Sunday, January 8, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Superlap Series Race #3

Race: Race #3 in the CGT Winter Time Trial series, aka the "Superlap Series" because of a new race format.

Date it happened: 8 January 2016.

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page.

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

Distance: Approximately 5.3 km / 3.3 miles. The course goes downriver, around a buoy, back upriver to the start, then downriver and back a second time. There's a twist, though: There are two possible turn-around buoys downriver; one further and one closer. You have to do the long route for one lap and the short route for the other lap. It's your choice if you want to do the long or the short lap first, so interesting strategies come into play in competition.

Conditions: It was VERY COLD by Florida standards, about 9 degrees C, with a gusty North-Northeast wind. The wind, in combination with low tide, had pushed the water level extremely low, narrowing the river and exposing various shallow spots and sticks and logs. The current was about 0.3 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator.

Participants and Gear: The cold kept lots of people away, but we still had the core group of CGT race team folks. Robert "Superman" Norman drove down from Inverness and raced his 17'6x23 Starboard Sprint Unlimited; the same board that he is going to use to challenge the 24 hour sup distance record in Sarasota on February 11th. Devin Turetzkin and I both used 14x23 Riviera RP raceboards and Fins Unlimited 6" Keel fins. I used a Riviera Bump 8.0 paddle and Devin used the Riviera Bump 7.0 paddle. (I have ordered a Bump 7.0 for myself, because I think its smaller blade area may help me go faster without wearing out my muscles.) Matt Kearney used CGT's 14x25 RedPaddle inflatable race sup. I think it's my turn to paddle the inflatable next time; we're all going to paddle it at some point. Mark Athanacio was on his deadly black 14x21.5 Hovie Comet GT. Cindy Gibson paddled a 12'6x26 Hovie Comet ZXC, Donna Catron a 12'6x25 Hovie DelMar, and Justin DiGiorgio a 14x24 Hovie Comet GT. Jared Hamilton paddled a 14x27 Laird Hamilton sup, but just did one lap. At the other end of the board speed spectrum, Larissa Kinne paddled a 10'6x32 Riviera surf style board, but she still finished the whole two-lap distance.

Results: Jared was the first and only one-lap finisher in 25:28. I was the first two-lap finisher in 34:59, followed by Athanacio in 35:32, and Robert Norman in 36:16. Justin DiGiorgio did 38:15, edging out Devin Turetzkin (38:23) by just a few board lengths. Matt Kearney got too close to the edge of the river near the finish line and came to a dead stop on a submerged log just short of the finish line. He would have finished a little under 40 minutes, but ended up a little over 40 minutes after unsticking himself. Race director Nick Paeno had mercy and gave him 39:56 anyway. Cindy Gibson was the first woman with 41:30, followed by Donna in 46:50 and Larissa in 47:56. I thought it was very impressive that Larissa went that fast without a raceboard. Official results will be posted on the CGT Time Trials page.

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

Play by play: None of us were quick to get on the water. We stayed bundled up on shore until peer pressure eventually coaxed us onto the river. I did more warm-up than usual for the simple reason that I literally needed to warm up. For the start, Robert Norman and I agreed to go in the first group, Devin and Justin in the second, and Athanacio in the third. I know I can keep up with Robert when we're both on 14' boards, but I wasn't sure if his 17'6 would give him a big advantage. I decided the safest thing would be to get in his draft, at least until I could see what pace he set. Robert started fast, and after about 100 meters I did get in his draft. It was a tricky to figure out the optimal spot to ride his wake, because his pointy-at-both-ends board didn't make much visible wake. Once the initial sprint phase wore off, I noticed that Robert's pace was NOT faster than his 14' board pace. I continued to draft him for the first 800 meters or so, then when I thought he might be slowing down I passed him. I think that shallow water with lots of turns more-or-less cancels out the speed advantage of an unlimited board. Anyway, Robert stayed pretty close on my tail as we approached the further downriver turn-around; the "Frankenbuoy". The water was so shallow there that we had to jump off our boards and portage (run carrying our boards) around the buoy. I don't think that slowed us down much, but since Robert's board was longer and more awkward I put a little gap on him there that he couldn't make up.

Heading upriver I saw that Athanacio had caught up with Devin and Justin, who had started before him. Matt was further back, doing his best to make the inflatable go fast. The rest of the race for me was just about keeping good form and staying on the gas. I knew that neither the river conditions nor my condition (recovering from a cold and not much paddling over the holidays) were optimal for setting a record time, but in a way that was good because I could just make the most of what there was. In the final 400 meters of the second lap I put in an extra hard effort, and that worked out pretty well for getting me to the finish line with not much energy left. Though my time was 45 seconds slower than last time, I'm OK with that. It was a bonus to finish faster than Athanacio, but not surprising this time since he has been sick and unable to train for ten days or so.

After the race Robert let several of us try his 17'6x23. It was quite tippy, but had a really neat feel. I'd like to try it again in deeper, open water. Given the room to run I definitely think it could be faster than a 14'.

What else is new: Yesterday as the cold front came in I got a great 4.7 sail / 83 liter board windsurfing session, and I plan to try sailing again today. Tomorrow is my first day of teaching for the spring semester at FGCU, so I figure I might as well maximize the watersports fun before I'm super busy again.

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