First Marathon

My First Kayak Marathon was the HCC in 2010.

Nothing can quite prepare you for the moment the Starter’s Gun fires for your first race.

During my lead up, I did keep a bit of a record of some of my training and preparation on a facebook page.

You can see that my boat choice was certainly not what would normally be considered as suitable for a long-distance event. Boat choice was all about actually being able to fit as the first objective! Yes, I had a hard time actually finding any off the shelf boat that I could actually fit in (or on in this case).

During the lead-up, I was out paddling at least once a week for the 6 months leading up to the race, and in the last 3 months before the race I was out at least twice a week and paddling between 20 and 30km. The weeks that I could not get out, I went to the gym and was doing a 2-3 hour cardio session – rowing machine, treadmill, bike.

My longest single paddle before the event was only 29km, but my coaches assured me that marathon paddling is mostly mental (Yes, being a mental case helps!) in so much that if you can paddle 30km, you can paddle 100km.

As the HCC is an overnight event, in my lead-up I was also doing a few night paddles. The very first time, it was almost like starting over again – it takes a little bit of getting used to!

With an event that spans over (up to) 20 hours, food and nutrition are also very important and something that I will discuss in more detail later.

Kayak Marathon

Kayak, my favourite Palindrome.

A Kayak Marathon is by definition a Kayak Race of a distance of at least 10km.

I don’t do things by half measures and take on 10km races,  my very first ever event that I committed to was a mere 111km! Yes, I took on the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic in 2010. Not only did I take on one of the “Big 3” in Australia for my first event, I did it in a Plastic SOT (Sit On Top) Rec Boat!

Why such an odd choice in boats?  Well the answer is simple – it was the only boat that I could find that Fit Me!.

2010 was a tough event and unfortunately, my race was cut short to 98.5km when the conditions changed and were too dangerous, with a 60kn headwind and around 1M breaking waves, all combined with an incoming tide, it was simply too dangerous to let anyone continue.

Within a month, I decided that the only way I would get a boat to fit me would be to build one, so that is exactly what I did.  I spent around 150 hours over 8 months building a Chesapeake 18 Sea Kayak and customised it to fit me.

The boat hit the Water on Aug 6th, 2011, just in time for me to put in a couple of month’s training for the 2011 HCC, which I had the pleasure of paddling and completing with my Father, who just so happened to build himself a boat over about the same time as me.  We finished the HCC at 10:11am with an elapsed time of 17H 26m.

Since I had put in the effort and was mostly ready, I jumped in and entered a nice “Saturday Afternoon Paddle” – or the Christmas Race which is run by the MCC SA – a 29km race from Blanchtown to Swan Reach on the Murray, completing the distance in just over 4 Hours.

After this event, I set myself a goal for 2012 – and that was going to be to complete 5 Marathon events.

  • The Back to Back  (1st weekend in May)
  • The RPM 100 (Queen’s Birthday Long weekend in June)
  • The HCC (End of October)
  • The Christmas Race (Last weekend in November)
  • The 1 day event of the Murray Marathon (Between Christmas and New Year)

The Back to Back has come and gone.  It is around 20km (20.5km) on the Saturday Afternoon followed by a 20km (21km) Sunday morning paddle on the Murray River near Murray Bridge.  I set myself a target time of 2h 50m for each day and did it in 2:40:08 on Saturday and followed it up with a 2:38:26 on Sunday.

I heard about another event and that was on – the West Lakes Classic (6,12 or 18km) at the end of May, so jumped in and had a crack at the 18km.  Setting myself a target time of less than 2H 30m.  I never got the official time but it was around 2H 13m.

Just 2 weeks ago, I completed the RPM 100.  The RPM (200) is considered to be the toughest Kayak Marathon in Australia – as it is in the middle of winter on the Murray River.  For my first hit-out in this event I chose to enter the RPM 100.  The race was hard, cold and very challenging, but my time is now in the record books!  I will put together a Race report in the next few days.

Stay tuned, I will be looking at all sorts of things from equipment, training and sharing race reports.

* Big 3 – HCC, RPM, Murray Marathon