Sunday, August 28, 2016

SUP Race Report: CGT Summer Race #6

Race: Race #6 in the CGT Summer Time Trial series.

Date it happened: 28 August 2016.

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.

Distance: 5.96 km / 3.7 miles. The course goes downriver ~1.5 km, around a permanent buoy, back upriver to the start, then around an inflatable buoy and downriver again for a second lap. There is an option to do just one lap (~2.97 km), and a few people took that option this time.

Conditions: Sunny, very hot and humid. There was some wind from the East that was a minor nuisance on the more open stretches of the river. The river current was 0.75 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator.

Participants: The usual suspects were present, plus a few newbies, minus Matt Kearney and Bryan Herrick who were in recovery mode after the Sunshine SUP race yesterday.

Gear: I used my 14x22 Riviera RP, the Blue Streak, with my Riviera Vantage R8 paddle and a 6" Fins Unlimited keel style fin. Mark Athanacio went with his newest, narrowest 12'6x22 board. Jim McIntyre and Murray Hunkin checked out demo boards from CGT- a 14x25 Hovie Comet ZXC for Jim, and a 14x25 Riviera RP for Murray. Devin Turetzkin rode his brand new mint-colored 14x23 Riviera RP with a Hippostick 7.5 paddle borrowed from Matt Kearney.

Results: I had the fastest time, with 38:16. Impressively, Athanacio went nearly as fast on his 12'6, finishing in 38:23. Next fastest was Justin DiGiorgio in 42:08, followed by John Weinberg in 45:20. First woman was Damien Lin in 51:01, ahead of new racer Cindy Gibson in 52:43, then Saralane Harrer in 53:38. In the one lap division, Jim McIntyre did his fastest ever with 21:42, and felt so good he did another lap just for the heck of it. Next was Patricia who did 23:33 on her surfski kayak, then Steve Fleming with 24:33 on a Naish sup. Full results will be posted on the CGT time trials page.

Play by play: The first starting group was Devin Turetzkin, Murray Hunkin, and Justin DiGiorgio. Any of those guys could beat the others on a good day. Mark Athanacio and I started in the second group. We were an odd couple because of the board length mismatch, but Mark is so good at sprinting and drafting that, at least in flat water, he can stay in my draft as long as he wants to even when he's on a 12'6. I think Mark's mission this race was to figure out the best standing position and drafting technique with his new 12'6x22. Anyway, we sprinted off the start then settled into a fast pace with me leading the train. It was tough to catch the first starting group, whose initial pace was similar to ours. However, at the first downriver turnaround, 1.5 km into the race, we reeled in Devin. He had fallen back from Murray and Justin's train, and ended up retiring early from the race because he got unexpectedly ill. I hope he perks up soon because I want to see how fast he is on his new 14x23 Riviera. About halfway through the first upriver leg we caught Murray and Justin, who were still together at that point. Justin says Murray got in our draft as we passed, but couldn't hang on, and Justin wasn't able to sprint around Murray to get up to us, though he did pass Murray a little later.

I was quite tired entering the second half of the race, and the heat was unpleasant. Mark offered to pull the draft train but I declined, because I would have felt wimpy to be on a 14' drafting someone on a 12'6. After the final downriver buoy turn, Mark warned me that he would attempt a passing move before the end of the race, and I would have to hold him off. Nothing like a little pressure to keep me paddling hard! When Mark made his first move it was towards the middle of the river, while I was closer to the edge. It wasn't too hard to hold him off then because I was in the lighter current. The next time Mark left my wake, near the finish line, the river was narrower and he had less space to try to get around. So I did manage to cross the finish line first, and I felt like it had been a real good run. My time was about 30 seconds shy of my personal best, which is probably attributable to being tired from the day before, plus the heat, the wind, the river current, random luck, etc.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to log in to Strava to see the details.

Congrats to everyone who finished this scorching race.

What's next: Next race is the Ocean Warrior Challenge, 11 September in Jupiter, FL. I need to get some rough ocean practice in before then. This week looks good for that, with the Invest 99L tropical disturbance entering the Gulf of Mexico.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

SUP Race Report: RK Sunshine SUP Series #2

Race: The second and final of two races in the RK Sunshine SUP Series. (The first was on June 18th.)

Date it happened: 27 August 2016.

Host / Sponsors / Benefitting: Hosted by Island Water Sports, organized by racers Victoria Burgess and Roray Kam. Supported by lots of sponsors listed on the event website.

Location / Travel: Pompano Beach, Florida, just south of the pier. My CGT Teammate Matt Kearney and I drove over together on Friday and stayed with Matt's college buddy Andrew in Fort Lauderdale.

Distance: The course was a simple upwind/downwind, to and from a buoy about 600 meters off the beach. The rec racers did three laps, and the elite racers did six laps. At the end of each lap you had to come ashore and run through a little chicane on the beach while board handlers turned your board around and held it in the shallow water for you to jump back on. I had 7.65 km on my GPS at the end of the race, which is 4.75 miles.

Conditions: It was sunny, very hot, and humid, but with a significant onshore wind, 10-15 knots from the East Northeast. The ocean was choppy with closely-spaced waves up to about waist high.

Participants: Despite the challenging weather conditions there was a great turnout, especially for the rec race. There were also lots of kayak fishermen and beach obstacle course race people there for concurrent events sharing the same stage and tent city. Most of the podium winners from race #1 were back, vying for the series title. Race #1 men's elite winners Jake Portwood (14') and Packet Casey (12'6) were back but with new boards- they have both picked up sponsorships from JP Australia. Ultra-ripped fitness model Josh Smart (NSP Boards) was there, looking to better the 4th place result he got after breaking his paddle in race #1. New hotshots also joined the fray, including the incredible father-daughter duo of Steven and Maddie Miller, both on 12'6 boards. From my local sup group, the CGT Tribe, we had coach Mark Athanacio, Matt Kearney, Jason Mastin, Bryan Herrick, and me. Mark and Matt both used 12'6 Hoviesup boards in this race. Jason and Bryan did the rec race and the rest of us did the elite.

Gear: Though I've been loving my 14x22 Riviera RP, I decided to use a wider board after looking at the rough water forecast. CGT generously lent me one of their shop demo boards, a 14x25 Riviera RP. With the wider board my balance was secure enough that I could put more effort into moving forward (vs. into staying upright), and my only falls were a few crashing dismounts coming into the beach. Still, I think I ought to practice on the narrow board in rough water, and maybe do a side by side comparison some windy day. Several other riders also opted for wider than their narrowest boards, for similar reasons. There were even some who chose surf style or touring boards instead of their raceboards. Rec race men's winner Yen Loyola was on a large touring board of some sort.

The 14x25 that I used in the race (left) vs. the 14x22 that I own. Both fast boards for the right rider skill / size / conditions.

Results: In the rec race, many riders less familiar with paddling in wind and waves found it a struggle just to get out of the breaking waves zone, let alone to complete three laps and finish. Yen Loyola didn't seem phased by the conditions, and got first in his class. I was proud of relatively new racer Jason Mastin for finishing the whole thing on his Fanatic SUP, and for Bryan Herrick for ALMOST finishing the whole thing (2 out of 3 laps) on his 404 sup. The top 6 finishers in the men's elite race were Jake Portwood (14' JP Flatwater board), Packet Casey (12'6 JP All water board), Steve Miller (12'6 Starboard Allstar), Jake Graham (14' Rogue), me (14' Riviera RP), and Jamie Twigg (12'6 Dean custom). So even though I was the 5th finisher I was 3rd in the 14' class, and got $100 for being third in the series. I think the mish-mash of 14' and 12'6 boards had something to do with the rough conditions reducing the usual board length advantage, and had something to do with some extremely talented riders happening to choose 12'6 boards for this race. Mark Athanacio was first in the 50+ age class and 4th overall in the 12'6 class. He is fast as heck, so it says a lot about how stacked the 12'6 field was that he wasn't on the podium this time. Not too far behind Athanacio, putting in an amazing performance, was women's winner, young Maddie Miller on a 12'6 JP board. Second woman was experienced racer Mary Ann Boyer (Indigo SUP), followed by Cat Uden (Boga) in third. Matt Kearney was 5th in men's 12'6. I think the full results will be posted soon here on paddleguru.

Play by play: I had an OK beach start, but nothing like the jet-propelled, crazy fast start that Jake Portwood, Packet Casey, and Steve Miller had. Those experienced surfer guys whizzed over the whitewater of the breaking waves as if they were no impediment at all. On the first upwind to the buoy there were a few people in front of me who I was able to gain ground on, like Mark Athanacio. Others like Jake Graham and Jamie Twigg I merely kept pace with. It became clear that there was a lot of southward current, turning our path to the buoy into an arc. If you took your eyes off the buoy for a second you'd find that you'd drifted far downwind/downcurrent. If I was a better vector navigator I might have been able to stay on a straighter path to shorten the overall distance paddled. Anyway, at the buoy I made a clumsy but dry turn and ended up close behind Athanacio on the downwind. My 14' board was catching the swells a little better than his 12'6 and I eventually edged around him. My average speed on that downwind was a bit faster than I can normally go in flat water, but I think if I was "downwinding" properly, my speed would be a lot faster than flatwater speed. I.e., efficiently utilizing the push of the waves and maintaining a high average speed downwind is an area where I have lots of room for improvement.

I think I caught a breaking wave near shore that took me the last 40 meters or so into the chicane, but I wasn't too graceful about it. Like most of my times getting off the board I ended up having to wade through surging water and mushy sand more than necessary. Part of the challenge was having to remove my ankle leash every time, and then put it on again ten seconds later after doing the chicane run and getting back to the board. Nobody who finished ahead of me was wearing a leash, and I had agonized somewhat over whether or not I should wear one. It's definitely a good thing for safety, as it prevents the potential nightmare situation of falling off your board far from shore and having the wind carry it away faster than you can swim. To be honest, it bothered me that they didn't require everyone to wear a leash, because it created a situation where you had to weigh your safety concerns against your competitiveness. If everyone had to wear a leash it would be an even competitive playing field, with no one pressured into taking a safety risk for a competitive advantage. It might be overkill for a flat water race, but not for a windy, wavy race.

The middle part of the race is kind of a blur in my memory. I was tired but kept pace Jamie Twigg, just behind Jake Graham. Josh Smart had been with us in the first two laps, but he busted his board in a collision leaving the chicane and had to drop out of the race. Having Jamie and Jake nearby helped me evaluate what techniques were moving me fastest, better than the numbers readout on my speedcoach GPS. On about the fourth lap, going upwind, I got a second wind and rounded the buoy before Jamie, then tried to consolidate that lead by riding the bumps as best I could. I never gained much on Jake Graham, though, until the very last downwind where spent all my remaining energy to get a little closer... maybe enough to get him if he made a mistake, but probably not. As I was lining up for my glorious final surf into the finish line, I started to lap Matt Kearney. Matt inconveniently decided to turn upwind directly into my glory ride path, not knowing I was right behind him, causing some awkward maneuvering that ended with both of us crashing in shallow water and having to prone-surf our boards through the whitewater to shore. Anyway, nobody passed me and no boards were injured during our little fender bender, so all's well that ends well.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to go into Strava to see the details.

After the race it was fun hanging out at the vendor tent area, getting free Mexican Food for lunch, and demo'ing some surf-style SUPs from Starboard. I'd never ridden a sup shorter than 9' before, but I rode an 8'2 and an 8'5 and decided I wasn't missing anything. At my skill level a 10 - 11 foot surf sup is probably the most practical. For an experienced surfer who lives on a coast that actually has waves, it might be different. Jake Portwood really impressed me by seeming to balance effortlessly on one of the tiny starboards, like he was standing on the sidewalk rather than on a tiny piece of foam in the ocean. I don't know whether it's learned from years of surfing, or if it's an innate genetic talent, but it amazed me how far ahead of the field all of the surfer-master guys (Portwood, Packet, and Steve Miller) were in these conditions.

After lunch and fooling around, the race committee gave out awards. I was stoked to get another awesome tiki-themed trophy, this one with a built in bottle opener.

What's Next: There's a CGT race tomorrow morning, which I'll rally for, then on September 11th is the Ocean Warrior Challenge in Jupiter, Florida. That should be another tough one with waves. Jake Graham mentioned a few more fun sounding races in South Florida this fall that also sounded good, including one "Margaritaville" race where there's apparently a ridiculous amount of prize money being offered.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

SUP Race Report: No Name Race 5

Post-race glory picture. Mark Hourigan and I are not pictured here because we volunteered to paddle out and pick up the race buoys.
Race: A 5th edition of Mark Athanacio's "No Name Race"

Date it happened: 13 August 2016

Host/Sponsor: Mark Athanacio organized it, and Jen Hayes and other local paddlers helped set it up. The Vanderbilt Beach Resort sponsored it, providing the buoys and coupons for racers for their fancy "Turtle Club" restaurant. The race was free.

Location: In front of the Vanderbilt Beach Club hotel on Vanderbilt Beach, Naples, Florida.

Distance/Course: The course was set near shore, parallel to the beach. There was one buoy immediately in front of the starting area, one buoy a long way north of that buoy, and another a long way south. You started in the middle of the course and there were two laps, so you went north, south, north, south, north, finish. The distance was 8.258 km if you did both laps. Some of the newer racers just did one lap.

Conditions: It was sunny, hot and humid. There was a SE breeze, blowing diagonally offshore. The ocean was nearly flat, but still had some ripples from the offshore wind, some "roll," and occasional wakes from boats, jetskis, paddleboards, etc.

Participants: There was a good turnout for an informal race. 14 people did the two laps, and 3 people did one lap. Most people were local this time, but exercise physiologist Dr. Jose Antonio (the guy we did the sup nutrition study with) drove across from Ft. Lauderdale to participate. From the CGT Tribe we had Damien Lin, Saralane Harrer, Murray Hunkin, Mark Hourigan, Justin DiGiorgio, Bryan Herrick, Jason Mastin, John Weinberg, Jared Hamilton, Jim McIntyre, me, and Athanacio.

Gear: I used my 14x22 Riviera RP, the Blue Streak, with my Riviera Vantage R8 paddle and a 6" Fins Unlimited keel style fin. I think a somewhat longer, better-tracking fin might have been advantageous by allowing me to take more strokes per side in the long straightaway legs of the up and down the course.

Results: Times weren't recorded for this race- just finishing order, which was written on tongue depressor sticks handed out at the finish line. First place was Mark Athanacio, followed about 30 seconds later by me. I recorded my own time as 0:54:43. Next finisher was Mark Hourigan, then Justin DiGiorgio ahead of Murray Hunkin and Jose Antonio. Damien and Saralane were first and second place for the women. In the one lap division a very fit looking woman named Debbie was first overall ahead of two young guys.

Play by play: Unlike the last no name race, this one didn't have much running- just a few steps into and out of the water at the start/finish. It was still hard, though, because of the distance, the heat, and the close competition. I started fairly cleanly and rounded the start/finish buoy right behind Justin DiGiorgio, who was right behind Mark Athanacio. The draft train didn't last long because Athanacio predictably outsped Justin. I went around Justin and kept pace with Mark, but didn't get in his draft. I probably should have sprinted like crazy to try to get in his draft, but I still have trouble convincing myself that I'll be able to save enough energy by drafting to justify the big expenditure of getting there. I need to remind myself of the times that drafting helped me out in other races, like the Tavernier Key race in February.

Mark and I rounded the north buoy, and did the steady grind to the south buoy in the same configuration, with me a few board lengths behind but without the mojo to close the gap. Finally, nearing the south buoy Mark said something like "Come on and catch up so we can draft!" I said "OK" and he intentionally slowed down to let me get in front for a while. We did some regular drafting and some side-wake drafting on the next trip north. On the second and final long, southward leg I was feeling really tired. I moved from out to the side of Mark into his actual draft and hoped to catch my breath. But he put on a little surge of speed and I couldn't summon the physical/mental power to keep with him. From that point the race was his, and I just tried to stay fast so I wouldn't finish too far behind.

Picture- At the finish.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. If you click "View Flybys" in Strava you can see little icons representing all the GPS equipped racers moving along the course in accelerated time.

Other Race Intrigues: It was significant that Justin beat Murray, since Murray had beaten Justin in the last CGT race. I think the difference was because Murray used a 14x25 Riviera board for the race where he beat Justin, and used an older 14x28 Bark for this race. It would seem like a simple case of Murray should get the new Riviera, but it's more complicated because the narrower Riviera might not be stable enough for Murray outside the smooth water of the Imperial River.

What's Next: Things are going to get busy around here because my low-key summer work schedule of writing papers and supervising research will give way to the busy semester schedule of teaching. But I'm going to try to keep up my same sup race training routine of 3x per week on the water and 2x per week in the gym. I'm also overdue for another round of filming myself and correcting my stroke technique.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

SUP Race Report: CGT Summer Race #5

Justin DiGiorgio's new stick. 14x24 Hovie Comet GT carbon/innegra custom with Mahi Mahi paint job. He set a personal best time on this today.

Race: Race #5 in the CGT Summer Time Trial series.

Date it happened: 7 August 2016.

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.

Distance: 5.96 km / 3.7 miles. The course goes downriver ~1.5 km, around a permanent buoy, back upriver to the start, then around an inflatable buoy and downriver again for a second lap. There is an option to do just one lap (~2.97 km), and a few people took that option this time.

Conditions: It was warm and humid, but not roasting hot because it rained early in the morning and it was cloudy. The river current was significant at 0.97 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator.

Participants: There was a good turnout this time for both the men's and women's sup divisions, and we also had a woman named Patricia do the 1-lap course on her surfski kayak.

Gear: I used my 14x22 Riviera RP, the Blue Streak, with my Riviera Vantage R8 paddle and a 6" Fins Unlimited keel style fin. Justin DiGiorgio did his first race on his amazing new Mahi Mahi colored custom 14x24 Hovie Comet GT. Mark Athanacio was on his ultra light Hovie Comet GT with a slightly different fin that he said helps him track a little straigher than the 6" FU keel he usually uses.

Results: In the two lap division Mark Athanacio won in 38:04, and I was 6 seconds behind in 38:10. Murray Hunkin was next with a very strong 40:27 on a borrowed 14x25 Riviera, despite doing a 3+ hour paddle the previous day on his 14x27. Narrower is faster. Justin was 4th with a personal best time of 41:34. Matt Kearney was first on 12'6 board, with 42:20. Bryan Herrick got a personal best 43:50 on the 14x23.75 Riviera board that I recently sold him, beating John Weinberg's 44:15 on a 14'x27 Yolo. In the women's Meg Bosi won in 46:07, followed by Damien Lin in 49:27 and Donna Catron in 50:16. Of the one-lappers, Jim McIntyre was fastest 22:20 on a 12'6 board, Mark Payne was second in 23:28 on a 14' board, and Jen Hayes was next in 25:22 on a 12'6 board. Full results will be posted on the CGT time trials page.

Play by play: We broke with tradition and started 6 at a time in the first batch today. Mark Athanacio, Murray, Justin, Matt, Bryan, and me. Mark and I got out cleanly, quickly broke away from the pack, and stayed close together the whole rest of the race. We didn't draft each other much, although I did weave in and out of Mark's draft on the upriver segments if I wasn't leading. Mostly we stayed parallel, or with one of us slightly behind and to the side using the "side wake." I had one moment after the upriver buoy turn where I put a couple board lengths gap on Athanacio, and if I'd been smart I would have done an all-out sprint then to try to break away. But he caught back up to me. I was worried that I was getting more tired than Mark, and was hoping to catch some side draft or something on the final lap. For that reason I didn't fight him to be first at the final buoy turn, and I think that was a tactical error on my part. Once he was ahead on the final upriver segment I was kind of powerless to get around him. I left his wake and looked for a better line a few times, but didn't have much energy left or any clear plan about where I would try to pass. I had to push really hard at the end just to not be too many seconds behind him. Even though I didn't get first place it was a real good race for working on skills and strategy, and of course it was a killer workout.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to log in to Strava to see the details.

At the buffet/party after the race, Justin DiGiorgio pointed out that while Athanacio and I are the fastest now, we're not really getting any faster, and he thinks hopes he'll be able to start closing the gap on us. It would definitely be cool to have more racers get to the level where they can challenge us, because it's really good practice for all when we can be pushing ourselves hard while also thinking about drafting and passing strategies.

What's next: I'm going to be in Fort Lauderdale all week for the Ecological Society of America conference. I'll be staying in an AirBnB "boatel" in a marina, and hope to get some paddle and windsurf sessions while I'm not learning about science. I'll have to stay in shape because on the 13th is another local "no name" race organized by Athanacio. This one is not going to have any running in it.