As I sit here in Hawaii getting ready for the Molokai2Oahu Paddleboard race in a couple of days I wanted to reflect back on some of the training I have done for the last couple of months to get prepared for this epic race.
The first thing I needed to do before anything was to commit to the race. Once the commitment was made there was no looking back. This would be the second time I would paddle my standup across the channel. In 2011 Bodie Shandro and I were the first Canadian standup paddleboarders to compete in this grueling, historical, open ocean race. We paddled a 14′ Bark Expedition(haha) and we made it across in 5:45. It was such an incredible experience and I vowed that next time I would cross the channel solo, and on the best board for the job, an unlimited 17′ SIC Bullet. The challenge of the open ocean and testing myself as a solo competitor was something I had looked forward to. It was also good to have that experience of crossing the channel under my belt.
After signing up the next thing I needed to do was to get on a real training program for the M2O. I have competed as a national level basketball player for years when I was younger so I knew the importance of a good training program that would give me the best chance to show up ready and to accomplish my goals. I decided to go to the best person I knew, my partner and future mom, Jen Segger. Jen owns the Squamish training facility ChallengebyChoice and has been training and programming for motivated athletes all around the world for years, her clients success rates speak for themselves. Jen is not only an incredible coach but she is one of the top endurance athletes in the world. Jen walks the walk and brings this vast athletic and training experience to all of those people she works with. Her programs are individualized and thoughtful with cutting edge training and nutrition benefits applied. Jen’s first two sup clients have been myself and Deep Cove charger Mike Darbyshire.
My 2 month training program consisted of 4 days of paddling, two days of cross training and 1 day of rest. What was great about the program was that it was flexible and blended well with my lifestyle. Out of the four paddling days, 2-3 of them ranged from 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours with mostly high intensity interval work, there was a big paddle one day a week lasting 4-5hrs. Most of my cross training were the 1 hour multi-functional strength and endurance C3 classes at ChallengebyChoice. A majority of those fell on our Monday night all men’s Boneyard class with coach JF Plouffe. The beer and wings afterwards with the boys did not fall into Jen’s program but I felt the hydration and protein boost was needed. I varied that with trail runs and mountain bikes. Squamish is an incredible place to train outside with easy access to all types of terrain and easy access to the ocean. I have a pretty good paddling base from the years of expedition paddles, racing and paddle surfing so the Jen’s program was a perfect addition and gave me a real plan and focus for my training. Nothing beats T.O.W. (Time on the Water), and in order to get ready for a race like this you have to be out on the ocean working hard in downwinders, headwinders and choppy, challenging conditions.
In the past couple of months and part of the Jen’s M20 program I have certainly put my time in on the water which has included long paddles and races. You also have to try to keep the training fun, I love paddling and I never really want my training to get to a point where I am bored or where I don’t feel like going out on the water. To accomplish this you can change your paddling location, find good training partners and set some fun goals, especially for the long paddles. Here are a list of paddles and races I have used in the last few months.
Round Bowen Island Race– 34k- This race was great for conditioning and pushing a race pace for hours at a time. It also gave me a chance to compete again other athletes to see where I was. It took me 3.5 hours to get around the island and I was pretty happy with my performance.
HorseshoeBay to Squamish– 40k. 4.40 hours. I have always wanted to paddle from Horseshoe Bay to Squamish and I got lucky with a really great downwind run as well.
Around Anvil Island to Squamish– 35k- 4:20 hours. The backside of Anvil Island in Howe Sound is really beautiful and worth checking out.
MEC Big Chop– 8km- 50 min. A great place to train in choppy conditions and there is nothing like training at race pace. Deep Cove’s Tuesday Night races are also a great weekly training venue.
Tofino Paddle Race– 11km 65 min A new distance course was added this year in Stu Robinson’s Surf SUP event. Open ocean racing with challenging dynamic conditions.
Cheakamus River/Squamish River Descent– 3.5 hours: This was a super fun challenging paddle at really high water with a competent local crew.
Quiksilver Week/Tofino– Of course I had to throw in some paddle surfing with the Quiksilver crew in Tofino. Getting across Molokai is all about riding the bumps and understanding how to move effeciently in the ocean. The more time you can spend learning how to surf, the better.
So those were a few of the more interesting and varied training days with the rest of the time spent locally on Howe Sound. I jumped at any opportunity to go downwinding. Although it’s impossible to mimic the conditions I would find in Hawaii any time spent surfing, learning about the ocean, paddling against currents and wind and developing waterman knowledge gained only by T.O.W was good time spent. Racing also let me know where my training was at and gave me the chance to compete at race pace and really push my body. Putting in big challenging days not only hones the body but more importantly develops the mental toughness you need to do battle against/with the channel. A strong mind will pull the body to places it sometimes does not want to go.
Equipment: Here is the equipment I have been using to get ready for M2O
Paddles: I recently switched to a Kialoa’s Hulu Ultralight, Dave’s new race paddle. In the past I was using a 100sq inch paddle and the Hulu has 104sq inches. My body really felt the change and it’s been a few weeks of training with it to get my body accustumed to it. As soon as I got to Hawaii I did a Hawaii Kai run which took 1:15 and the paddle felt really good. The longer aspect blade worked really well in the swells and seemed to match up perfectly with the Bullet. Generally you can go with a little bit longer paddle for the DW’s but I am happy with how the paddle felt. I have brought my Shaka Puu for a back up, 2 paddles are essential for obvious reasons. The Shaka is one of the best all around paddles out there. I can also switch to this paddle as I fatigue since the blade face is a little smaller.
Boards: The first thing I did once I registered was buy a 14′ SIC Bullet. Although I paddle for Boardworks Surf and am loyal to them they do not carry a 14′ or unlimited DW board. The 14′ I purchased from Lance McClure, a training buddy and owner of Galileo Coffee in Britannia, was built in the tough wood construction and with its base construction, a little heavier which was good. It became the perfect training tool and pushing this board around in the flats increased my power and gave me a feel for its design, tendencies and sweet spots. In a downwind situation the boards is magic. These boards, designed my Mark Raaphorst in Maui, are the boards of choice in DW conditions. They just take off on waves. I did not purchase mine with the steering system as I thought it was a little too much for our local conditions and I wanted to keep things simple and the deck clear. However, I did call my buddy Scott McPhail in Honolulu and he lined me up with his buddies 17′ Unlimited Bullet with the assisted steering system. I ended up purchasing this board as well since it’s really tough to demo/rent a board and most people are unlikely to let you take their 2500 board across the channel on a support boat and then paddle it back. Regardless, after my first Hawaii Kai run it was like I was on a rocket ship and I was really stoked to have this board. I thought about selling it right after the race but I seem to be having trouble thinking about parting with it already. All of the training I had done on the 14′ transferred really well to the 17′ so I was happy about that.
I won’t get into too much more in terms of the equipment and I can leave the nutrition and other race details for another day.
The absolute best training is heading over to Hawaii early to train in the conditions and race the numerous downwinders like the Maliko run or the Maui2Molokai race, on the board your going to use. Molokai2Oahu starts with a dream, the commitment and plan to accomplish your goals. I feel ready now thanks to ChallengebyChoice and my own commitment to the plan.
A really big thanks to everyone who has support me in this race and to support from Meg, Dave and Andrea Dillon at Kialoa Paddles, Boardworks Surf, Dario Phillips at Quiksilver, Lance and Kara at Galileo Coffee and Kevin Obrien at Kalavida Surf Shop. A really big Mahalo to Scott “Wheels” McPhail here in Honolulu for the accommodations, transportation, race knowledge and nutrition, surf sessions, DWers’ and a great outlook on life. Thanks to Jen for the program, shuttles for training and all her love and encouragement. Sorry you and the baby could not be here.
We were on China Wall today looking at the finish through the maze of breaking waves, I looked outside to the channel and it was firing. My heart started to race and I gave thanks for the opportunity.