Inland Paddler

Whenever things seem overwhelming and insurmountable, I watch this video:

Chattajack 2014 from Charles Coleman on Vimeo.

It captures the feeling and spirit of my first Chattajack 31 race perfectly, and even though you can only see my back side for just a split second in the footage, I am always reminded of what it was like to be a part of what some call the inland Molokai to Oahu race. Yeah, I did that. I trained hard. I overcame a pre-race injury, I made the 10-mile cut off with time to spare and I never once even thought of quitting. And it was probably one of the best experiences of my life.


After the race, many people asked if I’d do it again. Heck yeah! There was no doubt I’d be signing up for the 2015 Chattajack. So, I did, almost as soon as the race registration opened. Without hesitation. And I am just as excited about it now as I was a year ago.

But some things have changed.

All of the sudden, or so it seems, I’ve gone from scared, doubtful newbie to “race veteran.” I look at the posts on the 100/100 and Back of the Pack Facebook groups, and I remember what it was like to obsess over things like Cubic Feet Per Second river flow rates, what and how much food to carry and how to carry it, and of course, what to do when nature calls and you need a bio-break on board. I have answers to those questions now, and can provide calming reassurance that if I can do it, so anyone as long as you train. And train smart.

Last year, I followed the Riding Bumps (use coupon code: THEMULLET for 10% off)  training plan and was so pleased with how it worked for me. Intervals really are the key, not necessarily obsessing about whether you can do the mileage. I only did one 25-plus mile paddle prior to Chattajack – and it was more about accomplishing a local objective and less about being able to do the race down the Tennessee River. I won’t deny that it did give me confidence in knowing I could do the distance but this year, I won’t necessarily need that.

As long as I follow the plan.

Plan your paddle, paddle your plan.

Last year, I was religious about the three paddle days per week outlined by Roch Frey and Paul Huddle in their plan. Tuesday was interval day, Thursday technique day and Saturday was long paddle day. Of course I had to switch the days around occasionally to accommodate the irritating interruptions to training, like work and adult responsibilities, but three paddle days always got done each week. Where I backslid was on the strength training and cross training days. I wasn’t as diligent about the weights, but I did at least one session a week, and lots of yoga and climbing. But it was aerobic cross training that I downright blew off. I can’t say how much of a difference that made in my race. I’ll never know if my time would have been better or if it would have stopped me from lusting after Julia’s sausage thingies at the “picnic lunch” break I took with her.

Chattajacked Up Again

Cross Training has its place

Let’s face it….we do races like Chattajack or the Carolina Cup or whatever because we love to paddle. Why do anything else? Well, cross training has its place. And at the very least, it can help us avoid a race-killing injury. This year, I want to improve my performance and I am paddling a bigger board. I need the strength and endurance for that, so I have committed to being just as committed to the strength days and cross training sessions as I am the paddle days. That means running, or cycling, or swimming. I have already forced myself to do two trail running sessions. I did not like them. At all. I am not, nor will I ever be a runner. But I am proud of myself for doing them.

Data and gear geek

This year, I am also training with an NK Speedcoach device. Why, when I already have two Garmins and a Suunto, plus multiple apps on my phone that can beep and otherwise startle me when doing intervals and trying to train in heart rate zones? The easy answer to that is that I am a gear geek. And a slave to the data. And the data the Speedcoach can give me no other device can. Stroke per minute, glide and total strokes per session. My cycling improved dramatically when I started paying attention to cadence, and stroke per minute is the paddler’s cadence. I expect when I start paying attention to these numbers, my paddling will go the way of my cycling. I have already learned a lot – especially about how glide becomes more important when you paddle a longer board, and to sustain glide, it takes a lower SPM rate. Go figure. Thank you Larry Cain, and well, um, physics.

Also, the Speedcoach gives me real time data without me having to look at my watch or phone, and when I need it, not just at annoying intervals like an app does. I can look down at my deck and see if my heart rate is too high or too low, or if my SPM rate is off and make adjustments accordingly. Training in the right zone is key, key, key, to not overtraining. Last year, I did not pay attention to the zones and guess what? I almost sat out the CJ because of an overuse injury.

Why we do it

So, I am armed with more information and I am starting this year’s training more relaxed and more confident that last year. Sure, I expect all of that to go straight down the drain the closer we get to Race Day, and I am sure there will be at least a few Chattjacked up freak out panic moments, but that’s what makes it fun, and an adventure, right? And why do we do this if not for that?


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