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  • Paddle Monster coach, Larry Cain

Chattajack Race Strategy Part 5: Planning the finish when you are in a Draft Train

At some point the draft train is going to break apart and it’s going to become every paddler for his or herself. In 2015 at Chattajack it happened to our train in the last 1500m. In 2016 our train fell apart early with about 12 km to go.

When the train falls apart it’s time to work on your own, or hang onto whatever wash you can for as long as you can until you can get to the finish on your own. When it comes to preparing for the finish of the race what you’re really trying to do is gauge how much energy you have left and therefore where you can start your finishing kick. It’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to go anaerobic for a full 2 minutes at the finish like you might have been able to do at the start as you’ll have lactate values that are higher than at rest, particularly if you’ve done a few sprints during the most recent 30 minutes or so of the race. On the other hand there is nothing to save yourself for. The finish line is all you need to worry about. If you seize up one stroke past the finish because of high blood lactate, who cares? You’re finished. In fact in this case you will have paced things perfectly.

At some point you’ll probably start to get a sense that those around you are picking up the pace or jockeying to get into a more favorable position from which to launch their finishing kick. You’ll want to make sure you’re not boxed in or in a position where you’re going to have to go uphill.

Try to stay aerobic for as long as you can so that when you launch your all out kick you know you can reach the finish. When you reach that point make your kick emphatic. Don’t accelerate gradually but instead pound it and accelerate as rapidly as you can. Catch others off guard if you can and make them react to you. If you can do this there’s a good chance that they’ll have to either paddle uphill or change their course to pass you, which gives you a huge advantage. However if they catch you off guard you’ll be the one at a disadvantage.

Give it everything you’ve got and make sure you’re using the gear that is best for you. It is critical that you use the optimal combination of stroke rate and power that is individual to you. Too much or too little power or rate can cause you to tire out too quickly or accelerate too slowly. As you get closer to the finish you’ll likely feel your muscles begin to fail as blood lactate climbs well into the red zone. At this point it’s all about getting the strokes in so you’ll likely have to switch gears to a stroke where you just tap at the water as fast as you can. Trying to pull too hard with high lactate is likely going to cause your stroke to bog down and your board to slow down. These strokes may not be pretty, but they’re the last few strokes of the race. All that matters at this point is keeping your board on top of the water until you’ve crossed the finish line.

If you’ve timed your finish well you’ll have nothing left when you’re done. You’ll probably have to sit down on your board for a number of minutes before you can paddle to shore, but you’ll do so knowing you had nothing more to give.

At Paddle Monster our specific preparation for Chattajack began August 7th with a 12 week training block, periodized to maximize results on October 28th. There’s never a bad time to join Paddle Monster. Paddle training is something you can do all year around. For more information, go to

Next Article: Part 6: Four tips for training that will help make this race strategy possible

(photo credit: Rodger Ling)

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