From left: Mark Hourigan (2nd place), me (1st place), Phil Trudgeon (3rd place). All of us are on Riviera RP raceboards from CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards.
Race: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards Winter Race #8
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.