Over the holidays I was able to sneak away for a self imposed boot camp in Charleston, South Carolina. I do love Charleston. It’s colonial roots remind me of the sights and sounds from my native England, while its tourism focus always makes finding something new and interesting a piece of cake. Boot camps are pretty simple. Bottom-line, you need to consistently challenge yourself to get the results you need to set yourself up for success down the road. I like to compartmentalize these challenges into three areas.
The Physical Challenge – We covered over 100km in the first 5 days with most of the mileage in the ocean and inter-coastal waterway including circumnavigations of both Sullivans Island and Isle of Palms. By the end of my time down there I had covered nearly 250km. The time on the water included a good number of structured over-distance (OD), steady state (SS) and aerobic capacity (AeC) intervals to further develop the aerobic base necessary for the hard work ahead this season.
The Technical Challenge – As I live 5 hours from the ocean, I need to constantly develop my technical ocean skills. The ocean moves in a three dimensional manner completely unlike a whitewater river and certainly unlike my home lake. We found some great rough water to work on those technical skills including Breach Inlet between Sullivans Island and Isle of Palms. We also explored a new area between Isle of Palms and Dewees Island. The extensive array of sand bars out there really stood things up when everything else was flat. This new location is not as convenient as others as it requires a good paddle in to get there. It’s also the location of some infamous stories of local paddlers getting destroyed and facing lengthy swims to get back to shore. Nonetheless, I’m glad we explored the area as we found long surf-able runs on the outgoing tide in additional to very technical and ever changing, challenging environment.
The Mental Challenge – You have to be mentally tough to do this sport. You have to go into the pain cave to hang on that wake, or push thru a race and of course convince yourself that you can handle the rough water ahead. Between chasing faster paddlers around, fighting thru the cumulative fatigue and finding some challenging water, I feel like I made a solid investment to improving my mental toughness.
Of course it’s always easier to challenge yourself when you surround yourself with great people. As one of my friends likes to say … “surround yourself with better paddlers and you will suck less.” Well I had the opportunity to paddle with some great motivating people. Maurizio Tognacci is the President of the Rimini Canoe Club in Italy and is the consummate coach and competitor in wildwater, sprint and surfski. His energy and charisma is infectious. Kurt Smithgall is a young up and comer and is one of the fastest wildwater athletes in the USA right now. He made me work way too hard chasing him. Austin Kieffer is the fastest American surfski athlete and was just back from a long stint training with the Worlds best in South Africa. All three of these guys made it fun to push the speed and intensity while simply messing around in kayaks. The local Charleston surfski scene also helped support this boot camp with Eric Mims from Epic Kayaks providing equipment and Richard Charter for keeping things incredibly light hearted and fun.
But, it wasn’t all work and no play. I also took the time to explore Shem Creek and visit Patriot Point and paddle up close with the huge aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, the destroyer USS Laffey and the Balao-class submarine, USS Clamagore. You don’t realize just how large these warships are until you sit beneath the bow in a little kayak. Other high lights also included a Christmas Day sunset circumnavigation of Sullivans Island crowned off by one of the most incredible sunsets I’ve ever seen and a close encounter with a pod of dolphins that was as inquisitive of our kayaks as were of them.