Race Season is Pretty Much Over…NOW WHAT??

Featured photo by Shawna Herring Photography

With Chattajack and Surf to Sound in the books, the race season here on the East Coast is pretty much wrapped up. Now is a great time to take a deep breath, a little bit of a break, and start to plan out your next year. I break my paddling year into three Phases: Off Season, Pre-Season, and In-Season. More or less, my year looks like this:

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This is the first of a three part series talking about each of the three “seasons.”

Part 1- The Off-Season or…Oh Hell Yes I Am Having Some Pumpkin Pie!


It is very important as athletes that we have an off-season, no matter at what level you are paddling at. It is important to give your body and your mind a break. Endless training to maintain a “peak” indefinitely are sure fire recipes for grey-zone training and injury. Take a complete break for a week or two. Go surf, mountain bike, walk your dog more…whatever. With that said, the Off-Season is not the “Do-Nothing Season.” On the contrary, the Off-Season is the time to prepare your body for next year.


Off season training should be built around aerobic base building; longer, less intense paddles. Why is an aerobic base so important? I am glad you asked. For races of 3 miles and up, the race itself is nearly all aerobic. Even in a 3 mile race, about 85% of the energy your body will burn will be burned through aerobic processes. Only 15% of the energy you burn, give or take, will actually come from anaerobic processes and that is probably at the start.

Aerobic training offers many benefits along this line, such as increasing the number of capillaries, the smallest of blood vessels which go through your muscles and directly deliver oxygen to your muscles for energy production, in your working muscles; and increasing the number and size of mitochondria, the aerobic power plants of the muscle, within your working muscles.. On top of that, building a strong aerobic base will allow you to get more out of your harder workouts you will be doing later with less risk of injury. The better the base you get in, the stronger your muscles, bones, and connective tissue will be, increasing your body’s ability to handle the punishment of hard workouts as well as its ability to avoid injury. Additionally, your body will be working from a higher level of fitness, allowing it to work harder, get more improvement from each workout, and recover more quickly and completely between workouts which means you can get in more workouts.

Around those base building workouts you should also incorporate strength training and some interval work. The weather here on the east coast gets pretty iffy for paddling from now until March. Here in Virginia Beach we can pretty much paddle year round, but that doesn’t mean we can paddle every day. I plan my week around the weather forecast so I don’t miss my water time, and I do Cross-Fit on days when I can’t get on the water. If the weather sucks and I don’t get in the Tuesday or Thursday paddle, it’s not the end of the word, but I make sure I ALWAYS get one long paddle in a week. In an ideal Off-Season week, this is my workout load:

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Nutrition is just as important, if not more so then Training in the Off-Season. It is difficult to maintain good nutrition in an Off-Season that is right smack in the middle of Inner-Fat-Kid-Fest, AKA the holidays. I love the holidays, it is my favorite time of year after Race Season. My Inner-Fat-Kid rejoices and if I don’t keep him in check, he will torpedo my season in a span of about two weeks. But I also think we should enjoy the holidays and all the empty-carb and high sugar goodness that come with it. The key for me is to stay disciplined. I plan my cheat days far out so I have something to work for.

If you eat whatever you want on Thanksgiving DAY, Christmas DAY, and New Years DAY…AND stay disciplined on ALL days that those are not, you will be just fine. You aren’t going to tube your year from three cheat days. You most definitely will put yourself behind the Pre-Season curve if you go on a 2 month processed-food bender. Don’t get me wrong, it is tough. Everywhere you turn it is bowl of candy this and pumpkin-spice that. Stay disciplined, stay on your diet, and enjoy your cheat days.


Now is a great time to look ahead at what your race schedule might be for 2015. What races did you do that you definitely want to do again next year? What was that big race in April in Wrightsville Beach that all the Pros and SUP companies come out for? What is a bucket list race that you want to plan now for? What was that really cool race that everyone was talking about and training for in Tennessee that you want to be a part of next year? Now is a great time to look ahead and start to plan. You should pick no more than 3 races that you truly want to “peak” for in 2015. Pick a bunch of other races you want to do, but identify the races that you want to design your training around. More on this in Part 2 of this series.

So take a break, work on your aerobic base, set your cheat days and be disciple in your diet…and be THANKFUL you are part of such a great sport filled with such awesome people. I am, every day.


Steve Dullack is a team rider for King’s Paddlesports, the owner of The Virginia Beach Paddleboard Company, and a life-long mullet head.


  1. Hey!! Great article thanks for writing. It’s been a long time since I used a HR monitor so I’m hoping you can tell me more about the ‘HR Zones’ you’re talking about!
    I have a Garmin right now, watch style GPS, but not sure it has the HR function. I had a Polar for when I race mtn bikes, but know I need to get a new one.

    I also like you comment about picking a few races and setting up for peaking and some goal races.

    Can’t wait to read more!