Thursday, December 31, 2009

Full Moon Paddle

Spending the last hours of 2009 in a kayak! A very cool group paddle in Fort Bayou, Ocean Springs with the South Coast Paddling Company.

Blue Moon

Last full moon of the decade

Great weather

Good company

Fireworks going off along the shores


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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Yolo boards

Thanksgiving weekend in Georgia I got to try a Yolo board. "You only live once" = YOLO. It's basically a stand up kayak, but you paddle it more like a canoe. Seems about as steady as a kayak - a little iffy for a beginner, but not bad at all once you get the feel for it. Might get a litte trickier in the wind or current, but probably would be fun in a river. I guess this is getting to be a big thing in the ocean too - I saw boards like these at Ocean Isle in NC last summer.

Tempting... to see over the swamp grass in the bayou!
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November Evening

Like sunsets? Double the view by adding in the reflection on the water.

Jazz and Molly watch from the dock as we head out. Mom and I went over to Bayou Trois to see what we could see, but the gators were not showing themselves today.
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Monday, November 16, 2009


We all get so caught up in getting the best equipment we can get for the given activity. Want a better kayak, better bike, better vehicle, mixer, vacuum cleaner, musical instrument, computer, camera, clothes, sunglasses, electronic devices. I've always admired people that can take the different pleasure from another angle. Putting a higher priority on tradition, or beauty, or frugality than going for the best as far as function. I do it occasionally, but more often I want what I can get - onward and upward. Not that I’m purely materialistic. My stuff has a purpose. I’m not into showy stuff like jewelry or fancy clothes, expensive cars or furnishings. But I like my toys.

So this is a lesson in improvisation, as my new friend David says, "An old windsurf board pulled from a trash heap, a paddle made from a 2x4 and two scraps of plywood and a $10 seat from Walmart. Look Ma, no duct tape." It paddles quite well.

On Sunday we paddled the 7.5 miles or so to the gulf and back. Beautiful day. Sunny and the water was very calm. Had a nice trip and picked up a few edible passengers who were unable to run away, brought them back and fried them for lunch after a little laboring... what I call “part 2 of the upper body workout.”

David’s even more interesting story was the previous weekend, paddling this thing to Horn Island and back in one day. And on that trip he actually used the 2x4/plywood paddle shown in the bottom picture. Walter Anderson would be proud!

So don’t let a lack of the “right equipment” hold you back from life’s experiences. Sometimes it’s a lot more fun and rewarding to improvise.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

4 mile training

I wanted to do a lot more paddling training this past month or so, aiming to be as fast as possible in the race next weekend. This was the second training run I've managed to do for the 4 mile distance, and it looks like all I'm going to get! Time constraints. I did the 4 miles in 53 minutes... at a 4.5 mph pace. I think that's decent; I noted a time of 54 minutes for that same training run in 2007, so I think I'll do about the same... and expecting greater gains on the run, and especially the bike.

The water was smooth and the water temperature was perfect. This paddle followed a fast-paced 33-mile bike ride, but even though paddling can be an aerobic activity, the muscle groups used are smaller than lower-body activites and therefore the heart rate stays lower. Padding steady-state HR avg is in the 120s/130s, bike in the 150s/160s, run in the 160s/170s.

There are a lot of fish in the bay and the bayou. Someday when I have more time I'll get into kayak fishing and bring home dinner. The water is quite a bit cooler. I do NOT want to overturn the boat this time of year. Must be ready though. I think wearing the regular PFD is a good practice, especially when the water is cold.
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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Back in the boat

The wind almost chased me off but I went for it anyway and got in a 4.3 mile steady pace paddle today. A north wind is better in the bay and it was intermittent enought to not really build up the waves. Easy going out! Much harder coming back. Enjoyable temperature and a nice sunset. I'm not looking forward to winter. I wouldn't even mind the heat if it would just stay warm longer and the days not get short.
Had the place to myself today. Not a single boat in the bay, by the boat ramp, or in the bayou. Two guys fishing at Shell Landing were the only people I saw on the trip other than Mom joining me at the end and taking that picture of me.
The kayak has to get squeezed in these days. My last two weeks by the day: 100 mile bike ride, rest, 2 mile run, yoga, 27 mile bike ride, rest, 80 mile bike ride, 70 mile bike ride, rest, pilates, yoga and 12 mile bike ride, pilates, 5 mile run, 4.3 mile kayak, and tomorrow a 33 mile bike ride.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

New Bike Review

This is my first weekend with a brand new bike and I wanted to write down my impressions before it becomes old hat. Ever wonder what it's like to really step up to a high-end bike? Well, I'm here to tell ya, it's pretty awesome.

A little history first to lead up to how I got to love riding the bike and to the point of investing a small fortune in a piece of equipment that doesn't even have a motor. I've been through various cycles of fit-to-couch-potato in my life, but as far as the recent history, at the beginning of 2005 I was on the couch-potato end of the spectrum so I started walking at lunchtime and working out at the gym. In the spring of 2006 I started going to spin class. My legs got stronger and I decided to buy a bike. In May of 2006 I bought a Giant FCR-1 and rode that for a couple of years, 12 miles, 15 miles, occasionally up to 32 miles around Ocean Springs and a couple of times on Longleaf Trace (see previous blogs). It was fun but I didn't ride too fast; probably averaging 15 or 16mph. Starting in the summer of 2008 I got more free time and started riding with some other people on easy group rides, as well as some longer training rides leading up to the Gulf Coast Bicycle Club's Southern Magnolia ride in Oct 2008. I rode the 62 mile "metric century" and continued from there with regular weekend club rides. I quickly realized I needed an actual road bike with something other than a flat bar. Bought this used Specialized Allez at the local bike shop for a few hundred dollars. Here's me riding in a charity ride in Baton Rouge in Jan 2009:

I rode that bike from last November up until this weekend. In the last 10 months I've put over 3,000 miles on it as I average close to 100 miles a week. Awesome bike! No complaints. But I wanted a little faster, a little smoother, a little more performance. Started looking into the options and doing a lot of research, and last week bought a 2008 (but brand new) Trek Madone 5.5 from the local bike shop that they had at a special reduced price as an older year model. I'm waiting on a taller seat post so I'm not 100% set up correctly on it yet, but close enough to ride 10 miles Friday, 20 miles Saturday, and a long 75 mile training ride today. The picture at the top is me test riding down my street (looks fast but I was only going about 10 mph).
OK, so is a fancy carbon-fiber-frame bike all it's hyped up to be? I'd say it's a lot like a low-end vs. high-end car or anything else. You can get by with a basic model and if the object's role in your life is small, a low-end item works fine and it's silly to spend the money on high-end. But the differences ARE noticeable. If the object itself or those specific difference are important to you then yes, it's worth it. In my case, I can say I got what I was after. This is how I would summarize it:
Smoother ride -- The roads just feel better. The new chip seal surfaces still felt rough but not objectionable. On the older, worn chip seal, the "rough ride" was just gone. And on the smooth roads and new pavement, it was like riding on air. I had heard that body fatigue is lessened when the ride is smoothed out. Today I rode 75 miles and feel less fatigued than after last week's 61 miles... but with so many variables, that's a difficult thing to measure. I did feel a lot more relaxed on the bike, being in less of a stiffened-up type posture, and my back is less tired. I felt good after the ride and I think I had more energy when I got home than I would have after 75 miles on the aluminum frame Allez.
Lighter -- Easy up the hills. That's where you notice the lightness. At about 7 pounds lighter than the Allez, the Madone just lightens the load. Also it just feels like a hill attacker which is supposedly due to both weight and the frame efficiency. We don't have too many hills around here but for the ones we did, I'd say I just got a 25-30% boost on my hill-climbing ability.
Precision handling -- I had to switch out the handlebars for one my size because this is not a women's specific bike, although the frame fits me. The handlebars and the saddle make it feel like MY bike. That's hard to factor in when you test ride a new bike. Anyway, it handles like a dream. Smooth into the corners and really nice steering. Honestly the steering is not that important on long road rides where you go straight for the most part, but in some riding situations (riding around town, racing, obstacle avoidance) it could be more important. And even though that wasn't something I needed exactly, it is one of the MOST noticeable differences between old bike and new.
Precision components -- Nice brakes. Oh, very nice. WAY better than what I'm used to. The differences in the shifting are more complicated. I went from a triple chain ring to a compact double and that will take some getting used to. I really like it so far. I think that is the right choice for riding around here. It shifts smoothly and easily, although I never had any complaints about the Allez. If it shifts on command and you can do it with one finger, what more do you need? But I do like how the trim can be adjusted with one click and then shift to the smaller chain ring with two clicks of the left shifter.
So those are my initial thoughts. Fun to ride and I'm glad I got it. I think it's a beautiful bike, too.
Her name is Marcelle.

2 Kayak Events on Saturday

Promotion of kayak trails on the Mississippi Gulf Coast:
This is good news, and I am glad to see South Coast Paddling Company doing business and getting promoted.

Also the Gulf Coast Running Club's Yak-A-Du in Long Beach, MS:

This was a 2m run, 2m kayak, and another 2m run. My run time was OK though I haven't been running much lately. Paddle was easy -- I was taking pictures and cruising along. So many people struggle with the tiny boats, it didn't feel fair to glide by them so fast in the Riot Regency! Took second place in the women's. This event was a warm-up for the Paddle, Pant, Pedal triathlon coming up on Oct 31st. In 2006 I did it in 3 hours; 2007 2:48. Missed it in 2008. Goal for this year? I'm going to say 2:35. Paddle time will be same or a little slower. Run time faster, especially if I run between now and then. Bike time -- way faster!!!
I thought about something while running this event. I used to be disciplined in my breathing while running, always breathing with the running cadence. In 4 steps, out 4 steps in an easy jog. Brisk run - in two, out three. Fast run - in two, out two. And I would stick to it. Need more oxygen? Breathe deeper. Not enough? Slow down. Then at some point recently I broke out of that and realized, why not just breathe what your body wants. It's free, right? Going up a hill, breathe harder. Get what you need. Legs go how fast they can go, aerobic system listen to the body and fuel the effort. One or the other will start to get maxed out and you have to back down, but there's no sense in forcing a limit on yourself. So maybe it was the bike, where you don't pay as much attention to the breath relative to cadence. Or maybe it's the yoga I've been doing lately where you DO pay attention to the breath and you make sure to give the body the air it needs. In any case, being freed up to BREATHE has helped my running efforts.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

3 shortcuts

This past Sunday, the tide was high so we took some of the smaller marsh grass short-cuts through the bayou. The first one on the south side of the bay I have done many times. The one on the right was completely new. I didn't even realize there was a connection through there. I like sneaking through when you hear the boats whizzing by in the main bayou and they have no idea anyone is out in the marsh grass near them. The third one on the northeast side I've done a few times. There are quite a few places to get lost in there, and several places where you wonder, could I possibly be going the right way? It's like a corn maze.

Mom tried one way and I tried another. I could hear her calling me, and right then an osprey was flying overhead (bottom picture) so I yelled "I'm right under the osprey!" Soon enough we found each other and found the way out.

Heading back across the bay was an adventure. Very windy and the waves were about a foot and a half. We dashed back to the house and put the kayaks up in their new rack.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kayak Rack

The Fleet now has a custom-made rack designed and built by Dale. Each boat has its own slot with supports individualized for each boat. There are wheels on the bottom of the rack for easy moving and storing. All 6 boats now fit in the amound of space previously taken by 2!

Sunday was beautiful weather. We took the boats out in the bay and I discovered that the Enduro makes a fantastic lounge chair. Paddle out to the middle of the water, kick your feet out the sides, and lean back, lying all the way back on the back of the boat. Verrrry peaceful and relaxing.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009


The mission for this trip, other than a re-conditioning of an 8+ mile paddle, was to go out to the gulf and then go a little farther along the shore in Gautier to see Oldfield, which is a house that Walter Anderson lived in for many years. We found the house and pulled up on the little beach out front, then stepped into the yard far enough to look towards Horn Island and think of how he must have seen it, looking out there and longing to be there. It's a long way to row a boat, but a day like yesterday would be a fine day to do it. I don't know what the plans are for the house. It's in disrepair, but I'm sure it would be a huge project to restore it. Next to it (visible in the 4th picture) is a huge house with columns out front that was stopped in mid-construction. Both properties are in a nice place to enjoy the water, the pelicans, the view of the gulf and the islands. Maybe someday someone will again.

The water feels great. Had to paddle a while with my feet in the water. Kind of like water skiiing barefoot, with your own propulsion.
I finally got the kayak adjusted yesterday. Moved the thigh braces forward, pulled the foot pedals back, re-adjusted the seat, and found a power position that will definitely help me go faster, levaraging the whole body to accomplish the pedal strokes. Now in training for the PPP!
Editing note..... Blogger's capabilities are not impressing me these days. Haven't changed in quite some time. Still some awkward aspects to uploading pictures and rearranging text on the page. Usually, if I try to move the text, the pictures delete themselves and I have to upload them again. Now that Google owns Blogger, wish they would put some of that great development brainpower on improving the site.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Take it when you can

The sun goes down every day. How many days do you watch it? I can say, it wouldn't be a waste of time to watch it EVERY TIME.

Sometimes just the lines and angles of the water, grass, clouds is art in itself.

The water is warm, soft, and pleasant, and the air is benign.
Even if you just have an hour after a long day's work, enjoy it!

Saturday, May 30, 2009


I discovered a few things tonight that carry over from the bike to the kayak.

One is core stability. I've been focusing on that with Pilates, and presumably benefiting on the bike although I'm not exactly aware of it. While paddling the kayak if you really focus, you can find that power in the core muscles.

Another is form. There are times I focus on form on the bike -- when I'm working hard and trying to distract myself; when I'm doing a light effort and can spend extra energy on perfect form; when I'm going up a hill and need to use the muscles in concert and entirety. Focus on paddling form, and you get the same benefits.

The third is cadence. All my paddling has been light lately - recreational - just out enjoying the water. I've been expending my aerobic energy running and cycling. Tonight I had a little to spare, and somehow I found my rhythm. The cadence that's in my head threads from bike to run to paddle, and when I get on it, I hit a zone that smoothes all irregularities and just feels right. I heard it and felt it, and the wind and water gave me no resistance as I built that momentum gliding on the water.

Pictures of the sunset with kayak, and Graveline boat ramp after sunset.
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Longleaf Trace - 81 miles

Last Saturday I rode the entire Longleaf Trace, just over 40 miles out and 40 miles back, all the way from USM gateway to Prentiss. That was an all-time mileage record for me. The miles were not hard - I could have done another 20 pretty easily, so I'm confident I'll do a few centuries this year. The rain was a bit of a challenge. We got soaked several times. This was a club ride so I was one of many in a pack of red jerseys. We made pretty good time but stopped many times for breaks, flats, etc. I really enjoyed the ride and intend to go back again next month. It's a very pleasant and painless way to get 80 miles in, and the scenery is great.