Saturday, December 17, 2016

SUP Race Report: Lovers Key No-Name-Race

Race: Lovers' Key No-Name Race.

Date it happened: 17 Dec 2016

Host: Naples area fitness trainer and CGT Race Team coach Mark Athanacio organizes these free "no name races" a few times a year.

Location: Lovers Key State Park, North Parking lot next to the Big Carlos Pass bridge.

Distance: It's about 9 km / 5.6 miles around the island, but the exact distance can vary depending on how much you cut corners or follow the channel.

Conditions: It was a beautiful, warm December day, with an ESE wind around 10 knots. The tide was very low and still ebbing, so optimizing the route to avoid shallows and strong current was important. We rounded the island clockwise, so the wind and small chop were in our faces for the first leg, on the bay side of the island. In the second leg, on the ocean side of the island, the wind was at our backs and there were some opportunities to ride bumps.

Participants: There was a good turnout of about 20 racers. Racers included the usual CGT paddle tribe, plus some of Athanacio's friends from other sports who don't usually SUP race, plus a SUP racer or two from the East Coast of Florida, such as Mary Ann Boyer Willis.

Gear: I used a 14x23 Riviera RP raceboard with a Riviera Bump 8.0 paddle, and a Fins Unlimited 6" Keel fin. Devin Turetzkin and Mark Hourigan used 14x23 RPs, as well. Mark Athanacio used his 14x21.5 Hovie Comet GT. Matt Kearney used a 12'6x24 Hovie Comet ZXC. Tadem Stewart used a new 14' Naish Javelin and Steve Fleming used a 14' Naish Maliko. All the women were on 12'6 SUPs- Mary Ann Boyer on an Indigo, Cindy Gibson, Damien Lin, and Donna Catron on Hovies, Meg Bosi on a Bark, and some of the other ladies on MHL custom boards.

Results: Mark Athanacio won first place, finishing in just over 59 minutes, while I was about a minute behind in 1 hour even. Matt Kearney was impressively 3rd overall and 1st 12'6, just edging out Tadem Stewart in 1:04:18. Mary Ann Boyer was the first woman, but looked to have been seriously challenged by rookie racer Cindy Gibson, who was only about two board lengths behind at the finish.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to log in to Strava to see the details.

Play by play: We started and finished from the beach. It was a little awkward because we had to launch out, but then immediately turn to the right to begin rounding the island. So the right side of the starting line was favored. Mark Athanacio had a great start that immediately put him a few board lengths in front of the rest of us. Matt Kearney, Tadem Stewart, and I also started aggressively, and for a while the three of us were about even with each other, behind Mark. Devin Turetzkin was in the mix, too. Tadem fell where some strong current was creating weird ripples, and I gradually outpaced Matt with my board length advantage, so it was soon just me behind Mark. I considered making an all-out effort to sprint up into his draft, but decided to set my own pace instead, and hopefully maybe catch him later if he tired out or ran into choppy water trouble with his ultra narrow board. As it turned out I had no luck catching Mark. Though I paddled hard, he set a blazing pace that I simply couldn't match, and he gradually extended his lead.

At the half-way point of the rounding we went through a tidal inlet called New Pass. There were some tricky shallow areas entering and exiting the inlet that frustrated me. Shallow water slows the board down and also prevents me from sticking the paddle all the way in the water, because it hits the sand below. One in the Gulf of Mexico we were going downwind, which was nice. Downwind with the assistance of following seas sometimes allows for speeds higher than can be achieved in flat water. Although I was getting occasional surges of speed, I was slowing down running into the backs of the waves at other times, so my average speed was breaking even with about what it would be in flat water. Heading into Big Carlos Pass was upcurrent and upwind again, so that final leg of the race was a draining grind.

Though my finishing time of 1 hour even was pretty good given the conditions, I'd like to find some more tricks or another level of fitness to catch up with Mark again. Including this time he has beaten me by a significant distance 3 of the last 4 times we paddled around Lovers Key. The one time I got him was a week ago when it was really windy and choppy and both of our times were slower than usual. I think my board may have better stability and handle ugly side-chop better, but when the chop is relatively small, Mark just makes his ultra light and narrow Hovie fly in a way that I can't keep up with. I'll keep at in the gym, work on my stroke technique, and experiment with a smaller paddle blade. I might also try to eat healthier, since that's one area where I have considerable room for improvement. I burn enough calories to not get fat, but I probably eat too much sugary fatty processed food, like cookies, hot dogs, pizza, and mac & cheese.

What else is new: There's another SUP race tomorrow morning, hosted by CGT. It's only about half the distance of the Lovers' Key rounding, but it's challenging in a different way because it's more of a sprint.

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