paddling in the pool, but I doubt they’d allow it.

Then there are going to be two travelling days, Friday and Saturday. Then family visiting (and the fun and logistics of trying to visit two close family members who live an hour apart and refuse to get together at once place or the other) for several days. I pick up my rented surfski and have a short race on the Tuesday before the champs. Then I’ve been promised that there is some sort of down-wind paddle going on on the Wednesday in North Vancouver, and I’m hoping to scout some or all of the course on Thursday, then a rest day and then the race. Then Sunday I’ve signed up for a clinic with Sean “Prawn” Rice. Then Monday travel home, and get ready for Blackburn the following Saturday. Phew.