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: It was sunny, hot and humid- this is South Florida, after all. The river current was a strong 1.75 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator. This is the time of year (the end of the wet season) that the river current peaks in strength.
Participants: There was a great turnout; 8 racers for the one-lap course and 12 for the two-lap. In addition to CGT race regulars like Meg Bosi and Mark Athanacio, there were some new or newish racers.
Gear: I used "Minty," my 2017 14x23 Riviera RP. A lot of other people were on Riviera's, too; Murray Hunkin on a 14x27, Mark Hourigan on a 14x23, Donna Montgomery on a 12'6x22, Meg Bosi on a 12'6x24, and Saralane Harrer on a 12'6x26. Hovie sups were also common. Mark Athanacio paddled a 14'x21, Justin DiGiorgio a 14x24, Devin Turetzkin and Matt Kearney 12'6x25s, and Cindi Gibson a 12'6x26. I think Jen Hayes used Mark A's 12'6x21.
Results: In the one-lap division Mark Hourigan had the fastest time- 21:45, followed by Bryan Herrick- 22:40. Pat on her kayak was third overall in 24:30 and Saralane Harrer was third sup in 27:11. In the two-lap division I was first in 39:26, followed by Mark Athanacio in 39:27. Matt was next with 43:21 on his 12'6, followed Justin DiGiorgio in 44:15 on 14', and Devin Turetzkin in 44:48 on 12'6. First woman was Cindy Gibson in 48:04, followed by Meg Bosi in 48:42, and Donna Montgomery in 57:24. Jon Weinberg was slower than usual because he stopped to pick up a sprouted, floating coconut that he plans to plant in his yard, but he still got 50:00 even. Full results will be posted on the CGT Time Trials page.
Play by play: It was tough lining up at the start because the current wanted to flip us around. Eventually we got it straight. I started in the first wave with Mark Athanacio, Justin DiGiorgio, and Murray Hunkin. I got out in front then slowed down to a moderately fast pace that I thought I could maintain. The other guys were right behind in the draft train. About 5 minutes into the race I moved aside for Athanacio to lead. He went about the same pace I'd been going, but in his draft I was able to save a bit of energy. Justin and Murray hung on until the first buoy turn, when Murray fell and Justin couldn't get around him fast enough catch Mark and I as we accelerated away.
Mark and I cooperatively swapped leads another time or two on the way upriver. It was tough fighting the current; our usual tricks of hugging the edges and the inside of river bends seemed inadequate. By the midpoint of the race I was at a miserable heartrate of 185, but I recovered slightly by drafting Mark when heading downriver. As we approached the downriver buoy for the second time, our equitable trading of draft positions shifted into side-by-side jockeying. Mark rounded the buoy first but I turned sharper and got into the more favorable current on the edge of the river. At this point I had to decide between trying to stay in front until the end of the race, or letting Mark lead one more time and hoping for him to tire out enough for me to pass. I chose the former, based on my experience that it's easier to defend the lead than to take the lead, especially going up a river, where the leader can pick the best path.
I paddled hard, especially when I heard Mark making a move to pass. One of Mark's passing attempts involved him crossing to the opposite side of the river. I hadn't been planning to take that side, but I followed to make sure I could block Mark's way. That was actually a strategy I learned from Mark- he says it's better to stay on your competitors than to separate, unless you're SURE that an alternate path will give you a big speed advantage. Anyway, I finished the race paddling as hard as I could and reaching a ridiculous 194 bpm heartrate, with Athanacio just one second behind in my draft. Whew! My time in this race was my slowest of the series, by an entire minute, but I think that's mostly attributable to the current. One thing I felt good about was my relatively even "splits". I.e., my first lap was 19:35 and the second was 19:38. Usually the second lap is a lot slower.
Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to log in to Strava to see the details.
Congrats to everyone who finished this challenging, strong-current race. Special kudos to new racer Cindi Gibson for setting the pace in the womens' division and getting a surprise win over local favorite Meg Bosi, who is a couple decades younger. Ironically, Cindi did it on the 12'6x26 Hovie she just bought from Meg. Cindi also bought my 14x22 Riviera "the Blue Streak", and I expect she'll be fast on that, as well. Cindi and newish male racer Rudy Ambrosi (47:46) are my two "rookie racers to watch" this season, because they're strong and focused, but have lots of room remaining for improvement in board handling skills and race strategies and stuff. I would put Donna Montgomery (57:24) in the same category- she is still getting used to some big changes she's made in paddle length and board width and she should be picking up speed rapidly.
After the race we had the usual buffet at CGT, and we watched the Pacific Paddle Games (most competitive sup race in the world) on TV. Good times.
What's next: Next SUP event for me is the Imperial River Challenge downriver blast on October 22nd here in Bonita Springs. It should be wild this year with as strong as the river flow has been. I'll need to take a test run or two on the course to make sure I know where the hidden tree stumps and whirlpools and such are located.