Saturday, August 27, 2016

SUP Race Report: RK Sunshine SUP Series #2

Photos pending...

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 drove over together on Friday and stayed with Matt's college buddy Andrew in Fort Lauderdale. also arrived Friday, and we had dinner with them and their friend Friday night at a place on the water called Bokampers.

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.

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.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

SUP Race Report: CGT Summer Series #4

Race: Race #4 in the CGT Summer Time Trial series.

Date it happened: 24 July 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: Hot and humid, despite some cloud cover for the first 20 minutes of the race. The river level was high and the current was significant at 0.95 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator.

Participants: There were 12 racers; 3 women and 9 men, which is pretty good for a Sunday morning the day after another exhausting race. All the women and 9 of the men did the longer 2 lap race, while the remaining 3 men did one lap. Though some of the regulars were absent, we got new blood in the form of two fit teenagers, Kaydi Archer and Tadem Stewart.

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 loaned my 14x23.75 Riviera RP, Fletchy, to Bryan Herrick, who is probably going to buy it. Devin Turetzkin went from 12'6 back to his 14x25 Riviera for this race. Justin DiGiorgio is waiting for a new custom Hovie to arrive, and in the meantime raced the shop's 14x25 Riviera. Kaydi Archer rode a 12'6 Riviera, I'm not sure what width. Tadem Stewart was on a 14x27 Yolo with a non-weedless fin. Jen Hayes and Mark Athanacio were on Hovie Comet GT's- Jen on 12'6x24 and Mark on 14x21.5.

Results: In the one lap division Mark Athanacio overcame a bad cold to do a blazingly fast 18:42. He would have beaten his 2-lap course record had he done another lap at that pace. Rounding out the 1 lap division were Justin DiGiorgio with 20:12 and Bryan Herrick with 21:38. In the two lap division Damien Lin was the fastest lady with a personal best 48:06. Jen Hayes also had a good run with 49:36, followed by Kaydi Archer in 51:02. I was the fastest 2-lap guy with 38:01, followed by Devin Turetzkin's 42:29 and John Weinberg's 44:28. Devin and John's times were both personal bests, and faster than young Tadem Stewart's 44:34. Nice! Tadem is going to have to step it up if he wants to catch us old guys. First thing he needs to do is get a weed-shedding fin so he's not dragging a birdnest of leaves and pine needles around the course. Full results will be posted on the CGT time trials page.

Play by play: I started with Devin, Bryan, and Jen. Devin had a really fast start and his bow was ahead of mine for a bit before he got behind me to draft. Bryan who is making the awkward transition from 27" wide to 23.75" wide board wobbled in our wakes at the starting line and lost touch with Devin and me. I never looked back, but I could tell from the splashing sounds that Devin drafted me for a little while, then dropped off. On the first leg of the race I focused on pacing, form, and making the most of the river current. After the downriver buoy turn I saw that Athanacio, who started in the second group, was already catching Devin, but Devin was well ahead of Bryan. For the first upriver leg I increased my cadence and changed my focus from staying IN the current to staying OUT of the current. I was actually feeling OK physically, heart rate not too high yet, and I enjoyed being able to think about form and strategy instead of just suffering. Rounding the upriver buoy and beginning the second lap I started pushing harder to compensate for being more tired. I saved my maximum effort for the final upriver leg, which is where I really started to top out with respect to heartrate and feelings of exhaustion. It felt great when the race was over, and I was pleased with my official time, which was a couple seconds faster than last time, though not a course record or a personal best.

Coach Athanacio says it's dangerous as a competitor to share too many specifics about your own performance and training, because it can inform opponents who might capitalize on that information to beat you in the next race. For example, most pros wouldn't share their speeds / times / heartrates like I do on my blog and on Strava. But since I'm coming at SUP racing more from a geeky hobbyist perspective than from a pure competitor's perspective, I'll probably continue to keep my performance record open for whoever wants to geek out along with me. With that in mind, here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to log in to Strava to see the details.

After the race we had a good little buffet/party at CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards. The race team members (including me) paid our dues for another month of training with Mark Athanacio. We decided that we're going to hold our practices rain-or-shine, doing gym work when lightning keeps us off the water. We also committed to working on our weaknesses. I could probably benefit from working on race skills like beach starts, buoy turns, getting in and staying in fast draft trains, passing, holding off people trying to pass me, and not fading in longer races. I also need to learn how to be fast in rough water and wind.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

SUP Race Report: Mark Athanacio's "No Name Race" sup / run

Race: The 4th running of Mark Athanacio's traditional "No Name Race"

Date it happened: 23 July 2016

Host/Sponsor: Mark Athanacio organized it, and Jen Hayes, Stephanie Dangler, Aaron Thomas, and other local paddlers helped set it up. It was free.

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

Distance: One lap on the SUP course was about 925 meters, and one lap on the beach running course was about 900 meters. We did four alternating laps of each.

Conditions: It was warm and humid, but not that bad because we started around 0830 when the sun was still low. The ocean was flat as a lake and the water was quite clear by SW Florida standards.

Participants: There was a pretty good turnout for an informal race, with a mix of local SW Florida racers and Mark Athanacio's buddies from across the state in SE Florida. There was good representation from the ladies side, with super fit Mini De Cunha Marageth Lagace and Mary Ann Boyer, plus Amanda Portwood, Damien Lin, Saralane Harrer, and others. On the men's side the out-of-town hotshots included Jake Portwood and Packet Casey. From the CGT Race Team the guys were Murray Hunkin, Mark Hourigan, Justin DiGiorgio, me, and Athanacio himself.

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 wasn't going to race because he's sick, but at the last minute he decided to race on Jen Hayes' 12'6x24 Hovie Comet GT. Packet Casey rode a brand new 14x23 JP Australia flatwater raceboard. Jake Portwood rode a 14x24 Hovie Comet ZXC. Mark Hourigan rode a 14x23 Riviera. Murray Hunkin was on an older 14x28 Bark. Saralane rode a nice looking 12'6x26 carbon Riviera that she recently bought from Jen Hayes.

Results: Times weren't recorded for this race, just finishing order, which was written in sharpie on tongue depressor sticks handed out at the finish line. But lots of the racers recorded their own times. First place was Jake Portwood, followed by Packet Casey, followed by me (47:28), followed by Mark Athanacio. I think Jake and Packet finished in around 45:00. I lost track of the finishing order after Athanacio.

Play by play: Though the first leg of the race was a sup leg, the start itself actually involved a bit of running. We had to stand touching our boards near the edge of the water, but with our paddles in the sand about 10 meters behind us. So the first thing we did was run backwards to get our paddles, then we grabbed our boards and ran down into the water. I had a decent start and rounded the first buoy about a board length behind Athanacio, who was about a length behind Packet, who was about a length behind Jake. I didn't kill myself to get a good drafting position, since I figured everything was going to change at the transitions, anyway. Instead, I paced myself somewhat conservatively, being unsure how much the running segments would wear me down, and wanting to be able to maintain a steady pace throughout the race. Jake and Packet extended their lead, but I remained within a few board lengths of Athanacio. At that time I didn't realize Athanacio was on a 12'6, or I might have been shamed into trying to go faster on my 14.

The first running leg went OK. The most tiring part was the sea-to-land transition, plucking my board out of the water, running it uphill, and parking it facing the water for the next lap. The sand was nice and soft, for better or worse. I.e., it didn't hurt my feet, but it took more energy to run on than a hard surface, so my pace was more like a fast jog than a true running pace. Once back on the water I felt more in my element, and felt good about my pacing. I did the second running lap much the same as the first, a little behind Athanacio, but increasingly far behind Jake and Packet. Athanacio took a water break at the end of the second run, and I passed him, but he was close enough behind to ride my draft for most of a lap when we got back on the water. Eventually the speed advantage of my 14' board was enough to break away, and I moved more securely into 3rd place. For the last laps I kept a nice, steady pace, with the exception of falling at the final buoy turn on the water lap.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to use your imagination to see the running part, which was going north along the beach parallel to the sup track.

Although the race was a tough challenge, it felt like a great workout, and I liked the mix of sup and soft sand running. We'll see what sore muscles I discover tomorrow.

What's Next: Tomorrow morning there's another CGT Summer Series race, so I'll be doing that.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Rhonda Races! CGT Summer Race Series #3

Race: Race #3 in the CGT Summer Time Trial series.

Date it happened: 10 July 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: Same as last time- Sunny, hot and humid with not much breeze. Even the river water was hot. Based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator, the current was 0.7 kph, which is about the same as it was in race #2.

Participants: There were 14 racers, which is a great turnout for a midsummer Sunday morning in little Bonita Springs. For the 1-lap race we had Jim and Michelle McIntyre, and my wife Rhonda. Yes, you read that right. RHONDA did this race. I am so proud of her! In the two-lap race it Jen Hayes and a bunch of dudes. Dudes on 12'6 boards included Bryan Herrick, Matt Kearney, and Devin Turetzkin. Dudes on 14' boards included Mark Athanacio, Mark Payne, Jon Weinberg, Justin DiGiorgio, Jared Hamilton, Steve Fleming, and me.

Gear: I used my 14x22 Riviera RP, the Blue Streak, with my Riviera Vantage R8 paddle and a 6" Fins Unlimited keel style fin. Rhonda rode a Fanatic Falcon 14x27.25, which was originally Justin DiGiorgio's board, then my board, now officially Rhonda's. She used an Angulo paddle and a Riviera Commando fin. Jen Hayes usually rides a Riviera but this time she rode Mark Athanacio's 12'6x24 Hovie Comet GT. Athanacio rode his 14x21.5 Hovie. Steve Fleming is associated with Naish boards, and rode a slick looking Naish Javelin.

Results: In the one lap division Steve and Michelle McIntyre got 22:13 and 27:27, respectively, and Rhonda coasted gracefully to third with 33:22. I got first place in the two lap division with 38:05, which is slower than my race #2 time (37:47), but faster than my race #1 time (38:18). Course record holder Mark Athanacio didn't go all out this time, instead making the sensible decision to jump in the water occasionally to cool off. Nevertheless, he easily got second place with 39:54. Third overall and first on 12'6 was Matt Kearney in 42:53, just ahead of Justin DiGiorgio's 42:56 on a 14' board. That was a hard fought victory for Matt, who was specifically trying to beat his pal Justin. Second and third 12'6s were Devin Turetzkin in 45:07 and Jen Hayes in 51:38. Full results will be posted on the CGT time trials page.

Play by play: I'm learning that my race really begins about a week before the actual start. How much I work out, how much rest I get, what I eat and drink, and how calm or stressed I am makes a considerable difference in how hard the race feels. This week had three SUP workouts as usual, but I had to shuffle them to odd days, including the day before the race. I also had a non-normal eating, sleeping, and work schedule, and some other stresses that put me a little off-kilter. However, I knew Rhonda would be doing the race, her first ever, and that filled me with joyful energy.

On race morning Rhonda and I walked our boards to the race site, schmoozed with the other racers, and did a little warm-up paddling. It was too dang hot to warm up much, though, so mostly we soaked in the river to stay cool. The race directors offered to let us start earlier than usual because of the heat, so we lined up around 0840. It was great to be next to Rhonda at the start. Matt Kearney and Devin Turetzkin also started in our wave. Athanacio was just arriving by board to the race site when we were lined up to start, so he probably didn't have long to get situated before he started in about the third group. At the start I sprinted pretty hard to make sure I was in front of Devin and Matt, but I switched over to steady race pace early. Rhonda managed not to fall in the rough water of our wakes, and set out on her own steady pace. Matt Kearney stayed in my draft for several hundred meters, but eventually his splashing sounds faded away.

I felt a little off-balance physically and tried to focus on proper form to find the right groove and pacing. After the downriver buoy turn, on the first upriver leg, I saw the other racers pretty evenly spaced out. Matt and Devin were closest, but Justin and Athanacio were not far behind them. I saved about half a breath to say something brief and encouraging to Rhonda when we passed. Upriver in the heat sucked, but I thought about something from the book I'm reading, "The Boys in the Boat" about a University of Washington crew team in the 1930s. Their coach would tell them, "M.I.B.," mind-in-boat to keep them focused on the immediate task at hand- making the boat go fast. I tried to do the same with focusing on making my board go fast. After the upriver buoy turn, starting the second lap, I tried to go nearly as fast as I'd gone on the first lap, with moderate success. On the final upriver leg I did the same, but it took a lot of effort, with my heart rate up to 192 by the finish line. My average speeds on the four legs were 10.3, 8.8, 10.0, and 8.7 kph. I was quite happy with my final time even though it wasn't a personal best.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to go into Strava to see the details like HR and stuff. Several of the other race team members are now on Strava, as well, and when we paddle at the same time and location Strava figures out that we're in a race together and activates a cool animated replay feature called "Flyby".

The socializing at CGT after the race was especially nice today with Rhonda there. A lot of our talk centered around local and broader South Florida environmental problems, though, which was tough. "Calusa John" Paeno has become a very strong advocate for Everglades Restoration and local water quality issues, and he let us know about some of his efforts to bring the changes we need. An unfortunate corollary of this summer's bad water quality is that CGT's Lover's Key paddleboard race had to be canceled. There's too much dirty, dangerous polluted water, nasty algae, and dead seagrass in Estero Bay now for CGT to want to invite out of town racers to the area. :(

What's Next: More training, more paddling for fun with Rhonda, and more science and environmental activism.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

SUP Race Report: CGT Summer Series #2

Race: Race #2 in the CGT Summer Time Trial series.

Date it happened: 26 June 2016.

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page. CGT's Aaron Thomas, and John and Nick Paeno, are upping their media game lately by "livestreaming" these local races on YouTube, inspired by's livestreaming of international race events. It's still early days of the technology, and there's some dead air and missed shots when the videographers have to run errands and stuff, but I think having any video coverage at all is really cool. Some highlights of the video: 6:00- Interview with my wife Rhonda Mason. 8:00- First wave of the race starts. 27:20- Some of the halfway-point buoy roundings (and halfway-point retirements). 41:30- I sprint to the finish line and act dramatically exhausted when I cross it.

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 several people took that option this time.

Conditions: Sunny, very hot, and humid, with little breeze. Based on analysis with my new paddling in current calculator, the current was about 0.8 kph, which is stronger than the 0.4 kph we had for race #1.

Participants: We were missing a few of the regulars who were away on vacation, or perhaps taking a vacation from sup racing after many back-to-back races around the state. Nevertheless, we had a good crew of veteran and rookie racers. Becky Catlett Garry, a divemaster and one of the organizers of the Calusa Palooza paddle race, and Heather Olson, a Florida Southwestern University professor and yoga instructor, joined veteran racers Jen Hayes (riding a 12'6x26 Riviera RP) and Damien Lin (riding a 12'6x26 Hovie ZXC) to carry the banner for the women. Returning on the men's side we had race #1 winner and CGT Team coach Mark Athanacio riding his awesome 14x21 Hovie GT. Also on Hovies were Matt Kearney (12'6x25 ZXC), Justin DiGiorgio (14x25 ZXC), Jared Hamilton (14x24 ZXC), and Devin Turetzkin (12'6x25 GT). On 404 v3 carbon boards were nurse practitioner Mark Payne (14x27), and rollerblading dragon tattoo man Bryan Herrick (12'6x27). Lifelong SW Florida resident Jon Weinberg rode a 14x27 Yolo, and determined rookie-year paddler Joe Gladieaux rode the 14x24.75 Fanatic Falcon that I sold him a while ago. The only guy not on a raceboard was big-haired videographer David Eisenberg, who rode a 10'6 Riviera surf sup.

Gear: I used my 14x22 Riviera RP, the Blue Streak, with my Riviera Vantage R8 paddle and a 6" Fins Unlimited keel style fin. The Blue Streak likes to go straight and fast; the small fin makes it easier to turn around the buoys and bends in the river.

Results: I got first place this time in 37:47, one second shy of the 37:46 course record that Mark Athanacio set in race #1. Athanacio had a very fast first lap today and looked set to beat me again, but the heat forced him to slow down his second lap and finish in 38:50. Justin DiGiorgio had the next fastest time, 42:15, more than a minute faster than his race #1 time despite the heat. Even though Matt Kearney was on a 12'6 he was very close to Justin's time with 42:17. Veterinarian Damien Lin, who is fond of saying she's old enough to be my mother, was the fastest woman in 48:57, followed by Jen Hayes (51:34) and Heather Olson (55:43). Because of the heat and the current, and assorted ailments and misgivings, many normally-strong racers retired from this race after the first lap. They don't show up in the results, but I still give them credit for being there and going hard. Full results are posted on the CGT time trials page.

Play by play: I stretched and warmed up more than usual before this race, based on advice I got at a sup racing clinic taught by Riviera's Ryan Helm. I also drank iced tea and lots of water at breakfast, and took plunges in the river "to stay cool" before the race. Milling around the starting area, Athanacio and I negotiated to start in different waves to focus on solo performance testing rather than on drafting and race tactics. I started in the first wave, with Matt Kearney and Devin Turetzkin. Those guys were on 12'6s so they didn't have a chance to keep up for long, but they sprinted fast and stayed abreast for a surprisingly long time.

Once I was out front and clear, I tried to find the fastest pace that I could hope to maintain without burning out prematurely. I applied some skills I've been practicing, like using a wider grip on the paddle, and making sure the paddle blade enters the water at a "positive angle" (slanted towards the nose of the board). I also tried to find the fastest current in the river, and to make smooth and efficient curves around the bends. Focusing on stroke technique and navigation tactics has the added benefit of leaving less room in the mind for dwelling on suffering. My turn at the downriver buoy went ok, and I tried to apply similar techniques heading upriver- except trying to stay out of the current instead of in it. I could see Athanacio was nearly catching up to Matt, which meant he was making great time downriver and might be gaining on me. I was really tired and fighting against the miserable thought that I was only in the second quarter of the race. I tried to look past that and psych myself up for my plan of putting in a smooth, fast run when I got to the third leg of going back downriver- it helped. I also conserved energy by reducing the words of encouragement I shouted to other racers to one, "GO!," or sometimes I just grunted or wheezed.

My wife Rhonda was hanging out at the start line / halfway point, which gave me a morale boost when I did my turn there and started downriver again. With the boost of the current I was able to keep my speed over 10 kph on that leg, which is a nice big number to see on the GPS. Unfortunately I was also seeing big heart rate numbers in the high 180s. I felt OK, though, so I kept the pace. When I turned and started the final upriver leg I saw that Athanacio wasn't as close as he had been, which was a good sign for me. When I did pass Athanacio he wished me Happy Anniversary (thanks, man!) and said something to the effect that he'd conceded and I'd won this one. I wanted to seal the deal, though, so I kept right on the edge of the maximum level of suffering I could tolerate until I crossed the finish line.

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

I was pleased that, compared the first race in this series, I was able to keep more parity between my first and second lap. In the first race my pace dropped 0.6 kph from the first to the third leg, whereas in this race it only dropped 0.3 kph. In running races, the best times are achieved with even or negative "splits," which means when the latter laps are equally fast or faster than the first lap. I don't know if that's also optimal for SUP racing, but it might be something to experiment with.

What's Next: I'll keep training, trying to incorporate plenty of skill development work along with Athanacio's interval training and strength training, which seem to be effective. I'm also going to try to spread my SUP technical geek skills to others this coming Saturday, July 2nd, at 9 am at CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards. I'm going to do a free clinic on how to time yourself and track your progress, with or without a GPS. Contact CGT if you want to reserve a spot. Stopwatches and notebooks are required. GPS fitness trackers and laptops with Microsoft Excel are recommended.