Distance paddling for a previously non-endurance athlete

For the past several years there has been a series of paddleboard events in Cape Cod called the Cape Cod Bay Challenge Event Series.  This series consists of the CCBC Supathon, a Battle of the Paddle style race with a beach start where you have to paddle through the surf break, navigate around buoys and run a bit.  The Challenge of the Charles is a sprint race through the Charles River in Boston.  And then there is the Cape Cod Bay Challenge itself.  This is a 34-mile marathon paddle from Wellfleet to Plymouth.  This is the longest event of its kind in the northeast and is the preeminent New England SUP event.

distance paddling

I have never been an endurance athlete.  I cannot run from my house to my car without stopping to catch my breath.  And the word “marathon” causes me to break out in hives.  But somehow this “paddle marathon” has me a wee bit obsessed.  Last year Mark and I talked about how we should do it one year, but I wasn’t sure we were serious…kind of like the day I woke up and said to Mark, “we need to open up a standup paddleboard and snowboard shop and call it Neverbored” and he thought I was kidding…kind of like that.

distance paddling

Well, we are still talking about it and registration opens soon so it looks like we’re in.  This event is not a race.  It is a group paddle to raise money for Christopher’s Haven.  Christopher’s Haven is an organization offering comfortable housing and a supportive community for families whose children are undergoing outpatient cancer treatments at Mass General Hospital.  In addition to committing to collect donations for Christopher’s Haven, upon registering one also agrees to maintain a pace of 3.5-miles/hr for the duration of the paddle.  There are support boats, and if you fall behind, one of the boats will pick you up and bring you back to the pack.  But no one wants to be on that boat.

Never having entertained doing any type of endurance event, how does one train for such a thing? Not sure yet.  But there is a program called Riding Bumps that is designed to prepare paddleboarders for events like this.  It offers a 16-week training program that focuses on “training slow to go fast”.  Well I certainly have the slow part down.  We’ll see about the rest.  It is based largely on training in the proper heart rate zones at the proper time.  As soon as I learn more about it, I will be sure to share.

distance paddling

Last year, with this event on our minds, we embarked on a series of longish paddles.  It was a little late in the season when we started and the weather and shortening days were factors.  We managed a number of 10+mile paddles and an 18.5-mile paddle around Prudence Island.  But that was as far as we got and that took 7 hours!  The CCBC is typically 10-12 hours depending on the elements.  And we know better than to think we’ll have a nice, calm day for our journey.  Eyewitness reports say that two years ago they paddled into the wind for 9 hours and last year there was a side wind for 9 hours…that’s 9 hours of paddling on your right side!

Distance paddling is pretty new to us, so this should be an interesting journey.  We look forward to the challenge and the camaraderie as we engage some of our friends in the training process. We will be hosting training paddles for anyone interested in joining us on our journey (or anyone who just wants to lend some support and company).  While 34 miles will certainly be physically demanding, I anticipate it being much more mentally challenging.  Being out in the middle of the water or that long is sure to be taxing on one’s mind.   Not really knowing if you are making progress and not being able to see the land mass that is your goal, must be a very surreal experience.  Hopefully I can hook up with some chatty people to help me keep my mind off of “what the heck did I commit to?!”

distance paddling

Of course at the end of the day when you think about what the kids and their families at Christopher’s Haven are going through, it seems crazy to even think of complaining about any part of the process!  So we will do our best to support them with smiles on our faces knowing that we are doing something good and challenging for ourselves, that will benefit others too.  We’ll chronicle our progress on our blog, so you can keep up on our training and the event when it happens.


Tags: distance paddling, endurance paddling, paddle marathon, distance paddling on standup paddleboard, cape cod bay challenge, paddling into the wind, new england sup event, long distance paddle, paddleboarding in ri

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