Sunday, July 16, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Race Series #6



Race: The sixth race in the CGT Spring/Summer Series.

Date it happened: 16 July, 2017

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.

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 hot and humid as hell, with hardly a breeze. The river current was significant at 1.1 kph according to my paddling in current calculator, but the water level was high, which allowed some tactical corner-cutting.

Participants, Results and gear: There was a good crew of 15 racers, with 6 doing the long course and 9 doing the short one. It was great to see regular racers, newish racers, and some people who used to race but hadn't raced in a long time, such as Kevin Hill, Jesse DaSilva, and Kate Pagan, who did the short course. Series leader Mark Athanacio broke with tradition and also did the short course, which he won with an insane course-record time of 18:16. He used his deadly flatwater weapon, the 14x21.5 Hovie GT, and used a bigger paddle blade than usual for the shorter course; a Quickblade Trifecta 96. Mark's beau Jen Hayes won the women's short course with 24:47. I won the long race with 40:45, which is about even with my personal best for the course, but still way short of Mark's course record of 40 minutes even. That record is looking out of reach for me, unless I can somehow make a major leap in my skills and fitness, or get on some kind of board that's significantly faster than my current one (which is already fast). Matt Kearney was out of town this week, but "SUPerman" Robert Norman came down from Inverness to do the race and teach some SUP clinics. (I did his clinic on Saturday and was surprised how much helpful stuff I learned, especially about buoy turn footwork techniques. Robert has a well-organized, professional teaching style and I would definitely recommend his classes and clinics.) Robert rode CGT's 14x23 Starboard AllStar. New racer Patrick Scheele had a new board, a 10'6 surf-style Riviera. It's certainly not a raceboard, but he still managed to go 3 minutes faster than last time when he was paddling a heavy 9' windsurfing board. Here's the full results:

Racer ** Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:40:45
Robert Norman ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:42:44
Bill Quincy ** 14' SUP ** 23.5 Hovie GTO ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:42
Bill Mussenden ** 14' SUP ** 25 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:47:02
John Weinberg ** 14' SUP ** 25 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:48:48
Jesse DaSilva ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hobie Apex ** 6.4 km ** 0:49:33

Mark Athanacio ** 14' SUP ** 21.5 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:18:16
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater Dugout ** 2.9 km ** 0:21:07
Kevin Hill ** 14' SUP ** 24 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:22:13
Steve Fleming ** 12'6' SUP ** 24 Naish Maliko ** 6.4 km ** 0:22:44
Bert ** 12'6 SUP ** 26 BlkBox Uno ** 2.9 km ** 0:23:37
Jen Hayes ** 12'6 SUP ** 22 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:24:47
Jared Hamilton ** 14' SUP ** 24 Hovie ZXC ** 2.9 km ** 0:24:58
Patrick Scheele ** 10'6 SUP ** 31 Riviera ** 2.9 km ** 0:25:45
Kate Pagan ** 12'6 SUP ** 24.5 Starboard Allstar ** 2.9 km ** 0:28:55

Play by play: There were a lot of potentially fast 14' racers milling around the start line, so it was tricky to figure out what our starting groups would be. I knew I'd be starting with Robert Norman, because we'd been talking for a week about how he was going to try to match Matt Kearney's feat of drafting me for the entire race to break his record time. Besides Robert, I also knew Justin was fast enough to hang with the draft train. I knew Jesse could sprint fast but I didn't think he'd be able to keep up in the longer term. It ended up being Robert, Justin, Jesse, Kevin, and me on the line together. I was in the middle and got the "hole shot" into the lead position, with Robert in my draft, as expected. I think Justin and the others were also in the train for a while, but I'm not sure.

After about 1 km it was clear that it was just me and Robert. I asked Robert if he wanted to pull. He said "No," and I said something like, "Interesting." I considered stopping paddling and trying to force him to lead, but ultimately decided to just paddle my own pace and deal with Robert later if he tried to pass. I maintained a pace that was hard, but not to the point of burning out my arms. In comparison with race #5 I stayed more collected in the first half, saving some energy for the second half. It helped to focus on the river ahead, visualizing my speed and feeling my strokes in each moment, rather than focusing on the GPS readout and how I was doing overall.

Robert stayed with me as we turned around the bridge at the bottom of the course and started the exhausting upriver slog. But about 800 meters into the second half he quietly dropped back. I tried to keep my pace up even when he was far enough back that I knew I wouldn't have to worry about him. A trick that helped me on the upriver was aggressively hugging the edges of the river where the current was slower and I could occasionally find a blessed patch of tree shade. When I sensed that I was paddling in unavoidable bad current or slight headwind, I increased my effort just a bit, but overall I kept the pace steady at 53 strokes per minute cadence. I was happy to pass the 3/4 point of the race in just under 30 minutes, indicating that was making a little better time than in race #5. At the end I sped up as much as I could manage (which wasn't much) to shave whatever seconds I could off my time. I was really happy to get back in under 41 minutes, after my slightly disappointing 41:13 time in race #5.



Other race intrigues included a surprsingly strong performance by dark horse Bill Quincy, who was borrowing Athanacio's salmon-colored Hovie. It will be interesting to see if he becomes a regular racer. Also impressive was how much faster Jen Hayes went compared to her usual time. Maybe having another fast woman on the course (Kate Pagan) was motivating. As usual, after the race we all had really good food and social time at CGT. The AC felt especially awesome.

What's Next: Two weeks from now we have an out-of-town race, the Flying Fish Summer Paddle Challenge in Stuart, FL. The following day there will be another CGT race. There's a rumor that CGT Kayaks owner Nick Paeno is going to race.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Damn you, dirty scoundrels of Photobucket

I used photobucket.com for several years to host the pictures for this blog, but it got progressively more annoyingly packed with pop up ads and malware and such, to the point that the site interface became maddeningly slow, awkward and unusable. At the same time they started making more and more unpredictable and unreasonable subscription extortion attempts. Now they've turned off all my pictures and told me I need to pay $40 a month for the rest of my life to turn them back on again. $40/month? F U that's more than my phone bill.

Now I have to decide how to deal with the problem of rehosting the images from hundreds of old blog posts. For new blogs, I've just been uploading the pics directly into blogger, but I don't know if blogger might also pull some kind of ransom attempt like this in the future.

Advice to companies like photobucket: If you want people to pay for the premium version of a service, don't let the free version of the service turn to such user-abusing shit that all your potential customers hate you and would never dream of giving you money.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Summer Series #5



Race: The fifth race in the CGT Spring/Summer Series.

Date it happened: 2 July, 2017.

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.

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 hot and humid, about 30 C, with a light and variable wind. The river current was significant at 1 kph according to my paddling in current calculator. The current was more intense near the start/finish line, and less intense downriver at the bottom of the course.

Participants, Results and gear: We had a decent crew, including some who didn't race but were hanging out because of the Quickblade Paddles demo event run concurrently with the race. (CGT recently became a Quickblade dealer, which is cool because QB is renowned as the #1 paddle company in the world. CGT also sells HippoStick and Riviera paddles.) It was cool that we had Jennifer Peters do it on a one-person outrigger canoe (OC1) this time. Jennifer beat me by a couple seconds, but couldn't steal the line honors from Mark Athanacio, who was first overall on his wicked fast 21.5" wide Hovie SUP. Another cool gear thing was that Justin DiGiorgio had modified his 14x23 Hovie GTF by cutting a deep recess in the standing area of the deck. It turned out to be a huge success in its first race since the modification. Previously the board had been fast but awkward and tippy because it was so thick relative to its width that the rider was standing precariously high above the water. With the newly recessed standing position it wobbled less, and the wobbles would correct themselves instead of getting out of control. Justin improved on his previous race time by 7 seconds, probably because he avoided falling this time.

Justin's successfully modified 14x23 Hovie GTF.


Racer ** Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
Mark Athanacio ** 14' SUP ** 21.5 Hovie GT ** 6.4 km ** 0:40:48
Jennifer Peters ** OC1 ** ?? ** 6.4 km ** 0:41:10
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:41:13
Matt Kearney ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:41:15
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater Dugout ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:21
Bryan Herrick ** 14' SUP ** 23.75 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:46:48
Steve Fleming ** 12'6' SUP ** 24 Naish Maliko ** 6.4 km ** 0:57:14

Devin Turetzkin ** 12'6 SUP ** 25 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:22:06
Jen Hayes ** 12'6 SUP ** 22 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:27:10

Play by play: As per our established routine for this series, I started in the group with Matt and Justin, and Mark Athanacio started later. In comparison with race #4, I continued my sprint off the start for a longer period of time. Nevertheless, both Matt and Justin got in my draft and seemed to have no trouble staying there. I neither tried to shake them nor tried to keep them; just went at the fastest pace I thought I could maintain. I messed with my paddle stroke a little, trying to make sure I was using my whole body and not blowing out my arms and shoulders too early. I had done a fairly intense 3x8 minute SUP workout the previous day that I probably wasn't 100% recovered from. It's hard to tell exactly how much I'm affected by working out in the day(s) before a race, but I normally try to have at least one day of nothing strenuous before a race.

About 1600 meters into the race, Justin started to waver a little in his drafting, but he stayed no more than a board length behind Matt (close enough to get some drafting benefit) until we were nearly at the halfway point. Turning around the pilings of the US 41 bridge at the halfway point was where I lost Matt last time, but I knew he was determined to stay on me this time, and he did. Looking at his Strava track, you see that his heart rate jumps from the low 180s to over 190 for a bit while he scratches to reconnect, then it goes down to the low 180s again once he's in the draft. Going upriver I did OK, but not great. I mostly stayed on the gas, but sometimes my stroke rate sagged a bit, and I don't think I had the right mental focus to keep up maximum output at all times. It's hard to gauge pace when the river current is strong and the numbers on the GPS are so much lower than they would be in neutral conditions. It might help if I started paddling with a heartrate monitor band again like I did last summer. That thing kept me honest... but it wasn't as durable and dependable as I would have liked, and too expensive to keep replacing all the time.

Another couple things that were messing with my mind on the upriver portion of the race were wondering if I was taking the best paths to avoid the bad current, wondering if I might have a little leaf or something stuck on my fin (I probably didn't), and wondering if and when Matt would try to pass me. I figured my best defense against Matt passing would be to just maintain a tough pace so that he'd be too tired to mount a sprint attack. In the last couple hundred meters I notched up the pace a bit more, for good measure. Matt never did try a sprint (I think that was mostly out of courtesy, since he'd used my draft the entire race), but he stayed right on me all the way to the end and was only 2 seconds behind, making a HUGE, 1 min 45 second improvement on his previous best race time. The 14x23 Starboard AllStar and 7.0 Riviera Bump paddle seem to suit Matt well, and he has been getting closer to me with that gear combo than he ever used to get. Matt is also really consistent in sticking with coach Athanacio's 3x weekly SUP workouts, plus strength training in the gym, and never missing his post-workout protein shakes. Though he's a naturally skinny guy, he's starting to get beefy looking arms and shoulders, and I think he's improving significantly in speed, power, and endurance. If the trend continues we can probably start drafting cooperatively instead of just me pulling, leading to faster time for both of us.

Elsewhere on the racecourse, there was a good back-and-forth drafting battle of 14' Riviera boards paddled by Bryan Herrick and Bill Mussenden. Bryan's strategy of saving energy by drafting a lot early on then attacking in the last quarter of the course paid of for him, as he eked out the win.

As for myself, I'm slightly disappointed in my "plateau" of performance in this series. I'm not getting any closer to coach Athanacio, who is my main benchmark, and I'm having trouble just matching my own previous race times. However, I've started doing strength training at the YMCA more regularly now that I'm done teaching for the summer, and I expect that to start helping if I can stick with it. I also think I have some room for improvement in terms of managing my diet and body composition (muscle to fat ratio). A few less Dairy Queen Blizzards and a few more running cross-training workouts might help. The trickiest part is probably mental, though- finding the mental drivers that can get my reluctant body to exert to its maximum potential, but not beating myself up in a negative way. I imagine it's normal for athletes to have times of improvement mixed with times of struggle and stagnation, and I imagine that as I get more experience I'll learn more about when and how to push, and when and how to chill out.

This is my GPS track from the race. You can see more details if you view it in Strava.


After the race I demo'd two different models of Quickblade paddles (V-Drive and Trifecta) in various blade sizes. I decided I didn't like the V-Drive 91, but I kinda liked the smaller V-Drive 81 and the Trifecta 86. The V-Drive is supposed to suit paddlers who have a good forward reach and "front load" their paddle stroke, while the Trifecta is supposed to match well with paddlers who get most of their power from the middle part of the stroke... and it may be more forgiving of sloppy technique. I probably qualify more as a Trifecta guy. I'm still very happy with my 7.0 Riviera Bump, though, so I'm not in a hurry to make any expensive gear changes.

What's Next: The next CGT Race is July 16th.