September 20, 2023 at 9:17 pm #109332
Hi Larry, in a recent post you talked about diesels versus Ferraris, which was a great way to talk about different training and performance styles. I have a subsidiary question to that topic. I came to SUP after having been a road bike racer for many years, where I was a “rouleur” — neither a sprinter nor a climber, but an essential team member to get both of those types to the front of the pack when needed. Now on the water I find myself in similar position: I can grind it out forever. The last race I did was a 5 mi race which I won at an average speed of 5.3 mph and an average paddle cadence of 37 strokes per minute. When I watch a video that someone took of me, I seem to be paddling extremely slowly. It’s funny because when the race started my plan was, rather than sprinting the front as I always do, I would take it a little easy to watch the competition before committing to a strategy. The guy who did rabbit off the front was paddling at a super high cadence and I thought to myself, let’s see how long he can keep this up. Well, after 1.25 mi I just blew past him and never looked back. He was doing the perfect high cadence “stabbing motion” that you see everyone doing while I was slowly churning away at 37 strokes per minute. He finished way behind. Now, part of me feels guilty that I’m not jumping on the bandwagon of the high cadence style. But if I can win races at a lower cadence, why would I change? I should also note that I had recently changed from a black project medium sized paddle to a large paddle. I’m 6 feet 174 pounds so neither a giant nor a lightweight. Do I need to force myself into a higher cadence? Should I drop a paddle size and speed things up? Or should I just reconcile myself to the fact that this is the pace that works best for me? I do think that I could increase my speed if I were to increase my cadence but I’m not exactly sure how our training plan would lead me toward that end. I appreciate any comments about this issue! Thanks, Andrew
October 15, 2023 at 9:22 pm #109699Larry Cain, Paddle Monster Head CoachParticipant
Sorry for not seeing your question earlier. For some reason I missed the notification of your post. I hope answering now still helps.
I think it is great that you can underrate guys and beat them. That said, at some point your inability to paddle comfortably at higher than your 37 strokes/min is going to hurt you. What do you do when you race someone that can paddle effectively like you do at 37 strokes a minute but does it at 44 strokes/min? Or 48? Or 50?
Just like in cycling cadence is generally inversely proportional to the load. So the “heavier” your stroke, the lower the rate. I’m willing to bet you’re paddling in a big gear that moves the board a long way every stroke. That’s winning you local races but it is limited. If you want to be really successful and win more often against more, better, paddlers you’re going to need to expand the range of paddling gears you’re comfortable in. You’re going to have to learn to lighten your stroke a little and pick up the cadence.
One thing that is important to understand is that big gear – low cadence and smaller gear – higher cadence are not necessarily equal. What you take from load and give to cadence doesn’t necessarily result in the same thing. Our boards aren’t really well designed. They slow down a lot between strokes. A faster cadence usually helps maintain speed between strokes better. Furthermore, a well connected faster stroke is going to accelerate the board faster than a slower stroke. So everyone should be trying to find more strokes while maintaining connection. At least to some point. The truth is 37 strokes/min is a very slow stroke rate.
What has probably happened here is that you are beating people paddling with faster cadences than you who actually aren’t very good. So you’re able to beat them while dramatically underrating them. However, when you come up against better paddlers, the inability to paddle effectively at higher stroke rates will cost you.
As far as the training plan goes, it provides lots of opportunities to change your cadence. The idea is to do that work with a higher cadence in a way that is sustainable without forcing you to do, for example, your level 3 work suddenly at level 4. It’s really just a question of playing with your gears and using your GPS for feedback on speed while you do. It’s not the work that changes, it’s the gear you approach doing the work with that does. Does that make sense?
November 8, 2023 at 7:36 pm #110168
My turn to apologize for not seeing this response earlier.
Thank you! What you say is completely logical and also what I expected.
I neglected to say that I had been paddling with a Black Project “medium” paddle (82 sq. in.) for a couple of years but this year as my weight went up a bit I started using a “large” (88 sq. in.) — fits right into your theory. I should go back to the medium, among other things.
I thought to myself that if I could up my cadence I can get to 6 mph. That will be my focus for this year.
January 13, 2024 at 6:47 pm #110586
I have been thinking about your advice and as part of a response I’d like to post a video. Is there a way for me to do that?
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