Monday, September 15, 2014

But I Asked for an Airstream...

Prelude: take 4 minutes and listen to this:

Since my affection for paddling became an all-consuming obsession I have longed to participate in an event in Charleston, South Carolina. The Holy City has long held a special place in my heart since I spent some time there in the mid nineties trying to live out a few chapters from a Pat Conroy novel. During my stint in Charleston I gained a few firsts that will always be with me. I built my first dock, rode my first wave during 1996's Hurricane Bertha, built my first boat as part of a team that converted a tractor trailer load of plywood and pine boards into a 50'x25' catamaran, crewed on my first ocean delivery from Charleston to Fajardo, Puerto Rico, which took 8.5 days and included ghost ship sightings in the Bermuda Triangle, changing sails in a squall without harnesses or lifelines, and swallowing gasoline while siphoning. There was also dating girl who grew up south of Broad, buying my first couple antiques, and being seduced by architecture. My time in Charleston was short but I took advantage of all that city had to offer a young man fresh out of college. When I moved away I honestly did not think it would be forever.

Being a good husband who spent most of the summer adhering to domestic responsibilities, hanging around holding purses and walking dogs, my wife politely suggested that I take some time away from the house and go paddle somewhere…somewhere far away. Lucky for me the Chucktown Showdown was taking place at a good spot on the calendar and I was released from duty and booted back east for a while. I left a little bit early to break up the drive by going to my mom's in Oxford, then down to Wilmington for some stretch paddles with the plan to end up in Charleston the day before the race. 

Being 44, I like my own space. I love family and friends but I like alone time a lot. Being such an amazing husband means I am always putting the needs of my wife and dogs ahead of my own, which can be very demanding. When I get away I need to get away. When I am by myself I can enforce the rule of "No Talking" before coffee. At home, or even at my mother's, I have a hard time enforcing that rule. I told my wife that in the long run we could save money by getting an Airstream trailer because they were much more efficient than hotel rooms and I could put a great coffee maker in one! She countered with a tent and an extension cord.

What idiot goes camping south of the Mason-Dixon Line before November!!??

At the KOA Campground in Wilmington, NC on Thursday night at 7pm it was near 89 degrees in my tent. Wednesday night was a little better as it did finally cool down just before dawn so I could get some sleep. This year we didn't have much of a summer in Indiana so my body was not ready for the heat (that I used to LOVE) that I experienced down south. I felt like someone had wrapped me up in a dampened wool blanket and sealed the ends. The only time I felt normal was when I was in the water, which was good. The heat forced me to stay active. I can easily sit back and watch the wind blow the tree leaves and day dream for hours upon end and be content but the heat kept me on the move.

Moving about was great. I paddled with the Mullet, paddled by myself, met some new friends randomly roaming around Wrightsville Beach, visited my sister, brother in law, and goddaughter, ate shrimp and watched football over at my friend Katharine's, and enjoyed the air conditioning while bartering over at Carolina Paddleboard Company. Everything was great about Wilmington except for the nighttime heat and not having enough time to see all the folks I wanted to!

By Friday morning the heat had taken its toll. I lost 5 pounds of water weight just packing up the campsite. On my way out of town I did go for a quick surf and swim in the Atlantic because submerged in salt water is where everything is wonderful no matter what might be going on in your world. However, I was tired and feeling drained and as soon as I got in the car to make the drive the effects of the Atlantic started to dissipate.

That drive seemed to take an extraordinarily long time. When I crossed over the Cooper River bridge I had no desire to take in the surroundings. My focus was on the Marriott, the air conditioning, and the bed that would be in my room. After checking in and collapsing in my 65 degree room, I thought about staying horizontal on that king-sized bed until checkout Sunday morning. 

I did manage to be social on Friday afternoon and wandered about the hotel looking at boards and seeing familiar faces. The vibe at paddle events is always so positive. Seeing all the familiar faces and meeting a few new friends is so uplifting. The collective energy that filled the Charleston Marriott was enough to snap me out of my heat stroke and re-ignite the excitement that had initially brought me down south. By the time I went to bed Friday night I was filled with all I would need to get me through 9 miles of prone paddling.

On Saturday morning I woke up to the false dawn and headed for the supermarket in need of some good water and other treats for my cooler. Instead of heading straight back to the hotel I drove on East Bay street toward the Battery and as the first warm colors of the new day begin the fill the horizon I was quickly reminded why they call Charleston the Jewel of the South. If there is a more beautiful place to be at sunrise please let me know. The kind of beauty I witnessed last Saturday morning is the kind that forces you to breath deep as you realize that you are in the presence of what inspires. There is the hand of God at work in the universe and my beliefs in a Higher Power are always reaffirmed when moments like that are witnessed. I drove into the middle of a scene that make writers sit at their desks to write, painters to paint, and cinematographers to fill the darkness with light. 

I am glad I drove around the Battery Saturday morning because a few hours later I would be paddling around the Battery battling the currents, the chop, and the heat to complete the task I signed up for. There was no time for sightseeing along that course! 

And oh my…that was a battle. Despite the tough conditions, it was quite fun to be part of an event with a large handful of prone paddlers. Nine miles was a challenge. At around mile 5 or 6 I was starting to have some mental issues as my body was drained, my left leg was starting to cramp, and my water bottles were nearing E. Lord help me, I prayed. Wouldn't you know it…on the way back to the finish line as we all paddled with the current (but against the wind) a rain squall came up. Rain flattened the chop and cooled our bodies down making for a great run back to the finish line. I am sure I was not the only one praying for a little Divine intervention around 10:15 am Saturday morning but prayer was sure answered. That rain shower, with no lightning, was a gift from above!

After the race I was toast. My underarms were so chafed that wearing a shirt for the rest of the day was agony. I tried to walk around the event site but the heat was just too much to stand. At the end of the Chucktown Showdown I didn't want a dang finishers trinket I wanted a bottle of cold water! That sure was a misappropriation of funds and my only complaint about the whole event!

What little energy I had left I used to get over to surprise my nephew who is in school at College of Charleston. Paddling a challenging course with good friends made for a fun getaway but seeing how my nephew has grown into a handsome responsible young man certified the long drive as well-worth-it.

I did hate to leave Charleston Sunday morning. After a few cold Sierra Nevadas, heavy applications of Neosporin and some good sleep I felt somewhat recovered. My wife and I had plans to spend an actual vacation up and down the Atlantic seaboard but she is exhausted after dealing with that respiratory funk sweeping the nation and only missing one day of work. Being the awesomely attentive husband I am, I dutifully fulfilled her request for me to return home (well after the contagious period had expired of course) and gave up all the surf sessions, seafood dinners, and birthday celebrations we had planned. Once she is fully recovered I think I will have the opportunity to start guilting her into an Airstream or better yet, an unlimited paddleboard! 

Back home (and yes, it is wonderful to be home with the family) I am already thinking about the next excursion in order to be around all the good paddle people that are in our world. I imagine I will be in a tent so Wrightsville Beach in November sure sounds good to me. I just hope logistics might allow the trip to become a family adventure with my wife and mongrels so we can all enjoy the goodness! Eli sure enjoys a good run on the beach by Masonboro Inlet. Plus, if my wife goes she would insist upon a hotel room instead of a tent and that would be fine by me!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

As Far As I Could Go Then and Now Able to Return

Missing the Carolina Cup was rather disappointing; missing the Key West Paddleboard Classic will trump disappointment and push the envelope toward level one of traumatizing.

Social media certainly does not help the SUP junkie going through warm-water withdraw. Seeing all the pictures of the masses gathered at Wrightsville Beach, and thoroughly enjoying themselves, made for quite the test when it came to stifling the relentless feeling of envy. Going for a paddle is the only methadone available yet that methadone is rather painful when you  hit the lake without gloves and have to return to shore after a mere two miles due to numb hands. It is nearly May 1 and I am about neoprene-ed out. Sure, any day on the water should be considered a blessing but gloves in the last week of April? That hurts...

In January, on the drive back to Ogden Dunes, my wife had given me the go-ahead to attend the Carolina Cup AND the Key West Paddleboard Classic. She knew I was very disappointed in the fact that nothing about our move to Maryland seemed to work in our favor. The Old Line State, my birth state, had beaten us down and that was tough, especially on me. By the end of March when the ice had yet to melt on Lake Michigan the idea of doing two 12+ mile races back to back seemed more like a pipedream than a vacation. The expenses could not be justified. After my last paddle of just over two miles that left me numb and with the sniffles, I think it was definitely a wise decision save on gas and cheer on my fellow paddlers via Facebook and Instagram.

DANG!  I have been wanting to get back to Key West for so long...that is a special place, or at least it was back when I lived there in 96-97. Had SUP been around I might have spent less time at places like Grunts, Finnegan's Wake, and the Half Shell Raw Bar, might have being the key words. I doubt anything could have set me on the right track back then. It certainly wasn't the right track but it most definitely was a fun track!

Escape had always initiated my aimless wanderings. After college, I worked my way as far south as possible. Getting to the southernmost point was a slow process but eventually I made to the end of the road. I might have never made it to Key West had I been mature enough to face problems head on and gather the determination necessary to correct them. Such was not the case in my life so I checked into places for a spell then experienced something that didn't go my way and checked back out. I even went to sea and headed further east to see if anything might jive but it didn't. In November I flew from Puerto Rico to Key West to visit friends. We went deep sea fishing and I knew what I wanted my next job to be.

I arrived in Key West in the middle of December and started my first day as an apprentice on the Fishbuster Christmas Eve. That was one of the biggest boats on the row with the best gear and I quickly learned how to run the deck and handle the customers. I earned a reputation as a good guy to have onboard after diving across the fishbox and saving a rod from going overboard. By February I had my job as first mate on a boat down at the other end of the dock, where I learned fun went to die.

There was a serious side and a not-so-serious side with a clear line of demarcation dividing the two schools of thought at Garrison Bight Marina. My time on the serious sided was short lived. I longed to be back down at end near the causeway where laughter usually filled the air. There were the drunken arguments full of false bravado and a few coolers destroyed with aluminum bats, but by the next morning there were hugs, 70s disco music, and a quick cold one or two to set things back on an even keel, starting around 6:00am. It was awesome...for a while. This lifestyle took its toll. I'll fast forward through the rest, my Great American Novel, and get on to my Key West demise.

Dancing naked in a thunderstorm near the old City Electric building, is where I found myself on my last night in Key West. Just a few feet away a beautiful young lesbian from France twirled about under a streetlight holding her clothes in her right hand. This had been the way we walked from Garrison Bight Marina to our current location on James Street. Rain soaked yet still clothed we made way from Charterboat Row headed for the Half Shell. Only when we hit the side streets did we decide to disrobe and move about in aimless freedom. There was no music playing, per say. The rain fell heavily upon tin roofs, car hoods, puddles, the asphalt, the concrete, our heads, our skin; it fell everywhere and on that night it coalesced into a symphony for our rum addled minds to interpret as music.

Eventually Sophie began to sing along with the night and I have no idea what song it might have been but it sure sounded fine to me. When she beckoned me to join her in her own interperative dance I thought that this would THAT night, the kind one spends their whole adolescent life dreaming about.  What else would a twenty-six-year-old inebriated male dancing in a tropical rainstorm with a French lesbian think? Unfortunately, in my head, all the reasons why she might beckoned me to her were all way off base, as was most of my thinking then. Sophie held out her hands for me to come enjoy the moment with her, not with her. We were naked, dancing in the streets, living life in the tropics to its fullest. It was a moment to be simply enjoyed for what it was without moving it into awkwardness. The last thing this girl wanted was some drunken idiot dancing around with his boardshorts around his ankles attempting to make the night into something that it could never be. All this was was the definition of fun and to make the moment endure into a lasting memory that was how the moment had to remain...simply fun.

Maybe if I had been a better dancer (as in had more freedom of movement rather than the restriction of boardshorts around the ankles) things might have been different but THAT kind of night was not in the cards for me. To my defense, I was staying prepared as a good mate should and there is an awkwardness that comes with being ready to put wet clothes back in case the cops come. But it was Key West...who calls the cops on people dancing naked in the rain under a streetlight? Only when we saw the faces of those taking their evening meal inside Finnegan's Wake did we put on our clothes and run to the Half Shell to meet up with some of the other motley fools from Charterboat Row.

The rest of the night could not match the fun of walking from Charterboat Row to the Half Shell in a tropical rainstorm. I did my best to try with as much rum as the Half Shell would serve me. Instead of adding to the fun, all I was doing was adding to the amount of sugar my body would eventually reject. The night would end quickly as would my time in Key West.

Would I have changed a thing about that night? Hell yes I would have! There might have been a better ending than waking up alone the next day in sweat-soaked sheets with a case of the delirium tremors that I thought one only read about in Jack Kerouac novels. The self destruction had been building momentum for a while. Only after striking out trying to convert a lesbian to heterosexuality, on a night like no other, does the free fall end with a sudden and harrowing impact. That morning I knew that if I did not leave Key West immediately I would end up in bad place, maybe not dead but I felt my grip on sanity beginning to loosen. I paid my rent for the next month and told my landlords, who happened to be very close friends that I was leaving. That afternoon I packed up a U-haul and left Key West headed in a northerly direction for a month of drying out at mom's.

To put things in a more business like perspective of how bad, or maybe stupid is a better word, I had become let me just say this: I passed the test to get my 6-pac captain's license, had an offer to start running a boat on Charterboat Row, but never got around to filling out the paperwork to finalize the process. I had one year from the date of the exam to get the paper work filled out and just never did. You know what they say about idle's true! My reputation as a fisherman had grown to the point that I was getting job offers from a lot of boats. I had a captain threaten another if he tried to lure me away again. Looking back on this now I further realize how bad I actually got. Nobody has been so anxious to hire me since!!

Everything happens for a reason. I am a firm believer in this in the Biblical sense. While I may not have always lived as a good example of the Christian walk, I knew I was always being watched over. I am quite sure that it is a good thing I did not get my Captain's license and stay in Key West. I couldn't handle it all.

I sure bet I could handle Key West now! At home I have three wonderful mongrels and an incredible hobby as my support system. Also, I am much older and much more content with who I am, allowing me to just sit back and watch the tide roll in and out of the channel without wondering what I might be missing out on (except when it comes to cool SUP events!). Yes, I can look back on the crazy times of yesteryear in all the wonderful places I lived and laugh at that foolishness. Being strong enough now to laugh off any temptation with the been-there-done-that-and-am-very-fortunate-to-still-be-alive-with-all-my-faculties-in-place attitude gives me a clearer vision of the world. I long to experience the true beauty of such amazing places as Wrightsville Beach, Key West, Charleston, New Orleans, New York, and Miami without the foggy mind. Key West by SUP?? I can't imagine the feeling one must get being able to see the island from that perspective!

My time at the southernmost point still provides me with so much even though I have been away from there for too long. I learned so much about the sea and spent some quality time with a lot of wonderful people. Thanks to social media I am still in touch with a few of the good ones. So many memories from that time in my life are still with me. There are the bad ones that help me make better decisions and there are the good ones like the way starlight cast a warm glow over Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. I feel so fortunate to have spent a few nights in that part of the world. That picture is still as vivid now as it was back then from the deck of the Cha-Cha. 

And now there is SUP in Key West to make it even more of a special place. All I hear about is how awesome the crew at Lazy Dog is. I want to meet these folks! They are everywhere spreading the stoke of SUP and I feel like I am the only paddler who has not met one member of that crew! I wish everyone attending the Key West Paddleboard Classic the best and while I may hate you for a few hours on Saturday I look forward to paddling with you in the near future.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

All the Soothing Waters Meet in Wrightsville Beach

Tis the season for many of the more awesome events to take place. That's the good news paddlers…some paddlers. The bad news for this paddler is that I am in good enough shape to go about half the distances these courses require. In 2014 I had hoped to travel to some of the more notable events but as can happen when we least expect it life and weather get in the way. When I cannot attend a race in a locale that is special to me I will exorcise the disappointment in way that is healthier than downing Budweisers put down in front of me by a scowling wife at the Old Town Ale House. Rather I will recall experiences I have had in these locations. This way I will be able to stifle the jealousy I might experience while all my brethren wave their paddles in an enviable solidarity at these events . This week the Carolina Cup will commence and I will be tucked between the rolling dunes in northwest Indiana staking out a fence for two unruly mongrels. Where I will be is a pretty special place in it's own right but where many of my friends and fellow paddlers will be this weekend has an aura that is all its own.

Now I regress...

As summer came to a close in 1996, so did one of my more memorable relationships, leaving me downtrodden, alone, and unaware of what to do next. I was living in Charleston, South Carolina after way too many years pursuing an unwanted college degree followed by an awkward year gainfully employed in New York's fashion industry. Manhattan had beaten me down into into a young man who had no idea who he was. I sought solace in the crown jewel of the south in order to imitate the lives of others and begin to develop my own niche. Being so insecure and lacking self confidence I knew I would be more comfortable dipping into someone else's life and stealing parts to build a foundation I might one day call my own. That someone did not need to be a real person. That person could be a construct. In Charleston, that person would be a character from a Pat Conroy novel.

The story I wanted to live had already been told numerous times and published for the masses. The pressure was off me trying to make my own way in the world. At first Charleston was not easy. For the first few months I spent many nights alone re-reading Conroy's novels planning my moves for the next day.  When an old boarding school mate visited town and acquainted me with a close group of people, that would soon include new friends and a few familiar faces from my dreaded prep school years, things fell into place quite nicely. I found myself having the time of my life waking up every day with a big smile on my face. Most mornings there was a hangover, before strong coffee could settle the storm, but that hangover came with a tan. That tan came from working in a boatyard with a great group of guys and a boss who was, and still is, a master craftsman. These guys taught me how to surf and put up with me as I spent months kooking it up and trying not to drown. Finally, I rode my first wave during Hurricane Bertha and went home to celebrate this triumph with a fine looking woman who had grown up south of Broad. I had studied the blueprints well!

What does this have to do with Wrightsville Beach??? I'm getting there…

Because I was living a life that was based on the work of another I was incapable of making decisions on my own that were mature, well-thought-out, and served an intended purpose. Good times only go on for so long then the realities of life on Earth command one's attention and demand a proper response. Works of fiction have no relevant chapter providing the blueprint for what to do next. My charmed existence in Charleston soon came to an abrupt end when my relationship with the local girl came to an abrupt end. Before our demise I had booked an non-refundable suite in a boutique hotel on Ocracoke Island, N.C. in order for us to have a romantic getaway. However, she decided to get away from me before the trip. What does one do when plans go awry with a lady and logistics are already in place near some of the best surf spots on the east coast? You load up the boys from the boatyard and head in a northerly direction with a cooler full of cold Budweisers and Thule rack piled high with surfboards.

Finally we arrive in Wrightsville Beach…

As we headed north on Route 17 it was either Jamison or Jaybird who suggested we stop in Wrightsville Beach to break up the drive and check out some waves. At the time, none of us had cell phones, laptops, or anything close to Internet access to find surf reports and locations. To find out where we should go we stopped into Surf City and met the former owner (whose name I forget but he was a super nice guy). He greeted us with smiles and provided us with plenty of good information. We immediately headed to what turned out to be a mighty fine surf spot that provided ample amounts of waves and a section of the beach that we would call our own for the day. My rehabilitation had begun.

I couldn't get over how clear the water was surrounding Wrightsville Beach. I wondered how such clarity was possible outside of the Caribbean, but I did not concern myself with the how or why for longer than a passing thought. Those waters were there for me and my companions to enjoy to the fullest. Those fine waters diluted the bitterness that had been circulating through me for far too many weeks. Sitting out in the ocean I started to feel the paralytic effect of stress ease off a bit. I began to think on my own and quickly realized what a jackass I had been. It was offshore of Wrightsville Beach that I shook my head in embarrassment at my epiphany: Pat Conroy would have never included someone who lived life as foolishly as I did in one of his works. By sunset I would begin to gain momentum into becoming the man God put me on earth to be. Some Swedish girls staying on Ocracoke Island would help further that momentum.

Salt water has always been the best prescription for healing what ails you, whether is be physical or mental. Such is true for all salt water but there certainly is something special about the waters that flow into and around Wrightsville Beach. It was in those clear salty waters that I began to heal after my character had been written out of Charleston's eternal story. I enjoyed the Outer Banks but I did cast some longing looks back to the south in the direction of those healing waters. There is substance in that part of the ocean unlike anywhere else. There is a power that encompasses you. The fortunate ones who realize they are in a special place can harness that power and channel it into any affected area of life that could use a good cleanse. I was struck by the place and knew one day I would return for a more in-depth exploration of the area.

I have been back several times since 1996, especially due to the explosion of SUP in the area. Back in January, my wife and I spent a week in Wrightsville Beach that coincided with the Cold Stroke Classic. Only can a race with awful, terrible, horrible, no good, very-bad conditions (sorry Ms. Viorst) still be well worth the long drive when that race is held in Wrightsville Beach. That was a week we needed amidst a big move that turned out to be very trying on us. Wrightsville offered great food, time with family, a few new friendships, and some more time in those soothing waters. There, we were able to regroup before retracing our steps back to the Midwest and settling into the life that suites us best, although we found it very hard to leave Wrightsville…

In just a few days paddlers will partake in the Carolina Cup and I am super bummed to be missing the race. Actually, I am not missing the me racing part of the race; I would be happy just to be there to watch the start and finish. The list of participants promises a stacked field and the Graveyard Course certainly offers all kinds of conditions that will test paddlers of all abilities. This year is going to offer plenty of excitement for both paddler and spectator. I am sure everybody in attendance will have a great time. How can they not? It's Wrightsville Beach after all!    

Yes I am envious of those going and yes I will be ignoring all the pictures that will be posted of all the folks having a good time in one of my favorite places in America. All the other people obsessed with SUP, such as I am, will be gathering to share the vibes and to share the stoke. From all over the world people will gather and form into one tribe where are all are welcome and more are always encouraged to join. I don't know what I will miss more, taking full advantage of those all-powerful waters or the Tower 7 shrimp tacos. DANG! I am so jealous!

Then weekend after the Carolina Cup is the Key West Classic…ugh. I got the luck of a gypsy to be too far out of shape to justify all the traveling to these wonderful events. Next year I have to do better in the offseason, even if that means sacrificing time away from my lovely wife by spending all of February and March training in Florida!!

After I was written out of the Charleston novel I would set sail, literally, further south. My gaze focused on an even warmer climate as I sought to start anew.. Although I left one paradise for another with the intention of growing up, I was still a much addled youth full of stupidity and foolishness. Heading to Key West with these traits would not make for a dull experience. If only stand up paddle boarding had been around when I was there, I might not have left the way I did…in a hurry!

To all those attending the Carolina Cup: be safe, have a blast, and eat some shrimp tacos for me!! Take a few moments to soak in the ocean and feel that love enwrap you. Enjoy your time in Wrightsville Beach and soak in the comfort of the moments you spend there. Those moments will be with you for the rest of your life.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Find the Truth About HOW TO EAT from Your Own Body

To juice or not to juice (as in fruit and vegetable juice not pro-baseball player juice)  that is quite the question these days. Whether tis nobler to pulverize and strain your kale like the hipsters do, paying 9 dollars for a 10oz cup of the swill, or eat it cooked like your grandmother tried to make you do wayyyyyyyyy before the idea of juice bars came into being.

Kale is disgusting, so gross. For me it has been since the 70s when I stared at a big glop of it on a plate at 1321 Highland Drive in Baltimore. Give me a kale chip smothered in sea salt and I can dig it, but to get it in my body any other way is a battle.

CONFESSION: I have read the articles online now deeming kale the magical elixir and I have choked down many overpriced cups of kale juice waiting for that BAM...instant magic to transform me into a lean, mean paddling machine. Such did not happen and I am not really sure if "lean" will ever be used as an adjective to describe me again. To save money I went to the store and bought kale (we have a juicer thanks to a Lowe's gift card we received at our wedding) but I had to add a bunch of apples and a serrano pepper to act like I was enjoying what I was drinking. Still no lean me. I should have bought a toaster make me some TOAST! Toast is fuel!

Paleo seems to be all the rage now. That incorporates kale into the program doesn't it? I see a ton of awesome looking dishes on my friend Amy's Facebook page. That girl can cook some dang good looking food and I don't even think she uses a food stylist. My mouth waters and I get hungry looking at the pictures she posts. Those dishes look good and I bet they taste even better. Unfortunately, I don't think the Paleo diet includes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I'm out.

There is too much pro and con about the same issue whether it's juicing, strength training, low carb/no carb diets, and every other aspect of the athletic lifestyle. Information overload and it's too much to get your head around. I always wonder whether or not I am doing the right thing when it comes to eating and training because I like staying up to date on what researchers say, but maybe that is not the best idea. I should be the researcher for me. You should be the researcher for you.

I am by no means a nutritionist, but I will compare my way of thinking with the literature that is out there. I check out some websites and I have even bought a few books to help me learn how to eat well, or maybe properly is a better word. Is there a correct word for the program I choose to follow? The way I eat constantly changes. It goes from good to bad to middlin' to well-thought-out to downright stupid to rabbit-like to fine. I'd like to make healthy the best word to describe the way I eat. To do that I need to think back to...when was I the healthiest and when was I the least healthy?

Least healthy: November 1985-August 2002, October 2002-not too long ago

September 2002 was when I was the healthiest I have ever been.

I was in the woods for 28 days on an Outward Bound excursion around the North Carolina-Tennessee border. Whatever we ate then did the trick. We ate a lot of meals that would probably send Laird Hamilton and med-degreed nutritionists into fits. Breakfasts consisted of bagels sauteed in butter and smothered in cream cheese, Cream of Wheat, granola, oatmeal, and bread. Lunch was canned salmon, beans, cheese, sardines, crushed crackers, and bread. Dinner was pita pizzas with veggie toppings, pasta with tomato paste tomato sauce, beans, breads, cheeses, and carrots. There were more items but not many. Meals were subsidized by apples, oranges, and various trail mixes that had chocolate, nuts, pretzels, cereals, and dried fruits. You know what I did after these meals...I carried a 70+ pound pack up and down mountains from sunrise to sunset, climbed unfathomable rock cliffs, canoed down rapids, and dropped to a very low, but very healthy, percentage of body fat. At the end of the 28 days I ran a half marathon up and down three peaks, beating the rest of my group by 40+ minutes and almost breaking the best time ever posted at North Carolina Outward Bound School. I was sprinting for close to half the race and I give most of the credit to Cream of Wheat. I was older than the rest of my group by almost a decade.

Of course my body needed this fuel to survive a very rugged lifestyle. Today, I definitely don't need the fuel that kind of diet demanded, but I do need some of it. I'm getting older and I am trying to maintain an "elite" level of fitness. I truly believe that in order to do so I cannot adhere to any kind of diet that excludes items. I think one has to be smart and analyze the way they eat with the way they feel and their level of activity. I see a lot of people that look amazing at races but do not perform at a level I would have imagined. Give them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I bet you would see one hell of a difference! Or maybe all depends upon the person and what lifestyle they lead. We are all different so we have to be honest with ourselves and, I think, maintain a balance that constantly changes depending up our lifestyle.

I think the hardest aspect of eating is discerning our cravings. Know your cravings! I crave ice cream and Snickers bars all the time. I know those cravings are coming from a not-so-good place. Sometimes I crave cereal and sometimes I listen to these cravings. I look back at what I did leading up to the craving and what I plan to do after the craving. If I put in two workouts beforehand and would like to workout the next day you are correct if you believe I succumb to that craving and have a bowl of cereal. I'm not eating Frosted Flakes but I'm not eating raw bulgur wheat as well. I totally enjoy some granola that isn't too processed knowing that I am going to burn that stuff off in the very near future. Not every time you feel hungry do you need to eat. Water helps; tea helps. Also, don't wait too long to eat so your cravings and your hunger don't join together to mess you up. Your stomach is roughly the size of your fist. I try to remember this but sometimes that 12 inch meatball marinara Subway sub is too dang good to only eat half...

Really? A 12 inch meatball marinara Subway sub all in one sitting. I know my fist ain't that big!

At this point in my life I tend to look at eating like staying hydrated. If you are thirsty you are already behind the eight ball. Eat a little portion of something healthy before you feel hungry. Snacks are good. Pop tarts probably aren't the best snack and neither is an over-processed protein bar. Keep it simple. If it takes you more than a few seconds to read the label on an item then put it away. There are no labels on apples, bananas, and almonds. I really dig dried figs as a good snack that will fill me up and the ingredient list on the label is really short. Short labels are good. No labels are better. I'm a realist. SOme of my food is going to have labels and I am not going to know exactly what everything is...and I am okay with that. A few minutes of exercise and a glass of red wine will offset that big word or two on the label.

Balance is key. Know yourself and know your schedule and eat accordingly. Don't let the do's and don'ts on the web rule your eating habits. Be smart and examine the way you feel and your activity level to determine what you put on your grocery list!! And don't be lazy!! Cooking your meal is much better than buying your meal and it really doesn't take that much longer. I get lazy. We all do. If we keep it simple we can easily succeed when it comes to eating in a way that is best for our bodies. Rule your own inner kingdom and discover what fuel keeps you at peak performance.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Do what? Do what you like and then a little more...

What in the H, E, DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS is a guy to do to get in shape? What do I eat? How often do I work out? Should I order one of those plans from the Riding Bumps website? Do I need to hire a personal trainer? Am I eating enough and am I well balanced enough in the protein-carbs-fat ratios?

The amount of information one must process is overwhelming!

Who or what do you put trust in and believe will help you work toward ACHIEVING your goals?

ANSWER: Believe in and trust YOURSELF!!

I have been going through a lot of information over the past few weeks in order to try and come up with a 12 week program that will get me in tip top shape for the Carolina Cup. However, I am not even sure I am going to do the Carolina Cup; I may do the Key West Paddleboard Classic instead. I may do the Carolina Cup prone and the Key West Paddleboard Classic on a SUP. Everything is up in the air because guess what...we are moving again. (It's a good thing!) Despite all the question marks that lie ahead I know one thing: I need to be in the best shape possible to compete in the 14' class in SUP races. (I also need to get in much better shape in order to enter any race prone!!)

The program I have been staring at the most is the 12 week program Connor Baxter used for a Molokai 2Oahu Race that was posted on Starboard's website back in 2010. I like the idea of getting in a certain percentage of mileage each week. Last year my GPS registered 13.5 miles at the end of the Carolina Cup. That a lot of miles to paddle at a race pace. I bonked last year so I knew I needed to work on nutrition before, during, and after a race for 2014. I felt in pretty good shape to paddle 13.5 miles but I did not fuel my body well enough to compete for 13.5 miles. Goal in 2014 - develop a better nutrition plan.

Riding Bumps (the book) is a fun read but all the information is stuff many people who are students of fitness already know. What I liked the most about the book was the way they broke down periodization training. They used layman terms and I finally got a grip on this style of training and felt I had a better understanding necessary to come up with my own 12 week program.

The Cold Stroke Classic also helped me gauge what I needed to focus on in workouts. A tune up race is such a great idea. As I stated before, you really find out where you stand. Be honest with yourself and prepare yourself to do the necessary work if you want to improve your fitness and achieve better results.

Find out what your heroes are doing then adapt. I love the way Connor Baxter trained in 2010 for a 32 mile race. Unfortunately for me, I am not a young talented individual living in Maui. Connor's program might not be the best routine for a a guy approaching 45 who needs to contribute to the well being of his family. I am pretty sure a lot of it will be very helpful but the reality of my situation and physical abilities demand that I go into this percentage training with a willing ability to adapt.

Find out what your friends are doing and learn what NOT to do. There are a lot of sexy-looking guys out there that are not killing it out on the water. How many times have you shown up to a race and enviously glanced at a guy's six-pack and his bad-ass race board then passed them going out to the turning buoy while you are on your way back into the finish line. People can definitely hinder their growth (in SUP racing) by taking on too much.

Our sport of SUP is so weird it demands so much of us at all the wrong times. We need to be able to go like gangbusters at the start of a race then maintain as much of this pace as possible for around 6 miles. We cannot afford to incorporate a warm-up pace then increase as we go on. Most of us have to get after it from the start then find a way to get after it some more throughout the whole race. SUP racing is different and I don't think there are enough people who understand how to coach for the sport. There are a lot of workouts that make you look awesome but do they help you reach your goals? You have to be careful and listen to your body. Trust yourself to gather info, apply it, then evaluate it and prepare to change.

The best way to trust yourself is to gather all information and adapt. Definitely come up with a plan but be ready to change plans and do not get down on yourself when you have to veer off and attend to life. There will be time over the course of 12 weeks to make up for a missed workout. Life gets in the way so if you get a 12 week plan and cannot achieve all of what is written up for you, you are setting yourself up to think of missing a workout as failure. Don't think of life getting in the way as failure!! You can make up for it down the line.

If you are looking for some structure in order to hold yourself accountable here is what I am doing: I suggest you print out 2 copies of weekly calendars that lead up to a race or a goal you wish to achieve. One is to be used as a rough draft where you write down what you plan to do and the other will be the final copy where at the end of the week you write down the details of all your workouts that you did do. Don't worry about scratch marks and eraser stains on the rough draft. We all lead busy lives so we have to make changes. Don't worry about altering a plan you have for the week. I haven't even been planning by the week. I have been writing down my intentions for the day and possibly the next day. Trust me, when you write something down and go do it you find out whether it was the right amount of time, mileage, effort, etc. You may even surprise yourself and have those epiphanies when you realize your efforts are paying off! The key is to write down all your planned workouts in pencil and to not touch the final draft of the week until your week is done and you go back over all that you did over the course of the last 6 days. Write the final draft in pen then evaluate what your body is saying to you at the end of the week. Is it saying do more? Do less? I need a break; take it easy this week? Don't be  wuss tho...don't take a break when you know you can do more!! You make gains when you push past the I'm tired I should rest feeling. Being tired is not an excuse to miss a workout!! Not venturing out past the comfort zone is what keeps you separated from the lead pack!! In my humble opinion, hurting means resting; being tired means sucking it up and getting after it!

Getting better does not have to be so scientific. Don't let science impede your progress. After the Cold Stroke I knew I needed to work on my wind. I started studying all the aerobic vs. anaerobic ratios one needed to do and when it is best to incorporate the anaerobic threshold into the adaptive phase of training and to be honest, I just didn't want to have to think that much about it. I came up with a simpler solution. I started swimming at the YMCA. Learning how to breath in water while moving has always been difficult for me. Plus, I knew swimming would definitely be an aerobic (meaning slow) workout for me with no chance of leading into any anaerobic zone, at least for a while. (I do believe in building an aerobic foundation so I am aware of my phases as I try to keep my workout planning as simple as possible.)

When I first got in the 25yard pool I could do 2 laps before needing a break. Two days ago I did 18!! That's around a half mile without stopping and not using the walls to push to make the pool more like an open water swim. I was psyched! I have already achieved a milestone I once thought impossible. I did this by taking myself out of a comfort zone and adapting my training. I love being on the water; I love being in the gym; I love going for runs; I love jumping rope; I have always been leery of swimming because I was never very good at it. I went out of my comfort zone and, now, it feels good. It certainly did not at first. My wind has improved and I can now jog for 3+ miles breathing only through my nose, out of allergy season of course.

We are all adults. If you want to improve you know you have to work at it. In my humble opinion that does not always mean go bigger to get better. Take all your thoughts and ideas and write them down (in pencil) then come up with a plan for the day, then the next day, and then for the week. See if it works. If it does keep moving onward and upward. If it doesn't try something else. If you are working at it you are improving! Trust yourself and interpret the way your body feels. Know when to say: I need a break, I need to add more, or I need to keep it slow and steady.

I still check the internet for useful information but I am realizing more and more that the simpler I keep things the more improvements I make. The only thing complicated is the labels on all these new-fangled protein powders, supplements, and hydration aids I keep trying. They seem to be working. They better work at mile 10 in 2014!

I like the idea of mileage over the course of a week. I like the idea of going slow to get fast. I like the idea of hitting the gym and seeing what I can do. I love the way a TRX workout makes my body feel. I cannot wait to hit the pool again. I can't wait to try some of those full-body exercises I read about in that article. Prone paddling is so dang hard. There is no better time on the water than having your feet on a SUP.

This is only some of the information I process in order to come up with my workouts. There is plenty I know I need to do to get in shape I must also experiment with some other workouts in order to exceed what I think I am capable of. We are all capable of doing more than our mind lets us think we can. We need to reach beyond in order to do so. Once in a while, take yourself out of the comfort zone. You will be rewarded and make gains.

Today is my day off. It wasn't supposed to be but I woke up and just knew today needed to be a rest day. I am okay with that because yesterday was busy: 2.5 miles prone in the am and 3.5 miles SUP in the pm. Tomorrow is going to be big too! That's okay; I got plenty of rest and will be ready for what faces me tomorrow.

Friday, January 24, 2014

My feet are quite happy these days. I took a risk and it paid off.

At 45, I am often leery to fall for buying the cheapest shoes available. Over the past couple years being thrifty has not reaped any benefits but only caused pain in my feet, legs, and lower back. Now that it is time to ramp up the training, that means more time on the treadmill and on the beach. Being it is a new year I thought it a good time to purchase new shoes. Running shoes that are put to use aren't meant to last a year. It's 2014; change your shoes.

Sure I was eyeing the Nike Free's and the Nike Air's but the price just wasn't in the budget. My last pair of shoes were Adidas but a good pair of their running shoes was also out of my desired price range. As I switched the viewing order to start with the lowest priced shoes I soon stumbled upon the New Balance MR20 Minimus Running Shoes. They were ugly and just under $50.00. I ordered them.

Two days later they arrived at the door and I tried them on. They fit true to size and felt comfortable. The next day I went for a light run on the treadmill to break them in AND ALSO, to break in my stride wearing new shoes. These minimalist shoes can alter your stride and the New Balance MR20 do seem to influence one's stride when both walking and running. If you buy these shoes start slow so your body can adjust to the minor changes in your stride. That being said, I have not tripped wearing these shoes and after one day I was able to ramp up to put these shoes to the test during some intervals. They felt great with the treadmill at 9.0.

Comfort…these are comfortable shoes but they do demand socks. Breaking in the materials of these shoes is taking some time, which is a good thing in terms of durability. I have used these shoes on a treadmill and on the beach on both long easy runs and for intervals. They did well on both terrains at all speeds. I will not use these for road runs. Just the idea of running on asphalt or concrete with these shoes doesn't sit well with me. My lower back demands I run on a surface that isn't as jarring as a hard surface so I do not plan to use these for road running.

Looks…these shoes caused a little bit of a stir at the Cold Stroke Classic. They amused a few of my friends. They do not bode well with casual wear and you may get turned away from a hot club wearing them. They glow and sit low so your foot looks like it is being swallowed by a silver and neon yellow snake. P-shaw to the naysayers. I like they way they feel so I wear them often or at least as much as this winter weather will allow. They were perfect for Wrightsville Beach weather but maybe not so much for tooling around Maryland with all this snow on the ground.

I can't wait to break them in over the winter and get them comfy for sock-less running. I love the way they feel but they do rub bare skin in spots. However, these irritations were quite minor. I am not talking about the savage blister that encompasses your whole heel after wearing new shoes; these MR20s just rub a few raw spots on top of the foot by the big toe and near the front of the inside side of the heel on the underside of the foot. These issues were so minor that a pair of socks worn the next day took away any and all irritations.

I recommend these shoes for anyone trying to expand their lung capacity with some serious cross training before the ensuing SUP race season. The New Balance MR20s feel so good they inspire and when the snow melts I am hitting my favorite hill in Virginia's wine country for a few hard-charging sessions that will force the lungs to open wide for oxygen. Anyone care to join me?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cold Stroke Classic Recap

Is there a better place to SUP than Wrightsville Beach, N.C.? I had such a good time spending the week there with my wife and mongrels that it was awfully hard to get back in the car and head north on Monday. Lots of good training sessions: caught a few good waves on the 2014 Starboard Allstar provided by K-COAST Surf Shop in Ocean City, MD, paddled in and out of the (to me) dreaded inlet with no problem, built up some mileage on the prone paddleboard, and had fun doing intervals with Eli Mongrel on the beach. And then there was a race…

The WORST weather of the week was the day of the Cold Stroke Classic! Cold and windy. It was the windiest race I had ever participated in…by far. Such conditions do not make for a bad race because it was the first time I had pushed my body to its limits in quite a long time. The Cold Stroke is a great race to participate in because you find out where you stand, physically and mentally, well before race season truly gets under way. If you look at the calendar the 12 week mark for the Carolina Cup is February 1st. The Cold Stroke is a great litmus test and guide for where your training program should focus in preparation for the Cup. I have much preparation to do in 12 weeks!!

I had a great start or so I thought! My feet went from the sand right on top of the board like I had been practicing at the Strand Beach. However, when I went to paddle my blade would not hit the water. I had no idea why until I felt some tightness around my ankle and realized my paddle was tangled up in my leash. I HATE LEASHES (but I understand and appreciate their use…at times). After a few twisting tugs of desperation my leash came free and I was able to start paddling. As I made the turn to head north I still managed to have the lead. Halfway up the first leg Dan Gavere went by on my right and Ron Gossard went by on my left. This leg was pretty much downwind so I thought I could catch up to Ron and try to draft him but I wasn't ready to use up all my energy to do so. Bad choice on my part, sort of. 

When we turned left to the dead upwind leg with gusts of 30 knots I fell back from Ron and Dan. If I had expelled all of my energy to try and get to Ron's tail I would have been dead in the water going upwind. Upwind has always been my strong point but such was not the case at the Cold Stroke. This breeze stood me straight up at times and I did not have the strength or the wind to push through as well as I would have liked! Jeremy Whitted, who ended up winning the race, and a gentleman named Steve passed me going upwind and looked too strong to catch when doing so.

Then I got passed again…I wanted to stay in the top 5 and was not in the top 5 at the end of lap one. Things needed to change. On the downwind leg heading east from the ICW toward the Blockade Runner I knew this was the time to make some changes. The lead pack of four was nowhere in sight.

Before the race I had ripped the top off a Hammer Nutrition chocolate gel (which proved to be a valuable time saver) and stuck it in the top pocket of my SUPreme jacket, in case I needed it. I definitely needed it. I took the time to suck in the gel a bit at a time without losing too much momentum. I would paddle then take a gulp while I had some glide from a small bump. I also took off my gloves. Gloves were a necessity at the start but with all the work this race demanded I soon felt overdressed. Plus, to make up time I need to feel my paddle and get the best possible purchase to get after it for a while. The gel kicked in, the hands felt good, the electrolyte tablets in my Dakine hydration pack quenched my thirst and I was ready to work harder.

On the second lap everything was coming together. Feeling much better I was able to catch up and draft for fifth place. We switched off just before rounding the turn to head back west into the wind. Here, I saw the lead four. I really shortened up my stroke and tried to speed up my cadence. Most importantly, I prayed for strength to speed up the cadence! It had been a while since I saw the lead 4. I wanted to get to them.

For a while I felt like I was catching up to the lead pack! However, as time went on that reality was short lived. I did not take a great line heading west into the wind and by the time I made the left turn to head under the bridge over the ICW the top four were out of sight again.

Turning left to head east on the downwind leg they still weren't in sight. DANG! Them beasts were fast! REAL FAST!

Heading downwind I did something I swore not EVER to do in any race. I looked back. I saw that I had a comfortable lead to keep fifth but in the 14' class there is never a comfortable lead. You never know what can happen so I always want to look ahead and stay after it. I did not want to fall too far behind, time wise, from the lead pack. Oops, I guess you can't have everything you want!! 

I was super happy to grab 5th and stay in the top 5 until I saw my time. Yikes! Luuuuuucccccyyyyyy, we got some training to do!!

All in all the Cold Stroke was a great time! Had a fun dinner Friday night with all the boys in the Orange Mafia (SUP Annapolis crew) who came down for the race. On Saturday I really enjoyed hanging out with fellow racers. Ron and I talked strategy before the race about what line to take at the start. His strategy worked well throughout the whole race and Ron grabbed 2nd place with a blistering fast time. Cousin Neil grabbed first in the 3.5 mile race and Bryan Barton took second so Maryland represented well in North Carolina. 

Other highlights from the week: I enjoyed meeting Jason from Carolina Paddleboard Company and hanging around his shop talking shop. Seeing Barry Blackburn is always uplifting because it is just always good to be around good people. His daughter Anna won the Female 3.5 mile race which is AWESOME. She won first in her age group and first overall! Anna is a young lady to watch emerge in the SUP scene! Isn't it great to see the next generation work hard and get results!!?? It was nice to see John Beausang on the water after hearing about his shoulder issues!! Paddling the 2014 Starboard Allstar is just a pleasure. That board feels great in all conditions. The only reason that board was so far behind was due to operator error. Prone! I love going prone. I want a 10-6 custom JM Paddlebaord to go race in the ocean. I had such a good time feeling the beat down of laying down to paddle! Eli Mongrel is a great training partner for doing intervals on the beach. He will make you sprint. Feel free to borrow him any time you want to go running!

Remember, the 12-Week mark for the Carolina Cup is February 1!! Time to rest up and get ready to hit it hard!

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Awful Re-Entry into the Anaerobic Zone

How are your intervals going?

Last week was the first time I tried to do intervals since the end of the 2013 race season. I thought I was going to vomit. I didn't get very far either before throwing in the Ke Nalu and opting for far easier movements. I quickly found out I was not ready to leave the aerobic training of moping along for paddling fast for any extended period of time. My intervals, I mean interval (singular) were bad, scary bad. I guess that should be expected but I was not prepared for how bad I was going to feel during the training session. I assumed I would have a difficult time lifting up the dog food due to sore arms the next day but during mile 1 (after a decent warm up) I was ready to nap. I did manage to get to mile 2 but I slowed way down and decided to change up the training program for the day. I felt frustrated having to give up on the plan I had set but it was necessary, very necessary.

For the rest of the session I worked on paddle switches then headed to the Strand Beach to work on starts. I had a bottle of water with Hammer hydration tablets waiting, which made the decision to give up in the intervals easier to swallow. I had fun working on a weakness (the paddle switches) and even more fun trying to get stronger at starts. By the end of the session I had: worked out how to hold the new 14' Starboard Allstar (dang I miss a 12-6!), where to place my hand on the paddle shaft during the run, and was able to land right on my feet when jumping into the deeper water. Fun stuff indeed, but it certainly wasn't intervals. I need to do intervals.

Intervals aren't the only problem…I'm having technological issues as well.

This past Saturday I tried to get out the GPS gear and see which paddle was best for a consistent pace. I have been going back and forth between an 8.5" blade and an 8" blade and have no idea what will work best. I also wanted to find my sweet-standing-spot on the new Starboard. Well, I couldn't see the numbers on my iPhone because my X-1 Audio case kept fogging up. I couldn't tape the case to the top of the bow because it was raining. I finally tied the case to the forward leash plug but had the fogging issue again and I kept almost falling as I was looking straight down and squinting the whole time. I tried wrapping the arm band around the bottom of my foot but there was the looking down squinting thing again. Then I wrapped the case around my thigh and I don't even want to begin to describe how stupid an idea this was…needless to say tech rehearsal did not go so well and I still have no idea which paddle is best. I am leaning towards the smaller blade due to the shoulder issues but I may have cut the shaft too short...

Tech issues were just the starting point of the weekend follies…

Today I had to veer off from my intended training program as well. Now that was really frustrating. Three frustrating workouts in a row can truly test one's patience.

I had plotted a 6.5 mile course that I would time at a moderate pace. My course was going to be 6.5 miles of side chop if I had stuck to it. I couldn't even put a dent in what I wanted to do today. The sun fooled me. The wind and the temperature were much meaner to the lack of neoprene worn today than expected. At least I had a leash on my ankle...

Despite some intense frustration and serious grinding of teeth, I did manage to sneak in one new technical aspect of paddling I learned from searching Youtube for paddling videos. Thanks to Carolina Paddleboard Company's Youtube channel, I was able to learn, from a talk Brian Szymanski gave at their shop, why the Starboard bow is shaped the way it is. I did not realize that the shape is intended to have moderate quartering chop roll under the board by putting more weight on the leeward rail. When done correctly, small waves roll under instead of wrapping over the nose. I had plenty of opportunity to work on this technique, which proved to be challenging yet very beneficial. I found paddling in side chop and applying this technique made for a much smoother paddle in some gusty winds and small waves. I was able to maintain a straighter line and feel much more comfortable as most ripples did go under the bow. Szymanski was speaking about the 2013 Allstar in the video but the weight on the leeward rail technique seemed to work well for me today on the 2014 Allstar, which has a much sharper nose. I did end up paddling pretty fast after falling in once (too much weight on the leeward rail) so I maybe I can count that as doing intervals today as well…

Here is the link to the talk at Carolina Paddleboard Company if you want some good insight into SUP design:

Back to technical issues…

I am so glad I put on all my gear before the morning of the Cold Stroke Classic. It took me a half hour to figure out how to put my hydration pack on without being all twisted and tangled in the straps and tubes. What a mess! They say never try anything new the day of a race but one should also try everything old well before a race to get used to the nuances of your bodies interaction with gear.

So…what does one take away from a few frustrating sessions on the water and in the kitchen with hydration packs? The old saying holds true: a bad day on the water is still a pretty dang good day.

I hate being frustrated because it certainly is a blessing to be able to get out on the water and go for a paddle. A poor performance might stir up a bit of anger but it should be fleeting. I may need another root canal from grinding my teeth so much this last week but that would be an expensive consequence for acting like a little sh!$burger. It's a paddle! It's a beautiful thing! I have plenty of gear to keep me comfortable when paddling in colder months so to go out in winter without enough neoprene is about as stupid as strapping a GPS to your thigh to read the numbers!!

I will chalk up the quick trip from "ahh, I'm paddling" to "GRRRR, I HATE THIS" to the winter doldrums and very cold toes. I will work on getting better at maintaining an even keel. This earth of ours can be a wonderful place thanks to all the beauty we, as paddlers, can see on her waterways. We are blessed to be able to grab our SUPs and hit the water and most of you do not need to be reminded of this. I am usually the grumpiest person on the water and I love being around all the positive people I have met on the paddling journey. Your smiles and attitudes remind me of why we do this, even when it hurts. And the hurt just makes me want to work harder, train harder, and live healthier.

I hope I wasn't too grumpy once I got off the water today. My lovely wife and my lovely mongrels certainly don't need to deal with that kind of nonsense! Can't wait for race season to get under way and be back among the brothers and sisters who love this amazing sport.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Little Bits of Goodness for the Winter

It seems the neighboring boatyard has installed a new wireless system that extends all the way to our temporary housing and we finally have some internet available to us. We have gone 4+ months without WiFi after our move to Maryland. In the technology based world we live in now WiFi is a must. One in need of a job cannot even walk into Barnes and Noble to fill out an application. All hiring is done through their online system. Wireless Internet has been the second most missed element of our lives, although someone else living here might claim it to be THE most missed. I find my heart yearns for one of the 8 cutting boards we still have in storage in Chicago.

Winter should be the "offseason" for paddlers according to every article written about training, or at least these cold months should be the time to take it easy and ease up on those muscles that were put to work throughout the race season. Personally, I wasn't feeling it. I felt good this fall and wanted to keep training but then I kooked out surfing my 12-6 in October and knocked some things out of whack in my right shoulder. Time off became mandatory and I took 6 full weeks off from the water. My doctor prescribed me a 15 day stint of Celebrex in December. (Isn't that arthritis medicine for old people????) The geriatric anti-inflammatories helped but the pain still comes around at the weirdest times…like when I plug in the power chord to this laptop I am currently typing on. That hurts. Putting on a compression shirt can ignite the pain. I held my hand out to stop my dog when playing on the beach and the pain when down the back of my arm to my elbow. I did not grab Eli; I karate-chopped the air to show him where to stop. That simple motion made my whole upper arm tingle. At least Eli stopped on command and sat down, which made the pain almost worthwhile!

Rather than go to Physical Therapy the doctor let me do my own. I found a great set of exercises online that are really helping. These exercises combined with the TRX movements geared toward strengthening the rotator cuff have been helping me get back out on the water nearly pain free. Paddling doesn't seem to hurt save for the occasional switching sides but I do not like a nagging anything so training sessions have been very boring and very low impact. I do highly recommend these exercises to anyone currently dealing with a nagging shoulder issue or to anyone wishing to take preventative steps as that "12 weeks to the Carolina Cup" is just a couple short weeks away. Here is the link to the exercises: Mind you, these steps are boring and at times frustrating but who wants shoulder pain?

Now that I am getting back on the water I feel my stroke is way off. I am not sore in any of the places that I should be. Time away from the water means a need to re-focus on proper technique. Here are links to Larry Cain's blog and his YouTube channel that provide some of the best coaching I have ever come across while scouring the internet for help. These drills will get your body inclined to the movements that will make you WANT to pull yourself past where you set your paddle. I spent a few minutes doing all of these drills in order and felt a difference when I went further out on the river to put in some mileage. And, I look forward to doing drills for a few more weeks. These definitely help! All the blog posts are excellent reading but my favorite with the drills is from July 20, 2013 titled "Some Useful Technique Drills for SUP":

Now to an issue that really hits close to home…bootie stink.

Back in 2003 I did an Outward Bound excursion in order to try to get my life together. At the end of the trip I had fallen in love with my hiking boots but soon found out that I probably wouldn't be able to keep them around due to the smell that had developed after 28 days in the woods. I thought that smell was bad but then I became a year-round paddler, who had to wear booties for 6 months out of the year, and only then discovered what a truly horrible smell could come from feet. My booties smell like tooth decay, as in the tooth decay that derives from serious neglect.  This kind of tooth decay makes one apologize to Dr. Heaton after his valiant attempt to save a tooth that eventually needs to be removed from the mouth. I'm talking some serious vibrations on the stink Richter Scale. But there is hope to reverse this adverse effect on the home life, especially when said home life is in very confined quarters…

After coming out of the woods I was headed to South Carolina to go visit my friend Daniel and his family. On the drive down, my hiking boots, double wrapped in Hefty garbage bags, stunk up my car. I didn't want to throw away my beloved foot protectors but I was also worried that Daniel would move me to a hotel if I brought my shoes anywhere near his property. I pulled over in a panic and found two bars of Dove soap leftover from a package I had purchased before leaving on my excursion. My green Dove soap smelled awesome so I stuffed them in the boots. Within an hour I no longer had to drive with all the windows down. Two days later I could take the boots out of the trash bags. This trick was not a temporary fix. I was able to use the boots for another year or two before the tread ripped off of one toe and they HAD to be thrown away. The 28 day smell went away completely thanks to the stuffing of soap down inside the boot.

The same holds true for DRY booties. Gracie and I drove to the beach and my booties had stunk up the back cab of my truck. Where we are living is pretty small so wetsuits and booties really do more damage than the two of us and two river-soaked mongrels. I can keep my booties inside the condo thanks to the green Dove soap stuffed inside the cavity of booties that are COMPLETELY DRY. Now, I can even pack my booties in the same bag as other wetsuit gear instead of tying a plastic grocery bag to one of the handles. {Although I almost 100% guarantee this to work I would never put booties in with a shirt I would wear after a paddle:)} If my booties can recover from use yours can too, but it may take a winter-long application. Try this and you will never forget to carry soap on a trip ever again…at least in winter months!

Winter is really getting on my nerves this year. I look forward to the Cold Stroke Classic for a well-needed SUP vacation. This year the whole family is headed to Wrightsville Beach so be on the lookout for Gracie and I getting pulled to and fro by the mongrels. Can't wait to see everybody down there in the balmy 50 and 60 degree weather!