Sunday, March 19, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Series #7, on a 12'6x22

Clip from the midpoint of the race.

Race: Race #7 in the CGT Winter Time Trial series. This was the final race in this series, and the new series with a different race course will begin on April 2nd.

Date it happened: 19 March 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.

Distance: Approximately 6 km / 3.7 miles. The course goes downriver, around a buoy, back upriver to the start, then downriver and back a second time.

Conditions: It was gorgeous "Oregon Summer" weather, which of course we get in March in Florida. The current was minimal (0.15 kph according to my paddling in current calculator). However, there was a rising breeze from the West that was sometimes a nuisance. The tide level was moderate, but it still paid to avoid the shallow parts of the river.

Participants and Gear: There was a nice group of regulars and newer racers. Ladies included Cindy Gibson (riding Matt Kearney's 12'6x24 Hovie Comet ZXC), Donna Catron (riding CGT's 12'6x26 BlkBox UNO), Meg Bosi (riding a 12'6x25 Bark), and new girl Ellery Winghart (riding a 12'6 Starboard AllStar that looked pretty wide). Men on 14' boards included John Weinberg and Rudy Ambrosi on 14x25 Rivieras, Devin Turetzkin on a 14x23 Riviera, Steve Fleming on a 14x24 Naish Maliko, and Justin DiGiorgio on a 14x23 flatwater-special Hovie custom. >70 year old Will Compton was on an interesting looking home-built board that I think was a 12'6. I broke tradition for this race and used CGT's 12'6x22 Riviera RP instead of my usual 14x23 RP. Matt Kearney used CGT's 12'6x24.5 StarBoard AllStar, Robert Norman used Devin's 12'6x25 Hovie Comet GT, and Mark Athanacio used his 12'6x22 Hovie Comet GT.

Results: I was first 12'6 and overall with 39:11, followed closely by Mark Athanacio's 39:28. Mark probably would have beaten me if he hadn't been tired from a 10 km race on the other side of the state yesterday. Robert Norman edged out Matt Kearney with 41:02 to 41:07. Justin DiGiorgio set a personal record of 41:26, making him the fastest 14' board ahead of Devin Turetzkin's 42:10. Cindy Gibson was the fastest woman by a lot with 42:35, followed by Meg Bosi 46:17, Ellery Winghart 47:40, and Donna Catron (49:01). Will Compton was 3rd 14' board with 45:37, just edging out younger John Weinberg's 45:41. Rudy Ambrosi made a solid return from a long time off paddling with 46:24. Official results may be posted at some point on the CGT Time Trials page.

Play by play: The first starting group was the fast 14s; Justin and Devin. Next to line up were the fired-up 12'6s; Cindy, Matt, Robert, and me. The boys all charged hard and we kind buried poor Cindy in our overlapping wakes, such that she didn't have much chance to join our draft train. I was really worried about staying clear of the wakes myself, since on my small narrow board they would mess me up more than usual. I had put my own, big, weed-shedding fin on the board, though, which was my secret weapon to stabilize it and allow me to paddle in a straighter line with less nervous stability. I.e., with the big fin the 12'6 handled more like the 14 that I'm used to. I managed to get in first position in the draft train of me, Robert, and Matt, and transitioned from sprinting to just fast race pace. Mentally I was fired up by the challenge and excitement of trying the new board, and I wanted to really kick Robert and Matt's butts to show them that my brand of Riviera boards is superior in all board sizes. I do think the 2.5-3" narrower width of my 12'6 gave me an advantage over Matt and Robert, allowing the board to knife through the water with less resistance.

At some point on the way to the first downriver turn-around the splashing sounds behind me diminished and I knew I'd dropped the young dudes. Matt says it happened going around a turn when Robert was looking at the nose of his own board and didn't manage to match the arc of his turn to mine. The dudes were still close behind me when I saw them after making my buoy turn, so I knew I wasn't out of the woods. I made a point to sprint hard out the turn to get back to race speed as quickly as possible, not wanting to let the "average speed" readout on my GPS drop below 9.something kph. On the way upriver I stayed motivated working to catch up with Devin and Justin, which I eventually did. I got in Devin's wake, which provided a chance to partially recover from the hard pace of the first leg. Devin was falling out of Justin's draft, though, so I passed him and with some difficulty caught up with Justin. Justin was going pretty fast and making a really nice wake, so I got another little rest there. I wanted to push for the fastest possible time, though, to try to match Mark Athanacio, who I knew would be starting later on his own fast 12'6x22.

When I passed Justin heading upriver to the midpoint/startline, he got in my draft and stayed with me until the midpoint turn-around. My short 12'6 board helped me do a tighter turn than him at the buoy, and I sprinted to drop him from my draft. I didn't feel good starting the second lap, so I used the trick of concentrating on technique to forget how tired I was. Though I couldn't keep up a super fast pace the whole time, I made a point of briefly "spurting" at key points that might have otherwise slowed me down, for example corners, shallow spots, and windy patches. My second downriver buoy turn was on the ugly side, but I stayed dry and endeavored to empty the tank on the way upriver. The going felt slow, but I continued my spurting strategy, and in the last ~500 meters went up to an unsustainably hard pace. I was happy to finish with an average speed of 9.07 kph, which is good for a 12'6.

This is my GPS track from the race.

Justin was next over the line and I was stoked that he'd gotten a personal best and stayed ahead of the Robert-Matt duo. Robert and Matt were drafting each other until near the end, when they broke into a fierce sprint battle. Robert, who is like a rubberband-ball of muscle got the edge on Matt, who is also no slouch at sprinting but may have been tired from leading the draft train more. Cindy wasn't too far behind Matt and Robert, and her time was an incredible 2 minutes faster than her previous race record, probably because of her newly practiced buoy turning skills and finally being on a board close to narrow enough to proportionally suit her. Well done, Cindy.

After the race we did some playing around on the water, and I encouraged Cindy to try the 12'6x22 Riviera. She did, and I could hardly keep up with her.

What else is new: I got a new windsurf sail that I'm going to go try this afternoon. It's a nice 6.8 Aerotech Phantom, which replaces a 6.4 that Bryan Herrick pierced with his body during a catapulting wipeout in overpowered conditions two weeks ago. (Bryan generously compensated me for the value of the sail so I could buy a new one. Also, it looks like he's about to buy a 122 liter JP Xcite Ride board for his reintroduction to windsurfing, so I'll have another buddy on the water for the windy days. Woo hoo!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

SUP Race Report: O'Neil Cocoa Beach Challenge

Race: The O'Neill Cocoa Beach Challenge.

Date it happened: 11 March 2017.

Host: Paddling Paradise, a SUP rental and retail outlet in Melbourne, FL. There were lots of other sponsors and volunteer organizers, too.

Location: The staging area was a grassy lot along the Banana River Lagoon at the East end of the 520 Causeway in Cocoa Beach, FL.

Distance: There were 1.6 km, 4.8 km, and 12.9 km races. The shorter races were one or three laps around an "M" shaped course. The longer race started and ended with the "M" course, but added a long, straight North - South sojourn in the middle. I thought it was a good, challenging format. For the 12.9 km race they started the "elite" prize money division separately from the non-prize money division. That was fine with me, except that it made registration unnecessarily confusing and stressful. I initially registered for the non prize division by mistake and had to get a special code to upgrade to the prize money division. My track from the race is below. If you have a Strava account you can click into it and see the details.

Conditions: It was sunny and pleasant with a mix of North and East wind in the 6-10 knot range. The sea state varied between ripples and small chop. The biggest factor affecting speed was neither the wind nor the small chop, but the water depth, which was shallow enough to bump your paddle on the bottom for much of the course.

Participants: 30 people did the "elite" 12.9 km race. 11 people did the non-elite 12.9 km race, 32 people did the 4.8 km, and 8 people did the 1.6 km. Heavy hitters in the elite division included professionals Garrett Fletcher (Yolo), Brad Ward (Hovie SUP), Kieran Grant (sponsored by Hovie in the past but used a borrowed Starboard AllStar for this race), and Seychelle Hattingh (SIC). There were also a surprising number of veteran and up-and-coming non-professional racers who were nearly on par with the pros and were able to hang on with the lead draft trains. I was not one of those first draft train people this time, but I was plenty challenged trying to hang with the second draft train. From my local CGT race team we had a good crew: Mark Athanacio, Jen Hayes, Cindy Gibson, Matt Kearney, Robert Norman, Annika Estelle, and me. Jen and Annika did the 4.8 km, and everybody else did the 12.9 km. Cindy Gibson did the non-money version, and was kicking herself because her time was fast enough to have put her in the money.

Gear: I used a 14x23 Riviera RP raceboard with a Riviera Bump 7.0 paddle. I used a longer fin than usual (23 cm MFC Weed Fin) to make the board more stable in the chop. The longer fin might make it harder to do buoy turns, but I hoped the trade-off was worth it. Another Riviera ambassador, Sam English from Jupiter, FL, used the same board.

Results: Top 5 in 14' elite were Garrett Fletcher (1:28:01), Brad Ward (1:29:14), Tim Warner (1:29:23), Steve Miller (1:29:30), and Sam English (1:29:42). There was a gap between them and the 2nd tier draft train which was Warren Heil in 6th (1:31:43), Kodie Peekstok 7th (1:31:52), and me 8th (1:31:56). The 12'6 elite winners were very closely spaced: Kieran Grant (1:35:34), Mark Athanacio (1:35:48), Jamie Twigg (1:35:50.5), and Will Marston (1:35:50.7). Seychelle was a minute or two behind the top 12'6 men, but for some reason her time is not listed in the official results. The next 12'6 women were Maddie Miller (1:40:01) and Stephanie Shideler (1:40:33). Cindy Gibson was the 4th fastest female with 1:43:06, and first 12'6 overall in the non-money race. Impressively, Cindy beat Matt Kearney's time of 1:44:18, and wasn't too far off Robert Norman's 1:40:16.

Play by play: The race started between two buoys on the water since there was no beach (only a bulkhead with a floating platform) at the launch. I decided to go from the north end of the starting line, based on the wind coming from the north, and on some misleading reports that the water got shallow near the causeway on the south end of the line. That turned out to be a big mistake, because there was actually a deep channel along the causeway. The racers who started at that end were able to go full sprint speed (10+ kph) while those of us who weren't in the channel were slowed to ~8 kph by the shallow water effect. In the future I should always look at Google Earth images of new race venues to get an idea of where the deep channels and shallow spots are. After the first buoy turn of the "M" part of the course I was back on proper track, but with much diminished chances of catching up with the lead 14' draft train. Nevertheless, like Elizabeth Warren, I persisted. On one of the diagonals of the M I was able to get around the lead 12'6 guy Kieran Grant. I was doing my best to try to reach the back end of the lead train, which was beginning to break up a little as Garrett Fletcher and Timothy Warner pulled ahead and Canadian Chris Stringer fell back. I had a minor setback when I fell off in shallow water, but I got back on fast enough that it didn't make much difference. I don't remember now if was during the M or just after the M that I caught up with Chris Stringer, then passed him and made a big push to catch up with Warren Heil.

I'm glad I caught up with Warren when I did, because it turned out he was just easing up briefly to recovery from his initial sprint before cranking up the speed again and keeping it high for the duration of the race. Drafting his 14x24 Hovie Comet GT was not restful, but it was better than trying to go that speed upwind on my own, especially with the troublesome shallow water effect. In retrospect, we might have avoided some of the shallow sand flats if we had veered significantly more offshore or inshore, but without any a priori knowledge of the bathymetry we were just following the bright orange shorts of leader Garrett Fletcher. On the way north we closed in on 17 year old Canadian Kodie Peekstok, paddling a 14x23 Starboard AllStar. I can't remember when Warren caught up with him, but I don't think it was until after we turned around and started heading back south. My turn at that upwind buoy was really ugly, btw. I kind of stuck the nose of my board in front of Warren's legs and he had to drag my board through the turn as he did his. It worked, though. Anyway, after a short time as a three-person train behind Kodie, Kodie deliberately rescinded the lead so he could draft. I thought he would go all the way to the back of our group, but he smartly got in the side draft to my left. Around that time I started having difficulty staying in Warren's draft. The wind had shifted to the east, and awkward little chop was breaking up my contact with Warren's wake. Also, I think the brief rest that Warren got in Kodie's draft was allowing him to put on some extra speed that I couldn't match. I broke off and took a more inside path, just going on my own and trying to paddle efficiently. At this point I had been paddling hard for 70 minutes and was very tired; starting to lose some of my will. I gradually got a little behind. Entering a deep boat channel in the southern part of the course perked me up a bit, as I saw higher speed number on my Speedcoach GPS again.

When we got to the M again I made up a little distance on Kodie, whose buoy turns were a bit too careful. One cool thing about that final M was that it allowed me to see what was going on with the leaders as they crossed going the opposite direction. Garret Fletcher was on his own, solidly in first, but Brad Ward had leapfrogged up from his 5th place position in the draft train to a solid looking second. Third through fifth looked like they could still be up in the air, so I shouted some encouragement to Sam English, my fellow Riviera dude. In the last bits of the M, young Kodie picked up the pace and started doing a "choke down" hold on the paddle. I paddled harder to keep up with him, but couldn't summon the will or the energy to make a serious effort to pass. In the end I was a little bummed that I hadn't made the top 5, but I felt like I had put forth a respectable effort and made some progress in sprinting, drafting, and pacing skills.

What else is new: There's a CGT race in Bonita Springs on the 19th, then a race almost every weekend in April, culminating in the Key West Paddle Classic at the end of that month. I don't reckon I'll go to all of them, but I'll definitely do the Key West.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Winter Series Race #6

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

Date it happened: 5 March 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.

Distance: Approximately 6 km / 3.7 miles. The course goes downriver, around a buoy, back upriver to the start, then downriver and back a second time.

Conditions: It was sunny and the temperature was nice, but there was a strong, gusty wind from the East that made it extra challenging to paddle upriver. The water level was also low and getting lower as the tide went out, which made it important to stay in the deeper channels of the river.

Participants and Gear: There was a good crew of 14 racers, including 8 men and 6 women. Murray Hunkin did the race on his narrow "Assassin" K1 Olympic race style kayak. I don't know how he balances in that thing. Penny Kappler also did the race on a kayak, but it was a wider recreational kayak. Besides Penny, all the women were on 12'6 SUPs: Cindy Gibson, Jen Hayes, Donna Catron, and Damien Lin on Hovie SUPs, and Saralane Harrer [without her dog this time] on a Riviera sup. The men were split between 12'6 and 14' SUPs. Mark Nicoletti was on a 12'6 Boga, Robert Norman on CGT's 12'6x24.5 Starboard AllStar, me on a 14x23 Riviera RP, John Weinberg on a 14x25 Riviera RP, and Bill Mussenden on a 14x26 Naish Javelin. Justin DiGiorgio and Mark Athanacio were both on brand new custom 14x23 Hovie sups. Justin's is a pure flatwater model with a very pointy nose, lots of volume, and a flat (not recessed) standing area. Mark's is the "Comet GTO" model designed with a concave hull and a rounder, upturned nose for stable and smooth handling in rough water and ocean racing. It wasn't the optimal board for the flat water river, but Mark was using the race to help analyze the speed and trade-offs of the design.

Results: Murray Hunkin was the first finisher by a mile, with 34:06 on his K1 kayak. I was the first SUP with 38:45. Mark Athanacio got 40:16, Robert Norman 42:17 (first 12'6), and Justin DiGiorgio 42:54. Cindy Gibson was the first woman with 44:36, followed by Damien Lin 50:17, and Jen Hayes 51:26. Official results may be posted at some point on the CGT Time Trials page.

Play by play: I was more careful than usual about my workout schedule in the week leading up to this race. I rested Sunday, did strength training Monday, hard paddle workouts Tuesday and Wednesday, strength training Thursday, and a less intense paddle workout Friday. Saturday I meant to rest, but I had to windsurf because it was windy. Nevertheless, I felt that not having done any hard working out since Wednesday had given me good recovery time, and I was ready to push hard today. At the start line there weren't many people I expected to draft with, since Murray was on a Kayak, Matt Kearney was working his ceramics booth at the Bonita Art fest, and Mark Athanacio was late. Robert Norman and Justin DiGiorgio were possible draftees, though, so we lined up together in the first starting wave, along with Cindy Gibson. I sprinted hard off the line and I'm honestly not sure what exactly happened behind me. I think Justin and Robert drafted for a while, or at least kept up closely, because I heard splashing.

On the downriver leg, which was also the downwind leg, I tried to let the wind push me, standing up a little straighter than usual and trying to be in the windiest part of the channel. About 2/3 of the way down, Murray flew past me in his kayak. I briefly felt a boost from his side-wake, but there's no way I could have drafted him because his boat was so much faster than my board. After rounding the downriver buoy (and nearly falling as I was nervous about the shallow water), I saw that Robert and Justin were close together and not too far behind me. I think they were trading off drafting. Heading upriver/upwind I kept low and bent over with my head down, and I stayed in the lee of the mangrove shoreline when possible. When I couldn't avoid a bad headwind, I tried to sprint to get it over with.

With 1200 meters left in the first lap I acquired a draftee, Mark Athanacio, who burst out of the side-canal he lives on at just the right moment to get behind me and catch a ride up to the start line. I didn't intentionally change my paddling when he got back there, but it did remind me not to slow down. Also, I speculated that paddling at race pace for 1200 m, even with the aid of drafting me, might tire Athanacio out enough to be at a slight disadvantage when he started his race, especially if he didn't rest long first. When I did my buoy turn at the end of the first lap, Athanacio turned into the shore, so I knew he was at least going to get a short break before starting his race.

In the second lap I tried do a sprint start and maintain a speed and effort level comparable to what I'd done on the first, but since I didn't have my Speedcoach GPS I don't know how well I managed that. After I rounded the downriver buoy for the second time I knew Athanacio was charging hard, because he was the first person I encountered (before Robert and Justin). In the final part of the upwind; the last 400 meters, I tried to really dig in and hurt as much as I could stand to finish fast. I was happy with my time, given the conditions.

What else is new: It was interesting trying out other people's boards at this race. The 12'6x24.5 Starboard AllStar that Robert was on felt stable and efficient for a 12'6. It had an interesting way of keeping its nose level in the water even as the aft section of the board porpoised with each paddle stroke, helping maintain a consistent waterline and a steady pace. Justin's flatwater special Hovie had fantastic glide and cut through the water silently, but was a bit tippy as the knife-like nose would sometimes want to "catch" and magnify the rider's side-to-side bobbles. I think the stability was also affected by the extreme amount of volume (thickness) in the board, which put the rider standing higher above the water in a more precarious position. Making the board an inch thinner, and maybe cutting still more out of a recess in the standing area, might reduce that tendency.

In contrast, Mark Athanacio's Hovie GTO (salmon colored) was extremely stable and forgiving for its width, but had somewhat less "glide" between strokes. When we did dueling sprints in practice on Tuesday we were evenly matched with me on my Riviera, even when we switched boards, so I think the GTO can hold its own as a flatwater board despite being optimal in rougher water.

On Saturday I'm planning to go to my first big out of town race this year, the Cocoa Beach Challenge.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

SUP Race Report: Mark Athanacio's 2nd Lover's Key "No Name Race"

Race: Mark Athanacio's No Name Race LK 2". The LK stands for Lovers' Key.

Date it happened: 25 February 2017.

Host: Mark Athanacio organizes these free, "No Name Name Races" occasionally, especially when there are long gaps in time between other major races. There are no awards or anything- it's just for the challenge and the glory, and I think that's cool. My house is overflowing with t-shirts and knick-knacks from past SUP races, but my wallet is not overflowing with money, so I'm happy to keep the money and avoid the additional schwag.

Location: North end of Lovers Key State Park, near Fort Myers Beach, Florida.

Distance: The course is a full circumnavigation of Lovers' Key; about 9 km.

Conditions: It was sunny and warm with light wind. The tide was flooding, creating strong current through the "passes" at the North and South ends of the island. The current was advantageous at the start and finish in Big Carlos Pass, and disadvantageous at the mid-way point in New Pass. There were some shallow water hazards and a lot of boat wakes on the bay side of Lovers Key, some stirred up patches of water in the inlets, and a bit of "wobble" in the Gulf of Mexico from calf-high waves.

Participants and Gear: There were 22 participants, including a good chunk of the the local CGT race team, and some strong competitors from across the state.

From left, they are John Weinberg with 14x25 Riviera, Justin DiGiorgio with 14x24 Hovie Comet GT, Jim McIntyre with 14x25 Bic, Cat Uden with 12'6x24 Boga, Cindy Gibson with 12'6x26 Hovie Comet ZXC, Murray Hunkin with 14x27 Starboard AllStar, Matt Kearney with a borrowed 12'6x24.5 Starboard AllStar, Mark Athanacio with 14x21.5 Hovie Comet GT, me with a borrowed 14x23 Starboard AllStar, horizontal Jason Mastin with 12'6x24 Boardworks Eradicator, two-person outrigger canoe paddlers David Rush and his female partner Ozzie S., blue trunks Steve Hoberg with the yellow 14x27 Hobie Apex, Bryan Herrick with white and red 14x23.75 Riviera, Koko from Miami with 14x23.5 JP Allwater, Devin Turetzkin with 14x25 Hovie Comet GT, Beth Schadd with 12'6x24 Riviera, red-haired Karen with 12'6 Indigo, Meg Bosi with 12'6x25 Bark, and Mark Hourigan hiding behinds his 14x23 Riviera. We we still waiting on Jen Hayes and Donna Catron to finish on their 12'6 Hovies. Note that Matt and I were not on our usual 14x23 Riviera and 12'6x24 Hovie boards, respectively, instead having been encouraged by CGT 's owners to test out the 2017 Starboard AllStar boards that CGT recently got in stock. We had already done some testing of these boards in the Imperial River, but we wanted to see how they worked over a long distance in varied conditions (boat wakes, chop, etc.), since the AllStar model is billed as being a fast, all-conditions raceboard. We used the fins that came with the Starboards- 18 cm short "Natural Winner" fins. The 12'6x24.5 Matt rode is the full carbon construction, and the 14x23 I rode is the less expensive "Hybrid" construction.

Results: Mark Athanacio won in 59:08, and I was four seconds behind. The full results are below.

1. Mark Athanacio 14' SUP 0:59:08
2. James Douglass 14' SUP 0:59:12
3. David Rush and Ozzie S. (2-person outrigger canoe) 1:00:30
4. Murray Hunkin 14' SUP 1:03:20
5. Matt Kearney 12'6 SUP 1:04:33
6. Mark Hourigan 14' SUP 1:05:33
7. Justin DiGiorgio 14' SUP 1:07:38
8. Devin Turetzkin 12'6 SUP 1:09:02
9. Cindy Gibson 12'6 SUP (1st female) 1:09:18
10. Bryan Herrick 14' SUP 1:12:14
11. Karen K. 12'6 SUP 1:12:54
12. Cat Uden 12'6 SUP 1:13:12
13. Koko H. 14' SUP 1:13:50
14. Steve Hoberg 14' SUP 1:15:01
15. Meg Bosi 12'6 SUP 1:15:12
16. Jim McIntyre 14' SUP 1:15:56
17. John Weinberg 14' SUP 1:17:19
18. Beth Schadd 12'6 SUP 1:18:31
19. Jason Mastin 12'6 SUP 1:18:41
20. Jen Hayes 12'6 SUP 1:26:33
21. Donna Catron 12'6 SUP 1:29:08

Play by play: We did a beach start, then went around the island clockwise. The east side of the starting line had an advantage since they were already that much further along the shore. As a result I had to play catch up to get around those who were ahead of me due to starting position. Matt Kearney had a great start, second only to Mark Athanacio. He actually briefly drafted Mark, then Mark predictably zipped ahead. I got around Matt, with Murray Hunkin riding my draft, but I never caught up with Mark. For the first 2 km I stayed a relatively steady distance behind Mark, but in the middle part of the race he was outpacing me and gradually pulling ahead. Murray stayed on my draft for about 3 km before dropping back. Though the wind was light, boat wakes in the channel on the east side of Lovers Key were a nuisance. I was a bit unsteady on the 14x23 AllStar compared with my more familiar 14x23 Riviera RP. The finbox on the AllStar is in a deeply recessed concave section of the hull, which I think reduces its effective length and its ability to steady the side-to-side movements of the board. I also think that the stability of the AllStar (like many boards) is affected by how far forward you stand. The nose is narrow and rounded relative to the tail, so if you're standing forward the board may be more apt to roll side to side. Finding the optimal standing position on the AllStar could involve a trade-off between standing further forward to fully engage the nose and lengthen the effective waterline, but standing far enough back to get the stability of the flatter part of the hull.

Fiddling with balance caught up with me just over 3 km in when I fell off and had to jump back on, putting Mark Athanacio further out of reach. The subsequent part of the race was the hardest for me physically and mentally. In standup paddleboard racing it seems to take a huge amount of energy to go even a little faster than your board and body "want" to go. To keep pushing into the zone where you feel more and more resistance requires intense focus. Sometimes focusing on my Speedcoach GPS and heartrate monitor helps keep me honest about maintaining a maximum effort, but the gadget is out for repairs now so I just went by feel today.

At the south end of the island, Mark took the shortcut he always takes on the inside of a little clump of mangroves. I usually skip the shortcut in favor of staying in deeper, faster water, but this time I followed Mark. There was an annoying 40 seconds or so where I couldn't take a normal paddle stroke without hitting the bottom, but that passed soon enough. I think the shortcut was favorable, overall. Approaching the bridge across New Pass we had to duck and weave around fishermen's lines as we paddled into the strong, opposing current. Mark and I had the same strategy for getting through New Pass: staying close to shore to avoid the current rather than taking the most direct route out to the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico was nearly flat, but there were shin-high swells that oddly combined with current-induced standing waves on sandbars at the mouth of the pass. I was lucky to avoid another fall there.

The long, straight shot up the west side of Lovers' Key was grueling and boring. None of the small bumps and wakes rolling through were oriented in a helpful way. I was in danger of dropping down from "in the race" pace to "feeling defeated" pace, so I started counting my strokes to maintain focus: 1-100, repeat. Eventually I got to the NW tip of the island, where the incoming tide helped suck me into Big Carlos Pass. I knew from experience that the incoming tide created a counter-current eddy just inside the pass, and I would need to stay in the channel in the middle of the pass to avoid it. Making that move turned out to be hugely effective, allowing me to quickly regain all the distance I'd given up to Mark Athanacio earlier, putting us side by side with less than 1 km to the finish. Mark definitely had the determination to win, though. We both accelerated to near-sprint pace, but Mark stayed a board length ahead and hit the beach first. It was a great finish, and I was happy to have a sub-1-hour time despite the unfamiliar board and the challenging wakes and currents.

What else is up: As the other finishers were coming through I took the opportunity to do some more gear testing. Athanacio let me ride his 14x21.5 Hovie, which I really liked. The wide tail, flat bottom, and parallel rail make it quite stable for its width, and it has a very light, crisp and efficient feeling. Apparently rough water with side chop is it's one weakness, which would make sense since the only time I've ever beaten that board around Lovers' Key was on a really windy, choppy day. The other board testing thing I did was put a larger fin on the 14x23 Starboard AllStar. That seemed to dull down it's squirrely, side-to-side tippyness.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Winter Race Series Race #5

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

Date it happened: 19 February 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.

Distance: Approximately 6 km / 3.7 miles. The course goes downriver, around a buoy, back upriver to the start, then downriver and back a second time. This race was a little longer than the first four races in this series, because we removed the "superlap" feature that shortened one of the laps, and made both laps full size.

Conditions: It was sunny and summery; typical February weather in SW Florida. The current was minimal, and flowing upriver due to an incoming tide. My paddling in current calculator estimated the current at -0.15 kph.

Participants and Gear: There was a great turnout despite the absence of some of the regulars. 24-hour SUP distance WORLD RECORD HOLDER Robert Norman came down from Inverness and paddled his Riviera prone paddleboard in this race. Robert broke the world record just last weekend at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, doing an incredible 180 kilometers with no break on his 17'6x23 Starboard Sprint Unlimited. Robert had land-based support during the effort from his dad Roy, his girlfriend Carrigon, and several members of the CGT Tribe, including me. I camped overnight at the park and did a few laps with Robert for solidarity. Paddling a few laps in those moonlit glassy waters was pleasant, but so was retreating to my cozy warm sleeping bag when I got tired, and woke up 8 hours later to see Robert still paddling. His record was really incredible, as was the previous record, only 1.5 km less, set by Seychelle Hattingh last year on a 14' board. Anyway, others in attendance today included canoe racer turned SUP racer Phil Trudgeon, who brought some of his canoe racing relatives from Michigan to race along with him- one on a SUP and the other on a racing canoe that was narrow and needle-like except for angular "hips" that widened the hull just under where the paddler sat. South African veteran paddler Murray Hunkin was there on his 14x27 Starboard AllStar, and his fiance Saralane also raced, with her dog onboard her 12'6 Riviera. There was a very good crew of female paddlers including Beth Schadd, Jen Hayes, Cindy Gibson, Darlene Rodgriguez, Larissa Kinne, Ana Perovani, and nomadic Kate Pagan on a rare visit back to SW Florida. Multi-sport athlete Bryan Herrick was there with his 14x23.75 custom Riviera, and John Weinberg was on a 14x25 Riviera. 12'6 men included John Wheeler on a 24" wide Naish SUP, and Devin Turetzkin on a 25" wide Hovie Comet GT. Legendary competitor and coach Mark Athanacio raced it on his 14x21.5 Hovie Comet GT.

Results: I finished in 38:34, and Mark Athanacio (who started in a different wave) finished in 38:36. The next fastest 14' sups were Murray Hunkin (42:39), and Phil Trudgeon (42:48). Devin Turetzkin was the fastest 12'6 (44:01), but Cindy Gibson was close behind (44:28) despite falling off her board and vomiting due to tense nerves at the first buoy turn. Rounding out the fastest two-lap race times were Mandy Trudgeon on her canoe (45:09), John Wheeler (46:37) Beth Schadd (47:10), Kate Pagan (49:18), and Jen Hayes (51:39). Of those who did just one lap, the fastest were 14's Bryan Herrick (21:23), Ray Trudgeon (23:20), and John Weinberg (23:30), then Robert Norman on prone (25:02), then Penny Kappler in a kayak (26:15), Annika Estelle on a Starboard SUP (27:25), Saralane Harrer and her dog on a Riviera (27:40), Larissa Kinne on a surf style board (29:38), Darlene Rodgriguez on an 11' board (29:55), and Ana Perovani on a short inflatable board (40:52). Congrats to all the finishers! Official results may be posted at some point on the CGT Time Trials page.

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

Play by play: An interesting part of this race, for me, was my training during the preceding week, and my mental and physical state as the result of that. I'd had a great 20 minute "tempo" practice on Friday, where I'd maintained a pace significantly faster than my usual race pace. That boosted my ego for this race, but pushing so hard in practice just two days before the race may not have given me enough time to recover fully. I.e. I felt a bit beat-up and out of tune during the race today, and my time was slightly below par of what I did on this course in the last race series. Coach Mark Athanacio tells us not to kill ourselves in practice; to save the 100% effort for the race course, and I may have discovered the reason for that today.

Anyway, the race went like this: I lined up in the first starting group with Murray Hunkin, Bryan Herrick, and Phil Trudgeon. The start went exactly as we all knew from experience it would- Murray and I both sprinted out in front fastest, then Murray got in my draft. I led with a fast pace for about 1 km, but because I didn't feel like my engine was running smoothly, I backed off and made Murray pull the draft train for a bit. It was easy to follow in his wake. After a bit I got anxious to go faster, and decided to pull around him to make sure I was first to the buoy. Murray probably could have held me off if he wanted, but he allowed me to pass and turn first. My turn was tighter and I put a gap on Murray that he couldn't make up. That was the end of my direct competition in the race, but I knew that I'd be facing competition for the fastest time with Athanacio when he started later, so I tried to maintain a fast pace. My first lap ended up being just under 19 minutes, which is pretty good.

I was really feeling the fatigued at the halfway point though, and was about 0.4 kph slower on the second downriver leg. My speed was so much worse that I started to get paranoid that I was dragging debris on my fin. The fin is slanted to shed most weeds, but occasionally something does stick on it. Shortly after starting the final upriver leg I decided I needed to check my fin for debris, so I stopped paddling and knelt down to sweep my hand along the fin. I didn't feel anything. DAMN! I'd stopped for nothing. I got up quickly and pushed on as hard as I could to try to make up time. Heading upriver I saw that Murray had dropped back and was now drafting Phil. Murray splashed me with his paddle as I passed them, and I was actually grateful for that because the water cooled me off. With the finish in mind I picked up the pace and got a bit of a "second wind" for the last 800 meters. As always, it felt great to finish and dunk myself into the cool water. Watching the other racers cross the line was a lot more relaxing than paddling for it myself had been. It was interesting seeing that Murray had gotten ahead of Phil again by the end after cleverly using him to draft off, and it was also interesting to see how closely matched Cindy's pace was with Devin's.

What else is new: After the race there was a nice buffet lunch at CGT. After that I went to the beach with some of the other racers and did a little windsurfing and windsurfing instruction. I'm stoked that several of my CGT fellows are newly able to windsurf, or have revived long-dormant windsurf skills. Next week is Mark Athanacio's latest "no name race," which will be a Lovers' Key Rounding. The LK rounding is, in my opinion, the best natural race course in the area, because it's just the right length for a "feature" race, and it provides some all-terrain challenges like currents, waves, winds, and boat wakes.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The most dangerous thing about Trump

There are lots of things that I seriously hate about Donald Trump. I hate his policies regarding the environment, science, education, women's rights, immigrants and minorities, international diplomacy, etc. I also hate his narcissistic persona, his rude, bullying ego, his nauseating, gold-gilded self-aggrandizement, and his cut-throat, con-artist style of doing business. But the thing that I find WORST about him, the thing that literally keeps me up at night, is his outrageous disdain for the truth.

His pattern of repeating a staggering lie, one easily revealed as a lie by widely available evidence, is downright scary. A key part of that is his strategy for defending his lies: He doesn't try to defend them at all, because they can't be defended. Instead he goes on the offensive, saying that those who are questioning his lies are liars themselves... the dishonest liberal media, the enemies of America. To stay in line with Trump you must reject all rational criticism of him. You must close your eyes and ears to any outside information sources and believe only Trump and the extreme right wing media (e.g., Steve Bannon's Breitbart) that supports Trump's myths.

This creates an extremely dangerous divide between: A) those who trust Trump and reject all other information sources as part of a liberal conspiracy, and B) those who remain open to diverse and reliable information sources including those critical of Trump. Once a Trump follower has crossed that line of believing anything Trump says and nothing that his critics say- YIKES. It's like the plot of "Dr. Strangelove" where the pilots of a nuclear bomber are told to ignore any radio instructions to turn back once they take off on their mission to bomb the USSR, because such instructions might be radio jamming faked by the Russians. It turns out the bomber was sent by mistake by a crazy rogue general, and the Americans try to radio it back, but of course they can't, because their legitimate calls to turn it around are dutifully ignored by the pilots, resulting in global annihilation.

I can imagine a scenario like this: Trump is insulted by cutting criticisms of his environmental policies coming from the scientific community, and then he tweets something like, "The scientists are aligning with Satanic cults to corrupt children!" and "Here are the home addresses of scientists in your town!" spurring militias of heavily-armed Trumpist patriots to break down my door, drag me out in the street and shoot me. It might sound crazy, but these are exactly the kinds of things that have happened in history during other times of ascendant fascism.

To resist this we need to get Trump supporters to start thinking more critically about Trump and thinking less angrily about us liberal types. This will probably requires some diplomacy and understanding, i.e., finding shared values and other little things we can agree on and not always going to straight to the "you're so stupid, how could you vote for such an asshole!" type of arguing. Direct argumentative attacks on Trump supporters, even if they're based on fact, are likely to force a retreat deeper into the bunkers of Trumpism. Of course, being diplomatic with Trump supporters when you really really really hate Trump is much easier said than done. Try, though. Or we're doomed to worsening civil war-like conflict.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Superlap Series Race #4

Race: Race #4 in the CGT Winter Time Trial series, aka the "Superlap Series" because of a new race format.

Date it happened: 29 January 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: Approximately 5.3 km / 3.3 miles. The course goes downriver, around a buoy, back upriver to the start, then downriver and back a second time. There's a twist, though: There are two possible turn-around buoys downriver; one further and one closer. You have to do the long route for one lap and the short route for the other lap. It's your choice if you want to do the long or the short lap first, so interesting strategies come into play in competition.

Conditions: It was gray and chilly, about 12 degrees C, with light rain. Mist was beautifully swirling off the surface of the relatively warm river. The tide was quite low, necessitating portage around one of the buoy turns for those with longer fins. The current was about 0.4 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator.

Participants and Gear: The cold rain, and some other races happening the same day in other parts of Florida, kept most people away. Therefore we had just 5 hardy racers, and about the same number of spectators. Mike Clough raced a Kayak. John Weinberg and Beth Schadd raced 14x25 and 12'6x24 Riviera RP raceboards, respectively. Matt Kearney used his 12'6x24 Hovie Comet ZXC. I paddled one of CGT's for-demo boards: a 14x25 INFLATABLE RedPaddle Co raceboard. (The regular racers have been taking turns paddling the inflatable to get an idea of how its speed compares with traditional boards, on average.)

Results: I finished in 36:20, with Matt just one second behind. John and Beth also finished close with each other in 43:19 and 43:23. Subtract a minute or two from their times because they each overshot the un-marked second turn-around. Mike Clough's Kayak course was a bit longer than ours (two full length laps rather than one full and one short), and he finished in 52:02. Official results will be posted on the CGT Time Trials page.

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

Play by play: For the start, all the SUP racers lined up in one group, and the kayaker started after. I rushed off the line with a really hard sprint. I was applying advice from Mark Athanacio, who says it's easier to gain time in an initial sprint than with an increased effort later when you're too tired to rise above your "set" speed. (We practiced the technique in a workout last week and saw that it worked well.) When I got into the lead I thought, "This is it, I'm going to easily walk away from these guys." But it was not so. Matt stayed on my draft like it was nothing, making it clear that simply trying to outrun him wouldn't work on the inflatable board. I'd have to spend some of the race in HIS draft to save energy. I held my lead until the downriver buoy, knowing that my turn on the 14' inflatable would be a lot slower than Matt's turn on his nimble Hovie. Indeed, Matt got around me easily when my longish fin hit the shallow sand near the buoy and I had to jump off and back on the board to complete the turn. That naturally put me behind in Matt's draft, and I was content to stay there while I caught my breath. The RedPaddle Co inflatable board seemed to catch the draft wake just fine. About half way back upriver I took the lead again. At the upriver buoy Matt gained half a board length by turning tighter than me, putting him in my "side wake". The side wake is a more challenging spot to draft in because there's a tendency to veer into the side of the leader's board. But apparently if you're good at it, which Matt is, it can be even more beneficial than following directly behind. The final turn was funny because there was no buoy for it. We were just on our honor to turn in front of a particular canal. Matt and I both turned at approximately the same time and place, but he turned much tighter. The 14' inflatable is stable when standing in the middle, but towards the narrow tail it gets a bit weird, like standing on a beach ball. Anyway, I was at least a few board lengths behind Matt after my turn, so I had to sprint like crazy for a while to catch up.

Once I got in Matt's draft I was fine, but with only about 1 km left in the race I knew I couldn't wait too long to try to get around him. I mean, we're good buddies, but it's not a race if you just LET the other guy win. So about 500 meters from the finish I left Matt's wake and got beside him, waiting for a good time to pass. When Matt started doing the side-wake thing again I went really close to the mangroves to force him to drop back. Whoopsie! :P That put him behind me, but still right in my tail draft. For the remaining few hundred meters of the race we both just paddled really, really hard knowing the other was doing the same. Although I maintained the one second lead, it could have easily been the other way around. Matt set his personal best time for this race series.

The verdict on the inflatable board is that it is pretty fast and stiff, definitely feels like a raceboard, and can do the usual racing tricks like drafting and buoy turning (though buoy turning is slightly awkward). Based on my times from earlier in this series, the inflatable is 3% - 5% slower than a conventional board of the same length, similar to how much slower a 12'6 is compared to a 14. I.e., I averaged 8.89 kph in this race on the inflatable, whereas in the last race with similar current and water levels I averaged 9.15 kph on my 14x23 Riviera RP. My best ever pace in the series was 9.34 kph, but that was when the water level was higher. I don't know if racing in rougher water would increase or decrease the speed difference between a normal and an inflatable board.

What else is new: Besides our little race today there were two big races- one in Key West and another in Melbourne -both 200ish miles away. I balked at the time and money to go to either of those, but my buddy Devin Turetzkin won the 12'6 class at the Key West race. My next major race may not be until March or April, but there will be another little CGT race in three weeks. Also, I'll probably drive up to Sarasota in February to watch Robert Norman try to break the 24 hour distance paddleboarding record at Nathan Benderson Park.