West Coast Kayak Challenge - Underway

If all has gone to plan, my friend Bruce Jolliffe will launch his kayak this morning and paddle into an adventure.

He planned a later start, but it looks like a weather window is opening. He needs one to get around the Mull of Kintyre. So he's going early.

Bruce promises to write lots of for his blog, he's on Facebook and Twitter, and is carrying a Spot so we should all be able to follow his trip. If you like what he writes, read why he's doing it and consider a donation to the causes.

And good luck!

24 Hour Mountain Bike Racing on The Adventure Show

This promo gives a flavour of the 2011 Strathpuffer24 which features in the next edition of The Adventure Show at 7pm on 8th March. I edited the promo and much of the show.

3 Otters, 3 Weeks. All dead.

It is a bit weird, uploading a photo of a dead animal to my blog.

But I found this sight profoundly depressing.

In the last three weeks I have seen three otters, each of them lying beside the road, the victim of road-kill.

Yesterday, we finished our regular yoga class and I started the fifty mile ride home. Ten miles in, found this.

It quite upset my karma. I can't explain why, but the dead otter dominated my thoughts for the remainer of the ride. What sort of life had it had? It was large and clearly well fed. Would there be a family wondering where it was?

Seeing three of them in three weeks might be coincidence. Most likely, it's a 'reporting' issue.

I'm doing more road cycling, so I am inevitably going to notice more things by the side of the road. Usually it's Irn Bru and Red Bull cans (there's a survey to be done there - counting which can / bottle is jetissoned most).

I didn't photograph the other two as that also seemed a bit weird. But this one I wanted to record. Even now I still can't help thinking about this creature and the life it lived.

How Do You Keep Your Heart Rate Constant While Training?

I have always been slow. I don't mean I sat in the corner of the classroom wearing a conical hat with the letter 'D' on it. That happened remarkably rarely.

I mean slow when it comes to paddling, running or cycling. I always get there but usually after the people I was riding with.

True, they were a fit bunch and sometimes included the co-founder of Orange Mountain Bikes, Steve Wade.

Quite a few of our exploits ended up in newspaper or magazine articles, like the one on the left.

My camera saved me.

On long expeditions, when lagging behind, I'd spot an amazing shot and call the rest of the team back. While they rode the chosen section several times I pressed the shutterand got my breath back.

Of course, they quickly sussed my plan, but didn't risk missing the shot that made it into the magazines.

Now I'm back on my bike, albeit a road bike, I'm following a training plan to try to improve my speed. I concentrated on distance last year, but now I need to become quicker for two Sportive's in May; the Etape Caledonia and Skye.

Otherwise, everyone will have packed up and gone home when I roll across the line. With my lights on.

The training programme is built around a heart rate monitor. One session involves keeping below, but close to, my lactate threshold, which in my case means I must keep my heart rate between 144 and 147 bpm.

I don't know if you've tried it, but it is extraordinarily difficult to keep within such a narrow band.

The challenge is compounded by there being a natural lag between the body's exertion and the heart responding.

I've resorted to going harder, with a higher heart rate, just so it doesn't dip below 144. And going harder hurts!

So here's my question - how do you do it?

How do you keep within a narrow band, and does it become easier with practice?

I realise I could buy a Power Meter, on which there would be no lag. But that would be a toy too far.

Certainly for a rider with my lack of ability and modest ambitions.

Tay Descent 2011

There will be a Tay Descent this year, 22nd & 23rd October, timed once again to allow people to make a weekend of it in Perth and go to the Scottish Canoe Association's big annual Paddlefest gathering.

This year will be slightly different. Only two start points are planned, car parking will be easier, and expect less distinction between racing and touring. Any kayaking cinematographers might be interested in a competition that's being discussed, to produce your own video of the event

Planning for the descent is at a very early stage so lots of this might change. The SCA website will have more information nearer the time. And so will I.

Custom Bike Fitting Works

I've just come back from an hour ride, doing some interval training on my new Specialized Roubaix. I'm delighted. Not only with the bike, which performs as well as I expected, but also with the utterly different and much more comfortable riding position yesterday's custom bike fitting session has achieved.

Take a look at the height of the saddle on my older Trek compared to the handlebars. (I've tried to straighten the pictures).

I'd pushed the saddle as far forward as it would go to compensate for the greater lean forward. This affected my leg position, so I'd raised the saddle (too high) to compensate. No wonder my back suffered after a long.

The custom fitted position on the new bike has the saddle at the correct height and a higher, shorter stem, with a smaller curve on the bars. The perspective on the two photos isn't quite the same, and on this one, the saddle is not higher than the bars. But they're closer than I'd expect.
It feels far more comfortable to me, and suited perhaps to someone my age who wants to tackle sportives but not races.

What will it be like on a ride longer than five hours? I'll hopefully find out at the weekend.

Custom Bike Fitting in Glasgow

I bought a new road bike - a Specialized Roubaix Elite.

It's far from the top of the range but still a huge expense. Although not too bad when you think of the price of a kayak. And a current deal means I also got £170 of Specialised kit "free".

I paid £120 extra to have the bike custom fit to me, and to have my old Trek also custom fitted in the same session. That might sound a lot, but I have seen the different it has made to Liz's cycling position and subsequent comfort.

I've had a dodgy back for ages. Having the bike, pedals and shoes set up exactly for my body geometry will, I hope, get rid of the back pains I suffer ever time I spend more than five hours in the saddle.

It was done at Dales Cycles in Glasgow (contact details). It takes three hours and any bike can be fitted, not only new ones. They use the Specialized Body Geometry Fit System.

I'll let you know how it feels once I've ridden the Roubaix a few times. [EDIT- a year and a half later, trips to the Alps & Pyrenees, a Spanish training camp and several sportiest later I reckon this was money incredibly well spent.]

When Waves Freeze On Your Body

Imagine coming off the water looking like that! Ice encrusting your kit and body. It makes me shiver just thinking about it.

This is Erik B Jorgensen and he features in the next Podcast at Sea Kayak Podcasts.com. It will go live on 2nd March 2011. Subscribe free with iTunes if you don't want to miss it.

Erik circumnavigated Denmark last winter, one of the hardest winters the country has experienced. He tells how he had to battle through kilometres of ice to come ashore some evenings.

Erik's attempt was picked up by the media and the whole country followed his GPS track, with people waiting on the beach to greet him and offer a bed for the night.

He also talks about his next expedition to paddle the Scandinavian coastline. Starting at the Russian border early April, he'll head South down Norway, follow the entire Gulf of Bothnia up Sweden and down Finland, finishing again at the Russian border.

Oh, and he only started paddling seriously in 2009. Erik reckons his special forces training probably helped. I guess so. Follow his preparations and adventures at komud.dk

Look out for the Podcast coming in two weeks time.

Kayaking The North Sea

It was called the 'Shetland Bus'. During WW2, it was a daring means of transport across the north sea between Nazi occupied Norway and Britain.

The photograph shows the monument on Shetland to the people who risked their lives keeping the 'bus' running.

At his talk on Friday, Patrick Winteron told the audience he and Mick Berwick are considering attempting to kayak the same route.

The North Sea has been previously kayaked. In 1989 Franco Ferrero and Kevin Danforth paddled a pink double, nicknamed 'the spam boat' across in record time. I vaguely recall interviewing them on a Northumberland beach for the regional TV programme Look North.

If Patrick and Mick decide to get the bus up and running, I'll let you know.

Devolved Coastguards?

The proposed Coastguard closure programme is proving controversial everywhere. But with elections to the Scottish Parliament less than twelve weeks away, it's a very live political issue here. Amid all the protests and campaigns, two developments caught my eye over the weekend.

The first is the suggestion from the minority SNP government that Coastguard responsibilities should be devolved to Scotland. Will the Scottish Liberal Democrats support this, terrified as they are of voters blaming them for the actions of their Westminster counterparts.

Secondly, and linked to the coastguard issue, is the locating of two emergency tugs in the Minch. They're there to help oil tankers before they run into trouble, or rocks. The plan is to remove their cover. The excellent Rob Edwards, whose blog I recommend, has got hold of a leaked report which concludes the tugs are vital to prevent a disaster.

Costa Brava Sea Kayak Symposium

16th to 18th April in the town of Llançà on Spain's Costa Brava, very close to the France border, the Pagaia Club is holding its fourth symposium. The price is €115 not including accommodation. The organisers say:

"In this occasion, we can confirm the attendance and participation of the following international paddlers: Nigel Foster, Nigel Dennis, Phil Clegg, Manuel Pastoriza, C&F Claeys, Bernhard Hillejan, Jean Marc Terrade, Eduardo Rodriguez, Pau Calero and many more participants."

Paddling Night Tomorrow at Fort William Film Festival

There is also a white water film by Olaf Sommer shot in Greenland, Pakistan, Sumatra, Chile and Russia.

Finally, there's a film called "Wild Water", which boasts 'Holywood film tools and techniques, RED digital cinema cameras and world class post production techniques.'

I hope to steal some ideas.

2 New 'Expedition' Sea Kayak DVDs Planned?

I hear rumours of two new sea kayaking DVDs in production. I'm told both are about expeditions, and contain a 'how to' element as well as footage shot on big trips. Sounds exciting!

GoPro HD Gets a Screen - Video

It's pathetic really, but I am stupidly excited about this.

My favourite wee HD camera now has a monitor so you can line up the shot and see exactly what you're shooting.

Obviously, it makes the unit bigger, so it comes with new, larger doors to seal the screen in its waterproof housing. As well as being able to line up the shot, you can instantly play back material, without having to download to a laptop as at present. Oh - and there's a loudspeaker with volume control.

We really could have done with this on Skye yesterday! The size and versatility of this wee camera could even outclass the delayed POV-HD. I'll let you know as soon as I've managed to lay hands on one. (Edit: pre-ordered mine through DogCam Sports).

Vancouver Island - New Podcast

The latest podcast at SeaKayakPodcasts.com should come with a warning.

After listening to local paddler Mike Jackson talk about all the great options for sea kayaking around Vancouver Island, you're going to want to book a plane ticket.

Fortunately Mike gives really clear descriptions of the best places to kayak around the island. For any paddlers planning to visit, this is a talking guide-book. For best results, listen at home with Google Maps open in front of you.

I know the west coast of Scotland, where I'm lucky enough to live, is considered 'world class' sea kayaking. Vancouver Island sounds equally as interesting, with the added attractions of regular whale sightings (ours are rather shy) and other wildlife.

Years ago I applied for and received the emigration papers for Canada, even going so far as to tentatively line up a job in Vancouver. How different things could have been. But that's another story, probably best forgotten!

Check out this podcast, recorded over Skype, at SeaKayakPodcasts.com. Subscribe free and you won't miss a thing.