Long Distance Training Tips from the Champions

Sunday, 08 January 2006 11:09 | Written by 
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(by Rob Mousley - updated 15/01/2006

After the 56km 2005 Men’s Health Cape Point Challenge, I asked a couple of the top paddlers how they go about training – for this race and long distance events in general.  Here’s what they had to say…

Dawid Mocke


Dawid won the Cape Point Challenge in 4:16:50, beating the next single ski by nearly six minutes.

Comments on the Cape Point:

When asked whether he agreed that it was a tough race, Dawid diplomatically said, "Well, I certainly felt more tired after the race this year!"  He added that he was surprised at how "bumpy" it was between Millers Point and Buffels Bay.

The first half was definitely faster than in previous years.  Usually the leaders start more conservatively and paddle in a group.  "You don't want to be on your own on the other side." 

Dawid's Training Routine

Monday to Friday: Four sessions per day comprising swimming and running in the morning; gym and interval training in the afternoon.

Saturday: long paddle on the sea

Sunday: Discovery Men's Health Series races - with an hour's training paddle tacked on the end.

Dawid believes strongly in doing exercises as well as paddling - press ups, sit-ups and pull-ups all add to strength and core stability.

Dawid also recommends simulating the race conditions, "Get on the course as often as possible." Paddling for an hour after a race conditions your body and helps you to get used to pushing on when you're fatigued.

Juice: Dawid uses (and is sponsored by) Fast Fuel.

Ski:  Red 7 70 (sponsored)

Paddle: Bratcha 4

Pete Cole


Pete won the 1997 Cape Point Challenge in the then record time of 4:39:25 and came 2nd in 1995. This year he came 3rd behind Dawid Mocke and Simon van Gysen.

Comments on the Cape Point:

"It was a tough race. On the outside the guys tend to go a little more conservatively but this year the leaders went 100% from the start."

"I think some of the guys just didn't put in enough sea time."  Pete strongly believes in spending time on the course and his training routine includes spending as much time as possible on the course simulating the race conditions.

Pete's Training Routine

Monday to Thursday: Two paddling sessions, morning and afternoon, both interval training. The afternoon session generally harder than the morning and on Wednesdays, increased from an hour to two hours.

Friday: complete rest

Saturday: long distance paddle, ideally on the course, building up from 30km to 40km.  Before the race, Pete had done many 30km, some 40km and a few 50km paddles.

Sunday: Discovery Men's Health Series race.

Juice: Pete uses Cytomax.

Ski:  Fenn Mako (the model before the Millennium)

Paddle:  SET Endorphin (sponsored)

Oscar Chalupsky


Oscar is the South African paddling legend. Apart from his record eleven Molokai Crossing victories, he's won the notorious Port Elizabeth to East London (four day 240km ultra marathon) race ten times.  He won the Cape Point Challenge in 1984, 1986 and 1999.

This year he came fifth.

Comments on the Cape Point Challenge

It was a "tough" race and he didn't enjoy it.  Because of business commitments he hadn't been able to train after the World Cup race in Tahiti, but "if the wind had been stronger I'd have won."

He also feels that the race will never attract serious overseas competitors - because it's too long.  "Run it from Platboom to Simonstown and market it properly and it'll boom" he says.

Oscar's Training Routine

(Oscar didn't train for the Cape Point specifically, but the following remarks apply to any long distance race.)

Oscar does a combination of downwind and flat water training.  "Durban paddlers are lucky," he says, "because you can nearly always find downwind conditions.  Where can you paddle for 30 or 40km downwind in Cape Town? You can't."

"Long slow paddles" are anathema to Oscar and on a downwind run, he goes at 100% all the way no matter whether it's ten or forty kilometers.  He doesn't believe in training upwind.

On flat water he does interval training, emphasizing style and technique.

Oscar believes in making training fun - hence the time taken for surfing and water polo. 

He doesn't train continuously.  "I'm doing so much traveling these days, I can't.  But when I do train, I focus on the race, I do the training and I win the race."

He doesn't believe in radically tapering off the training just before a race although he will reduce the number of sessions per day.  He admits though that his brother (whom he considers his greatest rival) doesn't agree. Herman does taper training before a race.

Monday to Friday: up at 04h45 to go to gym and to swim (Oscar often alternates swimming with surfing). At 12h00, a 10km run.  In the afternoon: flat water race OR two hour downwind OR water polo.

Weekend: Long distance downwind paddling and racing.

Juice: Oscar uses Cytomax.  "It's the best.  They've been around for years.  Lance Armstrong uses it although he's not sponsored by them."

Ski: Epic V10 Carbon 

Paddle: Epic Midwing Full carbon burgundy shaft 210 to 220 set at 213

Carbo-loading

None of the guys believes much in carbo-loading.  Dawid says it doesn't do any harm "but don't try carbo-loading the night before! If you're going to do it, you need to eat low GI foods for a couple of days before the race".  Pete Cole avoids sweets and fizzy drinks like coke for a few days before a race.  Oscar doesn't pay any attention to the concept.



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