Sunday, May 31, 2015

Battle on the Blueway sup race report

Yesterday I went to a fun SUP race in Fort Myers Beach- the "Battle on the Blueway." (Pictures mostly taken by Jen Hayes.)

 photo 11141357_10153026853143822_8599256477190827169_o_zpsrbxabjel.jpg

This was a race that the rest of the CGT race team and I were really looking forward to because:

A) It was a big WPA-sanctioned race with sponsors and prize money attracting good athletes from around Florida.
B) It was practically in our backyard at Fort Myers Beach.
C) It was tied in with local organizations doing good things: It was organized by the SW FL sup club and the "Calusa Blueway" and it raised money to benefit the Special Olympics.

The course started with a beach launch, then had a rectangular circuit up and down the north end of Fort Myers Beach. There was a short race with just one lap around the circuit, and a longer "Ron Jon Pro" race with three laps around the circuit. I did the longer race, which was 6.24 miles on my GPS. The course wasn't too complicated, but all those buoy turns put a premium on being able to make quick, efficient turns without slowing down or falling off. I didn't fall off but my turns were "meh" - definitely something to work on.

 photo aMlf8L4_zpsmchqcttd.jpg

Here's a play-by-play of what I can remember about how the race went:

1) I used my 14' x 24.75" Fanatic Falcon with a MFC weed-wave fin and a Riviera Vantage 8.0 paddle.

2) We lined up on the beach for a running beach start. The fast, sponsored riders flung their boards down, leaped on and blasted off like missiles. I was slow on the draw but sprinted pretty well once onboard and arrived at the first buoy somewhere in the front third of the pack.

 photo 11101308_10153026853458822_994334014536836315_o_zpswjwwsgpm.jpg

3) My turn at the crowded first buoy was awkward, bumping some other guys' boards and stuff. But I kept a sprint going and passed some of the fast-starting 12'6 boards on my way around the pier to the "circuit" part of the race course. I think that practicing 2 minute sprint intervals last week with a new training buddy, South African kayaker & sup'er Murray Hunkin, helped me a lot with this part of the race.

4) Starting the first leg of the circuit I was about 200 feet behind the young, fast 14' riders: Matt Arensman, Kieran Grant, and Brad Ward. My sprint energy was wearing out, but I saw an opportunity to catch them when they made the strategic error of paddling in the shallow water too close to shore. Deeper water is faster, plus the favorable flood tide current was stronger in the deeper water where I stayed. Also, the large breaking wake from the Ft. Myers - Key West Ferry roared through the shallows at about 8:45 am and the fast guys had to negotiate that while I was deep enough to get over the swells. After the ferry wake I was close enough behind the leaders to sneak and start drafting Brad Ward who was in third place at the time.

5) I focused on spending the minimum effort necessary to catch my breath while drafting Brad Ward. It was working pretty well, but somewhere on the return leg of the first circuit Brad got a little slower and disconnected from the two leaders. I decided I should take a turn in front of him so I passed, but I didn't think I had the speed and energy to catch up with either Matt Arensman or Kieran Grant, who were now separated from each other and 100-200 feet ahead of me.

Matt Arensman being a badass.
 photo 11222276_10153026854013822_8464329899819176191_o_zpsdb0dpurp.jpg

Kieran Grant being a badass.
 photo 11289522_10153026854043822_5706393872677177907_o_zpssu2uxhpi.jpg

I was thinking it would be a battle for third place between me and Brad Ward, but something happened to Brad and he dropped out of the race instead of getting in my draft. Later I asked him what happened and he explained that had a chronic forearm injury that he was hoping to control with two compression sleeves on it, but it flared up real bad and he wisely ended the race before making it worse. There have been tons of long, tough races in Florida this spring, and I'm sure it puts brutal wear and tear on the competitive riders like Brad that push it 100% in all of them.

6) My goal for the rest of the race was to stay in third place in the 14' division and not get passed by the top 12'6 riders. I knew the 12'6 guys weren't too far behind me because I could periodically hear Mark Athanacio yelling things while mixing it up in the draft train of 12'6'ers (see guy in red shorts in picture).

 photo 11357322_10153026854073822_5749666985499316218_o_zpsn5rxuhts.jpg

I had some friendly company in the middle part of the race from a guy on an orange 17' Unlimited class sup.

 photo 11113768_10153026854053822_98281827245007060_o_zpswuhpi5c4.jpg

He was keeping up with me without even having to push it, using the race as just a warm up for the kayak race he was going to do later! I was working hard but staying within the bounds of what I knew (or at least hoped) I could maintain. Sips of watered-down gatorade from my camelback helped.

7) The last lap was toughest, as the temperature was rising and the wind had picked up and shifted more sideshore from offshore. The leaders continued to get way ahead (4-5 minutes ahead) of me, and I didn't put any more distance between myself and the 12'6 guys behind me. But I dutifully spent all the energy I had left in the final shot to the beach and through the flags to finish in 1:10:16. Matt Arensman won it in 1:05:01 and Kieran Grant was second in 1:06:13. Assuming my GPS odometer was accurate at 6.24 miles, my pace was 5.33 mph, which is not impressive compared to my 5.55 mph pace in the longer Orange Bowl sup race earlier this month, or Mr. Arensman's 5.76 mph pace in this race. Having 13 buoy turns and slightly bumpier water is probably part of what made me slower. It's also possible that I just didn't push myself as hard during the middle endurance part of the race, or that my energy systems were a bit down from having two beers and only getting 5 1/2 hours of sleep after playing Dungeons and Dragons the night before. For future pre-race training I'm going to make sure to frequently practice buoy turns, focus on maintaining efficient form and pace when I'm tired, and make sure I'm well rested and hydrated with water only.

The other CGT team folks all finished strong, and kayak veteran / sup rookie Murray Hunkin did super well, coming in first in the 40-49 year old 14' division despite barely being able to do a buoy turn. I need to keep training with that guy.

The race had cool BIG trophies made by local artist and craftsman Steve Nagy. There were also money awards for the top 5 finishers in mens' 14' and 12'6, and womens' 12'6 class. I got $500 for third in the 14' class, which I am super stoked about. I think it's the first time I've ever won money for doing something athletic.

 photo 11351467_10207115460950794_7687424966152151412_n_zpszkrukred.jpg

There will be a bit of a break before the next SUP race I'm signed up for, which is nice because I'll be busy with real life work and some trips and stuff with Rhonda.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Protesting Oil Drilling in Kayaks Made of Plastic - Ironic?

There's a kayak and paddleboard-based protest happening in my hometown of Seattle, Washington. The protest is a blockade of a giant Shell Oil drilling rig that is in the harbor being readied to start drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean. A conservative political group called CFACT has started passing a picture around on social media calling out the irony of the fact that the anti-oil-drilling protestors are in plastic kayaks, and plastic is made from oil.

They came in automobiles fueled by oil, wearing clothing made from oil, to protest oil, in kayaks made from oil. Then they tweeted their photos on phones made from oil and drove home.Share the irony.

Posted by CFACT on Monday, May 18, 2015

Is the irony real? Yes. There is no denying that kayaks are made of plastic, and plastic is made of oil. HOWEVER, that does not mean the protestors are stupid, and it definitely does not mean that it's a good idea to drill in the Arctic Ocean. Here's why I SUPPORT THE PROTESTORS:

1. Although plastic is made from oil, only about 2% of the total oil that we drill is used to make plastic. Most of the rest is used for fuel or burned to generate electricity. If we cut down on the amount of oil used for fuel and electricity, which we can do through conservation, energy efficiency, and shifting to renewable energy sources like solar and wind, we will have plenty of oil left to supply the relatively small amount needed for making plastic stuff. No need to drill in the Arctic.

2. We're already extracting and burning way too much fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal) for the planet to handle. The concentration of the main atmospheric pollutant from burning fossil fuel, carbon dioxide, has gone from 280 ppm up to 400+ ppm since we started burning fossil fuels during the industrial revolution about 150 years ago. The high concentration of carbon dioxide is causing global warming and ocean acidification.

3. The Arctic is a really bad place to drill for oil because rough waters, icebergs, and rocks make it easy for oil spills to happen. Also, if/when oil spills do happen, they will have terrible consequences because of all the vulnerable endangered species that only live in the Arctic- species such as polar bears, narwhals, beluga whales, bowhead whales, walruses, etc.

4. Although it is somewhat hypocritical to do nature-loving activities on a plastic-based toy like a kayak, sup, or windsurf, the overall benefits of getting out and engaging with nature are worth the slight environmental cost if they help the watercraft users to be more environmental in their overall life choices and actions. I wrote an article about this kind of thing a couple years ago for some windsurfing magazines. It was called, "Green Windsurfing." I'm not sure if the article is available online anywhere. Can anyone find it?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Orange Bowl Paddle Championships (SUP race)

Saturday I got up early and went with Matt Kearney of the CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards race team to the Orange Bowl Paddle Championships in Miami. The event was put on by the same people who put on the Orange Bowl football game, so there were lots of officials walking around in orange colored shirts, and there was a guy wearing the smiling orange mascot costume.

 photo 11009858_406700836181176_2310889810678545760_o_zpsjmfzzgg7.jpg

The event was a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami, so registration was about twice as expensive as a typical sup race. It was for a good cause, though, and it was nice to be at a big, well-produced event with lots of vendors and snacks and stuff. The venue was ideal- the "Marine Stadium" on Virginia Key, next door to the Miami Seaquarium. They had sprint races, recreational races, a "corporate challenge" relay race, kids stuff, and an 8.5 mile "elite" race all the way around Virginia Key (see GPS track). I did the long race, along with my official CGT teammates Matt Kearney, Kate Pagan, and Kevin Hill, and de facto teammates Brandon Gunderson and Mark Athanacio.

 photo Orange Bowl Sup 2015_zpskz2tceai.jpg

Despite glassy calm conditions perfect for fast paddling, the race felt VERY long and hard. It went well for me, though. I rode the 404 v3 14' x 24" board and finished in 9th place; 1:31:17 with 8.45 miles on my GPS. That was a 5.55 mph average over the whole distance, which is really good for me since I usually struggle to get a 5.5 mph average over half that distance. Talk to the guys at the CGT shop if you want to get a good deal on a similar 404 v3 board.

 photo 11008601_10100357368342951_7707115075560856244_n_zpsa7hqenys.jpg

 photo 11212694_406688046182455_4357984330697557831_o_zpsqunjax4p.jpg

First place in 14' class Brennan Rose (pictured below) finished in 1:24:45 on a Riviera paddleboard, which is also a brand they sell at CGT.

 photo 11157549_406685422849384_4365228242630599912_o_zpsswlc0mkg.jpg

Second and third place Matt Arensman (Boga boards) and Josh Riccio (Rogue boards) were less than a minute behind the leader. In fact, the top 5 or 6 riders started close together at the beginning and stayed close for most of the race in one or more "drafting trains".

 photo 10985189_10205579661084094_6326979893602463374_o_zps73nwdxnh.jpg

Drafting is really important, but tricky. When you're riding in the wash behind another board you can match the leader's speed with significantly less effort than the leader is putting out- maybe 10-20% less effort. Then when the leader gets tired you can take a turn leading, or try to pass. I thought I might be doing lots of drafting in this race, but I wasn't quite fast enough in the first minutes to attach myself to anyone in front. It would help to know beforehand who one's closely-matched competitors would be so you could stick with them. You could even make a civilized agreement with your training buddies beforehand to stick together and trade-off who had to sprint at the front of the draft train every mile or so. Speaking of buddies, I want to do some shout-outs to mine who did well at this race.

Matt Kearney had one of his best races ever.
 photo 11165095_10152965841413822_3576433644069020957_o_zps7fp5769n.jpg

"Team Death Metal" Kevin Hill (shirtless) and Brandon Gunderson (tattoos) did well, as usual, in the 12'6" class.
 photo 11262491_406691806182079_2869421319004164244_o_zpsnw2n6er0.jpg photo 11074367_406691999515393_3538530650960386362_o_zpsxrsedpp9.jpg

Kate Pagan made it look easy with her smooth style.
 photo 11262464_406694709515122_6824343343928286448_o_zpsyesqap2x.jpg

Perhaps the most impressive performance of the day was by SW Florida badass Mark Athanacio, who finished first in the 12'6 board class with a time of 1:33:31. At the end of the race he was locked up with with second place 12'6 guy Jeremy Whitted, and the two competitors had an epic battle around the buoy and through the last sprint to the finish. Jen Hayes got the action on camera. It's especially cool to watch it as a slideshow, but I'm just showing one of the most action-packed pictures here.

 photo 10854918_10152965839158822_4904199538964207956_o_zpsnbruu23c.jpg

Although I was really hurting after the race, with sore everything, my mood got better and better as I recuperated and the festive mood of the event soaked in. It was great to see the smiling crowds of adults and children out on the water, delightedly playing with toys and socializing with each other, which is what this whole thing (windsurf, sup, kite, surf, etc.) is really about.

 photo 11194404_406696732848253_7725382718216323982_o_zpspfineas2.jpg

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Testing & Racing New SUP - 404 v3 14' x 24"

Yes, I'm crazy. Although I already own one very nice race paddleboard, a 14' x 27.25" Fanatic Falcon, I decided to buy myself another one, which might be a little faster, in some conditions. The new board is a 14' x 24" 404 v3 - the same kind that superstar Danny Ching uses. Here's how the two boards compare:

 photo 0428151652_zpstadbwhf3.jpg

 photo 11165940_897074353664091_1844409536_n_zpsex1pse1t.jpg

 photo 10986813_1050332991663526_8093603295109566995_o_zpsy5yr0hxb.jpg

Length- Same

Width- The 404 v3 is 3" narrower than the Fanatic Falcon. In theory, this should make the v3 a couple tenths of a mph faster, but it will be challenging to test that empirically. Pushing my hardest on the Falcon for ~4 miles I would usually average 5.5 mph. But a week before getting the v3 I had a 5.74 mph run on the Falcon, setting the bar for comparison high. My first training run on the v3 I got 5.72, which is better than I usually did on the Falcon but not better than the best I ever did. Since then I've had some more sessions on the 404 but not with comparable conditions. Winds and currents, fins, how hot it is, and the "human element" (like what I had for lunch, and my mood and focus) all make a big difference.

Volume- The Falcon is 294 liters, the v3 is 224 liters.

Weight- The Falcon is about 29 pounds, the v3 is about 21 pounds.

Outline shape- The Falcon is a teardrop shape with a wide and bulbous nose tapering to a very narrow pointy tail. The v3 is more of a bullet shape; pointy in the front and squared off at the back. The Falcon mostly bobs over waves whereas the v3 pokes into them more. The Falcon is more user-friendly in choppy water, with the possible exception of when you're going broadsides to the wind and the bulbous nose is getting pushed downwind.

Deck shape- Both boards have a peaked deck on the nose to shed water after hitting a wave, but the decks differ in the standing area. On the Falcon the deck is flat; flush with the rails. On the v3 the deck is recessed, so your center of gravity is slightly lower but you sometimes get water sloshing around your feet.

Bottom shape- The Falcon has a rounded bottom at the nose becoming flat in the mid section, with slight vee towards the tail. The v3 has a slightly rounded vee in the nose, becoming flat then concave in the mid section and carrying the concave all the way to the tail.

Rail shape- Both boards have rounded rails near the nose, becoming more square in the mid section of the board. But on the Falcon the rails get more rounded again near the tail, whereas on the v3 they get sharper near the tail. The Falcon definitely has a more "displacement" design to the tail whereas tail on the v3 is meant to have a sharper release from the water

Rocker- The Falcon swoops up at the nose, then has a gradual rocker from nose to tail. The v3 has just a slight lift in the nose section, has a long flat mid-section, and then has a pronounced tail rocker from the fin to the rear. Both boards can ride waves and can glide with the wind-swell ("bumps") when going downwind. However, the Falcon catches bumps more automatically and is more forgiving of how far forward or back on the board you're standing when riding them.

The only race I've done on the new board so far was the Noodles Cafe SUP Luau Races in Naples last Saturday. (Picture shows racers lining up before the start.)

 photo 11194455_1050332934996865_7432282870332401192_o_zpsydlqnijv.jpg

The event was part of a benefit for the Special Olympics of Collier County. They started it with a 5.6 mile competitive race, then later in the day they had family fun races and races for the Special Olympics athletes with learning disabilities.

I chased Mark Athanacio for the whole race, but he gradually pulled away and finished about two minutes ahead. It could have been interesting if I'd positioned myself well and sprinted better at the start so I could draft him. Mark is the guy with the bulging muscles on the blue and green 14' Boga Board in this picture of the race start.

 photo 11053569_10155595659170193_4327420476032087443_o_zpsbpiyvrk1.jpg

This picture shows my GPS track from the race.
 photo Noodles Race 2015_zpsuwpw1sqf.jpg

Third place was Kevin Hill, one of my teammates on the CGT sup race team. Kevin was riding a 12'6 board and still beat most of the 14' board riders, which is very impressive. This picture shows Kevin, Mark, and I on the podium with the race organizer and one of the Special Olympics athletes.

 photo 10517258_10206285666531562_9181602130939306535_o_zpsooufzgyg.jpg

Next race is Saturday in Miami. It's an 8.6 mile race around Virginia Key. I'll probably do it on the new 404.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Grad Student Shannan Defends her Thesis

I want to give a proud congratulations to my first graduate student, Shannan McAskill, for successfully defending her masters thesis last month and graduating today from FGCU. Shannan studied the island apple snail; a very large invasive snail that is gobbling aquatic plants and disrupting ecosystems in Florida and elsewhere in the southeastern US. Shannan's work investigated the snail's potential to damage tapegrass beds in brackish waters. (Tapegrass is an important food for manatees, turtles, and birds and an important habitat for fish, crabs, and shrimp.) Interestingly, though both tapegrass and apple snails prefer freshwater, Shannan found that slightly brackish water may provide a safe haven for tapegrass by hurting the snails more than it hurts the tapegrass.

 photo shannan thesis_zpszymr1idm.jpg

Keep up the good work, Shannan! Let's get those publications out this summer.