Saturday, February 25, 2017

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

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

Date it happened: 25 February 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Winter Race Series Race #5

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

Date it happened: 19 February 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The most dangerous thing about Trump

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

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

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

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

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