Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Green Race Training

The Green Race is coming up again already! Last year's race was especially exciting for several reasons. The three biggest differences of the 2006 Green Race and the ones before are that the race was won by Pat Keller in a boat that he specifically designed for the race, the elusive 5 minute barrier was finally broken by a short boat (Pat Keller, 4:54), and that the most racers in the history of the Green Race competed (126 total). Last year's race was the first Green Race I attended. Though I didn't start at Frankenstein like most other racers, I did race in the head-to-head race after the main races were finished. It didn't turn out like I hoped, but it was still a fun thing to do. I didn't prepare for it last year but this year is a new year and I'm so excited about racing that I sat down and wrote this.

I started training for the Green Race on the heels of the Wildwater Junior World Championships held in Charlotte, NC and Columbia, SC this summer. Because I started training for this race at a high level of fitness, I have been able to focus more on explosive sprint speed and driving the boat hard through flat pools that can wear other racers down. In fact, I live just far enough away from the Green, toward the very western-most part of NC, that my schedule does not allow me to make training runs on the Green during the week, forcing me to utilize flatwater near where I live for my workouts as the only reliable paddling option because of the severe drought in this area.

Flatwater Workout by Casey Jones

My simple training training plan consists of roughly:
  • 4-6 flatwater sessions a week, consisting of 1/2 hour of intense interval training after adequate warm-ups/stretching
  • Weight training 2-3 times a week, focusing mostly on my core, shoulder, and arm muscles with moderate weights and resistance training
  • Usually two laps on the Green on Saturdays, with the course broken down into quarters that I sprint through, then catch an eddy to teach myself how to drive the boat HARD through every part of the course, or either a no-eddies run in race mode.
  • One several mile hike with my boat per week, on the AT or Bartram Trail, or a few miles of running, to get a good cardio workout while letting my paddling muscles rebuild.
Other things to think of in preparation for the race are what you put into your body (not only proper nutrition/hydration), the amount of sleep you get, and your equipment. Make sure you're using a long, light, powerful paddle. Strip any unnecessary things from your equipment within reason because weight adds up. Also make sure your boat doesn't leak - water weighs a lot and it slows you down when you're trying to go fast, not to mention that it's annoying to have it sloshing around. Train with the gear you plan to race with. That means decide what you're going to use NOW and use it until the race. DON'T change a thing! Training in the clothes you plan to race in is a good idea, especially if you're going to wear a drytop, as it teaches you how to breath effectively with all your equipment on. For raceday, wear just enough to get by for conditions. This is as important for me as physical preparation, because I simply cannot go hard when I am overheating. Being cold at the start isn't as much of an issue, because you'll heat up when you start exerting yourself. I digress..

You'd think that you'd want to sprint the whole time, right? I mean, it is a race. WRONG. The simple fact of the matter is that when you sprint, you're not always using your energy efficiently. Translation: if you start at a dead sprint and keep that pace, you'll probably bonk by Whale Tail, then you'll become lactic by the time you're looking at the Notch, and your chances of crashing in front of 500 people go up dramatically. In my background as a wildwater racer, where we often race for upwards of 20 minutes, efficiency is a big reward. In shorter races it doesn't hurt, for sure, but this isn't a wildwater race. This is the most extreme kayak race in the world - you want to go hard, but be smart about it and dial your lines because clean is fast (and safe).

Go Left by Milton Mann

Last, there are two secrets to any race. First, know the course. The Green is tricky to race and there are some things you'll learn only by doing them repetitively. Second, hammer the flats and easier water, which is where you make time anyway, then back off just a hair and nail your line in the biggest rapids. You won't make time if you charge the big rapids and the likelihood of making a mistake and losing time goes up quite a bit. Simply listen to your body and drive the boat effectively, efficiently, and cleanly. Add the result of the flatwater and cross-training you've done over the last few months, and you're ready to race.

Ride the Lighting

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