“Why didn’t I remember to do that?
We’ve all had that feeling at some point, either before, during or after an event that seemed like you were perfectly prepared for before the starters gun sounded.
The feeling when you go,
“I wished I’d remembered to pop some salt tablets because my hands are cramping.”
“Why didn’t I know that this sun cream would sting my eyes when I started sweating profusely” or that,
“I wish I’d studied the map and local geography a little better when I was trying to work out which way I was supposed to be going.”
Let’s just say that I heard a few of these murmurings doing the rounds this past weekend following our annual major ocean racing event.
Maybe it was that people are a little rusty? No, most of the competitors have an addiction to the starters gun and line up to race twice a week here in the summer (I kid you not…).
The key difference is that you can get away with a lot of things in a race which lasts half an hour, but not so much when that race extends to two and a half hours for the first finishers to close to five hours for the back markers.
Oh boy, did Mother Nature show her hand and spank the bottoms of a few that failed to cover off some of the basics this past weekend.
In no particular order (and to assist others from suffering similar misfortune….) I thought it timely to compile a few of the ‘key learnings’ a few people will have taken away from this weekend.
ESTIMATE THE LONGEST TIME YOU MAY REALISTICALLY TAKE TO FINISH THE RACE AND PLAN YOUR NUTRITION AND HYDRATION TO THIS.
Better to finish with a little bit extra than to run out 90 minutes from the finish and have to be carted away from the finish area – that’s inferring that you actually made it to the finish.
TEST ALL YOUR GEAR – especially the stuff you will really rely on
-Does your pack fit and attach properly?
-Does the bladder hold enough liquid for your longest projected finishing time?
-Does the hose on your hydration bladder work (you would be surprised how many people that have suffered from a blocked hose).
Plan to finish as you started – with all your gear in working order and with a smile on your face
Leashes & leash strings
If it’s windy, it is likely that leashes will be mandatory. Be kind to yourself and make sure that both the leash string and the leash can stand up to the task you are asking it to, The ‘she’ll be right’ approach to brittle, sunburned and frayed ‘lifesavers’ is of little use once you find your board being flipped away from you in a 40knot squal.
Electrolytes and Carbohydrates
Don’t become the next victim of dehydration and glycogen depletion
For anything under 90 minutes and in a mild/temperate climate, if you start well fuelled and hydrated, you will most likely be able to wing your way through it for an hour and a half without taking on additional fluid or nutrition. As soon as you pass over the 90 minute mark, you better have a plan in place.
Your glycogen stores will have been depleted and you will have been losing fluid even if it’s cold.
There is a myriad of different resources available to help guide you to formulate a plan that will be suitable, but as a rule of thumb, after the first hour you need to take on a certain amount amount of fluid and carbohydrate for every hour that follows. There are simple formulas to assist you in working this out and you may like to add your nutrition to your fluid or keep them separate. It all comes down to the individual and it pays to test this well beforehand in training.
If you pay attention, you will hear a recurring theme amongst endurance athletes who ‘got their nutrition wrong’ and could not capitalize on putting together the performances that they are capable of or have trained to.
Salts are otherwise known as electrolytes. People will require different levels due to differing sweat rates. They become increasingly important when events get long and temperatures rise.
Some carbohydrate drink mixes include eletrolytes, you can take them separately, add them to your water, as tablets or as an additive in the likes of energy gels, however you take them it doesn’t matter, just make sure you do.
Your fingers, hands and toes will thank you for it when you are able to finish a marathon length event without feeling like a bent over Grinch who can’t let go of his shaft.
Study the course and the conditions
What may be calm at the start may not be for long. Know the weather forecast and plan your race to it.
One of the challenges of longer events or participating in an unfamiliar area is that you don’t know where you’re going (trust me, I’ve found this out the hard).
Once the heart starts racing, racing with your head and not your heart is not quite as easy as it sounds. All of a sudden the horizon looks different, the white house you thought you could see in the distance is unrecognizable when you try to glance up.
Safety briefings take place for a reason – be sure to not to miss your next one
Listen to the briefing, study the course map, understand the tides and currents for when you’ll be paddling. Know the weather forecast and how it will affect the progression of the race. It will avoid unnecessary stress when you’re head is not in a position to cope with the added pressure and you wished you’d taken a different line rather than battling 20knots from the side.
The forecast was for the wind to swing west and west it swung. Thankfully picking the right line meant that the time with 20knots from the side and an outgoing tide were minimized.
Clean your gear as part of your preparation.
When you clean your gear you find out exactly what kind of condition it is in. Sure, you might paddle a few times a week – but when was the last time you took a good look at the underside of your board?
You’ll notice if your fin screw is a bit loose, if there is a little ding you didn’t know you had. Likewise check your paddle. You wouldn’t be the first person to have a handle come loose, or to break a shaft and not be able to finish a race.
Most event organisers are insured and as part of their insurance, they have to submit safety plans stating that all participants will carry certain items of safety equipment. This has likely be done in conjunction with the local lifeguards, harbor master and/or Coast Guard.
Please have the respect for the people that potentially may have to rescue you as well as the organisers to carry the correct and appropriate equipment and know how to use it.
An out of date flare, a phone that was not fully charged or the zip lock bag that wasn’t quite as waterproof as you thought it was after you took your first dip are not going to be that beneficial should you need to make a call/cry for help!
There’s definitely more that could be added to this list, and every time you do an event you learn what you might do a little differently for the next one.
Just do yourself a favour and get the basics right. Some of the points above are basic and come back to planning and preparation.
You’ve put in hours of practice and training, you owe it to yourself to do so.
EDITOR’S NOTE: You an learn Annabel’s tips for success at the Carolina Cup! She’s giving an afternoon clinic on Thursday from 1pm-4pm: “Prepare for Success.” Learn more and register here. https://paddleguru.com/races/CarolinaCupNationalRace2015
Photo Credit: Scotty T Photography
Nutrition: Hammer Nutrition has a plethora of easy to follow guidelines on how best to plan your nutrition and hydration to meet your specific needs.