Sunday, September 25, 2016
SUP Race Report: Lake Mary Jane
Race: 5th Annual Lake Mary Jane Paddle Race
Date it happened: 25 September 2016.
Host/Sponsor: Hosted by Wave of Wellness, a sup-based fitness / tour / yoga business run by Jessica Cichra. Sponsored by Albert Cichra Builders, a marine construction company that makes nice docks for lake houses and such. There were also many other sponsors who had tents at the event site or donated stuff for the raffle. For example: ECS boards and Boardworks Surf.
Location: Isle of Pines Property Owner's Association Beach Park on Lake Mary Jane, near Orlando, FL.
Distance: The main courses were 4.8 and 9.6 km races; 2 and 4 laps, respectively, around an M-shaped course. After that there was a free, 1.6 km race for beginner sup racers, then there was a sprint race, a board-tow relay race, and a kids race. I just did the long race, which I measured at 9.55 km on my GPS.
Conditions: This was a Florida morning in September, thus it was sweltering hot and humid with nary a breeze. The lake was warm and naturally coffee-colored from tannic compounds leaching out of the swampy surroundings. The water surface was nearly glassy, with "bumps" provided only by sup wakes.
Participants: There were 40 racers in the 9.6 km, 46 racers in the 4.8 km, and around 10 in each of the shorter race events. There were a handful of surfski kayak and outrigger canoe paddlers, but the vast majority were on standup paddleboards. Professional and sort-of professional sup racers in attendance were Ryan Helm and Kim Barnes (Riviera), Seychelle Hattingh (Mistral), Jeramie Vaine (Werner Paddles), Kieran Grant (Hoviesup), Alyssa Veres (Lokahi), and Mary Ann Boyer (Indigo). Windsurfing / Kiteboarding legends Isabelle Picard and Bill Kraft from the US Virgin Islands were also there. Top level surfski kayaker and pretty darn good sup paddler Reid Hyle was there, supping. From our local CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards "Tribe" we had a good turnout: Devin Turetzkin, Matt Kearney and I carpooled up (see picture), and we met Murray Hunkin, Jason Mastin, Jim and Quinn McIntyre, and Rudy Ambrosi. Also there were standout sup families Cat & Neil Uden et al. (Boga), Stephen Chase & Rachel Ferguson (JP Australia), and The Marstons (Hoviesup). Keeping things lively were bold characters Robert "Superman" Norman, Yensys "Hulk" Loyola, Adam "Speedcoach" Pollock, Karl "Wings" Eugster, and others.
Gear: I used "Minty," my 2017 14x23 Riviera RP, with my usual Riviera Vantage R8 paddle and a 6" Fins Unlimited keel style fin. The pro men were on 14's and the pro women were on 12'6s, though there were also some men on 12'6 (e.g., Matt, Devin & Karl) and some women on 14'.
Results: Full results are posted on webscorer. Surfski kayaker David Rush was the first to finish the 9.6 km race, just a few seconds faster than men's 14' sup winner Ryan Helm, who had a time of 0:59:55. Jeramie Vaine was 2nd with 1:00:28, Kieran Grant 3rd with 1:00:46, me 4th with 1:01:41, and Bill Kraft 5th in 1:01:58. Seychelle and Kim were the first 12'6s and the first women in 1:05:07 and 1:05:13, respectively. First male 12'6 was 15 year old Will Marston (1:06:30), followed by Matt Kearney (1:07:03) and Jason Geiger (1:07:05). Third place woman (1st in 50+) was Isabelle Picard in 1:09:31. Murray Hunkin got 3rd in the 50+ men's division with 1:09:23. In the 4.8 km race, 14' division, Robert Norman won in 0:32:25, just ahead of fellow MHL custom board rider Jeff Berry in 0:32:36. Lanky teenager Peyton Thomas was third in 0:35:06. Devin Turetzkin won the 12'6 division in the 4.8 km race, and was first overall for 50+, with 0:35:13. Jason Mastin was 4th in 12'6 with 0:36:19.
Play by play: The day before the race the Cichras hosted some events on the lake for the arriving racers. Devin, Matt and I had a long drive up from SW Florida but we got there in time for chilling out and pre-registration at Albert Chichra's beautiful lake house. Central Florida, with its tall pines, cypress, and oak and maple trees, seems to have more in common biologically with the Carolinas than with tropical South Florida. The shady lake house fit nicely with that temperate woods feeling, and reminded me of good times with my Douglass relatives at a Lake Murray cabin in South Carolina. Jessica Cichra and the other race organizers and volunteers were very warm and welcoming, both at the pre-registration and at the race itself.
The hotel we stayed at on the outskirts of Orlando, the Courtyard Marriott Lake Nona, was sparkling new and sprawling, like much of Disney-centric Orlando. We were well rested when we arrived at the race site in the morning, and had time to do some warm-up paddling. I was a bit nervous about this race because I've recently attempted to change in my stroke technique, in response to tips I got at Ryan Helm's most recent paddle clinic. Ryan said that I really needed to work on getting a more "positive" blade angle at the beginning of the stroke; something that could be achieved with more bend in the top arm and more stacking of the shoulders. He also said that I was paddling too far past my feet, and ought to remove the blade from the water earlier so as not to waste energy on an unproductive phase of the stroke. I had incorporated those changes into my practices the week before this race, but I wasn't sure if they would "stick" once I actually got into a race situation.
For the start of the 9.6 km race, they lined us up on the water between two docks, which provided a convenient corral. I tried something a little different this time, lining up in the second row, behind Kieran and Ryan, rather than in my own slot in the first row. I figured I could fit into the gap they left behind when they zoomed off better than I could elbow my way through a bunch of slower paddlers. Reid Hyle tried something similar. What I didn't account for was how tough it would be to paddle through the chaotic wakes left by the fast-sprinting starters. After struggling with that for 100 m or so I ended up picking a wider line to get more clear water, and that helped me get around some people on the way to the first buoy. After the first buoy I believe I was in about 7th position, on the tail of Reid Hyle and Steven Bernstein. Between them and the leaders (Ryan Helm, Jeramie Vaine, and Kieran Grant) was a lone paddler on a JP board. It didn't look like Steven was going to close the gap on the JP guy (who turned out to be Bill Kraft), so I broke to the side and made a big push to catch up to Bill Kraft. Reid zigged when he should have zagged, and on his slower 14x26' not-quite-race board he couldn't follow me as I chased and eventually caught Bill.
Once I got in Bill Kraft's draft, I had it MADE. He was setting a fast pace; not quite matching the three leaders, but not going any slower than I would have gone on my own. It helped that Bill is a beefy 90 kg, which meant he was displacing a good bit of water and making an easy wake to ride. On the buoy turns I stuck really close on his tail so I wouldn't get left behind, and that seemed to work well. After I while I offered to pull, but Bill said his cutting-bow JP board liked smooth water better than the draft. I continued to draft until the beginning of the third lap when I went wide and took the lead. I kept about the same pace, but my heart rate went up considerably. I tried to keep focused on form, and to be aware of any little ripple or puff of breeze that could give me some extra oomph. I tried to do tight turns followed by quick accelerations to build a little distance on Bill, who remained just a few board lengths behind me. Ahead of me I could see the lead trading off between Jeramie and Ryan, and after a while I noticed that they had dropped Kieran from their train. Kieran was wearing a long-sleeved black rashguard and black swim trunks, which may have been a handicap in the scorching heat. We actually started to get closer to him in the last lap, though never close enough to threaten his third place position.
In the final one or two legs of the last lap I picked up my pace to as much as I could stand, and then picked it up some more to a sprint at the very end, just to be sure Bill couldn't sneak around me. I actually remembered how my leash was attached this time, and unbuckled it quickly for the run up the sand through the finish line gate. Whew! I was very happy to get 4th place in this competitive group, and felt good about my revised stroke technique and successful tactic of saving energy by drafting. Given how easy it was to sustain a pretty fast pace in Bill's draft, I couldn't help but wonder if I could have hung on to the really fast guys' draft train, had I been able to get on it at the start. The trick may be learning to get off the line faster without getting slowed down by traffic and wakes.
Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to log in to Strava to see the details.
After the race there was a nice atmosphere at the site, with good Mexican food, kids playing in the water, adults talking about their water toys, etc. The race organizers tried hard to get the raffle and awards done as quickly as possible and they did OK. There were SO many raffle items and race categories that it still took a while. Matt Kearney made a suggestion that they could call all three finishers (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) up to the podium in one breath instead of waiting for each person to arrive and stand up before calling the next one out of the crowd.
What's next: There's a race in Clearwater on Saturday, and a local CGT race on Sunday. I'll definitely go to the CGT race but I'm undecided about the other race. Traveling 3+ hours to a race and staying overnight is tough to do two weeks in a row.