Sunday, July 26, 2015

Rare Midsummer Wavesailing Session

Summer in SW Florida is generally a really bad season for windsurfing. It's rarely windy enough to plane, even with the biggest boards and sails. But yesterday was an exception, with a big low pressure system roughing up the Gulf of Mexico and bringing a stiff onshore breeze to Wiggins Pass State Park. I got out on a 106 liter Exocet Cross II board and a 6.4 KA Kult sail and took some video with my GoPro. The song in the video is by the Misfits.

July Wiggins 7-25-15 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Rare windy day in the middle of Florida's stagnant summer season. I'm riding a 106 liter Exocet Cross II and a 6.4 KA Kult sail. Music is the Misfits.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Post race analysis of SpeedCoach SUP 2 data

Today was the second of the CGT Summer Time Trials paddle races in the Imperial River. For this one I used one of the shop's demo boards: a 14' x 27" 404 v3 raceboard in PVC construction. The board is 2.25" wider than my own board (Fanatic Falcon), making it a lot more stable and a wee bit harder to maintain at top speed. My time was 47:54, second place after Mark Athanacio who got 46:34. Both Mark and I were slower than we were in the first race, probably because we weren't drafting each other like we did that time. Also it was really hot- 31C already when the race started.

This was the first race where I used the NK SpeedCoach SUP 2 and heartrate monitor during the race. Over the last week I've been fidding with the SpeedCoach a lot and figuring out how to do some more stuff with it. There are two formats that the device can export data in: .csv and .fit. The former file type is a data table that can be opened in Microsoft Excel and used to make graphs, etc. The latter includes latitude/longitude coordinates and can draw your path in a mapping program. It's not entirely straightforward to draw your path, though. Here's how I've done it so far.

1. From the "NK Link" program that goes with the SpeedCoach, you export the data as a .fit file.
2. You upload the file to an online fit to tcx converter and download the .tcx file.
3. You use the website "GPS Visualizer" to generate a Google Earth format (.kml) file from the .tcx file. GPS Visualizer gives you lots of options for the conversion. I picked "colorize by speed" to show different rainbow colors to my track depending on how fast I was going. I'm not satisfied with that feature, though, because the colors aren't a smooth blend. My track just looks like a birthday confetti of colors and there's no easily readable key to what color is what speed.
4. You download the .kml file produced by GPS Visualizer and open it in Google Earth. Then you can get whatever zoom and angle you want to view your track.

I've combined the GPS track and some of the data from the race into the graphics below. Getting the axes to look right in the Y versus elapsed time graphs was tricky. I had to tell Excel to use 0.000694444 (which is [1/24]/60) as the major unit on the x axis so that the numbers would go minute by minute instead of in weird decimals. Also, you need to make the graphs as scatterplots, then choose "no markers" for the markers and add a connecting line. If you try to make a line graph directly it doesn't work as well. Anyway, here are the pictures and some story to go with them:

The course starts at the dock at Riverside Park in Bonita Springs, and goes East, downriver, towards the Gulf of Mexico. The river is tidally influenced so sometimes, like this morning, the water actually flows upriver. So we were paddling against the current a bit on the first leg. You can tell that going upriver was favored because of the boost of speed I get at 17 minutes, which is right after I turn around the downriver buoy and start coming upriver with the tide. The next part of the race I mostly get slower and slower, which is probably due to a combination of fatigue, my technique slipping, less favorable current, and the upriver section being narrower with more bends.
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Looking at the heart rate graph you can see some neat patterns that don't show up in just the speed alone. One is that after the strain of the initial 90 seconds of sprinting, my bpm actually declines for a few minutes. That's because I'm drafting behind Brandon Gunderson's Hobie Apex 4R 14-5.75. I didn't have to paddle as often or as hard to maintain my speed then as I when I wasn't drafting. I passed Brandon after 5 minutes and he drafted me off and on until the buoy turn at 17 minutes when I lost him. Even though I was a little faster, it might have been a good strategic move to keep Brandon along and have him lead for a while so I could rest. My heart rate got really high going hard upriver in the blazing heat, sometimes getting above my age-based maximum safe heart rate recommendation of 184 bpm. At 25 minutes I could feel my heart skip a beat and thud in an uncomfortable way. That happens to me occasionally when I'm in the middle of a long hard stretch, but this is the first time I got to capture it on the heart rate monitor. I eased off the throttle to recover back down to 170ish bpm, and tried to keep below 184 until the very end of the race. It's interesting that my speed was getting slower and less consistent in the last 25% of the race even though my effort (heart rate) was steadily high. That might have something to do with my technique slipping. When fitness trainer Mark Athanacio (who had started about a minute behind me) passed me on the way to the upriver buoy he reminded me to straighten up and recover a bit between strokes to get a better breath and to be able to load more weight onto the next stroke.
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I find that stroke rate is the hardest thing to interpret from the SpeedCoach data. For one thing there are always some spikes of weirdly high or low stroke rates. Low stroke rate might happen when switching sides paddling, and apparently high stroke rate might be the result of the sensor getting bumped or jostled by stepping around on the board or rocking in the waves. Despite the blips, there does seem to be a trend of high stroke rate being associated with faster speed. I think one of my instincts when I get tired is to take slower but deeper strokes. However, in terms of speed gained vs. energy spent, it might be better if I can train myself to keep a relatively fast tempo when I'm tired but reduce the power a little to not get exhausted.

Although this post has been almost all about me, I should make sure to congratulate everyone who raced today. It was a tough, hot day, and lots of people still trucked through the whole course, many of them without the benefit of fancy raceboards and weed-shedding fins like I had. I saw more than one birds' nest of pine needles and sticks shake loose from finishers' fins when they finally stopped paddling at the finish line. I'd say weed fins are essential for freshwater paddling in Florida even for non racers.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Got a new GPS gadget - SpeedCoach SUP 2

This afternoon the UPS delivery person dropped off my new geeky toy - a SpeedCoach SUP 2. It's a GPS with a high refresh rate designed to give accurate, by-the-second speedometer readings, and it has an internal accelerometer that can sense every paddle stroke you take. (It can display your strokes per minute and your distance traveled per stroke, the product of which is, of course, your speed.) Also, it uses bluetooth wireless communication to talk to a heart rate sensor that you wear around your chest. The bluetooth lets you extract the data from the unit to your PC for analysis, which I think is super cool. You can also use the wireless to download timed interval "workouts" to the SpeedCoach, which will then tell you when to go fast, when to rest, etc. There are five workout programs already in the machine when it comes out of the box, and you can tweak them and save them if you want to.

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I had to rush to get on the water to try the toy today because the radar showed a thunderstorm coming in from the east. I did a 1.61 km (1 mile) paddle downstream in the Imperial River, then took a rest and did the same thing coming back upstream. Going downstream I didn't start the SpeedCoach data recording properly, so I didn't get any data for that section. Going upstream and upwind after I was already a little tired I didn't get the most impressive times, but the data was still useful. Here's what it looked like when I graphed it in Microsoft Excel:

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Speed- It took me 20 seconds or so to get up to speed. Quicker acceleration is something I need to work on, since this could really hurt me in a race with lots of buoy turns where you have to stop and then accelerate again. I also notice that there are lots of little ups and downs in the speed, which might have to do with wind, current, and water depths changes as I was going up the bends of the river. I definitely noticed just by looking at the screen on the SpeedCoach that I was a lot slower in shallow water, and a lot faster when I could find an eddy in the downstream current. I'm sure there's a "human element" to the ups and downs, too, with my wavering will and focus. Strokes per minute- I take about 56 strokes per minute on average, but when I take more strokes per minute I'm faster. There are times that my stroke rate seems to suddenly dip really low, which may be when I'm switching paddling sides or may be when the accelerometer fails to pick up strokes. Heart rate- My resting heart rate (not shown) is 65-70 bpm. My "warmed up" heart rate (after paddling hard for a mile then taking a couple minutes to rest) is about 120. It took about a minute of paddling hard for my heart to go from 120 to 170ish, then it gradually got up to 180ish after about 10 minutes. I think around 180 is my hard-workout max.

Hopefully the data this gizmo delivers will give me some better insight into what works and what doesn't work for going faster. :)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards Summer Race Series; 1 down, 4 to go

Last Sunday 16 people did the first race in CGT Summer Time Trials' paddle race series on the Imperial River in Bonita Springs, Florida. I love the races that CGT puts on because they're right in my backyard, they're with my SUP teammates and other nice folks, and they have a relaxed atmosphere that nevertheless encourages you to push yourself to improve your paddling.

Murray Hunkin the South African kayaker and CGT sup race team stud.

Although I didn't place first in this race, it was one of my favorites. The fastest paddler in town, Mark Athanacio, used a 14' board in contrast with his usual 12'6, which put him in the same division as me and most of the other guys on the CGT race team. Nevermind that Mark had done a huge ocean race in Pompano Beach the day before- he was still fast. I started in the first group of four with Mark, Matt Kearney, and Murray Hunkin. There was good "draft train" action in the first part of the race with Mark pulling Matt pulling me pulling Murray. After a few minutes, though, Mark started to pull ahead of Matt so I sprinted around to take his place. I drafted Mark for a bit, then I took a turn pulling, and we switched back and forth like that for most of the race. Mark was helpful asking me when I was getting really tired and offering to lead at those times. I tried to help him by telling him what shallow spots and high current areas to watch out for in the river, but I kept mixing up right and left so I wasn't actually much help. After we did the last turn of the race, upriver under the "bat bridge," Mark got a gap on me that I didn't have the energy to close, but I stayed not too far behind. The times were as follows:

Name, Time, Class, Course
Kim Kelsey, 0:42:14, Surf Ski, 4.5 Mile
Mark Athanacio, 0:45:34, 14' SUP, 4.5 Mile
James Douglass, 0:45:45, 14' SUP, 4.5 Mile
Jodi Ziajka, 0:46:43, 12'6" SUP, 2 Mile
Matt Kearney, 0:49:36, 14' SUP, 4.5 Mile
Justin DiGiorgio, 0:50:04, 14' SUP, 4.5 Mile
Murry Hunkin, 0:50:47, 14' SUP, 4.5 Mile
Mark Hourigan, 0:52:31, 14' SUP, 4.5 Mile
Meg Bosi, 0:53:43, 12'6" SUP, 4.5 Mile
Alan Navarro, 0:54:17, 12'6" SUP, 4.5 Mile
Jared Hamilton, 0:56:42, 14' SUP, 4.5 Mile
John Weinberg, 0:58:29, 14' SUP, 4.5 Mile
Mike Clough, 1:00:32, Rec Kayak, 4.5 Mile
Bryan Herrick, 1:03:16, 12'6" SUP, 4.5 Mile
Igor Krasnov, 1:03:16, 14' SUP, 4.5 Mile
Dave Santee, 1:13:39, 14' SUP, 4.5 Mile

The course is actually ~4.3 miles, not 4.5 miles, so our speeds are not *quite* as impressive as they look. Mine works out to 9.14 kph (5.68 mph) which is really good for me- near my fastest all-time speed on this course, which was set in cooler weather. Close competition and drafting definitely helps. My goal is to get a few tenths of a kph faster over this distance so I can have a chance of hanging with the faster draft trains at the big Florida races.

After the race there was a glorious buffet spread in the CGT shop, which included amazing pulled pork slider sandwiches on potato rolls. Come on out and join us at the next one on July 12th! See the full schedule of CGT races in my sidebar.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sloppy Squares - 8 km grid workout SUP in the ocean

It's common sense that you should rest (not workout) the day before a tough athletic event like a SUP race. But it's less clear what you should do two days before. I asked on the "standupzone" forum what kind of SUP training is recommended for the day before the pre-race rest day and got some interesting replies. (See thread.)

The consensus was to do the same distance or maybe a longer distance than the race, but not at 100% race pace. Since the CGT Summer Race #1 on Sunday will be 6.9 km I figured 8 km would be good to do for the practice. Also, even though the race is going to be in a glassy river, I figured it would be more fun to do the practice in the Gulf of Mexico, which is cleaner with nice swimming and sunset views, plus the added interest of less than perfectly flat water.

The only problem with doing a set distance in the ocean is that there are few landmarks and no paths to follow. If you have a GPS you can meander around randomly until you hit your mileage goal, but I like to be more organized than that. So during lunch at work I sketched out a route on my notepad that looked something like this.

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I was planning to sketch it out on the sand for my training buddies, but I was a couple minutes late to the beach in the evening and they were already on the water. I explained it as best I could on the water and we started off. My goal was to paddle at 8.5 kph, which is a little less than the 9+ kph I'm going to be shooting for in the race. I told the other guys that if I got ahead they should cut corners to keep up. (Usually I'm fastest in this group.) The wind was light but there were some ankle- to knee-high chops coming in from when it was windier earlier in the day. That made it a little trickier to balance and find the right rhythm, but I like those conditions, and my Fanatic Falcon board handles them well. Anyway, I did the whole workout as planned, although most of the rest of the guys got bored or confused or tired and went back to the beach before the end. My own squares weren't all that square, either. (See below.)

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Nevertheless, I thought it was a successful workout challenge. I'm particularly pleased with how the route gives you a chance to navigate at nearly every orientation with respect to whatever the wind and chop might be doing. Riding the bumps on the way back in was the best. :) Hopefully this workout hit the nail on the head and I'll be ready for the race on Sunday.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sarasota SUP Championships 2015

I went up to Siesta Key this morning for the Sarasota SUP Championships. Siesta Key is famous for being voted the USA's #1 Beach. I found it to be quite nice indeed, with clear water, fine white sand, and free parking. The SUP event was big and well-organized, with lots of sponsor tents, a stage for the MC and a band, fancy lunch, etc. It was also well-attended, with lots of participants in a 10k "Elite" race, 5k "Open" race, relay race, kids race, etc. (Pic is start of the 10k race. Map shows the race course. 2 laps was 5k, 4 laps was 10k. You had to get off at the beach in the middle of each lap and run around some flags, but that's not shown on the gps because board caddies kept your board in the shallow water ready for you to jump back on it.)

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Fastest paddler in the world Danny Ching was there, lending his celebrity and kicking everyone's ass in the 10k race.

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Lots of the top riders at the state level were there, too, (see Brad Ward, Connor Bonham, and Garret Fletcher in first pic below) along with some tough amateurs around my own pace (see second pic below with me in white rashguard behind David Dean and John Sekas who both beat me despite being in the 50+ age division).

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Competitively speaking, I didn't do very well in this race, even compared with my other races this spring. My time was 1:14:28 over 10.43 km (6.48 miles) for a pace of 8.4 kph (5.22 mph). One HUGE and embarassing mistake I made was forgetting to attach my GPS to the board until the last minute when we were standing on the starting line, then having the start whistle blow while I was messing with it and my camelback was off. For 15 or 20 seconds after everyone else had started I was stuck fiddling around on the beach like an idiot. That probably cost me more time than just the 15 or 20 seconds because it put me in the rough water of the crowd of slower people and blew my chance to save some energy early by linking with a draft train of similar speed riders. Also I fell off once during the early part of the race, which didn't help any with my catching up. A couple times later in the race I drafted the guy ahead of me for a bit, but I just didn't have the energy to stay on him. Although I think my fitness level is at least as high it has been for most of my recent SUP races, I found this race super duper exhausting. For one thing, it was very hot and humid- already over 30C when the race started. Although I took some sips from a camelback full of dilute gatorade during the race, I think I may not have been hydrated enough before the race started. I was wearing a visor, sunglasses, dark boardshorts, and a longsleeve rashguard, and I think I might have been cooler if I'd just gone bareback or with a tanktop. I'll also do icewater in the camelback next time. Another thing that might have worn me out and made me slower than usual was my technique. Since watching the video of myself paddling I've been trying to correct some problems with my stroke, but the changes haven't become natural enough yet to actually make me faster- or my fixing some things has created other technique problems. On the last of the four laps of the race I kind of reverted to my old, bad stroke just to use some muscles that weren't worn out yet. A final thing that made this race tough was all the buoy turns and the short beach-runs that you had to do at the completion of each lap. I found out after the first lap that if I did the beach run fast I'd be so exhausted when I hopped back on the board that I could barely paddle at a cruising pace, let alone a race pace. I think practicing some beach runs alternating with SUP sprints would be a killer workout for the future that would help me prepare for more races like this.

The CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards race team made a great showing at this race, and we got our pictures taken with Danny Ching! From left to right there is Matt Kearney who was right behind me in the 10k, Justin DiGiorgio who got first in the 5k, Kevin Hill who got 3rd in 12'6 class in the 10k, Kate Pagan who got 3rd in the 12'6 women class in 10k, Danny Ching who did the whole race at a pace over 6 mph even though he was stopping to talk to the people he lapped, Meg Bosi who was 2nd 12'6 woman in the 5k. Not pictured is Mark Payne who signed up for the 10k but judiciously bowed out after 5k in the torturous heat.
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Florida legend Mark Athanacio won the 50+ age class and overall 12'6 category in the 10k.
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Next races are next weekend. I'm definitely going to the CGT summer race on the Imperial River on Sunday, and I might go to a race in Pompano Beach on Saturday, too.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

East Coast Windsurfing Festival 2015 - You're Doing it Right

Check out this great video by Mike Burns, the organizer of the annual East Coast Windsurfing Festival in Long Island, NY. A couple years ago I went to this with Josh Angulo. Super glad to see they're still doing it and having fun.

2015 ECWF - LI - HD 1080p from Mike Burns on Vimeo.

This makes me want to do some more windsurfing regatta type things. It's nice that SUP is hugely popular now and there's a big SUP race in Florida practically every weekend. It would be so cool if it was like that for windsurfing. Maybe Ace Performer in Fort Myers will host a little event sometime.