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  • Paddle Monster coach, Larry Cain

The Key to Completing Chattajack – Commitment and Consistency

Welcome to the first installment of Paddle Monster's Chattajack blog take over! Every 2 week Paddle Monster head coach Larry Cain will be sharing useful, Chattajack-specific tips to help you achieve your race goals. To give you an idea, here are the first 7 topics he will cover:

  • Consistency and Commitment

  • Train with a group

  • Follow a program and stick to it. Avoid Freelancing

  • Periodize your training

  • Polarize your training/training zones

  • Love the Conditions

  • Learning to paddling with a current. Reading the river

You won't want to miss these. Without further ado, here is "The Key to Completing Chattajack – Commitment and Consistency".


So you’ve resolved to do Chattajack this year! Congratulations! You’re about to embark on a journey that’s a real challenge, tons of fun and will teach you a lot about yourself and your limits. Yes, registration opens May 1st and it’s only February. Yes the race itself isn’t until October 28th, which is almost nine full months away. I’m here to tell you that although it seems like it’s very far away, the time to start training for it is now.

Chattajack is a monster race – thirty-one miles through the Tennessee River Gorge, with few places to bail out if you get tired. Although you’re never really far from shore, it’s the kind of race where once you start you have to finish. It’s supposed to be flat water. There’s no ocean swell. But it’s a big, wide, open river and the wind can howl through the gorge creating conditions that challenge the best, especially when you’re encountering them after 4 to 5 hours of paddling. Those of you who’ve done it before know exactly what I’m talking about. And when there is an 8-½ hour cut off looming over you, the challenge gets that much harder for many.

I’m not writing this to scare people away from this wonderful race. On the contrary, the purpose of this post is to encourage as many of you as I can to embrace the challenge that is Chattajack. But I’m also hoping to encourage you to take it seriously, starting now, and to train for it, giving the event the respect it deserves.

You can all complete the 31 miles, and if you do your homework I believe you can all beat the cut off. However you can’t take it lightly. It’s not the kind of race you can cram for with a couple of months of training starting in the summer. But with a consistent day-to-day effort over six to nine months your preparation should help you not only perform well but have a lot more fun on race day, and what’s the point of doing it if it isn’t fun.


So you’ve set the goal to complete the 31 miles of Chattajack. You’ve no doubt also set a time goal that you’d like to make, be it the 8-½ hour cut off or something faster. Now you need to train.

The most important thing is commitment. You can’t afford to lose interest in your training after a month or so. You need to stay committed to your goal right up until race day. Not only is this going to drive you to train, even on days when you’re tired or the weather is lousy and you’d rather not, but it’s also going keep your goal in mind month after month, week after week and day after day. This is the real secret to success at Chattajack – consistency.


Surprisingly you don’t need to do a lot of 31-mile paddles to be able to complete Chattajack. In fact, I’d venture to guess that if you try you won’t do as well as if you instead paddle an hour to an hour and a half pretty much every day, day in and day out.

When you do long paddles you need to take time to recover, and sometimes this interferes with the training you should be doing day-to-day. If you do long paddles too often, you miss too many days of training and the net effect on your performance is negative.

I’m a firm believer that the most you really need to do in your preparation in any one workout is about half the race distance/time. If you can do this, and do it fairly regularly on top of your consistent, day-to-day training, you’ll be really well prepared.

It’s okay to do a long race or two in your preparation, well spread out throughout the year so you have lots of recovery time, however if you don’t it doesn’t mean you won’t do well at Chattajack. You just might not be quite as comfortable with what to expect as you pass 20 miles and start to feel a little more tired as you’ll have missed the great learning experiences these races provide. However if I had to choose between doing a few long races during the year to prepare for Chattajack and consistent day-to-day training, I’d go with the day-to-day training. There’s no substitute for it and no shortcut around it.

The beautiful thing about training with consistency is that it keeps you in touch with your goal day in and day out. The commitment it requires hardens you, and helps you learn to focus better and persevere when things get tough. And on race day that helps you keep going when you’re tired. It helps you chew up the miles and look forward to more. It creates a situation where your mind will get more out of your body on race day than you thought was there.

If you’re serious about Chattajack, each day between today and race day should contribute something to your race. A skill learned or consolidated, improved fitness, or increased confidence and self-belief. It’s an ongoing, consistent, step-by-step process in which you get incrementally better every day.

If you’re going to do Chattajack you need to recognize it as a challenge. Then you need to embrace that challenge and face it daily. You need to look at it as a journey that you’re on every day. This makes the whole thing more fun, and it makes it more satisfying. And I guarantee it leads to a better performance.

My job, as Paddle Monster coach, is to help all of you through this journey. If you’re really serious and aren’t a Paddle Monster All-Access member you can join and you’ll be on a training program designed specifically to optimize your Chattajack preparation and performance. If you choose not to join that’s okay too. I’ll be posting regularly with information that will help you better help yourself, whether from the perspective of program design, technique or race strategy. But remember, it’s up to you. A coach can only offer you guidance. He or she can’t actually do the work for you. There are no shortcuts. Making the commitment to work towards your Chattajack goal with a consistent day-to-day effort is the only way you’ll get there.

Let’s get started!

Coach, Larry Cain

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