Race season is starting to approach here in the islands pretty quick, with the Olukai less than a month away and a fun race, Maui to Molokai April 24th. So here’s a couple of my recommendations for the up coming season.
First go back and read my breathing article. That would be the easiest way to drastically effect your performance.
Next, hydrate. Even during training, hydration is key. There’s no point in going really hard for 75% of your workout then dying the last quarter because you’re too thirsty to exert yourself. I generally do about one 16oz. bottle per hour, depending on heat, exertion,etc. Obviously that can very from person to person. There’s an article that includes a way to calculate how much water you need on Ke Nalu, but you can go from your own experience. A lot of people like to use camel back style hydration bags, which have a lot of merit because of their convenience, but I prefer cycling style water bottles. There’s two reasons I prefer this style. For one, I know how much liquid I have left at any given time and two, I can squeeze the bottle and launch a bunch of liquid into my mouth quickly without impeding my breathing. There’s nothing I hate more than going to suck on a camel back and running out. I instantly go to a visual of being in the Sahara and thirsty with no canteen. Unfortunately, grabbing a bottle and drinking from it and putting it back in the holder can be a bit tricky while you’re on a glide and trying to concentrate, but it works for me. Experiment with both and see what you prefer.
Next is food. The choices are endless when it comes to ways of getting calories, Gu’s, blocks, energy bars, candy bars, etc. I would stay away from the real sugary stuff until the very end if possible. I tend to favor the gu’s because of their ease of consumption and digestion. Again trying to eat on the run can get complicated if your trying to paddle or glide and eat at the same time, that’s why I prefer something you can just throw in your mouth easily.
Pacing tactics are also complicated and numerous so I’ll just give you my basic theory that generally works for me. Assuming the race is at least 10 miles, I go about 90 to 95% for maybe a minute or two off the start line, just to take the edge off my nervous energy. Then I’ll try to settle into a comfortable pace pretty quick and try and find a rhythm. For downwinders rhythm is everything. You’re better off going slower at first to find that rhythm because that is the only way you’ll ever truly fly. If you try to force it most of the time you end up expending a lot of energy and still go no faster because of it. If you do find that rhythm work it. Work it, and don’t start thinking, just work it, breathe and make it last as long as possible. You will lose it eventually but that’s natural, just start the process over again. I generally try not to exert myself past 90% at any given time so that I’ve got gas in the tank for the end, just in case I’ve got to duel with someone, or to finish really strong. Think of those 100% hits now and then as a match book. Everytime you go to that 100% level you tear a match out of the book and there are only so many matches to pull before your book is empty.
I used to be very skeptical of music during my workouts until one day, just to appease my wife, I tried it. Now I find it so beneficial that I almost can’t paddle without it. The music occupies my conscious mind so that my subconscious can go to work. With downwinds you are trying to process so much information at once that it is difficult to try and think your way through everything. You basically have to get out of your own way and let your subconscious do it’s thing.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to hit the reset button now and then. Sometimes it seems everything is just wrong, don’t fight it. Stand up straight take a deep breath, stretch your back and chest. Then put your head back down, turn your focus back up, and try and find that rhythm. Not every time out is going to be a home run, as I found out last year. But every time out can be a valuable lesson in developing your over all skills and desire.