Want to do a triathlon but not have to swim? A run, bike and paddle triathlon might appeal to you, then.
Whereas being a triathlete often is a key factor in determining what bicycle you purchase, those entering a run-bike-kayak triathlon generally use whatever they own or can borrow. So rather than seeing race boats lined up on the shore, you are more apt to see a collection of sea kayaks and recreational boats as well as a few river kayaks.
I use a Valley Aquanaut sea kayak knowing it's ideal for a week's trip on Lake Superior but is a bit bulky for fast racing.
If the competition is on a lake, the best design for speed is a long narrow boat. These track well and are fast, but are difficult to turn. Racing on a narrow twisting river favors shorter more maneuverable craft.
A lighter paddle is less tiring to use. The carbon-fiber models weigh the least but are also the most expensive. Blade size is a consideration. Smaller narrower blades require less effort but push less water with each stroke. If you are strong enough to maintain a rapid stroke cadence and able to put good power into each stroke for the entire race, a wider blade is an asset. Be sure and tuck a spare paddle on the back deck, where you can easily pull it free for use.
Make sure everything is secured and won't be jarred loose as you launch the kayak. If you plan to eat and drink while paddling, slip these items under the deck bungee cords or put them in the cockpit. Some may want to incorporate a CamelBak-type liquid carrier into the plan so they can drink through a tube without missing a stroke.
If the starting gun is fired while everyone is sitting in kayaks, you will have plenty of time to adjust your gear. However, if the race begins with a land sprint to the boats, pre-race planning is needed.
Personal flotation devices (PFDs) are required. Make sure yours is adjusted so that it can quickly be slipped on and zipped or snapped. Before the race, practice to see if it is faster for you to stop and put on and secure the PFD before you enter the kayak, or just slip it on and secure it while the kayak is moving.
If you start with a sprint to the kayak, throw on your PFD, grab your paddle and run your kayak into the water until it is floating. (Yes, your feet will get wet. If the run part of the triathlon comes after paddling, you may want to change shoes instead of running in wet shoes.) Then jump into the cockpit and take several powerful strokes.
Your boat should never hit bottom. Too many fail to get their boat floating before they enter and are forced to push it out while sitting in the kayak. Launching a kayak on the run is harder than it looks and it is not unusual to see competitors dump the boat as they try to settle themselves into the cockpit.
If the run or bike legs of the race occur just before paddling, those first strokes will feel terrible. Your arms will feel dead because the running and biking has drawn your blood to your legs. However, just keep paddling and your strength will return.
Look ahead and paddle the straightest line you can toward the finish or buoys. Rather than use turning strokes to keep on course, lean the boat to make the corrections. Putting a bit more strength into your paddle stroke on the right or left side also will adjust your course.
If at all possible, preview the course, noting the location of hazards or shallow spots.
It takes more energy to paddle through water less than 3 feet deep because resistance is greater in shallower water. Wearing polarized glasses helps you spot submerged hazards, weed mats or shallow spots. If the boat grounds out or becomes stuck, you have real problems. It may be preferable to detour around extremely shallow water or thick weeds.
Good paddling technique takes practice. To perfect your stroke, learn the most efficient means of turning the kayak and become acquainted with a skeg or rudder if these are a part of your kayak.
For optimum speed, maintain the fastest stroke cadence you can. Rotate your body as you reach out to maximize the distance ahead of the kayak then bury the blade completely underwater next to the kayak and put power into the return stroke. Lift the blade as it comes parallel to your butt.
Press your legs and feet on to the pedals or foot braces as you paddle, enabling you to direct more of the force of your paddling to driving the kayak forward.
If you will be running or pedaling a bike after paddling, pump your feet in the boat during the last minutes of racing to get some blood circulating back to your legs. Then as the boat grounds, pull yourself out of the cockpit, and lurch and run to the finish.
Dave Foley's experience as a former canoe racer has helped him win several run-bike-kayak triathlons.
2011 Paddling Triathlons
June 4: BRAVADO CHALLENGE, 5K run, 12K bike, 5K canoe, Waukesha, WI; Tim Held, 262/442-3210; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bravadochallenge.org
June 11: LAKE EAU CLAIRE CLEAR WATER MINI TRIATHLON, 2.5 mile run-walk, 1 mile paddle, 8 mile bike, Augusta, WI; Vicki Funne Reed, 715/379-0020; email@example.com; www.lakeeauclaire.org
June 11: BEAR SCAT WILDERNESS TRIATHLON, 12.8K kayak, 19.3K bike, 4.8K run, Crystal Falls, MI; 906/822-7738; firstname.lastname@example.org
June 11: CHIPPEWA TRIATHLON, canoe 14 miles, bike 29 miles, run 7 miles, Cass Lake, MN; Cass Lake Chamber, 800/356-8615; email@example.com; www.paulbunyan.net/users/bjiski/
June 25: TIMBER CITY ADVENTURE RACE & TIMBER CITY DAYS, 8 mile canoe, 14 mile bike, 5K run, Canton to Maquoketa, IA; Cheryl Clark, 800/989-4602; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.maquoketachamber.com
June 25: CITY OF LAKES TRI-LOPPET, 8K paddle, 5K run, 10K bike, Minneapolis, MN; John Swain, 612/604-5333; email@example.com; www.tri-loppet.com
Sept. 5: CADILLAC FESTIVAL OF RACES, 5K, 10K, kids' fun runs, run-bike-kayak triathlon, Cadillac, MI; Mike Battaglia, 231/876-0010; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.cadillacfestivalofraces.com
Sept. 17: FEVER RIVER ADVENTURE TRIATHLON, 6 mile paddle, 17 mile bike, 3.1 mile run, Galena, IL; Craig Brown, 815/776-9425; email@example.com; www.feverrivertriathlon.com
Sept. 24: ROCKMAN CHALLENGE, 3 mile paddle, 13.5 mile bike, 3 mile trail run, 0.25 mile obstacle course, 100 yard sack race, Watertown, WI; 414/704-9969; RockManChallenge@gmail.com; www.rockmanchallenge.org/Home.html
Sept. 24: HILL COUNTRY TRAIL & RIVER TRIATHLON, 5 mile run, 6 mile paddle, 8 mile bike, Hillsboro, WI; Sue Zimmerman, 608/462-2245; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.hillcountrychamberwi.org
Oct. 1: KICKAPOO RESERVE DAM CHALLENGE TRIATHLON, 7 mile paddle, 14 mile road bike, 3 mile trail run, La Farge, WI; 680/625-2960; email@example.com; kvr.state.wi.us/damchallenge
Oct. 8: SOUTHERN KETTLE MORAINE CHALLENGE ADVENTURE RACE, 10-12 hours of running, trekking, paddling, on- & off-road biking & navigation, S. Kettle Moraine Forest, North Prairie, WI; Andy McCarthy, firstname.lastname@example.org; www.wisadventureracingsociety.com
Dec. 3: INFITERRA SPORTS DECEMBER CHILL, 7 hours of trekking, orienteering, mountain biking, canoeing, fixed ropes, location TBD, MI; Zac Chisholm, 231/233-4736; email@example.com; www.infiterrasports.com