Goal: To set a world record for the most distance travelled in 1 day by human power on flat water
Adventure Status: Complete
Read the Blog: 24 Hour Water Distance Record Blog
On September 8, 2008 Greg pedaled his specially built human powered boat
152.33 miles or 245.16 kilometers in 24 hours setting a new world record
Before September 8th, 2008, the most distance a human had traveled under his own power on flat water was 242 km by Carter Johnson on April 29-30, 2006 on Lake Merced, California using a Huki S1-x surfski kayak. On September 8th, 2008, I challenged Carter’s record using a specially designed, state of the art carbon fiber pedal powered boat called Critical Power 2 and was able to beat his record by a slim 3 km margin. It was the most difficult 24 hour event I had ever attempted, but after 3 years, and 2 attempts, I was finally successful.
My first attempt at this record was two years earlier, on June 2nd, 2006 on Glenmore reservoir in Calgary, Alberta. I pedaled a sea kayak that I converted to a pedal powered boat and was able to beat what I thought was the official HPVA record of 168 km. However, I subsequently discovered that Carter Johnson had beaten me to the punch and had crushed that 168 km record by paddling a surf ski kayak over 242 km in 24 hours. I didn’t know about Carter’s record because it hadn’t been recorded yet. I had missed the ‘real’ record by over 65 km! Read that first attempt event report here.
I’m not one to give up on a challenge, so I took some time off, and returned to the drawing board to re-design my boat and what resulted was one of the most energy efficient human powered boats on the planet – Critical Power 2 which beat Carters record. The event report is below:
24 Hour human powered distance record on flat water – September 8th, 2008.
Wow… “this is one of those moments that I will never, ever forget” I thought. My senses were being overloaded. It was nothing less than absolutely spectacular. From my three sentence blog that I typed in over my Blackberry from on board Critical Power 2 in the middle of Whitefish lake sometime around midnight: “15.5 hours into this world record attempt and I’m feeling amazing. The lake at night is absolutely spectacular. I know it can change in a minute but I’m really having a great time right now.” I wondered if I was on another planet. I was turning my headlight off to get a better feel for this surreal night and I had just seen my 3rd shooting start. There must have been some major meteorite shower happening as these weren’t just specs of light streaking across the sky. I’m talking full-on fireballs that leave long, dark smoke trails in their wake. On top of it all, I was feeling amazing. I mean really, really good. My average was slipping, but I was feeling no pain, and very little fatigue to speak of. The water had calmed down substantially since early evening, and I was still really cruising along rocking out to my iPod and singing at the top of my lungs. I was truly on top of the world. To experience this moment, I thought, was really what this adventure was all about. To experience a moment like this, in fact, is what EVERY adventure is really all about. This one single fleeting moment will last forever as a memory and it definitely makes every bit of effort, stress and hardship I had dealt with over the previous 5 months totally worth it.The song that I chose to start my attempt to break uber kayaker Carter Johnson’s unthinkable 242 km world record was fittingly appropriate – as it traditionally is. “Shut up and let me go” by the Ting Tings. It had been a big-time stressful week for me leading up to the attempt and I kept focusing on what I was there to do – to GO. To go as hard as I could for 24 hours without ever stopping. DOING the record was the easy part in many ways. The months of boat designing, building, testing, training and organizing was the hard part, with the stress definitely culminating in the few days leading up to the big event and I was really looking forward to getting on with the real job at hand. So just let me go!
I arrived in Whitefish on Wednesday and met with Skip Schloss who lived right on Whitefish lake and who kindly offered to act as my event organizer. Skip had found some volunteers to act as officials, helped me with some valuable ideas about exactly where to best take advantage of calm water for my course, booked a work boat to set the buoys, booked a surveyor to measure my course, sent out press releases to the local media, and got permission from the State to string some buoys to mark a course, and to use the lake for a 24 hour period. Skip was a gold mine of resources and a tremendous help.
One of the problems we had to overcome was where to station our official observers so that they could see me at all times as I made my way around the course. This took a few days to iron out, as I had to design my course along the protected west shore in Google Earth, download the way point coordinates into my Garmin GPS, then ride the course with Critical Power 2 to make sure that I was able to make the turns with her tiny, but efficient rudder. We also had to confirm that all of the markers would be visible from our observer stations along the course. This required many revisions, as my first course design was too tight and I found myself drifting dangerously close to shore, and some other ideas were hidden from view.
By Sunday, we had designed a 5.79 km out and back course with two turn around loops at each end that was placed along the west shore with the north turn around near a dock at the north end of the lake. This meant that we could station one observer on the dock for 24 hours to watch me clear the buoys in the north turn around loop, and we found that with a small array of telescopes situated in Skips house, on his deck and his neighbors lawn, that a second observer could see all of the buoys in the south turn around.
On Saturday I inflated 12 buoys, assembled and fastened flashing red LED lights to each of them, purchased some cinder blocks and some rope from the local hardware store, picked up some borrowed scopes and binoculars, confirmed with my official observers, and went through the pages of other last minute details before ‘riding’ my course just one more time. As luck would have it, during my last test on Whitefish Lake with CP2, I slammed the right outrigger float directly into the dock during a miscalculated ‘landing’ and snapped my outrigger standoffs in two. When I took CP2 out of the water, I found that the shock of the crash caused all of my 3/8″ aluminum bolts to gall up (stick together, or seize) and I had to torque them apart with a wrench. I replaced the thick aluminum bolts with some thinner 1/4″ stainless bolts which I thought would be fine, but would actually cause me some grief later on during the record attempt. The bolts secure the outrigger floats onto the outrigger struts in a level attitude and stop them from teeter tottering over the waves.
On Sunday, Helen, Ben, Theresa, Pat and their two kids Nick and Andy arrived from Calgary and while Helen and Theresa did some last minute shopping to get all of my support supplies ready (food, water, clothing, etc), Pat and Ben and the guys from the Whitefish Lake Services got to work dropping the buoys down into the lake to mark my course.
By Sunday night everything was ready for a 9:00 am Monday start. It was all up to me now and I wasn’t exactly bursting with confidence.
Every calculation I had done – every simulation, every speed test – all confirmed that I would NOT be able to break Carters 241.8 km record. I had three 24 hour events that I had completed previously and I knew exactly how many watts of power I was physically capable of exerting for 24 hours. Knowing that I needed to end up with at least an average of 10.1 km/hr average speed to break Carters record, I also knew to a 10th of a km/hr, how fast Critical Power 2 was at various power inputs, and my average power required to maintain that critical 10.1 km/hr speed was about 10% higher than I was capable of. And this was during ideal, perfect conditions of zero wind and mirror glass calm water, which I don’t think really exists for 24 hours anywhere on any lake in the world. Add some wind and waves, a few stops to change clothes and you end up with power output requirements of up to 20% higher than I have ever done before for 24 straight hours.
I had shaved Critical Power 2’s weight down to just under 40 pounds, as I had calculated that every pound of additional weight could be worth up to 1 km at the end of 24 hours. I had even lost 6 pounds of body weight to weigh in at 148 pounds on race day in the hope that if I did everything possible to make CP2 faster, that it would result in slightly less pressure on my own physical performance.
I had done everything I could possibly do to make Critical Power 2 competitive with Carter’s Surfski kayak record and it was now all up to me. I had to perform like I have never performed before. This was going to be tough. There was a long history of conventionally human powered boat 24 hour distance records I was challenging and there were many skeptical paddlers following my attempt, so the pressure was really on. Here is a quick history of the 24 hour paddle records, as well as the 24 hour ‘pedal-boat’ records. As you can see, there is obvious reason for the paddler to be skeptical of what I was attempting to do.
Kayak 24 hour records:
|1986||Randy Fine||surfski||193 km|
|1991||Marinda Hartzenberg||canoe||220.5 km|
|2006||Brandon Nelson||kayak||235 km|
|2006||Carter Johnson||surfski||241.8 km|
Pedal powered boat 24 hour records:
|2000||Kevin & Karin Hughes||Microcat Ultra||90.25 km|
|2000||John Howard||Pedalos||168.43 km|
|2005||Team of 3 riders||Trieste Waterbike||176.8 km|
|2007||Greg Kolodziejzyk||WiTHiN||173.76 km|
As you can see from the “pedal powered boat” record list, I had attempted this record in June last summer. I did successfully beat John Howard’s HPVA ratified 168.4 km record by pedaling my pedal and propeller powered kayak 173.76 km in 24 hours. I was contacted soon after what I thought was a victorious world record to be told that Carter Johnson along with a long list of others using conventional human powered boats like kayaks and canoes, showed a history of distances in 24 hours far beyond my paltry 174 km.
My objective regarding my pursuit of the human powered boat record is the same pure ideal that I believe in and used to guide my human powered vehicle record quest that was successful in 2006 of 1142 km – that is, to go farther than any other human has on water (or land in the case of my 1142 km land record) in 24 hours using my own power. Simple and elegant and pure. A paddled kayak DEFINITELY counts as self-powered, and as far as I am concerned, basically re-labels all of the previous 24 hour HPVA HPB records into a category that should be called “PEDAL POWERED boat record
s”, not “HUMAN POWERED boat records”. They are grossly mislabeled. John Howard’s 168 km 24 hour human powered boat record from 2000 is NOT a “human powered” boat record. It is a “pedal boat” record because 14 years previous a fellow by the name of Randy Fine paddled his surf ski 193 km around a lake course setting the true “human powered” boat record. In all fairness to the HPVA, none of the previous canoe/kayak record holders were members of the HPVA, followed the HPVA competition rules or had their records ratified by the HPVA. Except for Carter who took the trouble to register with the HPVA, use HPVA officials and submit his record to them. Carters record has not yet been ratified by the HPVA, but I recognize it as the true bench mark for human powered 24 hour distance on water, as I do all of the kayak and canoe records dating back to 1986.
If the true goal of the IHPVA is to encourage technological innovation in the pursuit of human powered efficiency, then we need to know what works best, where to start and what the real targets are. If paddling a boat with oars or paddles is more efficient than propelling it with pedals and propellers, then I think that is what the IHPVA boat designers and record attempters need to be focused on either as honest bench marks that can be challenged using innovation and new technology, or as existing technologies that can possibly be improved on.
My goal was to see if human powered pedal and propeller boats could possibly be more efficient than a paddled boat at long distances. If I could beat Carters record, then it would be the final straw in the old debate as to which method of self propulsion was better, as all of the shorter distance records are currently held by pedal powered boats.
After a huge and delicious spaghetti dinner, followed by a large slice of calorie drenched cheese cake at our traditional “Last Supper” at Mambo Italiano restaurant in Whitefish we all headed back up to our cabin on Big Mountain and I enjoyed a restful nights sleep. I woke up refreshed at 7:00 am on Monday morning, ate a good breakfast, downed a couple cups of java and we all headed down the mountain to Skips house on the lake. When I got to Skip’s house, I met with my two IHPVA officials Tom Arnone and Glen Nye and went over some IHPVA rules, their stations, viewing my course through the scopes, recording my lap times in the binder, using the atomic clock to time the start, and the race finishing procedure for Tuesday morning (which really felt strange because it seemed so very far away!).
Then Ben and I climbed into Pat Lor’s boat and headed to Senator Weinberg’s house where CP2 was waiting for me at his dock. I negotiated through a rather thick patch of weeds on the short trip from the Senators dock to the north observation dock and official starting line. The water was like glass – as per what the weather forecast was predicting. There waiting for me was the rest of the crew on our second support boat – a large pontoon flat deck boat rented from Extreme Motorsports. We cleaned off the mop of weeds from my prop, bow and rudder, then allowed the officials Glen and Tom to inspect CP2. After finding no secret sails or mini nuclear powered motors, we got prepared for the starting countdown. Using the Atomic clock we purchased at Radio Shack the day before, head official Tom Arnone counted the seconds down to exactly 9:30 am, and shouted GO! I crossed the green start buoy and headed out to my first marker.
My plan was to be conservative and to try to maintain an easy pace of 10.5 km/hr from the start to the finish which would put me at 252 km total and about 10 km over Carter’s record. But this was far more difficult in reality because 10.5 kph felt far too easy and I was feeling rather ambitious, so decided right then and there that I would try to nail 11 km/hr for as long as I could and allow the overall average to slowly drop down to 10.5 as the 24 hours rolled by.
Once every hour or so, I would radio Helen and Theresa to tell them what I needed as far as my nutrition and hydration requirements go. Helen and I decided that since I have had stomach issues in the past, this time we were going to try to stay away from the typical carbohydrate packed energy bars and try to incorporate more regular food into my diet. I consumed 300 to 400 calories per hour consisting of pretzels, fig newtons, some balanced energy bars with a higher percentage of protein and fat with the carbs, bagels with peanut butter, noodle soup, some natural honey gels and even a cheese sandwich. To hydrate, I was consuming about 1 liters per hour of water mixed with an electrolyte. I got sick of the taste of the electrolyte after 10 hours, so switched to regular water. Over the night I drank 2 cokes, 2 Redbulls, a cup of coffee, and a cup of hot chocolate in the morning. I am happy to say that this plan worked out very well and provided me with a steady energy level without spikes and a very happy stomach.
The support package hand-offs were conducted via an extendable golf ball retriever pole with a soft vinyl lunch basket hung over the end of the rod. The extended pole was typically held by Helen from the edge of the pontoon boat. Without pausing the turn-over of the pedals, I was able to cruise right under the basket, grab it and keep on going. While I pedaled on, I unzipped the basket, removed my goodies, threw in my garbage and empty water bottle, then tossed the whole bag into the lake. They would follow me in the support boat and pick up the basket from the water.
Helen and Theresa had set up a camp at Skip’s neighbors dock on the East side of the lake. My course was on the west side. When I needed something, I would call them via the two way radio, and they would hop onto the pontoon boat and cruise out to meet me somewhere along my course at the north end. This system worked out perfectly. While Helen and Theresa were handling my support needs, Pat and Ben were busy in Pat’s ski boat ferrying the local press around, taking Jeff the surveyor from F & H Land Surveying around to the buoys for precise GPS location measurement, activating the LED lights on the buoys, and other general running around as issues popped up throughout the day and night. Ben was busy inside Skips with web updates, and on the course taking photos and shooting video. What a team! They were efficient, organized and had everything under control. I was able to do my thing without a concern or worry in the world about the all the crucial stuff that was happening back stage. I am very lucky to have this kind of support and I do not take it for granted.
At about 4 hours into the record attempt, the wind started to pick up from the South and make rougher conditions at the North. There was no shelter from this wind or waves along my West side course, so I had to increase my power output a bit to counter the slowdown caused by the waves. To maintain my current 10.9 kph average, I found that I had to maintain 11.5 kph on the leg going into the wind, and 10.5 to 10 on the downwind leg. This was frustrating, but I knew that it was typically the windiest part of the day and that it should calm down as night approached.
At about 7:00 pm, the water got much better and I had watched my average slip to 10.7 km/hr from 11 during the windy day. I was really going to try to not let it slip further than 10.7 if the night would stay calm. But it didn’t. The wind slowly started picking up and not before long it
was blowing from the North this time making whitecaps at my south turn around. I was still feeling very good though, so I just sucked it up and tried as hard as I could not to stop pedaling and not to let that average drop any further.
I was really surprised at how warm I was staying. The forecast was predicting evening low temperatures of the low 40’s and I could definitely feel the temperature drop as I approached the North turn around and observation dock. But as soon as I got back down over deep water, I warmed up immediately. I think the lake water absorbs some heat during the day which was keeping me in a light sweater for most of the night.
At about 3:00 am I took my first and only quick break to slip on long tights over my legs and a light jacket. I also placed foot warmers into my socks. This pit stop took all of about 3 minutes and I was off. My average had been slipping through the night due to the ever increasing wind and was now at 10.4 kph. I now wasn’t totally sure I was going to make it to 242 km before 9:30 am on Tuesday.
The last 5 hours were pretty tough. I was tired, no longer hungry, but kept stuffing food in, and getting pretty fatigued. I was also having problems doing the math. The average on my GPS was still showing an above record pace of 10.3 kph, but I knew that this wasn’t my “REAL” average, as we were counting laps that were surveyed and my real average speed was the total time divided by my actual distance covered as per the surveyed course. I radioed the south observer Greg B who had taken over during the night shift from Tom and asked him for my actual average. He gave me the disappointing news that it was much lower than I had hoped for. I had to keep my speed up, I could NOT give into the agony and slow. Greg was kind enough to continually reassure me that I had the record if I could keep my speed going and this was exactly what I needed to hear.
So I pressed on. I passed Carters 241.8 km world record on my 42nd lap at 09:19:40 on Tuesday morning with a total full-lap distance of 243.2 km and I knew I had a bit more than 10 minutes left to tack on as much distance as I could, so I really started to hammer. By then, the lake had calmed remarkably which was good, but I was noticing that one of my outrigger floats was bouncing around quite excessively. My smaller 1/4 stainless bolts that were replacing the thicker aluminum bolts had worked lose and the left hand float was how flopping around on it’s strut. The bow of the float was plowing right through waves rather than skimming over them. How long had it been like this? In the calm water of the last 30 minutes, I figured that this torpedo float was costing me a couple of 10ths km/hr. This was not good. I think it was flopping around like that since the peak of the wind during the night. I am lucky that my average didn’t slip any further than it did!
The support boat with head official Tom, the rest of the crew, and a TV and newspaper crew from Kalispell and Whitefish. Tom counted down the finish from the Atomic clock and Ben threw in a new buoy from Pat’s motor boat at my finish location at exactly 09:30. Head official Tom was watching to ensure that the buoy correctly marked my finish location. Tom took a hand-held GPS reading of the finish buoy and recorded it. After subtracting 33 feet from the GPS reading to allow for the GPS accuracy, we would add the partial lap distance to my full lap distance to come up with a final distance. Since I was near shore, a land mark on the nearby shore was also noted and recorded as a reference to my finishing location.
Here are the UNOFFICIAL Distance calculations:
Course distance by F & H Land Surveying, Inc. = 19,003.88 ft (accuracy less than 1 cm)
Number of full laps completed in 24 hours as counted by official observers = 42
Total full lap distance (42 laps x 19,003.88 ft) = 79,8162.96 feet
Final partial lap distance calculation:
Distance of finishing buoy from last surveyed marker corrected less Garmin GPS error (3410.12 ft – 33 ft) = 3377.12 feet
Total distance of last partial lap from start buoy (B9) to finishing point (279.58 + 965.28 + 1559.84 + 3377.12) = 6181.82 feet
Total finishing distance = 804,344.78 feet (245.1642 km, 152.338 miles)
This record is NOT official until the records committee at the International Human Powered Vehicle Association ratify it.
Thanks to my HPVA officials:
Thanks to my loyal and efficient support crew. Most of these amazing people have been with me through thick and thin since the first Alabama HPV record attempt in 2005.
Special thanks to Whitefish Lake Services for donating their work boat and their time to set my buoy course. Special thanks also to Jeff Bell and F&H Land Surveying for providing me with a survey of my course and a distance calculation. I would also like to thank Skip’s friend Sandy for taking some awesome photos, and Senator Dan Weinburg for letting me store Critical Power 3 at his house the night before the attempt. Thanks to Tom LaChance for the use of his dock for our North observation station, Skips neighbor Rick Anderson for the use of his dock and lawn for my support crew and of course Skip Schloss for the use of his house and his generous hospitality.
And finally, there would be no record if not for the help from Aussie engineer Rick Willoughby with the design of Critical Power 2 based on Rick’s V11. With Rick, I had unlimited access to one of the true geniuses of the human powered boat world. In my opinion, there is not a more efficient boat design on the planet. Thanks Rick.