So you have chosen to go on a long trip in your canoe or kayak. How do you get ready? What equipment will you need? How do you get in shape? All these questions are important. If the day’s agenda calls for a 32 mile trip, there are few opportunities to get off early. You must make it to the end! Careful preparation now, in the middle of February, will help you make it to the end, safely, with energy to spare.
For me the first thing is to ask my doctor to give me a complete physical and let me know, can I do this trip? Is my body capable of getting in shape to do 5 days of paddling? Make sure you are healthy enough.
You have not chosen a easy thing to do. I would not compare it to such long term events as a marathon or Iron Man, or anything to that level, but, it is no cake walk. The sun will beat on you like you are in a desert, no shade in sight, and it wouldn’t matter if there were because you can’t stop of you get to far behind the group. The wind will blow such that you think you are going backward up the river, and no matter how hard you paddle, it seems you are not moving. The waves will be breaking over the front of your boat, giving you thoughts of the boat going to the bottom and you swimming to the shore. Then will come the storm clouds, pouring liquid sunshine on you by the bucket full. Pulling over and hiding under a tall tree, you will see the lightning strike and hear the crack of the thunder as if it were right next to you. You still must go on.
If you have done your physical preparation, if you have the proper equipment, you will be so confident, you will take these things in stride and move on to the objective of a warm campfire, a soft (ha ha) bed, and a rehashing of the stories of surviving the day with your fellows. Sometimes this sport that gave you so many pleasant days on the lake, seeing the wildlife and relaxing, will turn into drudgery of one stroke after another. I think that you will find as I have, that when you reach the end, all the pain, all the discomfort will be replaced by the joy of another day over, good food, great camaraderie and a feeling that is so wonderful, the knowing that you DID IT!
Don’t be discouraged. I started at age 64, no previous experience, poor or just plain wrong equipment. I made it 5 miles, got caught under a limb, almost bent my kayak in half, got my equipment wet, including my sleeping bag which made my boat even heavier. My packing made my boat look like a garbage scow, top heavy and everything in a garbage bag. My rain coat was from Goodwill. It was Summer but I almost ended up with hypothermia. I made it 12 more miles, in and out of the boat, never dealing with such low water conditions before. Being in shock from near drowning did not help and after that 17 miles, I got off the river and went home. Three hours later I was in the ER, IV bag stuck in my arm and shivering uncontrollably. Shock, hypothermia and believe it or not, sea sickness did me in for that trip. I made up my mind and two weeks later with the proper equipment, my boat fixed, and a better mental attitude, I did 109 miles on the Muskingum River and made it to Marietta. You can make it!
It is time to start getting yourself in shape for the trip. Last year I did 1200 miles of kayaking and canoeing. 310 on the Ohio River, 160 for the Mount Vernon to Marietta trip, 75 on the Little Miami, and various other trips. Prior to going on those trips, I had a regimen of training that included at least 3 miles a day of lake paddling, 5 days a week. After a month it became 6 miles a day, 5 days a week, and later, 10 miles a day. I paddled on lakes because it doesn’t help me to get in shape to go on a river that is running at 3 and 4 miles per hour. I would try to do 3 miles per hour on a lake and paddle for at least an hour at a time. Keeping a log is necessary for you to track your progress and show yourself, that you are making your goal.
I can not stress enough, learning proper paddling technique. I watched youtube movies about it from ACA instructors. There are many of them. Learn at least how to do a basic forward paddle. How to hold the paddle, how to put your core muscles into it, and how to paddle when you are tired. These are all so important when you will be paddling 8 to 10 hours without much of a break.
When this trip is done, you will be so proud of yourself. You will talk about it for years to come. You will have a sense of accomplishment. You will be craving more! I am going to make this a series of blog posts in which I will cover Physical Preparation, Mental Preparation, and Equipment.
I don’t know about you, but the season is turning, the sun is out more and warms up my body and soul every time I am in it. It is that time! It is time to start getting prepared! You are in for the trip of a lifetime. Do it right!