The day I thought I would go in a race

By Jim on Thursday, October 27, 2011

I had been out of training consistently for nearly a decade, and had lost my desire to race or train. Although I'm not a person who puts on lots of weight, I had become very unfit.

It was not until I was on a flight in early July to Europe as the Australian U/23 Kayak Team Head Coach, did I have a fat attack, I sat on the plane and bent down to get something and for the first time in my life I had fat roles hanging over my pants.

It was then I had a real hard look at myself and what I had been doing, not much.  With a 5 week trip overseas away from my wife and kids I had the time to structure some consistent training. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to commit again, as it had been so long.  So I worked out a plan and set some goals,I had to start at the bottom, I wanted to be fit again.
I was off the plane and bus no more then 30 mins after a 29 hour journey from Australia to Slovakia, I was into to it.
The funniest thing was I thought like everyone I could just get straight into a hard session, I was jogging, 2 mins later I was walking and my goals were readjusted very quickly.

I was on a team with Tim Jacobs (one of the world’s best ocean ski paddlers) and Rob Jenkinson ( New Zealand Olympic Kayaker). Rob still paddles everyday and both are very fit, so I went nowhere near them when training.

Whilst in Slovakia I just walked every day, increasing distance and time, every now and then throwing in a short jog, a very short jog.

I then moved to Italy for two and half weeks where I upgraded my training, bike riding and running and lots of walking.
Near the end of my time in Italy I started to jog with Rob, both with a competitive streak the pace came up very quickly, I could feel myself getting fitter.

It wasn't until the last week of the tour did I involve Tim Jacobs into any sessions, any earlier I would have been kidding myself. Both Tim and Rob were great to be around, they helped me get fit very quickly and taught me that you don't have to do everything at Olympic pace when you train.

The arrival home was my biggest fear, as I was back to family life, time now was very precious. Especially when you have been away for 5 and half weeks, time to catch up with the kids.

I had taken on a new coaching role with some young kids, as I watched them paddle from the boat, I could see things with their paddling that they couldn't see or understand. They just couldn't understand what I was talking about, so I got in the kayak to show them.

I then paddled more and more. I started off very slow and found that those I paddled with were too fast, I doubted whether I could get back to being close enough to paddle within ear shot of them.  I am very competitive and with that I set some goals and stuck true to working on my technique, this over time saw me catch up.

I have since spent weekends going out on my Think UNO Max ocean ski and catching runners, and I love it.

With that came my training partner Will Hardman talking me into doing my first ocean ski race that I have trained for.
My goal was to finish in the top 20 at the Bondi to Watsons Bay race that was on this past Saturday. Since I decided I was going in this race, I have kept my intentions close to my chest, as I didn’t want to put undue pressure on myself (of course I will ), I have kept an eye on who is doing what and was truly unsure how I would go.

What I have learnt is that nothing changes no matter where you are in your life.

You must stay healthy, fit and always have goals.

I'm not ashamed to say I want to come in the top 20, but I'm no different to you, I want to be better than that, I want to enjoy the experience of racing for the first time as a person who no matter what the conditions I can not cross the finish line first. I still can be a winner though, I have never before trained for something that didn't allow me to be the very best I can be in a race.

I have worked very hard at a few sessions a week, nothing will ever replace my time I spend with my kids. I also still believe that I am better person within myself for being fit and healthy again and the most pleasing thing is I am also mentally healthy with having a purpose. So as the week draws closer I will be looking at the charts to work on a race plan, I will freshen up my training, I will hydrate myself in the 48hrs leading up to the race and I will also sleep less every night as the butterflies build leading into the race.

I will now leave this part of my thoughts on the race to put my entry in.

My next update will be after the race, so I wish myself good luck,enjoy myself and most importantly race to the best of my ability.

The day before the race I had decided on what boat I was using, boat of choice was a carbon Think UNO due the conditions being so flat, I would have normally used the Think UNO Max, as I love that ski in the runners.
I like to leave no stone unturned and set about waxing the boat bottom of the ski, who knows if it works or not. I set my watch in place, taped my watch in place and felt my equipment was all set. I don't like to do all those things on the morning of the race as I know I will forget something then that leads to losing nervous energy. I love that last look over the ski and thinking this is going to be the best I can be and my equipment is in ship shape condition.

The morning of the race is always one that throws up some funny thinking, how will I go, will get on the wash of this person, how hard will I go at the start and when will I make my move. All this was done whilst reading the paper and eating cereal. I can tell you one thing for sure I was only looking at the paper not taking anything in as I was starting to get the race butterflies.

I made my way to the race an hour and a half early, registered and talked to friends, all the time looking out at the conditions to see what was happening with the wind and swell.

When I got on the water I went straight to the start line to see what was the best end to be at when the gun goes, with the line spanning over 250m or so it is very important to be in the right spot, I choose to be on the sea side of the buoys as this was my straightest line to the coarse I was taking.

As I went about going over warm up I went in the direction of the race to test the conditions, found what the swell was like, how strong was the rebound from the high cliffs and just getting a general feel for the water so I would not be put off when the gun goes.

As I went to the start line I set my GPS so I could monitor the speed I was paddling at, this way I can tell if I had fallen asleep in the middle part of the race as I was on top of what speed I had been training at, so if I was going slower than my training pace, I was not paddling to my ability, we often paddle slower in a race than training due to nerves.

When I arrived at the start line my warm up was complete like the way I train. I never warm up at training then get off the water for 20 minutes, so I don't understand why people do that on race day.

The start was as fast as I thought it would have been, I handled it well and pressed on.  3kms into the race, I felt like I had been hit by a sledgehammer due to the fact I haven't been in a race for over a decade. The only thing I wish I could have changed would have been that I'd been in a few more races (if that was the case I wouldn't be writing this).

I like everyone had a few people I wanted to beat in my pre race goals, 3kms into the race I was neck and neck with one of those paddlers, it's here where you need to work out and have a keen eye at training to work out where you may be able to find their weakness. I was lucky on this day because I knew where the waves would break in different spots and worked very hard into one of these spots and got a wave/runner to pull away.
I had been training in the flat and the last 3kms was in the Harbour and not a ripple, so I paddled stronger here than any another part.

With a strong paddle to the line I stood up and went through the arch to finish my Ocean ski race.

I could not have done any more to be the best I could be on the day, I prepared to the best of my ability, my Think UNO was in the best shape it could be and my heart was in it.

I am pleased with the way I paddled.

Will I return to race? I'm not sure but I enjoyed my time.

Well done to all who do this week in week out, I love your courage to be the best you can be every week, every race and year in year out.

See you on the water shortly.