Saturday, May 21, 2016

SUP Race Report: SRQ SUP&RUN 5k

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Race: The SRQ SUP&RUN 5k

Date it happened: 21 May 2016

Host: The Sarasota Athletic Association, led by Felicia Cox. The event was a benefit for Operation Second Chance, which is an organization supporting wounded military veterans.

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Location: Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota, FL. The park is built around a big artificial lake, which is set up with buoys, breakwaters, bleachers etc. to facilitate various rowing events. There are also paved running / biking paths around the perimeter of the lake. The only thing missing is shade trees.

Distance: The main event was a 5 km run leading into a 5 km SUP race. They also offered the run and the sup "a la carte" for those who just wanted to do one or the other. I did the combo.

Conditions: The weather was sunny, hot and humid with light wind. The race started at 8 am when it was relatively cool, but it was pretty darn hot by the time we finished.

Participants: I don't know how many people were there, but it was a lot. The event was sold out. I think most of the participants were avid runners who merely dabbled in SUP, because the race was advertised more within running circles than paddling ones. I.e., it wasn't listed on paddleguru, and a lot of the people who paddled did it on rented boards. A big sup race happening concurrently in Tampa may also have siphoned away some of the sup specialists. Nevertheless, there were more than a handful of experienced sup racers in the mix, including Hoviesup riders Brad Ward, Katherine Pyne, and Travis Kindt, owner of Zeke's Surf Shop across the state in Stuart.

Travis after having totally swept the sup-only event.
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Surfer/kiteboarder Jason Casuga was also there, riding a 12'6 FOne sup. There was a tall guy named Brandon wearing the same Riviera SUP jersey as me and riding a new 14' RP raceboard. (BY THE WAY, I recently became an ambassador for Riviera and they sent me a care package with the jersey and some other cool stuff. Ask me anything about Riviera boards.) My hometown team, the CGT Tribe, groupies of CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards in Bonita Springs, represented well. We had Matt Kearney on his 14'x24 404 v3, Beth Schadd on a new 12'6x24 Riviera RP, Amber Crowley on a 12'6 Hovie, and Matt's spouse Ali Kearney in running shoes because she did just the run.

From left: Beth, me, Ali, Matt, Amber.
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Results: Katherine Pyne and Brad Ward won the women's and men's sup+run events, respectively, with times of 1:02:44 and 0:55:58.
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I was second in men's with 0:57:12 and Beth Schadd was second in women's with 1:03:05. Amber Crowley was first in 50+ women's with very strong performances in both the run and the sup portions. Matt Kearney had a great run and solid sup portion and got second in his age division with 1:01:30. Ali Kearney ran her fastest 5k ever and got 3rd in her age division. Travis Kindt won first in the sup-only division, WAY ahead of the other sup-only competitors. Full results are posted here.

Gear: I used my usual 14'x23.75" custom carbon Riviera RP raceboard with a 6" Fins Unlimited Keel fin. I love this board. With my Riviera ambassadorship you'll also see me riding some other Riviera models in the future... CGT has a sleek 14'x22 on order that could be wicked fast if I can balance on it.

Play by play: The race organization was high tech and efficient, with numbers and electronic timing, etc. They lined us up like cattle behind the inflatable startline archway. I started out fast when the gun went off, like I would do in a SUP race. It wasn't a sustainable pace for me, though, and a lot of the more experienced runners passed me in the first few minutes. Matt Kearney caught up to me and I settled into a good pace next to him. We were close to Beth Schadd for the first 1600 meters, but she pulled away from us after that. I don't know how to describe the rest of the running race- I was tired but I tried to keep running as fast as possible. It surprised me that Matt was still right beside me, because I'm used to paddling with him and leaving him in the dust after the first few minutes. When Matt and I first practiced running together for this race I thought I was a bit faster than him on foot, too. But it seems he's a naturally quick runner who caught up with me and then some in just a few practice sessions. While Matt and I did "positive splits" (meaning each mile we ran was a little slower than the last), Katherine Pyne stayed fast and passed us in the last third of the race. I knew she'd be tough to pass on the sup, which motivated me to try to keep up with her on the last part of the run. There were some mini-hills (bridges) at the end of the run, and I used the downhill gravity assist to give myself a little sprint boost to get a few paces ahead of Matt.

Transitioning from run to sup went fairly smoothly. I ripped my shoes and socks off, put on my belt-style inflatable life vest, swigged from the water bottle I'd put next to my board, then ran my board into the water and jumped on. It felt great to have a little water splashing on me and to be using different, fresher muscles. I was too winded to fire into high gear, but I tried to at least use good form and a quick cadence. On the first leg I was able to catch my breath and get around some of the fast-runner-not-so-fast-sup'er people. One guy who was rippling with muscles and had kicked ass on the run seemed to be totally defeated by the sup and ended up going down to paddling on his knees. About halfway through the SUP course there were just three guys still in front of me- Brad Ward, Jason Casuga, and Brandon the Riviera jersey guy. I wasn't getting any closer to Brad, but I was gaining a bit on the other two guys, which kept me motivated to push hard. When I passed them the Riviera guy got in my draft for a while but eventually dropped off. I was happy to finish in second place, still within sight of Brad Ward.

After the race I was really hot and thirsty. It felt great to get a cold gatorade and dunk myself into the dirty but relatively cool lake water.

Other race intrigues: Some wounded combat veterans representing the Operation Second Chance organization impressively finished the races despite missing limbs. That has to take some serious mental and emotional strength. I was moved and impressed.

The MC and DJ for the awards ceremony were really good. They kept things moving and energized. There was lots of free food and drink around, including a libations tent that would have been fantastic if I was still an alcohol drinker. I had my share of cookies, fruit, and bbq sandwich.

What's Next: The CGT Race Series is starting another round Sunday May 29th, and I'll be looking to defend my hometown champion status against my well-equipped and tougher than ever peers on the CGT race team. Next big race is also relatively local, the Battle on the Blueway June 11th-12th at Fort Myers Beach.

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