Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.
Distance: Approximately 6 km / 3.7 miles. The course goes downriver, around a buoy, back upriver to the start, then downriver and back a second time. This race was a little longer than the first four races in this series, because we removed the "superlap" feature that shortened one of the laps, and made both laps full size.
Conditions: It was sunny and summery; typical February weather in SW Florida. The current was minimal, and flowing upriver due to an incoming tide. My paddling in current calculator estimated the current at -0.15 kph.
Participants and Gear: There was a great turnout despite the absence of some of the regulars. 24-hour SUP distance WORLD RECORD HOLDER Robert Norman came down from Inverness and paddled his Riviera prone paddleboard in this race. Robert broke the world record just last weekend at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, doing an incredible 180 kilometers with no break on his 17'6x23 Starboard Sprint Unlimited. Robert had land-based support during the effort from his dad Roy, his girlfriend Carrigon, and several members of the CGT Tribe, including me. I camped overnight at the park and did a few laps with Robert for solidarity. Paddling a few laps in those moonlit glassy waters was pleasant, but so was retreating to my cozy warm sleeping bag when I got tired, and woke up 8 hours later to see Robert still paddling. His record was really incredible, as was the previous record, only 1.5 km less, set by Seychelle Hattingh last year on a 14' board. Anyway, others in attendance today included canoe racer turned SUP racer Phil Trudgeon, who brought some of his canoe racing relatives from Michigan to race along with him- one on a SUP and the other on a racing canoe that was narrow and needle-like except for angular "hips" that widened the hull just under where the paddler sat. South African veteran paddler Murray Hunkin was there on his 14x27 Starboard AllStar, and his fiance Saralane also raced, with her dog onboard her 12'6 Riviera. There was a very good crew of female paddlers including Beth Schadd, Jen Hayes, Cindy Gibson, Darlene Rodgriguez, Larissa Kinne, Ana Perovani, and nomadic Kate Pagan on a rare visit back to SW Florida. Multi-sport athlete Bryan Herrick was there with his 14x23.75 custom Riviera, and John Weinberg was on a 14x25 Riviera. 12'6 men included John Wheeler on a 24" wide Naish SUP, and Devin Turetzkin on a 25" wide Hovie Comet GT. Legendary competitor and coach Mark Athanacio raced it on his 14x21.5 Hovie Comet GT.
Results: I finished in 38:34, and Mark Athanacio (who started in a different wave) finished in 38:36. The next fastest 14' sups were Murray Hunkin (42:39), and Phil Trudgeon (42:48). Devin Turetzkin was the fastest 12'6 (44:01), but Cindy Gibson was close behind (44:28) despite falling off her board and vomiting due to tense nerves at the first buoy turn. Rounding out the fastest two-lap race times were Mandy Trudgeon on her canoe (45:09), John Wheeler (46:37) Beth Schadd (47:10), Kate Pagan (49:18), and Jen Hayes (51:39). Of those who did just one lap, the fastest were 14's Bryan Herrick (21:23), Ray Trudgeon (23:20), and John Weinberg (23:30), then Robert Norman on prone (25:02), then Penny Kappler in a kayak (26:15), Annika Estelle on a Starboard SUP (27:25), Saralane Harrer and her dog on a Riviera (27:40), Larissa Kinne on a surf style board (29:38), Darlene Rodgriguez on an 11' board (29:55), and Ana Perovani on a short inflatable board (40:52). Congrats to all the finishers! Official results may be posted at some point 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: An interesting part of this race, for me, was my training during the preceding week, and my mental and physical state as the result of that. I'd had a great 20 minute "tempo" practice on Friday, where I'd maintained a pace significantly faster than my usual race pace. That boosted my ego for this race, but pushing so hard in practice just two days before the race may not have given me enough time to recover fully. I.e. I felt a bit beat-up and out of tune during the race today, and my time was slightly below par of what I did on this course in the last race series. Coach Mark Athanacio tells us not to kill ourselves in practice; to save the 100% effort for the race course, and I may have discovered the reason for that today.
Anyway, the race went like this: I lined up in the first starting group with Murray Hunkin, Bryan Herrick, and Phil Trudgeon. The start went exactly as we all knew from experience it would- Murray and I both sprinted out in front fastest, then Murray got in my draft. I led with a fast pace for about 1 km, but because I didn't feel like my engine was running smoothly, I backed off and made Murray pull the draft train for a bit. It was easy to follow in his wake. After a bit I got anxious to go faster, and decided to pull around him to make sure I was first to the buoy. Murray probably could have held me off if he wanted, but he allowed me to pass and turn first. My turn was tighter and I put a gap on Murray that he couldn't make up. That was the end of my direct competition in the race, but I knew that I'd be facing competition for the fastest time with Athanacio when he started later, so I tried to maintain a fast pace. My first lap ended up being just under 19 minutes, which is pretty good.
I was really feeling the fatigued at the halfway point though, and was about 0.4 kph slower on the second downriver leg. My speed was so much worse that I started to get paranoid that I was dragging debris on my fin. The fin is slanted to shed most weeds, but occasionally something does stick on it. Shortly after starting the final upriver leg I decided I needed to check my fin for debris, so I stopped paddling and knelt down to sweep my hand along the fin. I didn't feel anything. DAMN! I'd stopped for nothing. I got up quickly and pushed on as hard as I could to try to make up time. Heading upriver I saw that Murray had dropped back and was now drafting Phil. Murray splashed me with his paddle as I passed them, and I was actually grateful for that because the water cooled me off. With the finish in mind I picked up the pace and got a bit of a "second wind" for the last 800 meters. As always, it felt great to finish and dunk myself into the cool water. Watching the other racers cross the line was a lot more relaxing than paddling for it myself had been. It was interesting seeing that Murray had gotten ahead of Phil again by the end after cleverly using him to draft off, and it was also interesting to see how closely matched Cindy's pace was with Devin's.
What else is new: After the race there was a nice buffet lunch at CGT. After that I went to the beach with some of the other racers and did a little windsurfing and windsurfing instruction. I'm stoked that several of my CGT fellows are newly able to windsurf, or have revived long-dormant windsurf skills. Next week is Mark Athanacio's latest "no name race," which will be a Lovers' Key Rounding. The LK rounding is, in my opinion, the best natural race course in the area, because it's just the right length for a "feature" race, and it provides some all-terrain challenges like currents, waves, winds, and boat wakes.