Location: The Imperial River at Riverside Park in Bonita Springs, Florida
Distance: 5.1 km
Conditions: High, smooth water with a moderate downriver current. Warm and sunny but not killer hot.
Participants: I skipped this race because I had to get to an appointment later in the morning. But I had just enough time to stop by and film the other racers. (See video above.) A few others of the usual crew, including Murray Hunkin and Mark Hourigan, also had to miss it. But most of the CGT race team/tribe were there, along with some new folks.
Results: Mark Athanacio won race #9 with ease in 33:29, bringing his series average time to 34:05. If not for the time in February that he raced with the flu his average would be 33.something. My average time 33:38 wins me the series (whoopee!) but not by a lot. Second place man was Justin DiGiorgio, who got a solid personal best time of 35:36. Third place was Matt Kearney in 36:53. First place woman Kate Pagan blazed to an incredible personal best time of 36:58, more than a minute faster than the previous fastest womens' time. Kate has been training hard with Mark Athanacio on the water and in the gym, and it's showing in her speed and attitude. She has also switched to a sleek 12'6 x 22" 2016 model Riviera RP raceboard, which seems to be a great match for her. Second place woman Meg Bosi had a solid performance, tieing her personal best time of 38:56 on her 12'6 x 24" Hovie Comet. Beth Schadd, riding a 12'6 x 26" BlkBox UNO, got 3rd with a very respectable 40:44. (Beth is a super fast runner and is going to be tough competition in a combo 5k RUN / 5 k SUP race coming up May 21st in Sarasota.) The full results for CGT race #9 and the series as a whole are on the CGT Time Trials page.
Other race intrigues: There were a lot of great "grand finale" performances in this race. Joe Gladieux took big chunks off his previous personal best time to get 42:14, which was almost 10 minutes faster than his time in the first race of the series. Practice pays off! John Weinberg beat his best by more than a minute and entered the category of "serious sub-40 minute" racers by getting 39:08. Donna Catron also showed steady improvement, dropping another 43 seconds off her previous personal best time to get 43:38. Heather Olson, who says she's just doing it for fun was looking a little more seriously competitive with a quick 45:52 time on a 24" wide raceboard. Not to be outdone, Heather's friend big-haired David Eisenberg pushed his 10'6 surf-style SUP to its limits and got 45:31. It'll be interesting to see what he can do when puts in that kind of effort on a raceboard.
David Eisenberg warms up.
What's Next: I'm getting nervous already for the Key West Classic (12 mile long race all the way around the island of Key West) this Saturday, April 30th. From the CGT race team we'll be representing with Devin Turetzkin, Matt Kearney, Murray Hunkin, Saralane Harrer, and myself.
Location: Koreshan State Park on the Estero River in Estero, FL. It's an area with an interesting pre-european history, as a thoroughfare of the Calusa people, whose coastal empire centered around "Mound Key" in Estero Bay. (The Imperial River, where the CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards races are held, is also a tributary of Estero Bay and a former Calusa highway. In fact CGT stands for "Calusa Ghost Tours," which was one of the outfitter's original staples.) The more recent history of Koreshan State Park is also interesting, since it was the site of a bizarre religious compound in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. From the park description, "Throughout its history, Florida has welcomed pioneers of all kinds. Cyrus Reed Teed was probably the most unusual, bringing followers to Estero in 1894 to build the "New Jerusalem" for his new faith, Koreshanity. The colony, known as the Koreshan Unity, believed that the entire universe existed within a giant, hollow sphere. The colony began fading after Teed´s death in 1908, and in 1961 the last four members deeded the land to the state. What remains of their once vibrant community are 11 beautifully maintained historic structures that date from 1882-1920 and landscaped grounds including unique ornamental exotic vegetation from throughout the world. Today, visitors can fish, picnic, boat, and hike where Teed´s visionaries once lived and created their own utopia."
There's also a darker chapter in Koreshanity. The Waco, Texas cultists who fatally clashed with the federal government in the 1990s were lead by David Koresh, a claimant to the Koreshan line of reincarnated Jesuses.
Distance: There was a "10 mile" and a "4 mile" but the former was shortened due to Coast Guard concerns about not being able to provide safety for the originally proposed rounding of Mound Key in Estero Bay. Instead the turnaround for the long race was placed right where the Estero River empties into Estero Bay, for a total distance of about 7.9 miles / 12.7 km. It was a still a long, challenging race. They also had a 1 mile race for kids and parent-kid teams.
Conditions: Typical, warm, hazy Florida weather. There was minimal current at the start of the race, but the incoming tidal current got increasingly strong further towards Estero Bay. Fortunately a breeze from the East was at our backs when going against the current, and the current helped fight the breeze on the return leg of the race. In many areas the water was very shallow. This dramatically increases drag through an interesting physical mechanism. There's often a temptation to hug the riverbanks to get out of the wind and current, but because of the very shallow water in this race the mid-channel was usually the place to be.
Participants: In the SUP division, several members of the CGT race team/tribe were there, including Matt Kearney, Murray Hunkin, Kate Pagan, Donna Catron, Beth Schadd, Mark Payne, Phil Trudgeon, Joe Gladieux, the Hammond family, and Johns Weinberg and Wheeler. We also had some riders benched by illness or injuries who nevertheless came out to cheer us. In the canoe and kayak divisions there were some familiar faces like surfski paddler Doug Lindsay, plus lots of people I'd never seen before. There were loads of kids, teenagers, and adults from Cape Coral's South Florida Canoe and Kayak Club. The SFCKC is a non-profit organization that trains paddlers of all levels, offers summer camps for local kids, winter training for serious racers from up north, etc.
Results: The full results are going to be posted in a few days by the College of Life Foundation, so I'll just briefly go over the adult SUP division results, which are what I remember best. The results are a bit deceptive because there were age and gender divisions but the young weren't always faster than the old, the men weren't always faster than the women, etc. E.g., I got first place in the long race with 1:27:25 but the second fastest finisher was 50+ class Phil Trudgeon. 49 year old Murray Hunkin crossed the line just before Phil, but Murray had started earlier and thus didn't beat Phil's time. Third in the young men division was John Weinberg. Second and third in the old men division were Will Compton (70 years old!) and Mark Payne.
Top 3 male sup racers under 50, minus Murray Hunkin who left before the awards to play golf.
Top 3 male sup racers over 50.
Two women did the long race- Beth Schadd (left) seemed to pick up speed with every mile and finished first, while Donna Catron took a wrong turn that made the race MUCH longer but still managed to cross the line eventually. Both women were first in their age divisions.
In the shorter race Matt Kearney was the first young man, Jason Mastin the second, and (I think) Joseph Gladieux the third. Joe didn't stick around for the awards.
For the short race old man division John Wheeler was first. The names of the second and third place competitors elude me now- but maybe it was Hal Atzingen in 3rd?
Young womens' short race was a very fast group- CGT team hero Kate Pagan raced hard but was just edged off the top spot by a fast girl from Wisconsin. I think Wisconsin girl also beat our top men in the short race. Pretty impressive. Third woman was also an out of towner, if I'm not mistaken. I don't think there were any older women SUP competitors in the short race.
Gear: I used my usual 14'x23.75" custom carbon Riviera RP raceboard with a 6" Fins Unlimited fin. I used the Riviera Vantage R8 paddle that I recently cut down to 77". There were no board length divisions in this race, so it was an advantage to have a 14' board.
Play by play: For me this was an "extra" race that popped up at the last minute and didn't quite fit into my fitness training schedule, which is based around the Key West Classic at the end of the month. Coach Mark Athanacio advised me to take it easy. I did take it easier than usual, not only because of Mark's advice but also simply because I was worn out from his tough gym and paddle workouts the previous two days.
Nevertheless, I wanted to do a respectable pace and win first place. The plan was to work together with Murray Hunkin, who is normally a bit slower than me. We lined up at the start line and agreed to trade off drafting positions during the race. The starts were staggered, as in the CGT races, because the river is too narrow to line everyone up at once.) During the starting countdown Murray hilariously started paddling at about "3" while everyone else waited until "1". That brought a few jeers from the crowd but no penalty was called. Anyway, Murray let me ahead after 100 meters or so, but after a bit of shallow water and sharp turns, Murray told me to go on ahead because the conditions didn't suit his juggernaut style.
My strategy the rest of the race was pretty simple- Paddle efficiently, keep my heart rate moderate, don't overstrain my sore bits, and stay in the fastest part of the river. There were a few spots where it would have been easy to make a navigational error. The turn-around buoy for the short race was in a wide side channel to the right, which lured in some of the long race paddlers who should have continued left. I'm glad I asked the people on the safety boat for directions there. Further downriver there was a well-marked fork to the right for the "Calusa Blueway" paddling trail, but we had to stay left in the main Estero River Channel. (That's where Donna Catron and Doug Lindsay took their LONG detours).
After finally reaching Estero Bay, fighting a strong tidal current in the last km or so, it was great to turn around and get a boost from the current on the way back. My Speedcoach SUP 2 gps helped me stay in the fast part of the channel for the return- sometimes the river was wide but the current was concentrated in a relatively narrow area. The final quarter of the race got hard again, because the helpful current diminished and a headwind kicked up. My energy held pretty well with sips of Gatorade from my water pack, but I had to paddle gingerly and switch sides more often towards the end because of soreness in my triceps related to a weight lifting thing we had done on Thursday.
The awards and lunch after the race were in a nice shady pine tree area and were run smoothly. They had the mayor of Estero come out to hang the medals on our necks, which was cool.
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: I should mention that it was really cool to see the youth racers from the SFCKC charging hard and having a good time.
What's Next: Next race is a local one- the final round of the CGT Winter Race Series, April 24th. It's a 5 km race in a lazy, bendy river. You do NOT need to have done any of the other races in the series to do it, and registration is just $5. Open to any paddlecraft- kayaks, SUPs, etc. At the race they will probably announce the summer race series, which will feature a slightly altered course with two laps of about 2 miles each. Then, April 30th is a huge out-of-town race for me, The Key West Classic, which is a horrendous challenge going all the way around Key West.
Date it happened: My dad's birthday, 10 April 2016
Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in Bonita Springs, FL
Distance: 5.06 km on my Speedcoach SUP GPS (picked good lines around the bends)
Conditions: Gorgeous springlike weather in the low 20's Celsius. Ebbing tide with lowish water and moderate downriver current. Patches of moderate East wind.
Participants: Much of the usual CGT race team was absent, having been scattered by travel for the previous day's out-of-town race, the Sharkbite Challenge in Dunedin, Florida. The Sharkbite had the makings of an epic race, with 300+ participants in kayak, sup, and outrigger canoe classes, but it was tragically called off by the authorities (Coast Guard, Police, Park Rangers, etc.) due to safety concerns stemming from the rough water and strong offshore winds. It was a bummer that we all drove 3 hours each way and couldn't race, but I at least got wet and rode few waves on my raceboard before we turned around for home. Some of the rest of the team turned lemons into lemonade by doing a just-for-fun paddle at Weeki Wachee springs on the way home. Anyway, after those Saturday adventures, the only race team members to return for the Sunday morning CGT race were Mark Hourigan and me. A cool thing about that was that it allowed some up-and-coming racers to really shine. It also allowed Hourigan and me to put the pedal to the metal in an uncrowded river.
Results: I got first place in the men's 14' class and a new personal best time of 32:49, 26 second faster than my previous best. Hourigan got 33:49, also a personal best and his first sub-34 minute time. Dark horse Phil Trudgeon showed the speed of his new blue Riviera 14'x27" raceboard with an impressive 35:35. This was an incredible 3 minutes faster than Phil's previous record time, set on an older 14'x29" board. Jesse Lavender also had an impressive mid-30s time of 36:59. Several dudes who aren't always super quick showed serious speeds, including John Weinberg with 40:14, and Mark Payne with 41:46. 56 year old Mark Payne has recently switched to a KeNalu paddle with a relatively long, flexible shaft, and he says it helps him stay quick and efficient without hurting his back. First place woman was Beth Schadd, who broke through the 41 minute barrier with an impressive 40:38 on a 12'6x26" BlkBox UNO. Heather Olson who just takes it easy still got a pretty fast 47:38, and Jodi Ziajka struggled with a partially detached and totally weed covered fin to get 52:41. Jodi- time to get a weed fin and a normal fin screw instead of those bogus quick release weed-catcher screws. 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. The light weight of the board and the moderate rocker and not-too-sharp nose help it with cornering and acceleration- important in this bendy-river race. Mark Hourigan used "Whitey," a 14'x25" Riviera that is very fast in the straights but doesn't corner or accelerate quite as well due to the displacement nose and slightly wider and heavier mass. I heard Hourigan express some interest in going to a 14x23 2016 model Riviera, which would probably make him even faster than he is now. CGT is selling the 2016 Riviera raceboards very cheap, similar to the what they're selling used boards from some of the other brands for. If you're in the market for a raceboard and you want to demo it first check CGT out because they have lots of stuff you can ride. One piece of gear that I changed for this race was my paddle. I used the same Riviera Vantage 8" wide paddle that I usually use, but I cut the shaft down from about 80 to about 77 inches. 77 is the new recommended length for my height. The short shaft lets me get the blade in and out of the water quicker, and gives me more power over the blade in the "sweet spot" of the stroke. It also encourages me to use my lower body better. Seems to be working so far.
Play by play: This race was pretty "boring" from a technical/tactical standpoint because I started in the first group and was out in front the whole time. I was going to work with Mark Hourigan in a draft train, but I zipped too fast off the starting line for him to get in my draft and I was too excited about trying for a personal best time to bother to slow down. Mark is 20 years older than me, and on a wider and heavier board, but he was still keeping pace with me for most of the race. I thought I'd had a really fast downriver leg, but when I turned around at the buoy he was right there behind me. Not until the bends of the upriver portion did I put a little safer distance between us. I tried to apply two techniques that coach Mark Athanacio has encouraged: 1) Throwing in an extra sprint of speed whenever you can, then recovering at normal pace. 2) Deliberately keeping your stroke peppy and forceful even when you feel tiredness and muscle fatigue. One thing that helped this time was not having anyone in front of me, which gave me the luxury of picking whatever path through the river looked fastest and shortest. It's not just how fast you move through the water- it's also about finding the path of least resistance and shortest distance. In the end I was very happy to beat my personal best by a non-trivial amount. I think if I continue with my Athanacio fitness training and technique tuning I can bring my average speed up by a few more tenths of a kph.
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: New racer Paul Petersen and drone photographer David Eisenberg worked hard and got good times of 43:40 and 45:02, respectively. Paul's time was particularly impressive since he was on a 12'6 board- if I recall correctly it was a 27" wide 404 v3. The Hammond family of Mike Sr., Mike Jr., and kids turned out and seemed to enjoy themselves. Mike Sr. and the boy kid used solo kayaks, and Mike Jr. and his daughter did tandem SUP. After the race we had a great buffet lunch at the CGT shop, thanks to Aaron Thomas. It's ridiculous what a deal the racers get for just $5.
What's Next: Next race is April 16th, the "Calusa Palooza" and it's local, in the Estero River. There's a 4 mile and a 10 mile. The 10 mile goes out the Estero River into Estero Bay, loops around the Mound Key archaeological site, then back. Looks like a fun challenge.