Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fuel for the Long Haul

Prior to the North Reef trip I sought out a number of ultra distance athletes for advice on how to fuel yourself over multiple hours of exertion.
I shared a few hours on a paddle with Hong Kong Olympic coach & ski paddler Rene Appel, where he spoke about the sorts of nutrition requirements for ultra distance running, another one of his passions.
It turns out that after a certain amount of time above a certain heart rate output (& other variables too complex to mention in detail), your body begins to shut down the digestive system. So, if you're wanting to maintain proper energy levels & replace the energy being lost to your extended exertion you need something that your stomach can turn into fuel once you go past this point of no return.
The most surprising thing I found out was that whole foods just don't cut it, in terms of providing the energy you need to keep going. They make you feel better, the 'happy' factor, but you don't get much benefit from their nutritional content once the digestive system goes into what is essentially a survival mode.
The trace from a 75km leg of the North Reef Trip, Illustrating just how many calories you burn through.
When I got back to Sydney I figured Adventure racers would be the best people to talk to about how it's done. They regularly put themselves through multi-day events with little sleep, huge calorific output & by definition are racing, pushing at every stage of their race.
I got in touch with Toby Cogley from Endurance Store, a champion mountain biker & elite endurance athlete. Toby spent a huge amount of time going through the sorts of requirements he thought I'd need to keep on going over 12 hours plus of hard paddling. He suggested a drink called e-Load which is a weak-tasting formulation with a powerful kick of carbohydrates & electrolytes. Something like Gatorade on steroids with virtually no taste. It has an important formulation that makes it digestible even after your system has gone into flight mode, thus helping to prevent cramps & dehydration related problems that plague endurance athletes.
He suggested coupling the drink, measured into careful portions to maximise the return, with e-Load gels, which are similarly mildly flavoured while still delivering maximum returns.
So, for the big crossings, the 40-90km days where there was no other option but to reach the tiny island at the other end, I followed Toby's suggested regime & fair powered through my days. Rob & Chris poked fun at the space food swilling around loose in my hatches, but both had their own fuel plans which weren't that far off my seemingly extreme template.
The only time I let it slip was about 8km from Lady Elliot Island, after a hard 12 hours on the water, with as little as hour to go by our reckoning, where I missed an hourly refuel. I was feeling great, didn't see any great need to crack another goo with the island so close so didn't push the point when the guys suggested we put our heads down & just get there. About 15 minutes later I was still feeling fine, but my speed had dropped by a third & I just couldn't foot it with Rob & Chris. I told them how I was going, we rafted up so I could have another couple of gels, & from that point I picked it up & landed in great shape.
So well did my plan work, that I took my first paddle stroke at 93kg, and 370km & seven hard days paddling later I was…..93kg. Not such a great advertisement for Jenny Craig but I don't reckon I like the idea of drastic weight loss on a trip where energy in store means safety.
Another little tip we garnered from a local marathon paddling champ was to carry a can of Red Bull somewhere handy. He suggested that no further out than 45-60 minutes at the end of a long haul, something with the sort of hit that Red Bull delivers would see you home in style. I'm not going to make any comments, I just suggest you try it!
On the One Degree paddle I plan to follow the same regime of fuelling, taking advantage of all of the sports science on offer. It's not every day you paddle over 110km on the sea & I've always considered it wise to garner every advantage in any sports in which I've participated.
Note, I'm not advocating using this level of artificial nutrition for your Saturday arvo paddle down the coast. It's really for what I consider long haul open water paddling where the stronger & better fuelled you are, the better decisions you'll make, the faster you go, & the safer you'll be.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Training Paddle in the Epic 18x & Wind 585

Expedition Kayaks: Training Paddle in the Epic 18x & Wind 585: Training for our One Degree South paddle is now in full swing. I grabbed some time yesterday with a rare blank schedule & Rob & I went for a...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

One Degree South

Welcome to the blog documenting the lead up to & hopefully successful completion of our attempt to paddle from Sydney to Jervis Bay in a day, a distance of 60 nautical miles, or one single degree of latitude.
Besides the attraction of a rollicking good day on the sea, racing over 110km down the coast on the back of a typical summer Nor' Easter, we are hoping to achieve a few other goals along the way:

1. Support for RU OK Day.
Simple campfire discussions over the years have identified depression related illness as a seriously widespread problem, prevalent among the demographic we sea kayakers typically inhabit. In teaming up with R U OK Day, we'd like to help raise awareness of the terrible toll suicide takes in our community, and promote the idea of prevention through the simple words we can all share with a friend, 'are you OK'? You can donate to the cause via the link in the right frame of the page. Don't forget to add the words 1DegS in the comments section of your donation so the good folks at R U OK can provice us with a running tally.

2. Promote safe paddling at sea in groups. 
We're paddling as a threesome, the minimum safe sea group, and have a long series of safety protocols in place to minimise the risk associated with such a long, exposed rough water paddle. We'll outline our protocols & the reasoning behind them shortly, & would love to hear the thoughts of our paddling peers on this important subject.

3. Lay down a benchmark for other paddlers to follow. 
Attempting a distance of this magnitude on the open ocean is not something to be taken lightly. However, a skillful, dedicated and well conditioned group should be able to have a crack, and it would be great for the idea to develop over time. Not everyone has the time or inclination to do a multi day 'classic' expedition, and we'd like to think that this challenge provides another nice gauge for sea kayakers to aspire towards, without being such a time committment so as to inhibit a good slice of sea kayakers from even considering the trip.

The Rules!
The idea of 'a degree in a day' should more properly read '60 nautical miles in a day', we understand that paddling a degree of latitude isn't always as convenient as it is around our home coastline! There is a recent upsurge overseas of sea paddling courses designed to be paddled in an athletic way, with participants posting times & developing a friendly rivalry, with times & feats of note dutifully recorded for posterity.
Our rules for 1 Degree are simple. Paddle power only, the trip must be on the open sea, no support craft, due consideration to safety, and some form of charitable fundraising. We think this encompasses the spirit of our idea, and with all due respect to kayak sailing, which we love, if it's a time we're trying to establish we'd prefer the benchmark of paddle power-only to be consistent. 

This blog will document our training & lead up, as well as the paddle itself, which will again be tracked in real time via Spot Messenger, some time towards the end of January (weather dependent).