Sunday, July 30, 2017

Race Report: CGT Summer Series #7



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

Date it happened: 30 July, 2017

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page.

Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Course / Distance: For this series there are two courses: a short one that goes downriver to a buoy and back (2.9 km), and a longer one that goes downriver to the US 41 bridge and back (6.4 km).

Conditions: It was hot but not as bad as the previous few races, since there was some cloud cover and a moderate to strong breeze from the West. The river water level was very high, and the current was 1 kph according to my paddling in current calculator.

Participants, Results and gear: There wasn't a huge turnout, probably since a lot of us were tired from the long race Saturday, but 12 hardy racers showed up anyway. Donna Montgomery and her son Lloyd both did the long course on 9' surfstyle boards, so they probably worked harder than anyone. Some of the usual racers used different from their usual boards, for example Mark Athanacio brought his 12'6x22 Hovie GT instead of the 14'x21.5 Hovie GT that he usually uses. I borrowed a 14'x23 Starboard AllStar from the CGT rack to test that out on the course. The most shocking thing was that CGT owner Nick Paeno made his racing debut, winning the short course with a very impressive time on a secondhand 14x25 Hovie ZXC that is for sale in the shop. With speed like that he might be able to challenge our regular racers Matt Kearney and Justin DiGiorgio. Hmm. In the long course, Mark Athanacio was the fastest overall despite the disadvantage of being on a shorter board (more on that later). I was second. The full results are below.

Racer ** Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
Mark Athanacio ** 12'6 SUP ** 22 Hovie GT ** 6.4 km ** 0:41:40
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:41:52
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater Dugout ** 6.4 km ** 0:45:02
Devin Turetzkin ** 12'6 SUP ** 25 Hovie GT ** 6.4 km ** 0:47:51
John Weinberg ** 14' SUP ** 25 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:48:08
Lloyd Montogomery ** 9' SUP ** 31 Naish ** 6.4 km ** 1:06:37
Donna Montgomery ** 9' SUP ** 31 Naish ** 6.4 km ** 1:08:28

Nick Paeno ** 14' SUP ** 25 Hovie ZXC ** 2.9 km ** 0:20:12
Bryan Herrick ** 14' SUP ** 23.75 Riviera RP ** 2.9 km ** 0:22:21
Jared Hamilton ** 14' SUP ** 24 Hovie ZXC ** 2.9 km ** 0:23:57
Igor Krasnov ** 14' SUP ** ?? Something big ** 2.9 ** 0:25:07
Jen Hayes ** 12'6 SUP ** 24 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:25:39

Play by play: On the water there was last minute changing around of who had been planning to do the short versus the long course. I think my stated intention to do the long one persuaded Mark Athanacio to do it, which persuaded Justin DiGiorgio to do it. The three of us plus Bryan Herrick all started at the same time. Those guys, especially Justin, sprinted off the line faster than I expected, maybe because a newspaper photographer was there and they wanted to be sure they looked good. Nevertheless, by the 200 m mark I had edged into the first position, with Justin drafting behind (breaking his pre-race pledge not to draft), and Athanacio behind him. I settled into what felt like a normal pace, trying to carefully gauge what kind of shape I was in after the previous day's big race. I felt OK, just a little less peppy, and with some soreness in my triceps and lats. About halfway through the downriver leg of the course I looked back expecting to see Justin behind me, but realized he'd been replaced by Athanacio. I thought a little about slowing down and making him lead but decided to just go my steady pace and see what happened.

After turning around the bridge at the halfway point of the course, Mark intentionally left my draft and paddled abreast of me. I reckon that was a sportsmanlike move, since he knew he COULD draft me the whole way back, but it would be kinda lame and unchallenging. Upriver was against the current but with the wind at our backs, and I changed my stroke a little to be more upright with a faster cadence, which I thought would help fight the current and take advantage of the tailwind. It seemed to work OK. I gradually pulled a few board lengths ahead of Mark, but that was unsurprising given the inherent advantage of my 14' board versus his 12'6. What WAS surprising was when, 1/3 of the way back upriver, my fin hit some massive, solid obstruction near a dock (maybe a log or a barely-submerged piling?). It instantly stopped the board, and because I was plunging my paddle into the water at the time, I went headfirst straight into the water. My board scooted off towards the shore, being blown by the wind, while I struggled lamely to swim against the current while holding my paddle. Meanwhile Mark zipped ahead, and had a ~100 m lead by the time I got back on the board. Damn! As Mark was passing he shouted, "regain your composure and sprint back up!" I never quite managed that. Though I partially caught up with Mark, he paddled hard and fast and preserved enough of the post-fall lead to finish 12 seconds ahead of me. SIGH. My final time was over a minute slower than in the previous CGT race. I reckon about 30 seconds of that was being slower due to post-race fatigue and the wind, and another 30 seconds, at least, was due to the fall and swimming for my board.

Here's my GPS track from the course:


What's Next: Next major race is August 12th in Fort Lauderdale; the second of the Sunshine SUP series.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Race Report: Flying Fish Summer Paddle Challenge

Race photos taken by Jen Hayes.


Race: The Flying Fish Summer Paddle Challenge 2017

Date it happened: 29 July, 2017

Host: The Flying Fish Paddle Sports

Location: The event was at the River Palm Cottages resort on the Indian River Lagoon in Jensen Beach, Florida. I liked that it was near where I used to live in Fort Pierce, and I was able to go to a Cajun restaurant I liked the night before the race with my CGT race team buddies. We didn't sign up soon enough to get a room at the cottages, but we found other hotels in the Stuart / Jensen Beach area.

Course / Distance: There was a long straight course for the kayaks and outrigger canoes, and a more complex multi-lap course for the SUPs. The SUPs could either do a short course (2 laps, 3.8 km) or an "elite" course (5 laps, 9.5 km).

Conditions: It was hot and humid as hell, with a modest breeze from the SW shifting to the NW. The water was shallow enough to hit the paddle blade in some parts of the course, demanding tactical decisions about whether to take a longer path to avoid it or just bust right through it. Even if your paddle blade wasn't hitting, you would still be slowed down by hydrodynamic effects that increase drag on displacement vessels in water depths less than 1/2 of the vessel length.

Participants, Results and gear: 47 people did the short SUP course, 36 did the elite SUP course, and 11 did the canoe/kayak course. For the elite SUP course there were $500 prizes for first place men's 14' and first place women's 12'6, which drew many of Florida's best paddlers. On the women's side was international pro Seychelle Hattingh (SIC boards), who races all over the world but is based in Key Largo. Seychelle had significant competition from teenage phenomenon Maddie Miller, and SW Florida's Meg Bosi (Bark boards) was also vying for the podium. Long time top female contender Kimberly Barnes was there volunteering but couldn't race because she's recovering from a sports-related surgery. On the men's side was last year's Flying Fish champion Sam English, now riding NSP boards. Sam faced a deep field of tough competitors this year. Looking at the names on the registration list I had trouble predicting the likely winner. I mentally sorted the familiar names into guys I KNEW were significantly faster than me (Kieran Grant [Hoviesup], Steve Miller and Tim Warner [Starboard]) and those who I figured were tough but I might be able to beat if I paddled well (Mark Athanacio [Hoviesup], Packet Casey [JP], Jake Graham and Joey Huemphner [Flying Fish boards], Reid Hyle [very fast guy but with a slow board]). My categorization was off, though, and several people I hadn't even thought I needed to worry about got the better of me, including Travis Kindt (ECS boards) and David Slemp (Hoviesup). I was the 11th SUP over the line in 1:10:07, but I consoled myself that at least my time wasn't TOO far behind the leaders. The top three in the major categories, along with their board types and widths if I remember them, were:

14' Men
Steve Miller 1:06:16 (Starboard Sprint 21.5)
Joey Huemphner 1:07:26 (Flying Fish allwater 23)
Kieran Grant 1:07:37 (Hovie Comet GT 23)

14' Men 50+
Mark Athanacio 1:09:45 (Hovie Comet GTO 23)
David Slemp 1:10:02 (Hovie Comet ZXC 25)
Gary Roethe 1:12:09 (?)

12'6 Women
Seychelle Hattingh 1:11:05 (some kind of narrow SIC flatwater board)
Maddie Miller 1:13:57 (JP flatwater) [1st in 17 & under class]
Jessica Ventura 1:16:13 Meg Bosi 1:17:30 (Bark Contender 25)

12'6 Men
Matt Kearney 1:15:38 (Starboard Allstar 24.5). Matt was the only man on 12'6- time to get a 14.

The full results are posted on paddleguru.

Play by play: They ran the short course first, which was nice because there was a pier over the water I could watch that race from to mentally picture my own route around the buoys. In the short race, those who could do efficient buoy turns put a lot of distance on those who couldn't in the 3-buoy "slalom" section at the end of each lap. I was glad I'd done some buoy turn practice in the preceding week, and gotten some good buoy turn tips at a clinic taught by SUPerman Robert Norman.

When the short race was over it was around 10 am, and it was HOT. All the racers knew the heat would be a major factor, so we were dunking in the water, wetting our shirts, skulking in the shade, etc. For the starting lineup, the race director requested that those in contention for the podium line up on the south end of the beach closer to the first buoy to minimize traffic between faster and slower racers. Considering myself one of the "slower of the faster" guys I lined up more towards the middle of the beach. My strategy for the start was to run with my board until the water got too deep, rather than jumping on the board early and having to paddle a long way through the very shallow water. It worked terribly, because people who threw their boards down earlier blocked off my running path and put me behind them. I ended up in bad traffic in chaotically mixed waters, watching those who had started better instantly extend a long lead. But there were so many wakes surging through the water that I was easily swept along, even through the speed-killing shallows after the first buoy. I weaved my way around and by the second buoy I was in an OK position again. I managed to catch up to and pass Jake Graham, but that wasn't surprising because he'd told me he was taking this one easy after not paddling for a long time.

In the slalom section of the first lap or two I seem to remember sticking the nose of my board onto the tail of the boards in front of me and/or in front of the paddlers' legs to help make tight turns. I was close to Reid Hyle and David Slemp, and I think I drafted them some but was mostly on my own, trying to gradually catch up with Mark Athanacio, who wasn't drafting anyone at that time, either. Mark slowed down to hasten our catching up, and was then eager to have someone else pull the draft. After catching my breath, I pulled for a good bit, sometimes going in the side-draft of Mark or Reid but always trying to stay near the front of the train. I ended up pulling ahead of the other guys when I made a better-than-usual buoy turn at the far end of the course on the third or fourth lap. At that point I thought I might be able to just paddle away from them. But what actually happened was that I stayed only a few board lengths ahead, tiring myself out, while they continued paddling efficiently and drafting. They seemed to close in on me in the buoy turns sections, since as I got more tired I was worse about re-accelerating after the turns. On the final lap Mark Athanacio passed me, and soon all the guys who had been near him did, too, along with Travis Kindt who must never have been too far behind us. I was tired and flustered, and had trouble keeping up with the draft group, especially since they were now accelerating the pace to try to edge into leading positions. My problems keeping up were exacerbated when I fell in knee deep water struggling to stay in the shifting draft wakes in the dang shallows near the end of the last lap. I kinda knew it was over for me then, but I hopped right back on and still stayed with the group, at the back.

Our little group of five all finished within a 22 second period, with Mark at the lead and me at the back. Although I was satisfied with my overall time, speed, and physical output, it burned me a little to lose all those places in the finishing order. It was a good lesson in the importance of drafting and strategically budgeting energy. For example, my pushing hard in the third and fourth lap was probably counterproductive because it left me unable to fend off the wolf pack at the end.

Here's my GPS track from the race. If you're registered on Strava you can click into it and see the details:


Other race intrigues: A young Australian man working the ECS boards tent at the race was stung by an American wasp and had an allergic reaction. He was fine after some Benadryl and a nap. Fortunately he was well long enough that I got to try out some of the ECS boards. There was a narrow dug-out flatwater one and an 25" wide "allwater" (Travis Kindt's board). I like Travis' best. It seemed to have really good water-slicing characteristics for a relatively wide board. Next time I'm on the east coast I'd also like to try the Flying Fish boards, which are a new small brand designed and distributed by the shop of the same name. As evidenced by Joey Huemphner's 2nd place finish in this race, they're capable of top-level speeds with the right paddler.

What's Next: Tomorrow morning is a local CGT Kayaks sup race. Nothing like following up a race with a race!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Race Series #6



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

Date it happened: 16 July, 2017

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page.

Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Course / Distance: For this series there are two courses: a short one that goes downriver to a buoy and back (2.9 km), and a longer one that goes downriver to the US 41 bridge and back (6.4 km).

Conditions: It was hot and humid as hell, with hardly a breeze. The river current was significant at 1.1 kph according to my paddling in current calculator, but the water level was high, which allowed some tactical corner-cutting.

Participants, Results and gear: There was a good crew of 15 racers, with 6 doing the long course and 9 doing the short one. It was great to see regular racers, newish racers, and some people who used to race but hadn't raced in a long time, such as Kevin Hill, Jesse DaSilva, and Kate Pagan, who did the short course. Series leader Mark Athanacio broke with tradition and also did the short course, which he won with an insane course-record time of 18:16. He used his deadly flatwater weapon, the 14x21.5 Hovie GT, and used a bigger paddle blade than usual for the shorter course; a Quickblade Trifecta 96. Mark's beau Jen Hayes won the women's short course with 24:47. I won the long race with 40:45, which is about even with my personal best for the course, but still way short of Mark's course record of 40 minutes even. That record is looking out of reach for me, unless I can somehow make a major leap in my skills and fitness, or get on some kind of board that's significantly faster than my current one (which is already fast). Matt Kearney was out of town this week, but "SUPerman" Robert Norman came down from Inverness to do the race and teach some SUP clinics. (I did his clinic on Saturday and was surprised how much helpful stuff I learned, especially about buoy turn footwork techniques. Robert has a well-organized, professional teaching style and I would definitely recommend his classes and clinics.) Robert rode CGT's 14x23 Starboard AllStar. New racer Patrick Scheele had a new board, a 10'6 surf-style Riviera. It's certainly not a raceboard, but he still managed to go 3 minutes faster than last time when he was paddling a heavy 9' windsurfing board. Here's the full results:

Racer ** Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:40:45
Robert Norman ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:42:44
Bill Quincy ** 14' SUP ** 23.5 Hovie GTO ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:42
Bill Mussenden ** 14' SUP ** 25 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:47:02
John Weinberg ** 14' SUP ** 25 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:48:48
Jesse DaSilva ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hobie Apex ** 6.4 km ** 0:49:33

Mark Athanacio ** 14' SUP ** 21.5 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:18:16
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater Dugout ** 2.9 km ** 0:21:07
Kevin Hill ** 14' SUP ** 24 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:22:13
Steve Fleming ** 12'6' SUP ** 24 Naish Maliko ** 6.4 km ** 0:22:44
Bert ** 12'6 SUP ** 26 BlkBox Uno ** 2.9 km ** 0:23:37
Jen Hayes ** 12'6 SUP ** 22 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:24:47
Jared Hamilton ** 14' SUP ** 24 Hovie ZXC ** 2.9 km ** 0:24:58
Patrick Scheele ** 10'6 SUP ** 31 Riviera ** 2.9 km ** 0:25:45
Kate Pagan ** 12'6 SUP ** 24.5 Starboard Allstar ** 2.9 km ** 0:28:55

Play by play: There were a lot of potentially fast 14' racers milling around the start line, so it was tricky to figure out what our starting groups would be. I knew I'd be starting with Robert Norman, because we'd been talking for a week about how he was going to try to match Matt Kearney's feat of drafting me for the entire race to break his record time. Besides Robert, I also knew Justin was fast enough to hang with the draft train. I knew Jesse could sprint fast but I didn't think he'd be able to keep up in the longer term. It ended up being Robert, Justin, Jesse, Kevin, and me on the line together. I was in the middle and got the "hole shot" into the lead position, with Robert in my draft, as expected. I think Justin and the others were also in the train for a while, but I'm not sure.

After about 1 km it was clear that it was just me and Robert. I asked Robert if he wanted to pull. He said "No," and I said something like, "Interesting." I considered stopping paddling and trying to force him to lead, but ultimately decided to just paddle my own pace and deal with Robert later if he tried to pass. I maintained a pace that was hard, but not to the point of burning out my arms. In comparison with race #5 I stayed more collected in the first half, saving some energy for the second half. It helped to focus on the river ahead, visualizing my speed and feeling my strokes in each moment, rather than focusing on the GPS readout and how I was doing overall.

Robert stayed with me as we turned around the bridge at the bottom of the course and started the exhausting upriver slog. But about 800 meters into the second half he quietly dropped back. I tried to keep my pace up even when he was far enough back that I knew I wouldn't have to worry about him. A trick that helped me on the upriver was aggressively hugging the edges of the river where the current was slower and I could occasionally find a blessed patch of tree shade. When I sensed that I was paddling in unavoidable bad current or slight headwind, I increased my effort just a bit, but overall I kept the pace steady at 53 strokes per minute cadence. I was happy to pass the 3/4 point of the race in just under 30 minutes, indicating that was making a little better time than in race #5. At the end I sped up as much as I could manage (which wasn't much) to shave whatever seconds I could off my time. I was really happy to get back in under 41 minutes, after my slightly disappointing 41:13 time in race #5.



Other race intrigues included a surprsingly strong performance by dark horse Bill Quincy, who was borrowing Athanacio's salmon-colored Hovie. It will be interesting to see if he becomes a regular racer. Also impressive was how much faster Jen Hayes went compared to her usual time. Maybe having another fast woman on the course (Kate Pagan) was motivating. As usual, after the race we all had really good food and social time at CGT. The AC felt especially awesome.

What's Next: Two weeks from now we have an out-of-town race, the Flying Fish Summer Paddle Challenge in Stuart, FL. The following day there will be another CGT race. There's a rumor that CGT Kayaks owner Nick Paeno is going to race.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Damn you, dirty scoundrels of Photobucket

I used photobucket.com for several years to host the pictures for this blog, but it got progressively more annoyingly packed with pop up ads and malware and such, to the point that the site interface became maddeningly slow, awkward and unusable. At the same time they started making more and more unpredictable and unreasonable subscription extortion attempts. Now they've turned off all my pictures and told me I need to pay $40 a month for the rest of my life to turn them back on again. $40/month? F U that's more than my phone bill.

Now I have to decide how to deal with the problem of rehosting the images from hundreds of old blog posts. For new blogs, I've just been uploading the pics directly into blogger, but I don't know if blogger might also pull some kind of ransom attempt like this in the future.

Advice to companies like photobucket: If you want people to pay for the premium version of a service, don't let the free version of the service turn to such user-abusing shit that all your potential customers hate you and would never dream of giving you money.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Summer Series #5



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

Date it happened: 2 July, 2017.

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page.

Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Course / Distance: For this series there are two courses: a short one that goes downriver to a buoy and back (2.9 km), and a longer one that goes downriver to the US 41 bridge and back (6.4 km).

Conditions: It was hot and humid, about 30 C, with a light and variable wind. The river current was significant at 1 kph according to my paddling in current calculator. The current was more intense near the start/finish line, and less intense downriver at the bottom of the course.

Participants, Results and gear: We had a decent crew, including some who didn't race but were hanging out because of the Quickblade Paddles demo event run concurrently with the race. (CGT recently became a Quickblade dealer, which is cool because QB is renowned as the #1 paddle company in the world. CGT also sells HippoStick and Riviera paddles.) It was cool that we had Jennifer Peters do it on a one-person outrigger canoe (OC1) this time. Jennifer beat me by a couple seconds, but couldn't steal the line honors from Mark Athanacio, who was first overall on his wicked fast 21.5" wide Hovie SUP. Another cool gear thing was that Justin DiGiorgio had modified his 14x23 Hovie GTF by cutting a deep recess in the standing area of the deck. It turned out to be a huge success in its first race since the modification. Previously the board had been fast but awkward and tippy because it was so thick relative to its width that the rider was standing precariously high above the water. With the newly recessed standing position it wobbled less, and the wobbles would correct themselves instead of getting out of control. Justin improved on his previous race time by 7 seconds, probably because he avoided falling this time.

Justin's successfully modified 14x23 Hovie GTF.


Racer ** Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
Mark Athanacio ** 14' SUP ** 21.5 Hovie GT ** 6.4 km ** 0:40:48
Jennifer Peters ** OC1 ** ?? ** 6.4 km ** 0:41:10
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:41:13
Matt Kearney ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:41:15
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater Dugout ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:21
Bryan Herrick ** 14' SUP ** 23.75 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:46:48
Steve Fleming ** 12'6' SUP ** 24 Naish Maliko ** 6.4 km ** 0:57:14

Devin Turetzkin ** 12'6 SUP ** 25 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:22:06
Jen Hayes ** 12'6 SUP ** 22 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:27:10

Play by play: As per our established routine for this series, I started in the group with Matt and Justin, and Mark Athanacio started later. In comparison with race #4, I continued my sprint off the start for a longer period of time. Nevertheless, both Matt and Justin got in my draft and seemed to have no trouble staying there. I neither tried to shake them nor tried to keep them; just went at the fastest pace I thought I could maintain. I messed with my paddle stroke a little, trying to make sure I was using my whole body and not blowing out my arms and shoulders too early. I had done a fairly intense 3x8 minute SUP workout the previous day that I probably wasn't 100% recovered from. It's hard to tell exactly how much I'm affected by working out in the day(s) before a race, but I normally try to have at least one day of nothing strenuous before a race.

About 1600 meters into the race, Justin started to waver a little in his drafting, but he stayed no more than a board length behind Matt (close enough to get some drafting benefit) until we were nearly at the halfway point. Turning around the pilings of the US 41 bridge at the halfway point was where I lost Matt last time, but I knew he was determined to stay on me this time, and he did. Looking at his Strava track, you see that his heart rate jumps from the low 180s to over 190 for a bit while he scratches to reconnect, then it goes down to the low 180s again once he's in the draft. Going upriver I did OK, but not great. I mostly stayed on the gas, but sometimes my stroke rate sagged a bit, and I don't think I had the right mental focus to keep up maximum output at all times. It's hard to gauge pace when the river current is strong and the numbers on the GPS are so much lower than they would be in neutral conditions. It might help if I started paddling with a heartrate monitor band again like I did last summer. That thing kept me honest... but it wasn't as durable and dependable as I would have liked, and too expensive to keep replacing all the time.

Another couple things that were messing with my mind on the upriver portion of the race were wondering if I was taking the best paths to avoid the bad current, wondering if I might have a little leaf or something stuck on my fin (I probably didn't), and wondering if and when Matt would try to pass me. I figured my best defense against Matt passing would be to just maintain a tough pace so that he'd be too tired to mount a sprint attack. In the last couple hundred meters I notched up the pace a bit more, for good measure. Matt never did try a sprint (I think that was mostly out of courtesy, since he'd used my draft the entire race), but he stayed right on me all the way to the end and was only 2 seconds behind, making a HUGE, 1 min 45 second improvement on his previous best race time. The 14x23 Starboard AllStar and 7.0 Riviera Bump paddle seem to suit Matt well, and he has been getting closer to me with that gear combo than he ever used to get. Matt is also really consistent in sticking with coach Athanacio's 3x weekly SUP workouts, plus strength training in the gym, and never missing his post-workout protein shakes. Though he's a naturally skinny guy, he's starting to get beefy looking arms and shoulders, and I think he's improving significantly in speed, power, and endurance. If the trend continues we can probably start drafting cooperatively instead of just me pulling, leading to faster time for both of us.

Elsewhere on the racecourse, there was a good back-and-forth drafting battle of 14' Riviera boards paddled by Bryan Herrick and Bill Mussenden. Bryan's strategy of saving energy by drafting a lot early on then attacking in the last quarter of the course paid of for him, as he eked out the win.

As for myself, I'm slightly disappointed in my "plateau" of performance in this series. I'm not getting any closer to coach Athanacio, who is my main benchmark, and I'm having trouble just matching my own previous race times. However, I've started doing strength training at the YMCA more regularly now that I'm done teaching for the summer, and I expect that to start helping if I can stick with it. I also think I have some room for improvement in terms of managing my diet and body composition (muscle to fat ratio). A few less Dairy Queen Blizzards and a few more running cross-training workouts might help. The trickiest part is probably mental, though- finding the mental drivers that can get my reluctant body to exert to its maximum potential, but not beating myself up in a negative way. I imagine it's normal for athletes to have times of improvement mixed with times of struggle and stagnation, and I imagine that as I get more experience I'll learn more about when and how to push, and when and how to chill out.

This is my GPS track from the race. You can see more details if you view it in Strava.


After the race I demo'd two different models of Quickblade paddles (V-Drive and Trifecta) in various blade sizes. I decided I didn't like the V-Drive 91, but I kinda liked the smaller V-Drive 81 and the Trifecta 86. The V-Drive is supposed to suit paddlers who have a good forward reach and "front load" their paddle stroke, while the Trifecta is supposed to match well with paddlers who get most of their power from the middle part of the stroke... and it may be more forgiving of sloppy technique. I probably qualify more as a Trifecta guy. I'm still very happy with my 7.0 Riviera Bump, though, so I'm not in a hurry to make any expensive gear changes.

What's Next: The next CGT Race is July 16th.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Summer Series #4



Race: The fourth race in the CGT Spring Series.

Date it happened: 18 June, 2017.

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page.

Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Course / Distance: For this series there are two courses: a short one that goes downriver to a buoy and back (2.9 km), and a longer one that goes downriver to the US 41 bridge and back (6.4 km).

Conditions: It was very hot and humid, about 31 C, with a faint breeze from the east. The river was high and flowing strong due to two weeks of heavy rain. The current was 1 kph according to my paddling in current calculator. The current was more intense in the narrow upriver part near the start/finish line, and less intense downriver at the bottom of the course.

Participants, Results and gear: Some people were missing, probably because of the Father's Day holiday, but most of the serious CGT race team folks were there, including venerable coach Mark Athanacio, who won. My best recollections of who rode what and how fast they were are in the list below. Official results may be posted at some point on the CGT Time Trials page.

Racer ** Board Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
Mark Athanacio ** 14' SUP ** 21.5 Hovie GT ** 6.4 km ** 0:40:40
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:40:47
Matt Kearney ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:10
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:27
Devin Turetzkin ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:46:02

Bryan Herrick ** 14' SUP ** 23.75 Riviera RP ** 2.9 km ** 0:22:12
Jared Hamilton ** 14' SUP ** 24 Hovie ZXC ** 2.9 km ** 0:25:00
Jen Hayes ** 12'6 SUP ** 22 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:26:35
Steff Bichi ** 11' SUP ** 34 BodyGlove iSUP ** 2.9 km ** 0:42:27
Mark Payne ** 14' SUP ** 27 404 v3 ** ?? ** DNF

Play by play: During the week I discussed with Matt Kearney that we would both race 14' boards and he would try to stay in my draft as long as possible. He took CGT's 14x23 Starboard AllStar hybrid construction, which is a good match for my 14x23 Riviera RP. Justin, also on a fast 14x23 board, started in the same group as us. Matt sprinted pretty fast off the start and was parallel to me for a long time. I'm not sure if he was vying for the lead or just trying to draft in my "side wake". If I'd wanted to be a jerk I could have squeezed up against a dock or tree branch to force him to get behind me, but I didn't want to be a jerk, and I thought doing so might actually be dangerous with how fast the current was moving. Anyway, Matt got into the usual directly-behind-my-board drafting position after about 500 meters. Around that time I heard a "SPLASH" and thought he might have fallen in, but it turns out it was Justin, who had been right behind Matt until then.

On the way downriver I struggled to set an appropriate pace that was fast enough to get me a respectable time but easy enough that I wouldn't burn out prematurely. One thing I did differently than in the last CGT race was I never yielded the lead to Matt. If I was only competing against Matt then it would benefit me to make him pull some of the time while I rested in his draft, but since I'm also competing against Mark Athanacio for overall fastest time, it's better if I just keep the lead and go the fastest possible pace. Though Mark hadn't been in the starting line, I knew he'd be in the race because we passed him as he paddled from his house upriver to the start.

At the US 41 bridge at the bottom of the course I did a good, tight buoy turn near the bridge piling, and took a few sprint strokes to get back up to speed. The turn put a 3 board length gap on Matt. I didn't intentionally sprint to get away from Matt, but I kept a hard pace. Matt says he'd been having no trouble keeping pace when he was in my draft, but that once out of my draft it nearly killed him trying to get in again. Ultimately he had to give up, drop back, and recover. On the way upriver I tried to guess the fastest "line" to take to avoid the strong current and shallow water and to minimize the distance traveled. Since the water was high I didn't worry about shallow water spots too much, which helped me cut more corners than usual. I felt very hot, tired and out of breath, and tried to focus on taking efficient, effective strokes to save energy without slowing down. I was encouraged when I got to where I knew there were just 800 m left, and I increased my effort just a bit there, and at 400 m and 200 m from the finish line. I was super exhausted and overheated at the finish, but happy to approximately tie my personal best time for this race series. I still haven't come near Mark Athanacio's amazing 40:00 time from the first race of the series, but I was only 7 seconds behind him today, which suggests that I'm at least holding my ground. I don't think there were any technical or strategic things I could have done differently to go faster today, but generally improving my strength, conditioning, and stroke technique could help me gain a few more seconds in the future.

This is my GPS track from the race. You can see more details if you view it in Strava.


Sitting in the water after finishing I saw that Matt was the next over the line, but that he'd given up a lot of distance to Justin who nearly caught him in the end with a time that was 18 seconds faster than his race #3 time. Pretty impressive in these conditions. Devin Turetzkin also went faster this time on his 14x23 Riviera than he did on the 14x23 Starboard AllStar in race #3. Matt went slower than in race #3, probably because he burned himself out physically with the failed drafting moves and had trouble getting back in the mental groove after that. I think only when he heard Justin creeping up on him did his mind wake up to spur him faster again.

After the race we had good eats and socializing at CGT. There's a lot of buying and selling action on the board racks at CGT, with Mark Payne trading in his 14x27 404 v3 for a 14x24.5 StarBoard AllStar, and Devin Turetzkin talking about how amazingly fast he's going to be when he gets his five-finned 14x23 Infinity Blackfish in August. (CGT is an Infinity SUP dealer now.) One of our other local racer guys, Mark Hourigan, just got a 14x25 Blackfish that he seems to be in love with.

What's Next: I'm done teaching for the summer, but I have lots of research and writing to do. I have to try to do lots of impressive things in the next 6 months because I apply for promotion to associate professor in January, and it's definitely not a given that I'll get it. (Unfortunately I don't think I can list SUP racing as a work-related achievement in my portfolio.) Although the work will be hard, my schedule will be flexible, so I should have plenty of time for sup training, including getting to the gym, which I haven't been very consistent about since last summer.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

SUP Race Report: 2017 Sunshine SUP race #1

**UPDATE- Somebody put together a video of the race with some cool drone footage. You see a little bit of me (guy with the pink backpack and the light blue board) at various points in the video**



Jen Hayes' facebook photo album from the race. Thanks for the pictures!


Race: The first of two races in the 2017 RK Sunshine SUP Series. The next one is August 12th.

Date it happened: 3 June 2017.

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 facebook page.

Location: Pompano Beach, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale. I carpooled over to Ft. Lauderdale the night before with my CGT Team buddy Matt, and we stayed with his college friend Oden.

Course: The course was multiple laps around a big triangle in the ocean. The first leg went straight out about 200 m, then we turned south for a long leg parallel to shore, then diagonally back to a buoy set near the start/finish line. At the end of each lap we had to come to shore for a short run through a little corral in the sand. Board handlers would flip your board around and hold it for you to jump back on as you re-entered the ocean. The total distance of a lap was ~1700 m. The shorter "rec" race went first, with three laps total, then they held the longer "elite" race with 5 laps.

Conditions: The morning started cloudy/hazy and hot, with light and variable wind and some ankle to knee high waves on the Atlantic. Those conditions persisted through the short race, and for the first two laps of the elite race. But halfway through the elite race the sky grew darker and a southeast wind picked up, progressively increasing to white-capping strength and beyond. The fast finishers avoided the worst of it, but those who were still on the water got hit by a deluge of rain along with the wind, and many were forced to abandon the race before completion. The weather curtailed the post-race beach festivities, although some took advantage of the wind waves by shredding in the rain on surf-style and race sups.

Participants and Gear: There were around 50 participants in the rec race and 40 in the elite race, along with some others at the beach for a concurrent kayak fishing tournament and crossfit obstacle course. In addition to the sups, the elite race included three prone paddlers and four "OC1"s (one-man outrigger canoes). Hotshot racers in the 14' sup division included Jake Portwood on a 25" wide JP Flatwater board, Jake Graham on a 24" wide Rogue, bodybuilder Josh Smart on a 26" wide recessed-deck NSP, and tall Christian Goerloff on a 25" wide ONE "Storm" sup, which is also a recessed-deck design like the NSP. I rode my usual 23" wide Riviera RP, with a 6" Fins Unlimited Keel fin. (Using this short fin in an ocean race was a departure from my usual strategy of using a bigger fin for rough water stability. The small fin makes the board easier to steer and may be helpful in side-winds when constant course adjustments are necessary.) Another noteworthy 14' racer was my CGT teammate Justin DiGiorgio, who brought his Mahi Mahi colored custom 14x24 Hovie GT. Hotshots in the 12'6 men's class included Steve Miller on a 24" wide Starboard AllStar, Packet Casey on a 24" wide JP Allwater, Mark Athanacio on a 23" wide Hovie GTO, and Matt Kearney on CGT's 24.5" wide StarBoard AllStar. Female hotshots included Maddie Miller (Steve's teenage daughter) on a 24" JP, Catherine Uden on a 26" Boga, and Karen Kennedy on an Indigo sup. In addition to racing, Cat Uden was representing the Surfrider marine environmental conservation organization, which provided recycling bins for the many plastic water bottles and aluminum drink containers generated at the event.

Results: For the 14' SUP class, Jake Portwood won decisively with 1:00:26, followed by Christian Goerloff's 1:01:51 and my 1:03:01. First place 12'6 finisher Steve Miller was between Christian and me with 1:02:25, far ahead of 2nd place 12'6 Packet Casey's 1:04:18 and Mark Athanacio's 1:05:57. Maddie Miller was first woman and 4th 12'6 overall with 1:10:08. Matt Kearney was 5th 12'6 overall in 1:13:04 but got the 3rd place men's title because Athanacio was in the 50+ class. Catherine Uden was 2nd woman in 1:15:17 and Karen Kennedy 3rd in 1:27:32. The rec race men's class was won by Max Kolisch in 0:37:38, with runner-up Jeff Berry at 0:40:06. Rec race women's winner was Mini de Cunha in 0:41:30, followed by Jen Hayes with 0:43:44. All the 1st-3rd finishers got wonderful, creative hand-painted trophies. Here's mine:



Play by play: Before the races started we were led in a Hawaiian blessing by one of the race organizers' native Hawaiian friends. During the blessing I got to hold hands with Catherine Uden on one side and Karen Kennedy on the other side, so I knew my luck for the day was strong.

While the rec race was going on I did some warm-up paddling just outside of the race area, and some dipping in the ocean to stay cool. I find that the warm-up paddling is helpful for getting psychologically in-tune with the conditions. Also while the rec race was going on I caught up with CGT team coach Mark Athanacio, who gave me tips on the current direction (southward) and race strategies. Mark said I probably wouldn't be able to keep up with Jake Portwood, but that I was good enough to beat Jake Graham and I had better do so. He told me to pay attention to what segments of the course I was doing relatively well on, and to strive to make gains on my competitors in those sections.

For the race start I lined up somewhat on the north end of the beach, heeding Mark's advice that the current would carry me southward, and avoiding traffic congestion at the south end of the line. I got off cleanly, sprinted pretty hard, and was fourth sup around the first buoy, after Jake P., Steve Miller, and Jake G. I was really impressed with how fast Steve Miller was going on his 12'6 board, and it took several hundred meters of paddling before I could finally edge around him and get into third position behind the Jakes. At the end of the first lap Jake P. was pulling out of range, but Jake G. was still catchable. I ended up drafting him intermittently on the second and third laps, but there was enough "bump" on the course that it was sometimes better to go alone in clean water than to try to follow. I also think that in that mid-race period Jake G. and I got too comfortable and conservative about our pacing and positions, and may have opened the door for those behind us (e.g., Christian Goerloff) to creep up. I particularly wish I been more aggressive about my buoy turns, because I did some of them in the slow and conservative "cross bow" style instead of the quicker "step-back" style. Also, I should have remembered from other races and training the importance of making a brief sprint effort after every turn or transition, to quickly get back up to race speed. Little things like that add up to a lot of time saved in a long race with many laps.

The southeast wind began to affect our speed in lap #3, where a speed difference between the southward and northward legs first became apparent. Steve Miller and Christian Goerloff seemed less affected by the wind than Jake G. and me, and they creeped up and passed us in lap 4. There was a bit of conflict when that happened, because Christian was drafting Steve, not realizing that Steve was on a 12'6. (You're not allowed to draft from a different sized board.) He stopped drafting when we let him know, but he was still able to go faster than Jake G. and me. It might have been smart for me to cut over and draft Christian at that point, but I didn't have the wherewithal to do so. My problems increased when I had a slow buoy turn on the 4th lap due a combination of overly-cautious technique and traffic with an OC1 and some slower sups that we were lapping. Jake G. was about 50 meters ahead and it looked like I might get stuck in 4th and miss the podium. Nevertheless, I tried to work the bumps of the ocean and not get any further behind Jake G. as I worked my way downwind and into the final beach transition.

Looking out to sea again after the last little beach run I was shocked to see how much the wind had suddenly increased. Fatigued and paddling almost straight upwind, I was only getting 5.1 kph for the 200 m out to the first buoy. When we rounded that buoy the mostly-headwind turned into mostly-sidewind. But there I discovered that even though I was slow, I was making a little better progress than Jake G., and I caught up. He made some remark about how sucky the conditions were and I responded by passing him and digging hard, a little lightbulb going off in my mind that this could be the opportunity Athanacio had alluded to for me to put distance on the competition. Psychologically, I found it more motivating to battle the conditions than to battle Jake, but by focusing intently on the conditions and my paddle technique I put a good gap on him before the upwind buoy. Then it was a dicey slightly-downwind sidewind run to the finish. I had one scare where I fell and had to hop back on quickly, but Jake G. was far enough back that he didn't catch me then. I could see Steve Miller and Christian Goerloff up ahead, but they were doing great in those rough conditions and continuing to increase their gap on me. My goal was only to not screw up, and to get that third place. I had a shakey wave ride around the last buoy into the finish, but miraculously avoided falling and ran through the finish gate pretty happy.

Here's water photographer Ryan Pinder's pic of me about the jump off the board at the finish.


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


Other race intrigues: There was a lot of drama watching people come in to the finish as the conditions got progressively worse. Some of the kayak fishermen returning to shore for the weigh-in had spectacular crashes in the waves, spilling and busting their fishing rods, heavy buckets and tackle boxes etc. There ought to be some kind of weight limit for those kayak fishermen, because it's pretty ridiculous how non-portable their boats are. They had to have a backhoe on the beach to drag some of the kayaks back to the parking lot, where they were winched onto trailers. In my opinion, if it's too big to lift onto the roof rack, you're doing it wrong.

What's Next: Next weekend there are two big races on Saturday, the Orange Bowl SUP race in Miami, and the Battle on the Blueway race in Fort Myers. I'm going to the Battle on the Blueway because it's local, cheaper, and I know a lot of people involved in organizing it.