Here's how the series is going so far in terms of folks' times- Times generally got longer in January because the river current was strong then, and they've been getting shorter this spring because of less current plus improving skills and fitness.
Race: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards Winter Race #7
Date it happened: Easter morning 27 March 2016
Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in Bonita Springs, FL
Distance: 5.1 km on my Speedcoach SUP GPS (cut some corners this time)
Conditions: Warm, humid weather. High water with leafy floating debris. Moderate downriver current. A bit of wind in certain sections.
Participants: The hard-training CGT race team was there- Matt Kearney, Meg Bosi, Justin DiGiorgio, Kate Pagan, Murray Hunkin, Devin Turetzkin, Mark Hourigan, and me. We were amped up to see if two weeks of formal training with Mark Athanacio had improved our speeds. There were also lots of members of the broader "CGT Tribe" of avid paddlers. Great turnout.
Results: I got first place in the men's 14' class with a personal best time of 33:14. Second was Mark Hourigan, 20 years older than me but less than a minute behind in 34:09. Incredible PB performance for him, too. Third overall and first in the 12'6 class was coach Mark Athanacio in 34:40. (Amazing that he did that on a 12'6.) Third 14' guy was 50-year old Devin Turetzkin, who had his best race by far with 35:44. Millenials Justin DiGiorgio and Matt Kearney also had great times (36:00 and 36:45, respectively), but they'll need to step it up to match their increasingly fast elders- Matt was just two seconds ahead of "freight train" Murray Hunkin (36:47). First place woman was Kate Pagan in 38:24, followed by Meg Bosi in 39:02, and Beth Schadd in a personal-best 41:17. Beth is fast enough now that with a little more training or a little narrower board she could be a real threat to Kate and Meg. Watch out! Jen Hayes also got around the course pretty darn quick (42:44) without seeming to even break a sweat. If she decides to get competitive it could be real interesting. Bryan Herrick rode a big wide fishing-oriented paddleboard because his raceboard was down for repairs... but he still managed to finish in 41:20. He has been training hard in some windy condition in Matlacha Pass, and it's obviously making him strong. Complete results will be posted on the CGT TIME TRIALS page.
Gear: I used my 14'x23.75" Riviera, "Fletchy" with a 6" Fins Unlimited Keel fin. Weed fins were the call for today- Some unfortunate people like Joseph Gladieaux and Jodi Ziajka had to work twice as hard to go half as fast because their non-weed fins were dragging sticks and leaves the whole time.
Play by play: On Athanacio's suggestion we staggered the start differently than usual this time. Instead of putting the fastest race team members in the first wave of starters, we did the opposite. That way the folks in front would be the "rabbits" motivated to not get caught by the "wolves" creeping up behind them. And if they did get caught, they could practice getting into the draft of those passing them. It was great to do it that way, because it resulted in a lot of good drafting and passing action, and it probably contributed to the slew of personal best times recorded.
First wave was Matt Kearney, Justin DiGiorgio, and Devin Turetzkin. Second wave was Murray Hunkin and Mark Hourigan. Third wave was Mark Athanacio and me. I sprinted like hell off the starting line- A lot harder than I usually sprint. It was a strategy I'd been thinking of using if Athanacio had decided to use a 14'- outsprint him in the first 200 meters (hopefully) and never let him catch me. It might not have worked were we both on 14s, but with him on the slower 12'6 and probably not taking the race as seriously because of that, I did end up putting a gap on him. Then it was just a matter of chasing down the guys ahead of me. Hourigan had dropped Murray from his draft, so I came up on Murray first. I tried to approach him from wide out rather than coming straight up the center of his wake. Doing that I could sort of ride his side-wake in as I approached him. I was lucky to get around him just as we approached the downriver buoy turn.
Heading upriver I felt tired but tried to keep up the tempo and close the distance on Hourigan and the Matt-Justin-Devin train. I paddled OK except for one strategic error where I lost some speed crossing shallow water around a bend. I caught the train a little after Hourigan did. The train was rearranging a bit, with Devin making a strong move to get ahead and Matt dropping back. I squeaked around Justin with a bit of paddle clashing, and I think I then got behind Devin or Hourigan. My memory is a little fuzzy there. But at some point Hourigan and I got away from the rest and I stuck behind Hourigan while trying to recover my breath. On the upper section of course Hourigan let me by and followed me for a bit before I lost him at a sharp bend near the upriver turn-around. I was more exhausted than usual on the final, downriver leg of the course, and I made some poor decisions to go under low branches that forced me to stop paddling and coast for a bit. At the very end I picked up the pace as much as I could, and I was pleased to have beaten my PB time. It was a great race.
Here's my speedcoach track and data from the race: You have to click into it to see the details like heartrate and stuff.
Other race intrigues: Athanacio made an interesting point after the race, asking us, "Who got a personal best this time? Raise your hands. Uh huh. Who was slower?" Most of us did get personal bests, or close to it. But interestingly the person who has been putting in the most miles of practice, Murray Hunkin, was a fair bit slower than his best time of the series. Murray has been grinding out long mileage paddles in between our high intensity interval training days, which might not be leaving enough time for recovery and "consolidation" of the fitness gains made by the high intensity intervals training.
What's Next: Next race is a big one- the Sharkbite Challenge April 9th in the Tampa area. Hopefully I can keep my wits about me and apply the hard training to a speedy result in this 8 miler.