Kayaking for Beginners: Progress, Such as It Is

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The adventure continues.

Progress, Such as It Is

A white kayak.

My little accident with a twig while gardening, which I had initially shrugged off as being of little importance, suddenly blew up to ridiculous proportions. I had carried on with the sessions and at first it seemed not to be causing any problems except for a dull ache in the palm of my hand. But after a few days something had evidentially become infected and the whole of my hand ballooned up to the point where I couldn't see my knuckles through the swelling and was unable to grip anything as my hand resembled a stiff, sore claw. In fact I was unable to grip the paddle securely and barely able to drive the car, so that took out any possibility of sessions on the water for the time being.

By this time I began to think that maybe antibiotics might be a good idea and tried to arrange a doctor's appointment, but they were unable to see me for almost a week. During that time I carried on rather half-heartedly with whatever exercises I could manage, mostly involving stretching and sit-ups to keep working on my core fitness, but anything that required pressure on the hand, like press-ups, were a big no-no. Meanwhile I carried on with pain killers until the day of the appointment by which time the swelling had reduced and the problem was evidently clearing up of its own accord. Eventually, last week I was able to make a return to the water but only to see how well the hand would stand up to further maltreatment.

I launched from the usual place and paddled gingerly about a half-mile and then, not wishing to push my luck any further than necessary, returned and called it a day. That little trip didn't seem to have resulted in any further damage and my hand seemed to be getting more or less back to normal with only minimal swelling. I left it a few more days anyway to be on the safe side before venturing out again, but that one moment of carelessness in the garden has now set me back almost two weeks and cost at least three training sessions, so now I have even more catching up to do.

At the start of September we are experiencing some rather pleasant weather. It's warm and calm and there is promise of more to come throughout the month. So I'm hoping to play catch-up and recoup some of the lost time as long as the weather holds good. With that in mind I intended to at least extend the distance and/or the speed of the next outing. Normally the distance involved is about two and a half miles and the time taken to cover it including stops, about 50 minutes, which works out overall to approximately two miles-per-hour. That is dreadfully slow and nowhere near the speed needed for the race, even though it is contrived to be slow and just to practice the paddling technique.

The next session on return to the water went okay initially, after I'd picked my way around the anglers who had ensconced themselves around the boathouse's landing stage that I normally use. That's another minor hazard I haven't previously encountered, and since their lines were taking up two thirds of the water's width it necessitated me taking to the opposite bank to get around them. Having cleared them with the minimum fuss I could manage, I cruised down the first half of the course in under twenty minutes which I thought was quite good. I quit the rest period that I would have usually taken and turned to head back up the course. I soon found that due to the enforced lay-off I had lost much of the hard earned 'form' that I'd built up, and staggered through the last part with all the usual problems, including not being able to keep my upper body upright. So much then for the core exercises.

There were times during the outward leg that things came together for short periods, when half a dozen consecutive strokes would actually produce a bow wave and the boat felt as if it was lifting, which is not something that I usually experience. This doesn't last very long and has to be savoured when it happens, but when the paddling gets out of sync there is also a definite downward 'sinking' feeling of the boat.

Really I think I’m going to have to put a greater emphasis on speed and duration and just hope that the technique falls into place as a result. Also I need to increase the number of outings per week if I’m going to get anywhere at all. Everything is telling me that that’s not really the way to go and I should concentrate on technique to get that nailed first, but with just seven months to go I don’t think I’ve got the time to mess about any longer.

On a more pleasant note, at the finish of the last session when I was loading the boat back on the car, one of the many runners that also use the towpath stopped to chat. It turned out that he is a member of one of the major canoe clubs on the Thames who at one time used to also compete against the cross-country club of which I was a member in the dim and distant past. In fact we found that we had run in one or two of the same races and had common acquaintances between the clubs.

It's a small world.

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