Training for the Ski to Sea Kayak Leg
Our spring and summer race season begins with the Dan Harris Challenge this weekend.
How do we train for race season? What races do we train through, and which ones do we rest for? When do we taper?
Being our own coaches in a somewhat obscure sport, it is fun trying to find the perfect balance of fun, fitness, and being ready to throw-down on race day!
Long paddles, short paddles, social paddles, adventure paddles, interval-training, cross-training, strength-training, weekly races, weekend races… the opportunities to turn yourself into a paddling machine are endless.
I find that planning my race calendar and workout schedule keeps me focused and on track for the races that matter. The first target race for me is the Ski to Sea (S2S), which falls at the very end of May. This 7-leg, multi-sport relay race is fondly called the ‘Bellingham Olympics’ by locals. I do the 5-mile kayak leg, and being the anchor leg I feel the weight of the team’s finish resting on my shoulders.
But it isn’t that so much that motivates me to be in peak fitness for this race. It’s the individual leg results — the golden list that singles you out, puts your time on a list with 425 other paddlers and announces to the world how YOU did. The day after race day, the paddlers aren’t talking about how your team did… they are looking at how every individual paddler ranked.
My goal is to be Top 25 overall. Last year I was 22nd. Brandon’s ‘09 goal was Top 5, and he blazed in at 3rd overall.
This year, I began my training 3 months out from the S2S. I paddle 4 times a week. Monday is either a 9 – 12 mile paddle or, if the wind is up, I surf on the bay. On Wednesday night I do to the 3.5 mile weekly race at Bloedel. Friday is usually an easy 4 – 6 mile paddle. And Saturday I try to do another 12 mile paddle with some interval work thrown in – or I’ll be racing one of the events listed at the end of this post.
In addition to on-the-water training, I strength train 3 times a week. This year, I asked Nicola (who also happens to be the mountain biker on my S2S team!) at Trailhead Athletics to create a workout regimen for me. I am doing an 11-week periodized cycle which contains a 2 week foundation period followed by a strength based phase of 4 weeks and a power/agility phase of 4 weeks. At the end of each phase is a taper, then benchmark testing at the beginning.
The cross-fit type training is new to me… and I definitely feel some new muscles coming to life! One of my strength training days is Wednesday, which makes that day extra challenging. Nicola and Derek kick my butt in the gym in the morning, and in the late afternoon I race with all I have at the ‘Wednesday Nighter’. It hurts. But, it will make me stronger. At least, that is the theory.
Last on my list is running. I go on three trail runs a week, pushing Hayden in the jogger. It is good cardio training, but, more than that, the kayak leg in the S2S isn’t just a paddle leg! After taking the timing chip hand-off from your mountain biker, you have to run about 1/4 mile to your boat, then run down the boat ramp to the dock at Zuanich with your boat on your shoulder, then, and after racing 5-miles in the bay, you have to run from your boat, up the rocky beach to the finish line. I train for the run!
This is about 12 hours a week of training. I am a planner, so, this works great for me. I love looking at the calendar and knowing what I need to do. A goal and plan keep me motivated and focused.
Of course, in the midst of the training are a handful of races to test the progress and really push the output those days. Races on our calendar leading up to the Ski to Sea:
9-mile Dan Harris Challenge, April 25
13-mile Lake Whatcom Classic, May 1
13-mile Tour De Indian Arm Race, May 16
After Tour De Indian Arm, I begin a 2 week taper bringing me to race day!
There are definitely more scientific or refined approaches out there, but with Hayden running the show most of the time and Brandon’s erratic work schedule – and his own training and racing to balance – this plan has worked well for me. Most of all, it has stayed fun and kept me super-excited about this race season!
We’ll see you on the water!
Heather, Brandon and Hayden