Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.
Course / Distance: For this series there are two courses: a short one that goes downriver to a buoy and back (2.9 km), and a longer one that goes downriver to the US 41 bridge and back (6.4 km).
Conditions: It was warm but not hot, with a moderate to strong East wind. The river current was 0.95 kph according to my paddling in current calculator; though that calculation is based on the difference in board speed upriver and downriver, which was also affected by the wind this time. The water level was about average, but as always it paid to avoid the shallower parts of the river.
Participants, Results and gear: There were some absences because of the holiday, but we still had a good crew; 12 SUPs plus Penny Kappler on her kayak. There was one new guy, Patrick Scheeler, who paddled a Fanatic Viper windsurfing board. Patrick did very well for a first time racer on a tubby 9'4" x 33" board. People are saying he's going to be the new me, because I also did my first few CGT races on a windsurf board back in Fall 2014. Other racers today included several men on 14' boards and three women on 12'6 boards. Conspicuously absent was Mark Athanacio, who is surfing in Costa Rica. Though he wasn't there, I felt like I was still competing with him because of the incredible 40 min flat course record he set last time. Below is a list of the participants and results. Official results may be posted at some point on the CGT Time Trials page.
Racer ** Board Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:40:42
Robert Norman ** 14' SUP ** 21 MHL Custom ** 6.4 km ** 0:42:54
Matt Kearney ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:35
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:48
Devin Turetzkin ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:48.9
Bill Mussenden ** 14' SUP ** 25 Riviera RP ** 6.4 ** 0:50:07
John Weinberg ** 14' SUP ** 25 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:52:12
Damien Lin ** 12'6" SUP ** 26 Hovie ZXC ** 6.4 km ** 0:53:57
Donna Catron ** 12'6" SUP ** 26 Bark Vapor ** 6.4 km ** 0:53:57
Spencer Richardson ** 12'6 SUP ** 30 Bic Wing ** 6.4 km ** 0:57:53
Bryan Herrick ** 14' SUP ** 23.75 Riviera RP ** 2.9 km ** 0:21:54
Penny Kappler ** Kayak ** ? ** 2.9 km ** 0:26:51
Patrick Scheeler ** 9'4 SUP ** 33 Fanatic Viper ** 2.9 km 0:31:22
Play by play: I really wanted to improve my race time to get closer to Mark Athanacio's awesome course record of 40 minutes flat. I knew I would need to average 9.65 kph to do that. It's a lofty goal for me, because I still haven't cracked 9.5 kph on a full length course. However, in practice I've had sufficient speeds over distances about half the length of the course, so it's not completely ridiculous to think that I might some day be able to hold those speeds for longer. My strategy for getting a good speed was going to be starting fast and sprinting for a while before settling into a steady pace and trying not to let the "average speed" readout on my GPS drop below 9.7.
I was in the first starting group with Matt Kearney, Robert Norman, and Bryan Herrick. We were all on 14' boards and I expected young Matt and Robert to match my sprinting pace and form a draft train with me for the first part of the course. That is indeed what happened, with Robert behind me and Matt behind Robert. I went as fast as I felt I could handle, and gave a little extra push here and there, like when going around corners. About 800 m downriver I dropped Robert and Matt at one of those corners. I tried to paddle fast but efficiently, staying in the deepest, fastest flowing part of the river. When I could feel wind at my back I stood up a little straighter to be more like a sail. At the US 41 bridge turn-around I had 18:30 on the GPS, but I knew that the upriver & upwind leg would be much slower, so 40 minutes would be tough. I saw that Robert and Matt were still together but I had about 100 m on them, so I wasn't worried about them catching up. Going upriver I pushed hard, and tried to take the shortest, least-windy, slowest-current path. Sometimes there just weren't any good options. For example, in the "straightaway" sections of the river I had to paddle directly into the wind and watch my speed go down below 8 kph. It might have been wiser for me to have saved more energy for that upwind leg so that I could sprint faster through the slow bits. Anyway, my average speed dropped below 9.7 when I still had about 1.6 km to go, and I knew I wouldn't be able to break the 40 minute barrier this time. I still tried to paddle hard, hoping to at least beat my own speed from the previous race. I was tired and feeling disheartened but got a boost when I hit the spot of the river that I knew was just 800 m from the finish. From there I treated it like an 800 m sprint and I tried to spend all of my remaining energy. It helped that the river was narrower and curvier at that point, blocking most of the headwind. In the end I did beat my race #1 time, but only by two seconds.
This is my GPS track from the race.
Behind me it was apparently close between Matt and Robert until the upwind leg, when Robert used Matt's side draft to get around him then paddle away faster than Matt could pursue. Matt is tall and thin so he may be at some disadvantage going upwind relative to Robert who is short and muscular. The recessed deck in Robert's custom MHL board also lowers him more, which probably helps in the wind. Justin and Devin who started in the second wave stayed together for the entire race, sometime drafting each other. In the end they were both exhausted, and dead even entering the final stretch. Their boards were overlapped at the finish, but Justin was about half a length ahead, giving him the win. Devin was wearing a heartrate monitor and said his pulse reached 188 bpm at the end, which is impressively/frighteningly high for a 50 year old guy. Bill Mussenden had a good race on the white 14x25 Riviera that I used to paddle, and he showed that he is a force to be reckoned with by edging out dependable John Weinberg. Donna and Damien negotiated to finish in parallel, favoring friendship over competition this round. Whatever makes it fun, right?
What's Next: Next Saturday is the "Calusa Palooza" on the Estero River. During the week the CGT team will probably do a warm-up paddle on the river to scope out the shallow spots and form a race strategy. I'll also want to be getting some rough water practice ahead of the April 29th "Key West Classic," which will be the longest and most challenging race I do this year. Woo hoo!