Chattajack Race Prep: Rookie Mistakes


Final Countdown to Chattajack

So, we are a little less than two months away from Chattajack time – Delta variant notwithstanding (fingers crossed!) And first-timers might be starting to get a little antsy right about now.  I know I was leading up to my first CJ!

With that in mind, here’s a cheat sheet of things to avoid as you wind up your preparations.  Most of us have made at least a couple of these rookie mistakes – so hopefully you can learn from our mistakes!

1. Not being honest about your training

If you’ve put in the work, you have nothing to worry about.  Trust the process and remember the Paddle Monster motto: Training Works. It really does.  Do not be tempted to do extra workouts or extra long workouts. Follow your plan, you will be fine.

Conversely, if you haven’t been following your plan, or training as much as you know you      should, acknowledge that and accept the consequences. It’s okay- no judgement here- life happens.  There’s still time, but it is running out.  If you are on the Paddle Monster plan, shoot your coach a note and explain how it’s been going and see what advice coach can give you. Be okay, ultimately, with what ever happens.  And don’t be that person who brags about not really training. No one wants to hear that, especially at the start line.

2. Taking too much stuff on your board

Right about now, you are either thinking about all the things you will need during the race and if you haven’t already, you’ll soon start training with all of it.  Fight the urge, especially the closer we get to race day, to add in stuff you haven’t trained with, or take everything but the kitchen sink.  That was my biggest mistake my first CJ.  I had WAY too much stuff. It made getting my board into the water more difficult than it needed to be and I didn’t use 90 percent of it.

One of my biggest rookie lessons was to switch to a liquid nutrition source that would provide both hydration and energy.  This allows you not to worry about slowing down to open packages. At about Mile 21 I always stop to switch out hydration bladders and at that time I will eat a little solid something.  Practice that.  Know what your body needs and when.

Worried about nutrition? Coach Victoria can help!

3. Not being prepared for the weather

The very first thing you will learn about Chattajack is to NEVER trust the weather forecasts.  It can be a beautiful, warm Fall day on Friday and then cold as hell on race day. Learn to dress in layers for the race.  Bring everything for paddling in all conditions.  Yes, you will not need three-fourths of it, but if the weather turns bad hours before race day – and it can, it has – then you will be glad you brought the cold weather tights. And the winter paddle top. Conversely, if the weather is warmer than forecast, you’ll be glad for the lighter kit as well.

Likewise, plan according for the clothes you will have waiting for you in the car at the finish line. Be sure to include a knit beanie cap, a warm jacket, and maybe even a cozy throw blanket.

4. Worrying about “The Flow”

New CJ racers obsess about how fast the current will be.  NO ONE KNOWS.  Do not download the Tennessee Valley Authority’s app that shows how much water the TVA plans to release from the dam above the start line.  That is akin to Googling about some perceived medical issue you think you have- maybe even worse.  Like the weather, you will not know how fast the current is flowing until you are in it on race day. Plan as is you will have ZERO push from the dam release. Do not count on any.  And remember, even if there is a good release and fast current, the father you get downstream, the less it will be.

Just don’t.  Please.

5. Worrying about “biology”

This is also an obsession. This primer might help.  But basically, just go. Practice getting used to that on your training runs.  If you like, you can stop and hang over the side, but honestly, if it’s #1, there’s not need to waste time stopping or looking for a place to pee. We pretty much all do it. I will admit, it’s a little harder in the OC or ski because of how you are sitting but if can be done. And it’s just easier to go than to worry about where and how to.

As for #2 – I’ve never needed to. Here are some strategies for that.

As it gets closer to race day, watch for more tips and hacks from the Paddle Monster team!