• 15th July 2017 - By greg

    What does it take to break a world record?

    • 1. A custom made carbon fiber hull from one of the best racing hull composite guys I know from Kansas city Yancy Scroggins
      2. World class human powered boat engineered by *the* industry pioneer from down-under Rick Willoughby
      3. About a year of boat fabrication by myself, Shane from Innovative wings, and Manny machinist extraordinaire resulting in a state of the art human powered boat weighing in at less than 30 pounds
      4. A winter of indoor mag-trainer training watching hundreds of hours of NetFlix
      5. A hundred hours of testing, tuning and training on Glenmore reservoir and Whitefish Lake
      6. Hundreds of miles of outside training rides
      7. Course buoys set by Glenmore boat patrol
      8. Course survey by Terramatic Technologies surveyor
      9. A special over-night Glenmore boat patrol shift
      10. Permission to use the reservoir after sundown from the City of Calgary
      11. A 24 hour record attempt involving over 15 of the hardest working, big hearted people I know who I am LUCKY to call friends.
      12. An understanding wife who not only knows how to take care of me during these grueling events, but knows how to push me to achieve levels that I would never pursue if not for her belief in me.
      13. A dad who knows a thing or two about “going that extra mile” to make people feel like they are part of the family and the man who I can rely on to give it to me straight without sugar coating.
      14. A sister who I sometimes refer to as my “right hand man” whose unwavering support for all of my record attempts and other various endurance pursuits.
      15. Nearly perfect weather for 24 hours: Low, low wind, wind from a sheltered direction, no surprise hurricanes in the middle of the night, no thunder storms.
      16. A debris-free lake. No weeds, no sticks and no logs to slam into during the dark of night.
      17. State of the art equipment that is well tested and doesn’t fail at any point during 24 hours of nonstop use.

    Sadly, more often than not, a variable in the above algorithm fails and you pack up and go home.

    That’s the way it goes. This isn’t my first failure… not by a long shot. And it won’t be my last. The best we can do is to document, evaluate, learn, correct, reload, and try again.

    Here is how it all went down

    I got started at about 7:30 am on nearly perfectly calm water conditions, clear blue skies and surprisingly warm temperatures for this early summer morning in Calgary. After 1.5 laps of my 3.264 km course, I felt something break in my gear box, and the pedals started freely spinning without turning the prop. After a quick look, I realized that a part had broken inside the gear box. I called the glenmore patrol boat, and they came out to fetch me. We perched 30 lb “Libby” across the bow of the patrol boat and motored back to our “home dock”. On our short journey back I told the 2 patrols on the boat about the issue, and we contemplated the potential causes. I said that I did have a backup gear box, but that the back up was built exactly the same way the primary box was built, and if there was a flaw in the primary gear box, that flaw would probably also exist in the back up.

    I have been using this type of gear box for over a decade and we (Rick W, Manny my machinist, and myself) have ironed out all of the potential issues, and we consider the MitrPak gear box to be pretty rock solid. Also, I had put over 100 hours in training on an old gear box without any issues at all, so this break-down was a mystery to me. I asked the patrols what they thought I should do, and they both said that they thought it was worth installing the spare, and re-loading.

    So that’s what we did. It took about 20 minutes to remove the busted box and put the spare on. We re-set the clock and started over.

    That ended up being good advice because I didn’t have *that* problem with the new gear box. Ben Eadie, who has been involved in every record I’ve attempted over the last 11 years offered to take the busted gear box back to his shop to take a closer look at what happened. It turned out that the dust cap had backed off due to lubrication leaking out and the gears became unmeshed. Fixing it was a simple matter of using a spanner to tighten the dust cap. We’ve known about this potential problem, and in my opinion, it is a MitrPak design flaw. The way we have dealt with the issue in the past is to ensure that we use some Loctite on the dust cap threads to stop it from moving. Obviously, something was up with the Loctite we used to secure the cap this time around..

    For the next 8 hours or so, everything was going pretty well. On my GPS, I was maintaining 11 kph, which ended up being around 10.7 kph overall average considering stops to get resupplies, peeing and stopping to shake weeds off the prop and rudder.

    But then at about 10 hours in, my gear box locked-up. I quickly saw that the pin that holds the input gear coupler onto the gear box shaft had slid out of it’s hole, and was hitting one of the gear box screws. To get it back into it’s hole, I had to call Helen to bring me a hammer from the tool box. Luckily this happened directly across the course from the home dock, but 15 to 20 minutes was wasted trying to fix this problem! I kept the hammer, and it happened again after only 1 hour. The next time the pin slid out, I hammered it back into place, continued to the home dock, and got some gorilla tape to wrap around the coupler to hold the pin in place. This worked for a few more hours until the pin cut itself through the 3 layers of gorilla tape and collided with the gear box screw again. I was able to fix that by re-wrapping the tape. I guess I forgot to loctite the pin for the back-up gear box!

    Unfortunately, that 10.7 average dropped down to 10.4 or less when we considered the pin slipping issues and the distance I travelled as per Guinness rules about only counting laps around the surveyed course. There was a huge drop in distance actually travelled vs distance that I got credit for. This was due to the relatively small 3.2 km loop course, and the tight, inefficient turn arounds at both ends.

    My average continually slowed throughout the day from maintaining 11 kph on the GPS for the first 5 hours, to struggling to maintain 10.5 for the next 5 hours, to struggling to maintain 10.2 kph for the last 5 or so. Part of the problem, I think, was starting at too low cadence. I used the small 17 tooth gear for the first 10 hours, then when I switched to the larger 19 tooth gear, my cadence went up to 85, and my average speed increased by about .3 kph.

    I can’t say enough about how totally awesome Helen and my sister Theresa were! For my resupply stops, they got into a canoe, and paddled out from the dock to meet me along my course. They placed supplies like a new water bag and food into a floating plastic cooler, and handed it to me using my mom “Libby’s” telescopic golf ball retriever. They even put up with my mood swings.

    I was FLOORED when Helen told me how many friends had stopped by the reservoir to watch and visit! We are just so lucky to have such incredibly supportive friends and family. It’s just too bad I couldn’t visit with them, but I’m more than happy to be the source of their entertainment.

    Rowers on the lake cheered and shouted encouragement to me as I blasted around my course, and I was very surprised when the SS Moyie paddle wheel ship from Heritage Park carrying a hundred tourists passed by me on one loop and I overheard the skipper announce my record attempt over the loud speaker. Everyone on board cheered and clapped and waved! That was so great.

    I’m extremely grateful to the volunteers who happily donated their time to make this event happen. The official observers Mace mortimer, Christine Gracel, Matt Bennett, Chris Comfort, Gary Erickson, Joey Webber, Jay Yanota, and Wayne Anderson. And of course my technical wizards who have been with me for almost every record attempt since 2007, John Mackay and Ben Eadie. I also want to thank Pat Lor for his help. He was responsible for recording the video and photo evidence package, which, unfortunately, we won’t be able to submit to Guinness. Pat is the kind of guy who is always there for anything that needs to get done, and is always the first to offer. Thanks to my brother Alan who made the “Libby” decal and the “24 hour record attempt” signs which notified other boaters to stay out of my lane… which they often didn’t.

    My dad Rudi is my hero. He arrived at 6:00 am to set up his camp including a tent, table, chairs, and of course his pencil sharpener! I called dad numerous times from the boat to ask about my “real” average speed calculations. I counted on him to never sugar coat the ugly truth! Rudi knows a thing or two about “going that extra mile” to make people feel like they are part of our family. The whole event wouldn’t have been the same without him – I’m so glad we did this in Calgary where I could get him involved again, just like my first WR in Eureka CA.

    My boat is truly state of the art. An incredible 13 lb carbon fiber hull designed by Yancy Skroggins, with over all engineering by my mentor Rick Willoughby which resulted in quite possibly the most efficient human powered vessel in the world (endurance, not outright speed). I called her “Libby” after my dearly departed mother Elizabeth “Libby” who was the inspiration for this attempt. I honestly could feel her presence many times through the day as my fatigue and frustrations over technical problems started to get the best of me.

    I remembered something my mom used to tell me all of the time: “Greg, don’t you know that TODAY is the very FIRST day of the rest of your life?”.

    So with my mom’s wise advice in my heart right now, I feel that I must not give up. In fact, we are just getting started, as today, this day, is the first day of the rest of my life, and I plan on making it count! Stay tuned…

    The data:

    Here is a visual of 16 hours of GPS track data:

    My 16 hours of loops

    Here is a summary of each hour, and my GPS average speed:

    • 9:00 to 10:00 = 10.6 kph
      10:00 to 11:00 = 10.7 kph
      11:00 to noon = 10.7 kph
      noon to 1:00 = 10.8 kph (v. calm water)
      1:00 pm to 2:00 pm = 10.7 kph
      2:00 pm to 3:00 pm = 10.3 kph (wind/waves pick up – sail boats in rowing lanes)
      3:00 pm to 4:00 pm = 10.4 kph
      4:00 pm to 5:00 pm = 10.4 kph
      5:00 to 6:00 pm = 10.5 kph
      6:00 pm to 7:00 pm = 10.1 kph
      7:00 pm to 8:00 pm = 8.5 kph (7:33 pm pin slid out)
      8:00 pm to 9:00 pm = 9.2 kph (8:13 pm taped pin, switched to large gear, taped lights to boat)
      9:00 pm to 10:00 pm = 9.4 kph
      10:00 pm to 11:00 pm = 9.3 kph
      11:00 to midnight = 8.4 kph (11:01 pin slid out again – re-taped)
      midnight to 12:51 am = 6.5 kph (blown into shore)

    When water was fairly decent (mix of calm and wind with small waves) for the first 5 hours, my average was 10.72 kph (9:00 am to 2:00 pm)

    As wind picked up a bit more, and I became more fatigued, ave speed slowed to 10.3 kph for next 5 hours (2:00 pm to 7:00 pm) from 7:00 on, too many problems to determine what my pace would have been aside from 2 hours between 9:00 and 11:00 where ave was 9.3 kph

    Here is a ranked list of the causes of my speed slowdown.

    Causes of ave speed slow down (raw GPS data method):

    • 1. Technical problems
      2. Fatigue
      3. Logistics: not efficient resupply, taping night lights replacing battery & pee slow downs/stops
      4. Wind / waves
      5. Avoiding boat traffic

    Of course, we were not allowed to use GPS distance, but had to count laps and multiply by surveyed distance. Here is the ranked list again, but this time considering the goal of counting surveyed laps:

    Causes of ave speed slow down (counting laps method):

    • 1. Technical problems
      2. Fatigue
      3. Course wasn’t LARGE enough – too many tight turns
      4. Poor setting of turn around buoys (not rounded properly)
      5. Avoiding Boat traffic
      6. Logistics
      7. wind/waves


    Course and distance measuring: If I can get Guinness to change the rules, and be allowed to submit GPS distance as total distance travelled, then assuming a 80% to 100% ideal weather day, no technical problems, very efficient “pit stops”, and a large, gradually turning course, I estimate that I would have probably been able to maintain an average of 10.6 kph for first 12 hours, then maybe 10 for next 12 hours equaling an overall average of 10.3 which is 2 km over my first record on Whitefish Lake, MT (245.16 km, 10.215 kph).

    I think that 2 km ‘edge’ from being able to submit GPS data would be erased if we had to use a surveyed course – even if the course was large with gradual turns.

    In retrospect, I believe that the new boat “Libby” is faster than the original 24 hour record boat “CP2”, but I am physically slower than I was 10 years ago. These 2 factors are probably equal, and therefore cancel each other out.

    Cadence: when doing 11 kph, I was doing about 78 rpm using small 17 tooth gear. When I shifted to large 19 tooth gear, that worked out to 87 rpm at 11 kph, or 83 rpm for 10.5 kph using 19 tooth gear which felt much better on the legs after 8 hours. If I switch to folding prop, that will change because folding prop spins faster.

    Weeds: I stopped too many times to clear weeds off the prop, and to back paddle with my hands in the water to clear weeds off of my rudder. I think that the folding prop, and surfski weed shedding rudder should be used – they are slightly slower, but probably not as slow as having to back paddle periodically. If Rick can get me the new carbon prop, then I should use it, but devise a more efficient method of inspecting the prop and clearing it (i.e.: right foot un-strapped to shoe so I can use my foot to lift prop shaft to grab shaft and shake weeds off.

    Support stops: We need a STATIONARY ramp to place water bags and food so that I don’t have to slow down to grab the cooler from the pole, and unzip cooler, etc. We also need to practice this procedure to make it more “pit stop” like.

    Food: After 8 hours of eating bars, I got really sick of them (as per usual, you would think I would learn!). I think I need to eat more real food like I did on Whitefish lake during the first water record. I did have a slice of pineapple pizza during this attempt and it REALLY hit the spot. Sandwiches, pizza slice, noodles, wraps, date squares, etc. Also supplimented with gels and blocks and the occasional piece of candy like licorice, and coke.

    Other things to remember:

    • I did slam into a huge log after dark. The log was about 5” diameter, and 3 feet long. I hit it perfectly square with a loud “BANG”, the boat shuttered and the log bounced under the boat then bounced off the prop shaft. It did not hit the prop because I had stopped pedaling by then. I later examined the bow and there is not a single scratch.
    • After i plugged the hole in the stern, and added small vent tubes to each float, there was NO WATER in the hull after the record attempt.
    • It would be helpful to build a small dam under the seat to hold supplies and the water bag so they don’t slide off hull when a wake washes over hull.
    • If you can use GPS, then buy a smaller Lipoly battery WITHOUT a push-button on-off switch, and assemble the spare iPhone with this battery in a water prof pound and place in a water-free, shaded space under the seat. My backup GPS logging bundle using my big lipoly battery died when the on/off push button on the battery got pushed by accident – serious DESIGN FLAW! That has happened so many times….
    • Also install Strava BEACON app on that iPhone (or findmyphone) which will uses the LTE cell network to broadcast my location. This way you I collect GPS tracking data, AND provide a way for crew to know my location at all times. This would make the witness job much easier.
    • Tape lights onto hull BEFORE the event starts. Night time warm clothing: sweater and leg warmers because they can be slipped on with minimal stopping.


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