Adventure race training: the countdown is on

By Amy Russell 8 November 2013
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Team Australian Geographic Adventure are armed and ready (almost) for their first adventure race.

“EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL about it. Ladies of the Press are goin’ to win and there’s no doubt about it!” Ok, so we may not actually win the first event in the Paddy Pallin Adventure Race Series, but our weekly training sessions with Northbridge Kayaks will hopefully prevent us from coming last!

We arrived bright and early (a first for us) this morning for our kayak training with First Reserve Mike Rossi, AG’s art director, in tow. The sun was rising, the birds were chirping and we were feeling good – there’s nothing like being on the water first thing in the morning to set the pace for the rest of your day. Ah, the serenity.

After discovering the disastrous consequences of adding a new member to the boat, Mike jumped aboard his own kayak and the girls and I pushed off in The Ferry (our quad kayak), following the lead of our instructors Megan and a new face – Jimmy. We completed a few ‘paddle outs’ to different points in the bay then came into the beach for a quick rest with the rest of the group.

We were stretching our fatigued muscles and keenly listening to Megan’s next instructions when I noticed an odd shape appear on the horizon. I squinted into the blinding sun to discern what was approaching – it wasn’t a boat, nor was it a rower or another paddler; it looked as if someone was walking on the water towards us – Jesus?

I shut my eyes and took a deep breath, was I hallucinating? I promised myself next week I’d have breakfast before the session. When I opened my eyes again, there was Coach Ben making an impressive entrance to the session atop a stand-up paddle board. Good to see I wasn’t going crazy. Ben works as a firefighter by day (and night), so occasionally misses our sessions. This morning he made the quick dash from the station to check on our progress and as usual he had loads of useful pointers.

As we continued doing laps of the bay Ben noticed we were bending our arms when punching forward. “It’s best to keep them straight,” he instructed. “If your arms are bent as you punch forward you’re using your biceps and triceps. This may feel easier at first, but because they’re small muscles they’ll tire quickly. So keep your arms straight and use your torso and core to paddle forward.”

He also suggested we focus our gaze to where we wanted to go. “You need to stare down the nose of the boat like the barrel of the gun. If you pick a point in the distance, keep your head up and aim for this spot, it will keep you in line and prevent you from zig-zagging all over the place.”

I found Ben’s next piece of advice extremely comforting as I feel it may apply to me on race day: “Compete at the pace of your weakest teammate.” “If you push them to their absolute limit and they burn out, this will slow you down. If you compete at a steady pace that they can maintain, you’ll be much better off in the long run as they’ll be able to go for far longer.”

And, if one of us gets sick or is absolutely spent, Ben offered us a quick-fix strategy. “Let them paddle 30 seconds on then 30 seconds off while the other two continue to paddle at a steady pace. This will let them recover and you won’t lose too much time.”

With advice as good as this, I reckon Team Australian Geographic Adventure have a good chance of making headway on race day. Now, if only we could have Coach Ben alongside us on the day, encouraging us on.  I wonder how he feels about donning a wig and joining the team?

Session Summary
Josie: “Two weeks out and feeling race ready!”
Jo: “Practise makes perfect”
Amy: “All hail our messiah – Coach Ben!”

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