Race: The first in the CGT Summer Time Trial series.
Date it happened: 29 May 2016.
Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page.
Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.
Distance: 5.96 km / 3.7 miles. The CGT course has changed since the winter series. We now do two laps of the downriver half of the course and we no longer do the twisty/turny upriver part of the course. There's now a buoy just behind the starting line that we have to hook around when we complete our first lap- A good spectacle for those watching.
Conditions: Sunny, hot and humid. Light wind. Fairly high water with about 0.4 kph downriver current.
Participants: It was a great turnout with most of the CGT Race Team and Tribe, minus Murray Hunkin and Saralane Harrer who are in South Africa, and minus Kate Pagan who had a sore muscle. There were also several new racers, including a fast father-son pair, and a dude with a school-bus yellow older model Hoviesup. Skilled racer and fitness trainer Robert Norman made a long trip down from Inverness, FL to race with us and make some other stops on a long vacation weekend. Robert is riding an awesome 14x21 MHL custom sup with a deeply dugout deck and a cool Superman logo design. However, the coolest board of all was CGT Team Coach Mark Athanacio's brand new ultra-lightweight ultra-badass 14x21.something Hovie Comet GT, which replaces a similar but less customized 14x23 Comet GT that he rode earlier in the season.
Results: Top three 14' SUP guys were Mark Athanacio with 37:46, me with 38:12, and Robert Norman with 39:57. I would have preferred to get first place, but I was happy with my 9.39 kph pace. Mark Hourigan was close with 40:01. Matt Kearney got 41:42, edging out Justin DiGiorgio who overheated and had to take swim breaks but still got 43:19. John Weinberg was up there, too, with 44:58 on his big wide Yolo paddleboard. In the 12'6 SUP class Mr. Devin Turetzkin killed it with 45:04 on a 25" wide Hovie Comet GT. Next fastest 12'6s were ladies Meg Bosi 46:31, Beth Schadd 47:22, and Jen Hayes 47:57. Full results will be posted on the CGT time trials page.
Gear: Robert Norman and Mark Athanacio weren't the only ones with cool new boards. I rode a 14x22 Riviera RP production demo obtained vis a vis my new designation as a Riviera ambassador. I've written some detailed geeky technical thoughts on the board in this thread on the standupzone forum. I won't go into so much detail here, but I will say that the board has stability that belies its width, due to its wide and voluminous nose and tail. It also seems to have just the right amount of "rocker" to make light contact with the water from nose to tail, and it feels like it kind of skims on top of the water when you get it into high gear. Underneath the board I used my usual 6" Fins Unlimited keel fin, and for a paddle my usual Riviera Vantage R8.
Play by play: I started in a group with the young hotshots Matt Kearney, Justin DiGiorgio, and Robert Norman. Mark Athanacio still hadn't showed up to the race at that point. The starting sprint was pretty hot. I wasn't sure if I would try to get in the lead or try to get behind Robert Norman, but I ended up a bit ahead and took the lead. I felt kind of funky, like maybe I should have warmed up more, but I went hard and averaged 10 kph going downstream. Everybody drafted me for a couple hundred meters, then Justin and Matt got "gapped" and it was just Robert on my tail. As I approached the downriver "frankenbuoy" turn-around, I had two alternative strategies in mind: 1) Leave Robert in the dust and don't look back. 2) Let Robert get ahead and draft him going upstream to save energy, then pass him later. My buoy turn and re-acceleration went well, giving me a couple board lengths gap on Robert, so I decided to go with strategy #1.
On the first upriver leg my speed was about 9.2 kph, and my heartrate climbed over 180 as I tried to stay fast and steady enough to extend the gap on Robert. I tried to give my teammates some encouraging shouts as we passed going opposite directions, but mostly they came out as grunts. (If you can produce coherent speech you're not paddling hard enough.) I made the buoy turn without incident and headed downriver. The second downriver was a lot slower for me than the first- 9.4 kph average versus 10.0 the first time. My effort was pretty high (average HR 184), but I might have been getting sloppy with my technique, or losing my competitive focus or something with Robert now securely behind me. The final upriver leg of the course was just a little bit slower for me than the first one, at 9.1 kph. I put some extra steam on in the last few hundred meters at hit my highest HR of 190 in that part of the course.
Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to go into Strava to see the details like HR and stuff.
I was happy to have finished with a good time, but I knew I was in trouble when Mark Athanacio, who had arrived fashionably late, asked me what my time was *before* he started his race. That gave him a goal to shoot for, and he destroyed it with his amazing 37:46, a 9.5 kph / 5.9 mph pace. Though I can reach those speeds in sprints, I've never done faster than today's 9.39 kph pace in a race longer than 5k. Obviously I'm going to have to step it up to another level if I want to get some wins over Athanacio in this series. I think that will mean more strength training, some running in the heat to acclimate and build endurance, and some technique work to make sure I'm getting the most out of my effort on the water. I'm also going to try a smaller paddle with a more flexible shaft- a Riviera R7.5 "bump" grip paddle. If my technique is good I should be able to maintain fast speed with a little less effort with that paddle.
Other race intrigues: Though I often focus on the drama at the front of the pack, the "back" of the back seems to be catching up. I.e., our times are not so spread out as they used to be. Lots of people did the race in 50 minutes or less, which is no mean feat for a nearly four mile paddle race in the searing heat. Alan Navarro, Jared Hamilton, Steve Fleming, and David Eisenberg did it. Also, two ladies over 50 did it in 50 or under- Donna Catron in 50:30, and Damien Lin in 48:31. Nice work, y'all.
What's Next: June 11th is the Battle on the Blueway in Fort Myers Beach- the biggest paddle race in SW Florida. I'll definitely be there. There's also one next weekend that I MIGHT go to, but it's a pretty far drive- The Florida State Paddleboard Championships in Cocoa Beach.