Sunday, January 3, 2016

SUP race report- CGT Winter Race #2

I tried to burn off the Christmas cookies today at a tough local SUP race, the CGT Kayaks and Paddleboard Winter Race #2. This is me on the red board and Mark Athanacio on the blue and green board at the finish line.

As in the first race of this series, the competition was close. There was a big turnout (19 racers!) with lots of fast men and women. The course was the same- 5.1 km in the Imperial River with some challenging narrow bends and turns. Many people significantly improved their times from the first race. It may have helped that the weather was mercifully cool for Florida, about 20C. I used my 14'x24.75" Fanatic Falcon with a Riviera R8 paddle and Fins Unlimited 6" keel fin. (PS- The Fanatic is for sale at CGT- $1000.) The unofficial results of the race were:

James Douglass, 14', 33:28
Mark Athanacio, 14', 33:29
Mark Hourigan, 14', 34:20
Murray Hunkin, 14', 34:39
Matt Kearney, 14', 36:36
Justin DiGiorgio, 14', 37:53
Meg Bosi, 12'6, 38:56
John Wheeler, 12'6, 39:24
John Weinberg, 14', 40:43
Mark Payne, 14', 41:42
Beth Schadd, 12'6, 41:47
Damien Lin, 12'6, 43:12
Saralane Harrer, 14', 43:34
Jared Hamilton, 12'6, 44:16
Donna Catron, 12'6, 45:02
Jodi Ziajka, 12'6, 47:22
Heather Olson, 12'6, 53:27
Steve Fleming, 14', 57:36
Nick Fleming, 12'6, 59:23

Drafting played a role in this race, but unlike in the previous one, the top 4 started in different groups and were never in one long train. The first starting group was Matt, Murray, Jared, and Justin.

I was in the second starting group with Athanacio and Hourigan. Athanacio started like a rocket, as always, and I got behind to draft him. He is tough to draft because a) he's really fast, b) he doesn't make much wake, and c) his paddle strokes make a lot of turbulence in the wake, especially when he's sprinting. The rounded nose on my Fanatic handles the rough wake well, though, which helped me stay steady when tailgating. Unfortunately for Hourigan the narrow pintail on my Fanatic makes a tiny wake that is hard to ride. Hourigan stuck pretty close to Athanacio and me with a smooth and efficient stroke, but I don't think he got much benefit from drafting.

In the group ahead of us Matt drafted behind Murray for a while but ultimately couldn't keep pace with the South African powerhouse. Murray has always been strong and fast, but lately he has taken it to another level by getting more in-tune with a gear setup that works well for his 100 kg size. He's on a 14'x27" Riviera RP and uses a 110 in2 Quickblade paddle. Justin DiGiorgio is another strong guy who has been hitting the gym hard, but he has been unable to practice SUP much because of his work schedule. He muscled through with a fast time but said his back and shoulders were killing him. It seems like strength training in the gym is a good complement to on-the-water training, but can't totally substitute for water time.

Athanacio and I traded drafting leads a few times. I was leading at the first buoy turn, and then gave him back the lead after we passed Matt on the upriver leg. I annoyed Athanacio when yielding the lead because I didn't slow down much, forcing him to work harder than he should have to get around. He let me take back the lead in the latter part of the upriver leg, which was a relief to me because it would have been really hard to pass him any time later in the race if he didn't want me to get by. At that point I just put my head down and tried to grind out the rest of the race, closing the distance on Murray ahead and trying not to screw up in any big ways that would give Athanacio an easy opportunity to get around. Murray bumbled at the upriver turn around, the bat bridge, and Athanacio and I turned wide around him and gave it 100% for the last leg. Athanacio was right behind me but there were no good opportunities for him to pass. He made some comments expressing his frustration about that but I was too out of breath to say anything sassy in return. I redlined my heartrate around 190 bpm for the rest of the race, luckily avoided colliding with trees or the racers coming upriver, and narrowly eked out a victory. Athanacio was right behind, and Hourigan and Murray pretty close, too.

Here's my data from the race:

According to Athanacio this is the last time I will ever taste sweet victory on the Imperial River. He's taking the kid gloves off and upgrading to a sleek new 14'x23" ultra-light carbon board. Since we're about the same speed now he may very well get the best of me with his new stick. But I'm not going to make it easy for him.

I definitely wasn't the only one who had a good race. Looking at the full official results on the CGT Time Trials page it seems that MANY of the racers beat their race #1 time by a minute or more- some by as much as 3 minutes. Meg Bosi, who is in the process of recovering from a shoulder injury, got first place overall in the 12'6 class with a time a full minute faster than Kate Pagan's winning time from the first race. (Kate missed this race because Costa Rica.) It should be tight competition between Kate and Meg next time. Some of the biggest improvements from the first to the second race were among the newer racers like Saralane Harrer, Damien Lin, and Beth Schadd. Jodi Ziajka had a solid race but will need every trick in the book to pass her peer Donna Catron, who has been killing it since getting a nice carbon Hoviesup. Steve and Nick Fleming were a father-son pair on matching Naish sups. I was impressed that young Nick, who was only half as tall as his paddle, seemed to cruise gracefully through the whole race. He'll be one to watch out for in the future.

Looking forward to the next race in the series on January 24th.

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