Two days to go to the 2014 Hawkesbury Classic, an event we are both sponsoring and competing in, Rob with Mark Hempel in an SLR2 Double kayak & me in my trusty V10.
Rob had more or less sworn off the hard grind of flat water racing, but the temptation to go hard with a guy as strong & determined as Mark has seen him relent & have a crack. I'm pleased they'll only be within earshot of me for a few hundred metres as they likely shoot past, because 2 hours paddling alongside Rob in flat water training can get very trying as he gradually succumbs to the grind & begins to complain loudly. 10 hours doing the same thing, in the same boat? Best of luck with that one Mark!
This year promises - in a very large set of inverted commas - "a much better tide" than the last two years where at least the later starters have copped two incoming tides. Considering BOM can predict a seriously complex East Coast Low such as the one that ripped through Sydney last week nearly to the hour, I'm mystified by the lack of accuracy in the forecast of a tide that methodically changes direction every 12 hours on nice little river. So, after cleverly devising my strategies around these tidal predictions for the past two years, despite Bob Turner telling me maybe 10 times that it was a dumb idea, this year I've resolved to trust only my GPS.
A few random observations from both Rob & I on training for the Classic, and applying that training to the actual race.
First, the monotonous pace of training for such a long endurance race has greatly eroded our ability when we get back out on the sea to accelerate. Weird as it may sound, all that training seems to have made us both go slower! It's simply explained by the gear change required to endure, as opposed to the interval-type paddling you naturally do on the sea, but a little unexpected. It's also hard! Paddling in the sea is so engaging, time flies, no two padle strokes are the same. On the river, it's relentless, mentally challenging, there are no free rides, no waves, a very tough exercise.
Second, we reckon you need to really gun it when the tide is going your way, because the difference in speed between trying harder against the tide, as opposed to trying hard with the tide, is substantial. Rob & Mark have noticed in Bob's flat-water specialist SLR2 that there isn't much of a difference in effort between going 9kmh into the tide, and 13kmh with the tide, whereas in my ocean ski, with a slightly deeper draft I really feel the resistance. They still find it hard to go any quicker than about 9.5kmh into the teeth of a tide though, which tells you something.
Third, with the foibles of the river bends & flow direction, a smart paddler will minimise the head tides by working out where those little back eddies are. In two attempts where I was well tuned into this phenomena I haven't managed to find out where they are. My advice on that one is if you see an old bugger going faster than you into the tide, even though he or she doesn't look to be trying harder, follow them! There is a lot to be said for experience & river-craft in the Hawkesbury.
Fourth, and thanks to Warren for pointing this out, the race is being held post-daylight saving this year, which means an extra hour of daylight & heat at the start. For me, with the forecast for the race start temperature close to 30C, I'll risk dressing lighter for the 60km to Wiseman's Ferry, and use a beanie to get me through the last hour or so to that watershed stop, when it nearly always gets very cold. A light paddle jacket from there should see me home.
Finally, assuming your form is good enough to propel you the 111km without injury, fuel is the key to a good performance. High energy, easily digestible food that preferably takes very little time to unwrap & eat works for all of us. A drink that you can stomach while exerting yourself that provides energy will also be much more beneficial than plain water. I've even gone to the trouble of filling gel dispensers rather than waste time opening individual sachets. The bad news is, if you haven't been training with this kind of fuel plan, it's too late, whatever you do don't deviate from what's worked in the lead up.
|Mark's nutrition plan!
A sincere thanks to Hamish & the team at Kingsgrove Sports Centre, Lyall & my old club mates at the Randwick Petersham Legends, David, Paul, Bryce, Steven, Jason, Paul, Singhy, John, Greg, Tim, Fali, Dino, Ian, Peter, Tiernan, Mick, Rollo, Selim, Emma, Rodney, Jess & the team from Wentwest, Groucho from CE Chapman Lawyers, Suzie @ Popink, Harry from Promotional IT Solutions, Birger & his team at James Harvest Sportswear, and Rosemary & the guys at Bottles of Australia for donating to my Hawkesbury paddle!
My target time? Anything with a 10 in front of it will do me!