Sunday, April 2, 2017

SUP Race Report: Miami River Rally

Race: The 2017 Miami River Rally.

Date it happened: 1 April 2017.

Host: Virginia Key Outdoor Center and Race South Florida

Location: The races started at Lummus Park on the Miami River in downtown Miami, Florida, and went out into Biscayne Bay and back. Getting into downtown Miami was rough. Google said it was a 2 hour drive from Bonita Springs, but I got stuck in bad traffic on I-95 in Miami, so what should have been the last 15 minutes of the trip was more like an hour. There was a similarly long traffic nightmare on the way home. Fortunately I had my teammate and carpool buddy Cindy Gibson to talk to while we were stuck.

Distance: There was a 20 km, 11 km, and 5 km race. I did the 11 km (see route).

Conditions: It was sunny, hot and humid with 5-10 knots of wind from the East. Concrete seawalls along the banks reflected boat wakes and wind chop and made it a bit challenging to balance and to draft effectively. There was some floating Sargassum, seagrass, and garbage, so weed-shedding fins were necessary.

Participants and Gear: 44 people participated; mostly SUP racers but also some kayaks and outrigger canoes. Most of the 14' SUPs and about half of the 12'6 SUPs did the 11 km race. The full list of how many of each class were in each race is up on webscorer . From the CGT race team we had: coach Mark Athanacio on a salmon-colored 14x23.5 Hovie Comet GTO, me on a 14x23 Riviera RP, Cindy Gibson on a 12'6x25 Hovie Comet ZXC, Donna Catron on a 12'6x25 Hovie DelMar, and Annika Estelle on a 12'6x25 StarBoard AllStar. (Donna and Annika did the short race.) There were some other familiar faces from the South Florida sup scene, including the two Jakes (Portwood and Graham) on 14x25 JP Flatwater and 14x24 Rogue boards, respectively. Windsurfer-biker-paddler Joey Kolisch was there with a 14' StarBoard Allstar, exercise physiologist Dr. Jose Antonio was there, and kiteboarding water photographer Rick Iossi was there taking pictures with his spouse. Fast women racers included Mary Ann Boyer and Karen Kennedy on Indigo SUPs, and Victoria Burgess on a Starboard AllStar, among others.

Results: I don't know what everyone's times were, but I know the approximate finishing order, so I can guesstimate based on my on time and how far ahead or behind the others were. Jake Portwood was first place in about 1:12:00, Jake Graham was 2nd in about 1:12:30, and I was third in 1:13:35. Mark Athanacio wasn't up to his usual high standard and was a couple minutes behind me. Cindy Gibson was the first female by a wide margin in the 11 km race, finishing just behind the first 12'6 men.

Jake Portwood leads the way to the finish.

Play by play: The start was jumbled with SUP wakes combining with reflected chop, boat wakes, etc., but the initial sprint wasn't too fierce. I.e., it was easy to attach to the lead draft train that formed with Portwood, Graham, Athanacio, and me. As 4th person in the train I got a big draft effect and didn't have to work hard to keep up. Portwood was going at a relatively relaxed pace at first, but seemed to put on more speed when we got to a choppy water fork in the river near Brickell Key. Athanacio and I separated from the Jakes and each other at that point, and somewhere around then I fell and had to get back on quick. I didn't get TOO far behind the Jakes, but I basically gave up on drafting at that point and started just trying to find a sustainable rhythm through the uneven water. The chop got more organized and manageable after we rounded Brickell Key and entered Biscayne Bay proper. I put a gap on Athanacio there and might have gotten a bit closer to Jake Graham. There was some tidal current that boosted our speed on the way south, making up for the slow-down effect of the chop. We rounded a buoy near the Rickenbacker Causeway and turned east, putting the wind at our backs. That was the most efficient feeling part of the race for me, because I was able to catch some "glides" on the small chop. It was hot, though, and I could feel my heart and lungs complaining. Athanacio said he was feeling major heat effects at that point, too, and had to back off the pace. After the downwind section we turned and started the unpleasant side-upwind run back towards Brickell Key. Jake Portwood stayed more to the East, while Graham and I went inshore, hoping to find more favorable wind and currents. All we found was ugly seawall-reflected chop, which made the going tough. The Jakes dealt with the upwind better than I did, and my hopes of catching Jake Graham diminished as he pulled further away. One of the outrigger canoes inched up on me during the upwind, briefly passed me, then gave up her position again once we neared the Miami River entrance where the wind was blocked. The boat wakes were dicey again in the Miami River, and we also had some fishing lines to contend with. The outrigger canoeist yelled at the fishermen. I ducked one line and went over another, but emerged OK. The river part of the paddle seemed longer on the way in because I was really tired and wasn't drafting. Each time I passed under a bridge or rounded a bend I thought we were coming up on the finish line, and I was repeatedly disappointed to see that we still weren't there. Finally the finish line arrived, with the Jakes sitting on their boards resting at it. As soon as I passed it I stopped my speedcoach GPS then rolled into the water to cool off.

This is my GPS track from the race.

We hung out at Lummus Park for quite a while, socializing and slowly packing up as people trickled in from the various races, but ultimately we weren't patient enough to wait for the organizers to get the awards ready.

Closing thoughts: I need to work more on figuring out where to strategically put in bursts of extra effort in races, like when deciding whether it's worth it or not to try to sprint to get/stay in someone's draft. (It sure would have been nice to have been able to draft one of the Jakes on the upwind leg of this race.) Also, I think some more leg strength and aerobic endurance could help me with the long-distance, choppy-water races, so I might incorporate more running into my training. Jake Graham says he runs a lot, and it sure seems to work for him.

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