The Back Page with Bruce Steinberg
What could be better to read about in the January issue of Silent Sports than paddling. Nothing!
After all, if you’re like Wally Werderich and live in and above the Banana Belt, where rivers tend not to run free, and especially not warm, from October to early May, you’ve got to find ways to stay in shape over winter.
Wally, 43, owns some impressive paddling credentials. As examples: two top 3 finishes in the Missouri River 340 (that’s 340 miles folks), finishing in 43 1/2 hours one year, 37 hours the next (conditions dictating the times); two class wins in the Texas Water Safari (aluminum and then standard); and a class win in tandem canoe at the Everglades Challenge. Wally gives big credit to regular paddling partner Nick Josefik. He accomplishes these feats as a married man, to Belem, and parent (with Belem) of 11-year-old son, George, and 9-year-old daughter, Anita, while working an often emotional job in Juvenile Court as a Kane County Assistant Public Defender.
The last thing Wally wants to do is miss out on family, or do less than his best for his clients. He also doesn’t want to hit the water each spring starting from scratch. His secrets of over-winter training are as follows:
Include family: Wally first became hooked on paddling during an outing with the Boy Scouts when he was 13, backed off during college and law school and jumped back in after passing the bar exam. Likewise, both George and Anita have their own interest in paddling, and paddling with Dad. While Wally has paddled in tough competitions and exotic places, nothing pleases him more than paddling with his kids, and Belem there to run along the shore, cheering and taking pictures.
Swimming: Wally darts to an XSport pool nearby court to get in as much swim time as possible, usually limited to 45 minutes. Wally recommends the front crawl, swimming hard, including intervals, to make efficient use of limited pool time. “I’m not a swimmer by nature,” he says, “but I find it gives me the best core workout related to paddling.”
Cross-Country Skiing: “I love it,” he says. “The top paddlers tend to also be phenomenal cross country skiers. Nothing fancy for me. I live in rural Yorkville, pop on my waxless striders, and tool around the cornfields. Cross country skiing is a great way to add variety and enjoy the winter.”
Running: “On a treadmill,” he says with a bit of a groan. “Not a fan of the treadmill, but for the situation I’m in with work. It’s time-efficient, and running is the best way to keep my endurance at a high level even if it doesn’t equate to the paddling technique.”
Paddleone: “My indoor paddling machine. Good for keeping form even at one use per week.”
“The beauty of my off-season training,” Wally says, “is that it also gives me thinking time about things I need to do during the work day. But I’m also thinking about that first race of the season, the Burlington C1 Pursuit in Burlington, Wisconsin, or the Current Buster in St. Charles, Illinois. And I’m always thinking about how I can incorporate my kids because, like me, they seem to be into paddling.”
Wally says, “My first river paddle often comes on New Year’s Day on the Fox River in Batavia, Illinois, if open, where the St. Charles Canoe Club sets in above a dam in Batavia in shallow water. (The Club has safety rules and equipment in place, Wally makes clear). But I’ll also go out when the Fox first opens and there’s no traffic, especially motorboats, and ice remains along the shore. Just me, in the solitary setting, and the wake from my canoe hits the ice to the sound of cracking.
“And I know,” Wally says, “my winter training has made me ready.”