Sunday, August 27, 2017

Race Report: CGT Summer Series #8

The river was crazy high. This picture was from the day before the race, but the park was just as flooded on race day.

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

Date it happened: 27 Aug, 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 the third day of heavy rain in SW Florida from a tropical weather system called 92L. The river was higher than I have ever seen it before, overflowing its banks into Riverside Park. The rain continued during the race and actually made things nicely cool. Nevertheless, the strong current made for slower times than usual. The current was 2.3 kph according to my paddling in current calculator.

Participants, Results and gear: Most of the regulars were undeterred by the rain. We also had one new member of the team, Gregory Zasinets, from Naples by way of Belarus. Greg is an avid sup surfer and downwind paddler who recently started doing Mark Athanacio's sup training program with us, in early preparation for some downwind sup races in Hawaii that he plans to do next year. Flat water racing isn't really Greg's thing, but he was a good sport to paddle with us anyway. Most of us did the long race, but the fastest guy, Athanacio, did the short race, which meant there was less direct competition for me in the long race. Below is a table of who raced and what they used. I'll add times when I get them from the race director.

Racer ** Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:41:50
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 25 Hovie ZXC ** 6.4 km ** 44:10
Matt Kearney ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 44:11
Greg Zasinets ** 14' SUP ** 24.5 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 47:36
Bill Mussenden ** 14' SUP ** 23.5 Hovie GTO ** 6.4 km ** 51:56
Devin Turetzkin ** 12'6 SUP ** 25 Hovie GT ** 6.4 km ** 54:13

Mark Athanacio ** 14' SUP ** 21.5 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 20:11
Bryan Herrick ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater Dugout ** 2.9 km ** 25:47
Meg Bosi ** 12'6 SUP ** 25 Bark ** 2.9 km ** 26:20
Jared Hamilton ** 14' SUP ** 24 Hovie ZXC ** 2.9 km ** 27:41
Tony Walz ** 12'6 ** 24 Naish Maliko ** 2.9 km ** 31:29

Play by play: The first starting wave was me, Greg, Matt, and Justin. Everybody sprinted off the line fast. It was more thrilling than usual because while paddling all-out we had to duck a railroad bridge and a foot bridge that usually have plenty of clearance (but not when the water is so high). As we sprinted, Greg was nose to nose with me, until I cut a corner close to the mangrove foliage and forced him to drop back into the draft. The four of us stayed linked in a draft train for a while, which was tricky with the strong current swirling around. A few times I bobbled and had to jam the paddle in the water to catch myself. By about 800 meters down the river I had managed to drop the other three off my tail, and at that point I just focused intently on paddling well and staying in the fast water. We made it downriver to the turn-around point in record time; 16 minutes 20 seconds. When I turned around I saw that Greg, Matt, and Justin were still in a train, and were only about 100 meters behind me. I knew that if I slacked off on the way upriver they would catch me, so I made sure to keep the pace up. More so than usual, I clung to edges of the river on the way up, and made many tactical switches from one side to the other in search of slow current and eddies. Looking at my Speedcoach SUP GPS readout was very helpful for that. If I was getting 8+ kph I knew I was in a good spot, but if it dropped below 7 kph, I knew I was caught in the "treadmill" of strong current and needed to find a better route. When the strong currents were unavoidable, I tried to briefly sprint until I was in better water again. In the last 400 meters or so I mustered all the energy I had remaining and picked up the pace a little. Race director Nick Paeno called out my time as 40:14. I was like, "Wha...? YEAH!" because that would have been a record time for me. I was smug about that until later when I looked at my GPS track and found that my actual time was 41:50- exactly what I got last time. Oh, well.

Here's my GPS track from the course:

For the other three that started with me, there was a lot of good drama in the upriver leg of the race. Though they rounded the bridge together, Greg and Matt separated from Justin soon after. However, Greg, who had never paddled on the river before was taking a slow route against the current, and Justin was able to pass him and Matt by taking a different route. Matt switched from drafting Greg to drafting Justin, and Greg slowed down a lot as his endurance suddenly gave out around 4 km into the race. He said everything started feeling incredibly heavy and he just couldn't maintain the quick pace he'd set earlier. Matt was still drafting Justin as they approached the finish line, and he made a last minute move to pass. Justin was totally tired then and almost wasn't able to hold him off. But the nose of Justin's board was still the first to cross the line, giving him a strong second place.

After the race we had good eats in the shop at CGT, and then a bunch of us went sup surfing or windsurfing at Wiggins Pass State Park. Greg and Matt surfed especially well. I saw Greg in particular go down the line on some good waves, making multiple turns. I sailed a 6.8 sail on my 106 liter board; my second day in a row of good shortboard windsurfing in the ocean. This was a rare treat for August.