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North Branch of the Potomac Training Camp Report


by Middy Tilghman

October 5, 2006 -- Bloomington, MD

The North Branch of the Potomac was an excellent host to the 12 wildwater paddlers who spent last weekend on its waters working on their whitewater technique and forward strokes. The group was comprised of beginner and intermediate paddlers who worked on refining their lines over the 12-minute race course as well as their stroke technique through practice and video analysis.

Saturday was spent pounding out a total of 7 race course runs, dividing the river into quarters and timing them individually, and learning that Bob Horlacher, after driving 20 hours in the two preceding days, does a full extension roll when rolling a wildwater boat(truly amazing). Several paddlers had to depart at the end of the day, but not before scrutinizing the day’s video. Having three coaches/paddlers to divide up the on and off water duties allowed for prompt shuttles and a lot of video footage.

Sunday racers took several runs before racing a time trial. After a warm-up run, paddlers took one run where they sprinted for 10 to 20 seconds out of every rapid and a second run where they sprinted into every rapid. From this racers learned how it would feel to race into and out of each rapid and adjusted their approach to each rapid accordingly; coaches learned that Cas, Peter, and Callum sprint like grandmothers without her morning coffee. Having warmed-up, racers then time trialed the course while coaches took splits at each quarter. Thus racers could compare their race quarters to those of the day before when each quarter had been paddled individually, or their ‘ideal’ quarter time. The results, at bottom with comments, are useful to each paddler in looking for places to focus this fall and winter’s training. Coaches learned that during a race Cas, Peter, and Callum actually can sprint.

Overall, the weekend was fun and successful in helping each paddler to find someplace to devote attention during training. The North Branch proved an excellent intermediate course for working on lines and technique. Its easy, fast race-course shuttle and 35 minutes of easy whitewater after the race course finish for cooling down make it an ideal training camp venue.

Much thanks to all the paddlers who participated(particularly Dale and Susie for being so positive and helpful even when their car broke). Also thanks to Andrew McEwan and the Scotsman himself, Chris Norbury for their expertise on and off the water as well as for driving, videoing, and timing.

North Branch Time Trial 10/01/06
Times are taken at each quarter and compared to the ‘ideal’ times from the day before. Numbers in parenthesis are number of seconds over or under the “ideal” split time. Thus “(+15)” means that time is 15 seconds more than would be predicted from the quarters the day before.

NAME 1st Quarter Split2nd Quarter3rd Quarter4th/Total Time

Training camp quarters are to help you understand the numbers and what they mean. The two general things to pick up on are:

  1. Small Stuff: Notice how times correlate to what happens on the water- this seems obvious but often people don’t pay attention to the small stuff, and they don’t think it matters. Cas got stuck behind rafts during the 3rd quarter and dropped the most time during that quarter; Hollie had learned the last rapids really well and went from +1 to –10 over that period.

  2. Big Stuff/ General trends: Notice the overarching themes that spread across all four quarters. Peter was very consistent and therefore appears to have excellent fitness, but in reality this is skewed by poor quarters from the day before. Callum got faster as the race went on- indicating he could have been more aggressive in his pacing early in the race.

Generally, our times are pretty far off our ‘ideal’ times which points to a lack of stamina and fitness. So much to work on, so little time.