It’s one thing to take to the waters of a placid Lake Ramsay at the break of dawn in the months of June, July or August, the temperature quickly warming to double digits as you paddle your way through a strenuous workout before the majority of the city has left the comfort of their beds.
It’s a whole other matter to follow that same routine into September and October, easing your vessel into the still quiet lake, but with signs of frost all around, leaving the picturesque setting of the Northern Water Sports Centre in the background as you paddle for warmth.
Along with teammates Evan Volpini and Julien Turpin and a few fresh new faces, Sudbury Canoe Club (SCC) veterans Mateo Volpini and Cole Macey were in Ottawa over the weekend, taking part in the Canoe Kayak Ontario’s Ontario Cup Long Distance Regatta.
It was the first time the SCC has seen fit to participate in this event.
And while the preparation for races that now extend between five and 10 kilometres in length (versus the traditional 200m / 500m / 1000m of sprint kayak racing) differs notably from the shorter summer versions, the good news is that it all plays extremely well into the annual training cycle.
“Our main focus during the summer is obviously training for our normal sprint events which you would see at nationals,” said Volpini, who along with Macey completed a busy month of August by competing at divisionals and provincials before heading to Sherbrooke for the Canadian Championships.
“Afterwards, we’re focused on getting miles in, a lot of distance, which helps us train for this competition.”
True, but it goes well beyond simply building up more mileage, as both Macey and Volpini confirmed.
“The benefit for the different training style is approaching and attacking different aspects of paddling,” said Macey. “After doing a lot of speed and shorter distance races, your technique kind of goes down the drain.
“You get to build your technique back up again and definitely your endurance. It’s a nice twist to help make you a better paddler.”
“Getting in miles is generally a good plan, not just to train for the long distance racing, but it gives you time to change and perfect your technique so that when you’re starting up again in the spring, you will easily be able to pick up your technique again to get right back into that sprint and speed training,” added Volpini.
And still the benefits continue, with distance racing exposing paddlers to the concept of “wash riding”, a concept that essentially mirrors the idea of drafting in cycling, motor racing and the like. Add it to the takeaways the local crew enjoyed from their expedition to the regatta hosted by the Rideau Canoe Club in Ottawa.
“I was really pleased with not only how I worked it physically, how I pushed myself really hard, but also how well I performed my strategy during the races,” said Volpini, the local group spending time in recent months with Laurentian University student and Burloak coach Cormac Adams.
“If you work together with other boats, it can actually make the race a lot easier. Our coach taught us how to wash-ride. You’re almost paddling downhill because the wave coming off the back lifts the back of your boat. I thought I did that really well, jumping between groups in order to climb the ranks.”
That said, this event was not about qualifying for a next level distance competition. At its core, it offers a cross-training break from the summer regimen, the pinnacle of the paddling pursuit for Cole Macey and so many others.
“Personally, I prefer sprinting because I do have a shorter stature,” he said. “It’s a little easier to put more power into shorter distances than longer distances. The stroke is fundamentally the same, but you approach distances differently in terms of the race tactics.”
And while Mateo Volpini limited his racing to the K1 (solo) 10km distance, Macey added a K2 (two man) 5km with a new partner steered his way by former Sudbury coach and current Mississauga mentor Helen Savin.
“The partner I was paired with, I’ve never paddled with him before,” stated Macey. “Considering that me and him had never paddled together, we had a very good race. It was good to paddle with someone of higher caliber.”
While all of the above-noted quartet (Evan Volpini, Julien Turpin, Cole Macey, Mateo Volpini) were finishing off a very busy season of racing, the Sudbury Canoe Club took advantage of this year-end competition to offer an initial race experience to newcomers William Speropoulos and siblings Aziz and Khalid Osmanov, both having moved recently to Canada from the Ukraine.
Randy Pascal is a sportswriter in Greater Sudbury. Pursuit is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.