Sunday, June 26, 2016

SUP Race Report: CGT Summer Series #2

Race: Race #2 in the CGT Summer Time Trial series.

Date it happened: 26 June 2016.

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page. CGT's Aaron Thomas, and John and Nick Paeno, are upping their media game lately by "livestreaming" these local races on YouTube, inspired by's livestreaming of international race events. It's still early days of the technology, and there's some dead air and missed shots when the videographers have to run errands and stuff, but I think having any video coverage at all is really cool. Some highlights of the video: 6:00- Interview with my wife Rhonda Mason. 8:00- First wave of the race starts. 27:20- Some of the halfway-point buoy roundings (and halfway-point retirements). 41:30- I sprint to the finish line and act dramatically exhausted when I cross it.

Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Distance: 5.96 km / 3.7 miles. The course goes downriver ~1.5 km, around a permanent buoy, back upriver to the start, then around an inflatable buoy and downriver again for a second lap. There is an option to do just one lap (~2.97 km), and several people took that option this time.

Conditions: Sunny, very hot, and humid, with little breeze. Based on analysis with my new paddling in current calculator, the current was about 0.8 kph, which is stronger than the 0.4 kph we had for race #1.

Participants: We were missing a few of the regulars who were away on vacation, or perhaps taking a vacation from sup racing after many back-to-back races around the state. Nevertheless, we had a good crew of veteran and rookie racers. Becky Catlett Garry, a divemaster and one of the organizers of the Calusa Palooza paddle race, and Heather Olson, a Florida Southwestern University professor and yoga instructor, joined veteran racers Jen Hayes (riding a 12'6x26 Riviera RP) and Damien Lin (riding a 12'6x26 Hovie ZXC) to carry the banner for the women. Returning on the men's side we had race #1 winner and CGT Team coach Mark Athanacio riding his awesome 14x21 Hovie GT. Also on Hovies were Matt Kearney (12'6x25 ZXC), Justin DiGiorgio (14x25 ZXC), Jared Hamilton (14x24 ZXC), and Devin Turetzkin (12'6x25 GT). On 404 v3 carbon boards were nurse practitioner Mark Payne (14x27), and rollerblading dragon tattoo man Bryan Herrick (12'6x27). Lifelong SW Florida resident Jon Weinberg rode a 14x27 Yolo, and determined rookie-year paddler Joe Gladieaux rode the 14x24.75 Fanatic Falcon that I sold him a while ago. The only guy not on a raceboard was big-haired videographer David Eisenberg, who rode a 10'6 Riviera surf sup.

Gear: I used my 14x22 Riviera RP, the Blue Streak, with my Riviera Vantage R8 paddle and a 6" Fins Unlimited keel style fin. The Blue Streak likes to go straight and fast; the small fin makes it easier to turn around the buoys and bends in the river.

Results: I got first place this time in 37:47, one second shy of the 37:46 course record that Mark Athanacio set in race #1. Athanacio had a very fast first lap today and looked set to beat me again, but the heat forced him to slow down his second lap and finish in 38:50. Justin DiGiorgio had the next fastest time, 42:15, more than a minute faster than his race #1 time despite the heat. Even though Matt Kearney was on a 12'6 he was very close to Justin's time with 42:17. Veterinarian Damien Lin, who is fond of saying she's old enough to be my mother, was the fastest woman in 48:57, followed by Jen Hayes (51:34) and Heather Olson (55:43). Because of the heat and the current, and assorted ailments and misgivings, many normally-strong racers retired from this race after the first lap. They don't show up in the results, but I still give them credit for being there and going hard. Full results are posted on the CGT time trials page.

Play by play: I stretched and warmed up more than usual before this race, based on advice I got at a sup racing clinic taught by Riviera's Ryan Helm. I also drank iced tea and lots of water at breakfast, and took plunges in the river "to stay cool" before the race. Milling around the starting area, Athanacio and I negotiated to start in different waves to focus on solo performance testing rather than on drafting and race tactics. I started in the first wave, with Matt Kearney and Devin Turetzkin. Those guys were on 12'6s so they didn't have a chance to keep up for long, but they sprinted fast and stayed abreast for a surprisingly long time.

Once I was out front and clear, I tried to find the fastest pace that I could hope to maintain without burning out prematurely. I applied some skills I've been practicing, like using a wider grip on the paddle, and making sure the paddle blade enters the water at a "positive angle" (slanted towards the nose of the board). I also tried to find the fastest current in the river, and to make smooth and efficient curves around the bends. Focusing on stroke technique and navigation tactics has the added benefit of leaving less room in the mind for dwelling on suffering. My turn at the downriver buoy went ok, and I tried to apply similar techniques heading upriver- except trying to stay out of the current instead of in it. I could see Athanacio was nearly catching up to Matt, which meant he was making great time downriver and might be gaining on me. I was really tired and fighting against the miserable thought that I was only in the second quarter of the race. I tried to look past that and psych myself up for my plan of putting in a smooth, fast run when I got to the third leg of going back downriver- it helped. I also conserved energy by reducing the words of encouragement I shouted to other racers to one, "GO!," or sometimes I just grunted or wheezed.

My wife Rhonda was hanging out at the start line / halfway point, which gave me a morale boost when I did my turn there and started downriver again. With the boost of the current I was able to keep my speed over 10 kph on that leg, which is a nice big number to see on the GPS. Unfortunately I was also seeing big heart rate numbers in the high 180s. I felt OK, though, so I kept the pace. When I turned and started the final upriver leg I saw that Athanacio wasn't as close as he had been, which was a good sign for me. When I did pass Athanacio he wished me Happy Anniversary (thanks, man!) and said something to the effect that he'd conceded and I'd won this one. I wanted to seal the deal, though, so I kept right on the edge of the maximum level of suffering I could tolerate until I crossed the finish line.

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 pleased that, compared the first race in this series, I was able to keep more parity between my first and second lap. In the first race my pace dropped 0.6 kph from the first to the third leg, whereas in this race it only dropped 0.3 kph. In running races, the best times are achieved with even or negative "splits," which means when the latter laps are equally fast or faster than the first lap. I don't know if that's also optimal for SUP racing, but it might be something to experiment with.

What's Next: I'll keep training, trying to incorporate plenty of skill development work along with Athanacio's interval training and strength training, which seem to be effective. I'm also going to try to spread my SUP technical geek skills to others this coming Saturday, July 2nd, at 9 am at CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards. I'm going to do a free clinic on how to time yourself and track your progress, with or without a GPS. Contact CGT if you want to reserve a spot. Stopwatches and notebooks are required. GPS fitness trackers and laptops with Microsoft Excel are recommended.

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