Originally posted on team206.org by Renick Woods on 8/26/2013

If you are a Stand Up Paddler in Seattle then you should know about Round The Rock, it has been a big influence on the SUP growth in our community and is also the premier distance event, with a tagline of “The Biggest SUP event in the Pacific Northwest”. Round The Rock.. not to be confused with Around The Rock or Race Around The Rock, it is simply Round The Rock,  A challenging course at 13 miles that circumnavigates Mercer Island (aka “the rock”). We have been receiving questions from paddlers asking about Round the Rock that include; “How do I train for this race? How much hydration is needed? What are the conditions? Is it typically windy?” etc etc. So we’ve compiled a list of pointers to address these questions and hopefully help you prepare for this event.

RTR Variables:

  1. Crowds
    This event attracts a lot of paddlers, last year there were 159 entry’s in the 13 mile course and another 72 in the 3.5 mile course! That’s a lot boards, paddles, gear and athletes to manage at Seward Park. Now imagine the starting line. Prepare for both mass start and division start, you will want to get your warm up in early and find your place in the line up so you are not rushing.
    Some tips: if you can handle choppy water from all the board wash and want to be in contest for position, then line up in line to the tip of the island. If you’re not willing to be tossed around and jostled, setup behind the first line of competitors and after the start flag let them clear out then start a second or two latter, or find a spot on the side of the pack. Once underway you will find that some pull ahead and some fall behind, and you will hit a rhythm and find your comfort zone. More recently there is a trend at large SUP events (i.e.: Gorge) to stagger the start based on division, ie: Elite Paddlers, Open and Age Groups, this is really helpful and makes things easier on organizers, athletes and most importantly safety, hopefully RTR will do the same this year but be ready for mass start if that’s what goes down.
  2. Training
    The first thing is to be sure you put in your water time and build your mileage. An example mileage builder plan would start 3 months prior to the race, begin with 10 miles a week and gradually build up to 30 miles in a week, then taper down 2 weeks before the race. Joe suggests that every week you have a  “base” day that you put aside for mileage and 2-3 days that you put aside for speed and endurance, every 2 weeks increase your base mileage day by 1.5 miles, by now (2 weeks before event) you should be paddling 10-15 miles on your base training day and another 15 miles divided over your high intensity workouts, totally 30-40 miles in a week. It is very important that you rest and recover, over training is really easy to do and will hurt your performance. Your last big base builder should be no less then 10 days before the event to give you enough recovery time, then you taper down mileage. There is a lot of science that goes into a training program and it varies from person to person.A good piece of equipment to pick up could be a GPS device to track your mileage and discover a comfortable race pace for RTR. The biggest mistake of novice paddlers is to blow out or bonk early in the race, this is caused by a lack of awareness & not always athletic ability, try to avoid this.Visualize the 2-3 hour race and imagine the walls you will be hitting and how you will blast through them, you will be tempted to slow down, get distracted or doubt yourself.. BE READY for that and have an answer for it, true mental toughness is not just being a hard ass, it is navigating the pain through process. Some athletes have word ques or mantra’s to help them through long distances, discover what your strengths and weaknesses are and build on your strengths while improving your weakness. Brudah Joe says “Focused, Relaxed, Determined” for mind, body and spirit, all coordinated together to be the most effective you can be. Its a great montra when you get loopy and find yourself wondering, first focus on the moment and what you are doing or should be doing, then relax your body, being tense will only tax you further, next remember your commitments and those who inspire you like your family and friends, inspire your spirit to take you to the next level through gut and determination.
  3. Wind
    Expect it. If it doesn’t show then smile, because its a bitch and will test you. If the past has been an indicator it’s almost always windy in some way or another. Last year was by far the worst with the last three or so miles dead on into it. So go paddle in wind. Get ready for it. Wind can be intimidating but with some practice can turn into something really fun. Read the waves and time your strides so you can glide the backs if your pushing upwind, or stay loose if its side chop, and if you get lucky with wind and your back I sure hope you know what to do with a nice glide, make the most of it.
  4. Distance
    The race is 13 miles which isn’t easy for anyone. It’s a grind. But when you cross the finish you’ll have done something few have. If you commit to training for it, you will be fine, so trust in your training. One thing I highly recommend  is paddling the full race course as many times as possible, that way you get to know it. You can spot land marks and remember where they are, what to expect and how much further you have to go etc.
  5. Sun & Hydration
    This is the Northwest and you’re thinking “Sun? What sun”? Yes compared to other locations we’re cool or downright cold, but this summer we have had almost 2 months of straight sunshine, and the average temp for the RTR weekend is 73, which is plenty hot and after a few miles it could be a factor in your performance.  So bring water and sunscreen. A camelbak or alike is a must for this race, get one and try paddling with it to get a feel for how much water you will need and get comfortable with the device. You should also test out different hydration supplements to see if they work for you or maybe stick to water if you have a sensitive stomach. Some add electrolytes in the form of Skratch labs, Nuun, Heed, Perpetuam, Cytomax or Gatorade type mixes. I don’t suggest Gatorade because of high sugar content, I prefer Skratch Labs, it works the best for me. It’s made without all the sugar and designed by endurance athletes like you and me. Some also find mixes that contain vitamins, proteins, aminos, carbs and lipids. Try different mixes and see which one works the best for you before RTR and during a training run. The last thing you want is to get stomach cramps drinking a mix you haven’t tested.Don’t forget sunscreen! They’re are several to choose from, find one that doesn’t run with sweat or water and is natural (not chemical based). 30 spf  is good. Then just like the camelbak and water mix, try it before the race. That’s probably the best advice I can give you about this topic is test everything you are planning to use on the race from board, paddle, board shorts, jersey, sunscreen, hydration and sunglasses. You don’t know how something will feel or work in a race until you have raced with it before.

So there you have it. A few tips and tidbits to prepare you for RTR. Bring your smile and thank the organizers and volunteers who make this event possible! Be ready for anything, then go have fun and paddle the best you can.