Race planning part 2: Can we make the critical checkpoints in time?


Beyond the journey plan, we wanted to take a closer look at our timings to find out how realistic they were. There’s two reasons for this.

There are 3 critical checkpoints that if we don’t make we don’t get to continue the race. Also our food and clothes change stops rely on us running to the clock. if we deviate too much we’ll need to adjust what we do where to be sure we don’t get unexpectedly cold and exhausted.

Turns out that it’s much harder to hit this first checkpoint than we expected. Based on our current timings we won’t make it in time. This is bad news. Let me tell you how we worked it out and what we are going to do about it

How fast do we paddle?

Using a GPS device has been a revelation. I bought it so I could avoid getting lost once we are in the race – turns out it’s much more useful.Whilst paddling I can get live feedback on the speed we are going, when I get back home I can look at the same data in larger chunks – to see our average speed for different sections of a trip.

This has allowed me to work out what speeds we do with different conditions and with different paddles and postures. Such as paddling the broads against the tide and on flat water and returning to wooden paddles.

How fast is the water?

From our training we’ve got an idea of how fast we can go. We are paddling on a fast flowing river for big sections of the race – so we can add that together. But how fast?

We got some potential river speeds from a number of sources. I found some on-line and I used previous racer times to verify those – subtracting time on the lake from the other sections.

We can see that the river starts slow before the lake, and afterwards speeds on up quite a bit. We used two different river speeds in the model.

Pulling it together – and getting the bad news

race time map Once we had the river speed, our paddling speeds, I could combine it all. ‘Course, I have no data for what we’ll do in a sustained race, so I did some modelling to see what the window of success looks like.

The data suggested that we weren’t far off but at our current speeds (3.5 flat, 3.0 against wind) we’d miss the first check-point. We can see that on the run up to the lake we’d need to paddle a solid 4 mph, and on the lake make 3.3 mph no matter the conditions.

We suspect that our beloved PakBoat has a top speed much lower than the 18 ft racing canoe we are going to be in. We’ve asked around and people agree that we should be able to get it up to 4-5 mph easy. Though the lovely Song Of The Paddle and canoeing networks, we’ve found someone local who has a 18ft Jensen. Next week we can give it a go and see what speeds we can hit!


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