Training For Molokai – Getting Ready For The Race


My own training for Molokai enters my brain the moment the race ends and stays in my mind year round. At a certain point, my life literally revolves around crossing the channel, and it is very likely that everyone close to me gets really tired about hearing about it. Every time I have crossed, it ends up a twisted combination of some of the most awe inspiring and perhaps more painful hours of my life. Personally I have never had a M2O (Molokai to Oahu) go smoothly. In the first crossing, the entire chase boat got sea sick. I ended up fighting nausea for hours on end. Everyone, with the exception of the captain was either sleeping or throwing up.

In my second M2O, I came down with pneumonia two-days prior and somehow God got me to the finish line. My third year, I got a little too confident and went too far south. I finished the race by paddling two-hours upwind to China Walls, yet something about the energy out there and the magic of the race has kept me coming back purely for the love of it.

Over the years, I have found that my training fits into categories: 1) endurance training and mental training – to make sure I finish the race and enjoy the process; 2) Paddle as fast as I can for as long as I can; 3) Strength training; 4) recovery training; 5) technique training; 6) nutrition and; 7) equipment. Every single component I have found to be equally important.

What it comes down to is for the last month or so before the race, to step away from other responsibilities and do nothing but train. I haven’t found myself in a situation where I could do that but it is a model that has worked incredibly well for the Australians and Kiwis. They train very consistently at home and come to Hawaii and learn everything they can about paddling downwind and mastering bump riding.

The first part of my training plan is survival and that means long paddles and mental training. This year it is all about enjoying the process of preparing for the race. I used to dread the long days and treat them as only something that simply had to be endured. This year I have been taking in the scenery, enjoying the glides, checking out the marine life etc. Everything is built around my long paddles. I also have a training program from my conditioning coach Mick DiBetta which covers speed/interval training and long paddles. Long days require a certain amount of flexibility since winds and currents aren’t always that predictable on Oahu. I try to stick to the cardinal rules of long training days. Only increase total training load by no more than 10 percent a week, and load for three-weeks and cut back on volume on the fourth week. This year Jeff Chang from Wet Feet has had a shuttle which has been a weekend staple for paddlers looking to get long runs in. Over the years, M2O has taught me that legs are a very important part in preparing for the race. In general if I can do four hours or longer in open ocean type conditions then I have a solid chance of being able to make it across.

The second part of the training plan is speed and interval training and the third part is strength training. I train at Tactical Strength and Conditioning in Honolulu where Darrin and Barry are incredibly knowledgeable, creative, and well versed in what it takes to get an athlete to the top. The Tactical workouts were long and hard. It was good for me to integrate as much leg strength and endurance with the ‘cardio’ workouts.

Recovery training is something fairly new for me. I discovered after getting my USA Triathlon Level 1 coaches license how important recovery training is When my work schedule got hectic, I would ditch the recovery efforts in exchange for just resting. However, I have found that a 30 minute jog can clear far more lactic acid than a week of rest. Often for recovery I do an easy short technique focused down-winder — surfing the bumps as much as possible without paddling, or surf, swim or jog. This part of the program is flexible as long as I get something in. I do enjoy stretching and foam rolling.

For another perspective on preparing for the race, I check out blogs from Robert Stehlik of Blue Planet and Dave Kalama. They like to talk about the ‘Waterman’s Zen’.

On the nutrition side, I work with Dina Griffin at Fuel4mance. They help train the body to better use fat stores as fuel. We had it dialed in last year so that I didn’t have to eat anything for the entire M2O race — which was really convenient. My energy drink sponsor Generation UCAN’s technology had a lot to do with being able to pull that off without any adverse impact on performance. It was just one less thing to think about.

The last on my ‘to-do-list’ is the equipment check. Everything I am planning on using on race day has to be tested. By the time race day comes my goal is to have to do as little as possible other than paddling. If I have prepared correctly, the race should take care of itself.

Jenn J Lee


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