I'm currently training to compete in my longest solo kayaking race yet. I'm working towards paddling all 40 miles (64.4 kilometers) of the Ben Ward race by myself on the Murray River in December. Given that most my races have been under 20 kilometers I'm having to train to not only do the distance but to spend around 6 hours in a kayak. I have previously done individual legs of the race solo and in a double, as a relay in a touring kayak, so it's not a completely brand new experience, I know what I'm in for... kind of.
So how am I going from an 1 or 2 hours of paddling to 6 hours or so of paddling? My approach has been about goal setting and upping the goals each and every week. This is something that can be applied to other sports. If you were thinking of attending 2 boxing classes back to back (or something similar) but just haven't been able to, you might find my approach useful.
It starts with the kayak, I was originally planning to do it in a touring kayak, however I've been training in a Rebel 46 (K1) with no issues, and with each training session I'm thinking I'll race in a Rebel 46. I'm also reconsidering whether or not I'll need to take the rest stops at the transitions or whether I should grab a bag of supplies like the cyclists do as I paddle through.
My first training session was about working out what my stroke rate and speed was for 1 hour of paddling (with and against the current). This set the base for the following training sessions.
The following week I went out to paddle for 2 hours (with and against the current), tracking my stroke rate and speed. Aiming to keep my average moving speed and stroke rate in line with my 1 hour time. I was alittle slower but not by much.
The next week I went out for a 3 hour paddle, (with and against the current), tracking my stroke rate and speed. Aiming to keep my average moving speed and stroke rate close to my 1 hour results but I wasn't too fussed if it was lower as my main focus was time in the kayak. On this training session I lost my drink bottle in the kayak. Paddling for 3 hours without drinking was not what I set out to do, but it was a little bit of an achievement.
Week 4, I got up early and was on the water at around 7:30am I set out to do 2 hours of paddling, have a break, and then paddle an additional 2 hours. I had two bananas with me, one for the break and one for when I finished. This time I didn't loose my drink bottle. I was keeping track of my heart rate and was happy if my Garmin was saying I was around 150bpm. The river was full and I was able to go further than normal up stream, so I took advantage of the unique opportunity, I had clocked up 2 and half hours before I stopped to have a banana, but unlike my plans I stayed in the kayak and kept paddling. When I finished the 4 hours of training I had paddled the furthest I've ever paddled solo, for the longest time I've ever paddled. I was a little sore but that feeling of achieving something new... wow! I was a bit slower than my average moving speed and stroke rate in line with my 1 hour time but that wasn't my goal for this training session. It was about doing 2 hours on, have a break, and then do another 2 hours keeping my heart rate at around 150bmp, and I exceeded this.
Now heading into week 5 my key focus has changed, now that I know I'm on track to paddling 6 hours comfortably I'm wanting to focus on my technique and have booked in a training session to focus on technique with a coach.I'm also looking at how to handle recovery as I've noticed I get what I refer to as "expressive resting bitch face" which is where after putting in so much effort I just want to be left alone to recover and not talk to people. Turns out after talking to some experts it's my nervous system switching from fight or flight mode into a more relaxed state. The upside is that there are techniques that I can use to help this.
In a month I've gone from a 1 hour kayaking training session to now clocking up some serious hours and kilometers. The key takeaway is not to be hard on yourself about the small things and to keep the goals simple. You can't expect to run 10km at the same pace you run 100m in, and the same that you can't expect to put in the same amount of energy in 2 back to back 1 hour boxing classes as a 45min HIIT class. Especially at the very start. However you will never have the opportunity to try if you don't take the first step.