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.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

River Current Effects on Paddling Speed - With Calculator

A while ago I was thinking about how river current slows down the racers in the CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards race series on the Imperial River. It's obvious that the current slows you down when you're paddling against it, and speeds you up when you're paddling with it. It's the same principle as walking the right way on an airport moving sidewalk vs. the walking the wrong way on an airport moving sidewalk; going with the flow gets you to your destination faster, going against the flow gets you there slower. What's less obvious is how the flow affects the time of a round-trip journey, where you go with the flow one way but have to go against the flow the other way. Does the time saved going with the flow make up for the extra time it takes when going against the flow?

It turns out the answer is, "No." You always lose more time going against the flow than you save going with the flow. There's not much difference if the current is very slow relative to the speed of the paddler, but the stronger the current is, and the slower the paddler is, the more the paddler's overall time is reduced relative to her time on a course with equal distance but no current. If it's hard to wrap you mind around that, maybe the math will convince you.

The formula for the total time it takes to complete a round-trip course up and down a flowing river is: t = d/(v+c) +d/(v-c)

d = 1 way distance of course
v = racer speed relative to the water
c = river current speed
t = time to complete course

If you don't want to do the math yourself, here's a pre-made spreadsheet you can use to see how much your speeds and trip times are affected by a river current. If you don't know what the river current is, the spreadsheet can figure it out for you from the difference between your upriver and downriver speeds.

There are some simplifying assumptions made in these calculations. One assumption is that the current is uniform in the river- it doesn't increase or decrease as you go upriver or downriver, or shift from one side of the river to another. Of course we know that's not true. In fact, we may be able to cheat the river current time penalty (at least to some extent) by picking the swiftest part of the river when paddling downstream, and picking the slowest part of the river when paddling upstream. I'll certainly be trying to do that in the CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards race tomorrow morning.

Maximum Heart Rate and Training Zones Excel Calculator

Since getting into standup paddleboard racing I've started paying attention to physiological aspects of fitness, like Heart Rate (HR). I'm no expert in HR, but here's what I've learned from the Internets:

1. HR is a measure of how many times your heart beats in a given time period. It's usually expressed as bpm: beats per minute.
2. Your heart beats slower when you are resting, and faster when you are exercising.
3. There is a big difference between your "resting HR" and your "maximum HR".
4. Exercise scientists divide the range between resting HR and maximum HR into about 5 "zones" of exercise intensity.
6. Each person's resting HR, maximum HR, and zones are unique to that person, but there are some trends in HR based on age and fitness level.
7. Resting HR is usually 50-80 bpm, but it tends to be lower in more fit people and higher in out-of-shape people.
8. Maximum HR tends to be >200 bpm for kids, and decreases steadily with age. Fitness training doesn't increase your Max HR, but it might help maintain it as you age.
9. There's a "rule of thumb" for calculating your maximum HR. It's: Max HR = 220 - Age. There's also a more precise formula: Max HR = 211 - (0.64 x Age). (Nes et al. 2012)
10. Due to natural genetic variability, it's common for your true Max HR to be up to 20 bpm higher or lower than the Max HR predicted by the formula.
11. To figure out your true Max HR you need to do a "stress test," which involves exercising, increasing the intensity to 100%, and measuring your HR at that point. Fun!

There are lots of charts and guides figuring out your heart rate zones and training, but I wanted to make one that could be easily customized for an individual. So, I came up with the excel version below. Try it out and let me know what you think.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

SUP Race Report: RK Sunshine Sup Series #1

Public facebook photo album from the race. Thanks Rhonda for the pictures. :)

Race: The first of two races in the RK Sunshine SUP Series. The next one is August 27th.

Date it happened: 18 June 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 wife Rhonda and I drove over on Friday and stayed at the cute, affordable (in the summer off-season) Seahorse Motel. Off the beach in front of the hotel Rhonda and I snorkeled and saw neat fishes, including sociable Gray Triggerfish. Though the "reef" was mostly dead rock with sponges and algae, there were occasional live corals, including one healthy-looking endangered Staghorn Coral. My CGT Teammate Matt and his runner wife Ali 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 big rectangle parallel to the beach, bounded by swim marker buoys on the inside edge and two giant inflatable red buoys on the outside edge. It was set up so that you started at the north end of the rectangle and did laps, clockwise. It was a lot like the Battle on the Blueway in that arrangement, except that the laps were shorter and there were more of them. The "rec" race was 3 laps, and the "elite" race was 6 laps. I had 10.36 km on my GPS at the end of the elite race. There was also a short distance of running in the sand, through a little corral, between each lap.

Conditions: It was sunny, hot, and humid. The Atlantic was quite flat because the wind was from the West. Cooling off by swimming before (and in some cases during) the race was essential. It also helped that we brought a shade tent to lounge under and an ice chest to keep our water cold. The ocean was so clear it was a bit disorienting to see the bottom far below while standing on the board.

Participants: There were lots of people in both the elite and the recreational races. There were also lots of kayak fishermen there for a tournament that shared the same stage and tent city as the sup race. (It got stinky in the afternoon when they were all bringing their fish back for the weigh-in.) From my local sup group, the CGT Tribe, we had coach Mark Athanacio, Jen Hayes, Matt Kearney, and me. Mark and Matt both used 12'6 Hoviesup boards in this race- the first race on 12'6 for Matt who usually rides a 14' 404 v3. Unlike last weekend's Battle on the Blueway there were no out of state pros in the men's race, but on the women's side there was Mariecarmen Rivera Rivera from Puerto Rico and Valeria Salustri from Costa Rica. Semi-pro Hoviesup riders Brad Ward and Kieran Grant were absent, but another extremely talented Hovie rider, Jake Portwood, put in a killer race on a 14' footer that should have Brad and Kieran worried. (Mr. Portwood usually races 12'6.) Another hotshot there was hulking bodybuilder Josh Smart (NSP Boards, Werner Paddles) who was 2nd place after Kieran last year. Last year's 12'6 champ Zach Rousanville was also there, but riding a 14' Indigo board this year. In the women's, Florida's top two (Seychelle Hattingh and Kim Barnes) were absent, and hotshot Victoria Burgess (Starboard) couldn't race because she had to run the event. But veteran racers Mini de Cuna Marageth Lagace and Mary Ann Boyer were there, along with Boga SUP's fast and photogenic Catherine Uden. Lots of other awesome people who I've gotten to know through racing were also there but this would go on forever if I mentioned everyone by name.

Results: The rec race had divisions for non-raceboards and 12'6 raceboards for men and women. Rostislav Zalesak won the 12'6 men's in 39:13, and Jen Hayes won 12'6 women's in 43:22. Yen Loyola overcame an ankle injury to win non-raceboard men's in 43:36 and Chelsea Loder won non-raceboard women's in 47:57. In the elite race, the men's 14' podium was Jake Portwood 1:10:47, Jake Graham 1:11:29, and me 1:11:39. (Thank god Jake Stepp wasn't there this week.) Women's 12'6 podium was Mariecarmen Rivera Rivera 1:20:33, Mary Ann Boyer 1:20:50, and Cat Uden 1:20:53. Men's 12'6 podium was Packet Casey 1:13:07 on a Zulu sup, Mark Athanacio 1:13:14 on a Hovie Comet GT, and Jamie Twigg in 1:14:44. Matt Kearney got 4th in the 12'6 class in 1:17:18 on a Hovie Comet ZXC that he just picked up from Hovie rider Katherine Pyne. Impressively, Matt actually beat some of the 14' paddlers who he has struggled against in the past (sorry Jason Casuga). I think 12'6 suits Matt's lightweight build, and the Comet ZXC is a very efficient board. I was pleased with the mix of luck and hard paddling that got me 3rd this year, after getting 4th last year. Some of last year's racers had less luck this year. Josh Smart snapped his paddle blade in half at the start, maybe in the process of superman-jumping onto his board, which has raised rails like a canoe. Josh had to do the first lap with a loaner paddle that was too short, and the rest of the race with another loaner paddle, which cost him a lot of time. Zach Rousanville hadn't been able to train for a month and cramped up early in the race, but held on and still finished alright. Full results are posted here on paddleguru.

Gear: This time I used "Fletchy," my 14x23.75 carbon Riviera, rather than my newer 14x22 Riviera. My thinking was that the lighter weight, slightly greater width, and more curved "rocker" of Fletchy would help me out with the many buoy turns and beach starts in this race. The 14x22 would have been fine, as well, and perhaps a bit faster on the straightaways, but I'm still not as comfortable on that board as on Fletchy.

Play by play: For the beach start I lined up next to Matt Kearney. During the sprint for the first buoy I slowed both of us down a bit by whacking my paddle into the nose of his board. I was in a mediocre position at the first buoy, but rounded cleanly and got up to speed in an outside lane on the straightaway, where I was able to start passing people. It took longer to reel in the good starters who were close to me in board speed, like fast 12'6ers Mark Athanacio and Packet Casey. Athanacio was upset that I got right in front of him after I passed him, because it made him have to change paths to avoid being accused of drafting out of class. Whoopsie daisy!

If I remember right, I stayed in turbo speed until it was just Jake Portwood and Jake Graham that were ahead of me. (Part of my strategy for this race, based on my experience in 2015, was to go extra hard on the first lap to stay near the leaders and avoid getting stuck in traffic at the beach run corral.) It helped that I was able to get in Jake Graham's draft. I didn't think I'd be able to catch Portwood, but I hoped that Graham, a really fit young guy on a slick 14x24 Rogue SUP, would pull us up to him. It didn't happen- Portwood was too strong and steady and gradually extended his lead.

Saving a tiny bit of energy by drafting Graham gave me enough to be peppy in the beach run and restart, and allowed me to catch Graham's draft again. Win! Sometime in one of the early laps, maybe the second, I thought Graham might be slowing down and I told him I could pull for a while if he'd let me pass, which he did. As fast as he is, he apparently isn't very comfortable drafting, and it tired him out more trying to draft than just paddling on his own. (Sometimes I feel the same way. Especially behind people like Athanacio who make lots of bubbles and chop.) Anyway, because of that I was actually a few board lengths ahead of Jake Graham for a while... enough to glimpse a hope of getting second place. Of course, there were many more laps to go.

As the draining heat took its toll in successive laps, my beach runs and restarts got less peppy, and my form and cadence deteriorated. I was thankful for beefy board-handler Yen Loyola pushing the back of my board each time I hopped on. But instead of sprinting off after re-mounting I was only able to make weak, slow strokes until my systems came online enough to find a little power again. (This is something I might be able to address with training. Athanacio advocates short paddle sprints alternating with short beach runs in soft sand to quickly deplete your whole body energy systems and force you to adapt to that sort of running-on-empty feeling.) Jake Graham caught back up to me on maybe the 4th lap and I had to limp into his draft again. I stayed there for a while. However, after the next beach run I didn't have the energy/willpower left to catch back up to him. At least I held myself together for the rest of the race and finished only 10 seconds behind. I was very happy with my 3rd place result and the cool tiki totem wood carving trophy that I got.

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

It was interesting comparing my performance in this race to how I did in the 2015 Sunshine Sup Race #2. The heat, wind conditions, and total race distances were almost identical, but there was one less lap last year, therefore four fewer buoy turns and one fewer beach run. I averaged 0.21 kph faster this year. That likely owes to: 1) more training and race experience, 2) drafting, 3) not falling down, 4) not jumping off too early at the beach corral, 4) pushing a little harder (my average HR this year was 183 vs. 181 last year), and 5) my Riviera board being a little better at flatwater speed and buoy turns than the Fanatic Falcon I rode last year.

Other race intrigues: The fishing tournament was interesting but I was sad that so many strong, beautiful ocean creatures were being killed just for the competition. Some went straight into the garbage can. WTF?! I like the idea of kayak fishing being more fair and sporting than fishing from huge, super-powered motorboats but it's far from perfectly green.

What's Next: I'm not going to any more races for a while. (There aren't as many during the heat of the summer in Florida.) But I'll keep practicing, and try to work on some of the things that are holding me back, like my beach starts. I also want to revisit my stroke to see if I can improve it.