Why am I slow? My experiences of late...

3 months 2 weeks ago #35518 by PharmGeek
So, I found surfski as an inland South East US paddled (middle of Alabama) a few years back and piddled around mostly paddling a dozen days a year or so working on technique mostly (which often we rely on the webs to teach us in the US, and I had a few web virtual lessons from a web coach)...and that got me so far as far as seeing my speeds increase. 

2019 was my first foray into the actual racing and “serious training” - and before this I’ve never done a sport in my life and knew not what “fitness” meant on the whole. 

So so I hired a pro paddler to give me tips, issue me a schedule of workouts including details of how often, what intensities, etc etc and off I went.

The intent of my post in this case is to reflect on the question of “why I was slow” 8 months ago when I started training...and I’ve seen this subject play out online among paddling fb friends, and on this forum a bit. The general answer is of course some combination of technique, balance, experience, and fitness. 

In my specific case, I had the basics of the stroke down I felt but wondered if my growth would be more due to lack of fitness or some tweak in stroke that is choking off my speed.

in my case - I feel more certain that the biggest ratelimiting factor was a crap engine - ie lack of fitness. 

Upon starting my training there were several assessments - a 5 min time trial, 20 min time trial, and “go paddle 45 min as fast as you can but do not exceed MAF HR” with that being 180-age in my case at that time was 180-35=145bpm - so get as close to 145 but not over 145. The result of limiting to MAF hr was almost comical...I have video of it I’ll share - getting onto the ski I spiked over MAF...once settled and paddling my HR with anything close to even moderate effort it spiked above MAF....for the first month during many sessions it felt stupid - like sssllllooooow - but steadily ya know it picked up - and after 2-3 months it was actually significant faster at MAF! On the erg back at the beginning (I got an erg because with my being full time parent it was near impossible to get on water enough) paddling at MAF I didn’t break a sweat because I could not throw down much effort at all - 2-3 months later I sweat like a pig with higher stroke rate and effort. 

As i reflect over the past 8 months, I’ve made various improvements in technique that were important but feel my lack of fitness was a far more major issue and I feel like with more fitness somehow sensing differences in technique seemed better too? 

I have no no doubt that there are people that are no reaching their speed goals due to technique issues but I think for some that lack a very basic “aerobic base” this can be more fundamental? 

I think many that come to this sport sport are often already from some other sport and quite fit and have some base like that...some of us come with a 4 cylinder with a miss and perhaps water in the gas!

My stats 8 months ago were as such:

One quick stat to show my change was my MAF pace back 8 months ago was 7.0-7.5kph and now it’s 9.4-9.5kph...originally 20min TT pace was 9.4kph, now 11.0kph.

In my case are I believe 80% of these changes were in fitness.

im hoping 2019-2020 now will bring me to sustaining 11kph as my marathon pace but who knows.  

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3 months 2 weeks ago #35521 by mrcharly
Sustaining 11kph for 20min isn't bad. Why are you calling yourself slow?

Don't compare yourself to the 'fast people'.
There is *always* someone faster. 
You have made substantial improvements over time, give yourself credit for that. 

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3 months 2 weeks ago #35522 by PharmGeek
Firstly I meant “slow” relatively - and while now I can move faster - I was “slow” back the. Sustaining more like 9kph vs 11kph 

slow is a relative term and i meant it more tongue tongue in cheek 

what I could say is “why was i slower 8 months ago vs today being  relatively faster” 

even now im “slow” compared to many - I finished mid pack in my first “big race” a couple weeks ago (Chattajack) 

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3 months 2 weeks ago #35523 by PharmGeek
I meant to say btw I’m over the moon happy with my progress !!!!

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3 months 2 weeks ago #35524 by Epicpaddler
Congrats on the improvement. I've only been paddling a surfski  a little over a year. It's an amazing sport. I thought I'd be good to go coming from a sea kayak background. Yes, I am comfortable on the water, but the techniques are somewhat different and I use way more torso rotation and leg drive than I do in my sea kayak. I have won a few races this year, but I attribute that to being in a more stable boat when the conditions were too rough for the folks in super elite boats. I looked at the winning pace for a surfski in the 2019 Chattajack race. Nate Humberston cranked out the 31+ miles at a blistering 7.33 mile pace. I can't even sprint that fast, let alone maintain it for any length of time. You are ahead of the game by taking some lessons and learning the correct techniques. Most of us jump in an go and have to unlearn bad habits.

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3 months 2 weeks ago #35527 by mrcharly
You finished middle of the pack - so there were a load of people slower than you!
The last race meet I went to, the fast folk did a 21+km course with 10 portages. The winning time was just over 1.5hours. That's 14kph - about 8.75mph. Except that with 10portages, they had to have been going faster than that.
Flatwater, so people can go fast, but even so. Many people would be quite happy to be able to run a half marathon in 1.5hours.
Yeah - there is always someone faster. 

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3 months 2 weeks ago #35528 by SpaceSputnik
None of the numbers, "before" or "after" look slow to me. The "after" numbers actually look fast to me. I am not going to mention my numbers :D

Current: Think Evo II, Stellar SES 1g.
Past: Epic V7

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3 months 2 weeks ago #35533 by PharmGeek
Hahaha - well - ya know it’s all relative and I was being tongue in cheek :) 

to be clear too i do feel “fast” now - I mean - ya know - in less than a year I can be middle of the pack - I do feel fairly fast heh 

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3 months 2 weeks ago - 3 months 2 weeks ago #35536 by zachhandler
Interesting story pharmgeeek. I have not heard that perspective before, of coming into the sport with almost no cardio fitness. Sounds like you are making great progress. Congratulations!  I know a lot of people, and i am one of them, that came to the sport with loads of aerobic fitness from being well trained bikers, runners, xc skiers, etc. For that group a frustration of the sport is that it is hard to get any exercise at first. You sit in the boat and go as hard as you can but are limited by fatigue in little postural core muscles, or maybe some of the actual propulsive upper body muscles if you are lucky. For this group it takes a long time (years really) to build the upper body capacity and lower body technique to get their over-trained hearts pumping hard.  I have been at this about 15 years. I have decent technique, strength, and fitness at this point. Despite that, there are still times when my technique is off in some way and fatigue of some little muscle limits my ability to go hard. Other times, and i find this really discouraging, I am simply limited by the discomfort of my bottom grinding into the bucket, and have to call it quits before I have really gotten a satisfying workout. The challenges and rewards of this sport never lessen. 

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3 months 2 weeks ago #35537 by SpaceSputnik
I suppose I am an odd duck as well. I lift weights but no cardio background. A little here and there but nothing consistent. Never liked running or biking much because it always felt like I am over stressing legs. 
In a ski, I have no issues with comfort or fatigue in individual muscles. Can do a hard paddle and lift weights the next morning.
However, I am short and it feels like to actually go fast I need to be at a pretty high cadence. Technique is work in progress and when I add cardio stress it just falls apart. I start pressing my back into the bucket, get random tension in legs and have to slow down.
Now that I have an erg, I am hoping to improve in isolation from distractions that happen on the water.

Current: Think Evo II, Stellar SES 1g.
Past: Epic V7

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3 months 2 weeks ago #35538 by waverider
My personal limiter seems to be speed of rotation as the cadence ups, That is, as i get faster it seems to lag so the "locked" arm is trying to compensate by reaching forward, all be it just a tad.

This means technique and efficiency start to fall off. This is probably a common issue with older folks who come into the sport who haven't got it inherently dialed in. Struggling to maintain basic high speed sustained flexibility. I'm trying to work on this by doing off water fast rotation exercises.

Also find training in flatwater boats seems to help as rotation seems easier and more natural, and you get to focus on the paddle techniques without being distracted by environmental conditions. eg if the blade plops or cavitates it becomes obvious, its because your technique is not right, not because you hit a peak or a trough. I picked up a lot of paddling symmetry issues, as my butt would shift slightly on a K1 seat, but is unnoticeable in a ski bucket. Obviously affecting stability and loss of power on one side. This is the sort of fine tuning you need to squeeze the last drops out of your potential

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3 months 2 weeks ago - 3 months 2 weeks ago #35539 by Henning DK

waverider wrote: My personal limiter seems to be speed of rotation as the cadence ups


It may not apply to you, but the solution may not be to increase your cadence even further. At least, my experience is that you can go faster with lower cadence if you focus on certain aspects of technique:
  1. A clean and silent catch, to get an efficient stroke early in the stroke.
  2. Loosen up in the shoulder of your pulling arm, and let the paddle move away from your boat instead of being pulled backwards along the side of the boat (essential).
  3. Exit early and away from the boat, to avoid the paddle being held back in the water.
Think of your paddle as a propeller that works by rotating, so the paddle blade in the water moves to the right or left AWAY from the boat. When the paddle moves in this way, you can go much faster at a lower cadence. The power still comes from rotation, but the paddle does not follow your body rotation all the way, it moves outwards to generate higher speed.

Works for me :-)
Henning
The following user(s) said Thank You: waverider

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3 months 2 weeks ago #35540 by waverider
propeller is a good analogy as a propeller pulls a forward force but purely by moving sideways

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3 months 2 weeks ago - 3 months 2 weeks ago #35541 by Henning DK
Nice picture of Hayley Nixon in this article, showing how to lift out the paddle away from the boat:
https://www.surfski.info/latest-news/story/1698/pre-paddle-stretching-exercises-with-hayley-nixon.html

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3 months 2 weeks ago #35542 by PharmGeek
Hayley is my web coach - she gives good advice and I credit her with a good bit of my gains these past 8 months under her direction! 

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3 months 2 weeks ago #35543 by PharmGeek
Pardon - Hayley and Linton 

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3 months 2 weeks ago #35544 by Fath2o
Great post PharmGeek. Thank you!
I paddled with a guy in Hawaii that had just recently won a 12 mile race that he finished in one hour.
Think about that a minute. He was "averaging" 12 mph/19 kph. What a stud!

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3 months 2 weeks ago #35545 by PharmGeek
Another thing I’ve *felt* in the last 8 months was that I sense there is a strong relationship between my fitness and technique....that is - 8 months ago I felt I could not sustain much pressure, power etc without rapidly tiring or losing control...

with added fitness I feel it helps “sense” your technique better? That’s how it felt to me...

its likely different since I went from coach potato to training than others but for those who paddle with perhaps “poor fitness” this is a factor I’ve wondered. 

Of course with “fitness” was from much more seat time on water in on erg so it may be a function of just that much more time in the bucket overlapping 

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3 months 2 weeks ago #35546 by PharmGeek
I see people in my web training group or read about 10km weekly paddles among the pros over on SA etc and see their flat water 10km paces - insane - people holding those speeds have really built their engines - so inspiring 

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3 months 1 week ago #35548 by waverider
I think to consistently dial in technique into a subconscious level does take regular longish runs.  I nearly always do a 10-20km run in my sessions whether it be on ski or flat water boat. This enables you to go from consciously competent to unconsciously competent. as you get older i I think this is even more important as your aerobic fitness drops off quickly once you get out of practice, and takes longer to pick up again.

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