Half a million strokes. Time to see the racing doctor.


Valentine’s day means a special treat. In our case it meant a trip to Reading, to Marsport who are specialists in racing canoeing. We spent a bit of time with Paul, who then sent us off to practice for a few hours.

You see I’ve been doing this canoeing thing for maybe 6 years now which is way long enough to have built up lots of learnings that won’t suit a ultra-marathon style paddle. What might work to get me down a few rapids or an afternoon along a bit of Lake Superior, isn’t going to be what ultra-marathon canoe race needs.

Half a million paddle strokes is what Paul said we were likely to be doing over the 4 days of the race. Put like that, getting each stroke to go gently on our bodies is as important preparation as time planning and distance training.

We started the morning on a canoe ergo. It’s a rowing machine for paddlers. We used to it look at technique – what we do wrong and what we do right. There’s a lot of arm positioning that contributes to the shoulder pain I get when working on the distances. As for Sarah she needs to remember to punch more (the water, not me).

We then moved to paddle circuits on the Thames outside the shop, with a light-weight carbon fibre paddle that’s more suitable than my lovely wooden paddles. Again we got feedback as we went around to try to move to a safer paddling style for long distances.

After an hour Paul felt we were ready to practice what we had learnt, and we borrowed a boat and headed up the Thames. There has been a lot of rain the night before and the Thames was rising, meaning we had a tough paddle up river. We made a good pace and Sarah reported that with the new paddle she needed to steer a lot less and could work less hard in the back.

I worked on my body rotation whilst sitting up (I’m used to kneeling) and trying to get my hands in the right places at the right times. The aches and pains afterwards suggested I’d not got it right. More practice needed. On the other-hand I now have a bargain cosmetic second carbon fibre paddle to train with.

Some stats:

  • 3 hours 15 mins paddle including a stop for lunch.
  • 11 miles.
  • Almost no arguments
  • 1 new paddle
  • 2 aching backs

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