M22 Challenge 2012
The past two months have been hectic to say the least, managing between family, my full time job, and launching a new start up business on the side. Needless to say, training has been very limited and I really wasn’t sure what to expect in the M22 Challenge this year.
What a Difference Two Years Makes
Wow, what a difference between the 2010 race and 2012. I was unable to race last year because I was visiting family in Alaska. When I did the race in 2010 there were approximately 250 racers, two surfskis (my Epic V10 and Valhalla that I loaned to a friend), and a performance kayak (Denny Paul paddling an Epic 18x). Fast forward to 2012 and there were 800 registered racers and a small fleet of surfskis all staged in the Elite section. I quickly realized my days of enjoying an unfair advantage in the water were quickly coming to an end. I was also quite perplexed as to where all these surfskis had come from, but nonetheless excited to see that they are out there.
I woke up Saturday morning to the sound of rolling thunder and was not overly excited to get out of bed and go face the reality that my days of being a top ten finisher may have come to an end. Luckily the storm passed quickly and by the time I got to the race site the weather was great. It was warming up quickly but there was a nice breeze ensuring it wouldn’t get too hot.
I lined up in the Elite wave and the gun went off promptly at 9:00 and we were off and running. It was basically a sprint for about a ½ mile until we got to the sand dune. I looked down at my HR monitor at the start of the sand dune climb to see that at 164 I was ten beats higher than I’d seen in about 3 years. Time to slow down a little, which meant masses of people passing me. Finally off the sand dune and I was able to settle into a nice pace for the remaining mile or so of running.
The transition to the bike went smooth and luckily I have a nice equipment advantage there, pedaling a decked out Cervelo P3. In the first 2-3 miles I quickly passed 20-30 bikers and got out into my own space. I was never able to close on the leaders and only passed 3 or 4 more bikers over the course of the next 14 miles. In the first two years the bike portion started first and it was a completely different ride, as the packs of strong riders all stuck together with suspect drafting and a lot of jockeying back and forth. Thankfully, there was none of that for me this year. At one point in my lack of oxygen induced delirium I actually thought I had strayed off course. I do find it harder to push myself when there is no moving target in front of me, but overall the Cervelo road smooth and I made up quite a bit of time that was lost on the run and didn’t get passed by anyone.
Transition to the Paddle
My transition to the paddle went smooth until I got in the boat and realized we were starting with a mile leg straight into a 12 knot head wind. It was tough going and I felt like I had no paddle form whatsoever. It is always such a strange transition to come into the boat in a state of complete exhaustion. I managed to pass a few sea kayakers and SUPs and was feeling much better when we rounded the buoy for a little downwind run. Unfortunately we were on a small lake and while the wind was blowing good, the waves were just big enough to be really annoying but not big enough to surf. I passed a few more boats on the short ½ mile down wind run and then rounded the buoy for the final push to the finish. This got tricky as we now had straight on beam waves and I was paddling my Stellar SE with the big volume bow that was getting pushed around by the wind a bit. Luckily after a mile and half of paddling I finally felt my form start to settle in and I was able to make a strong push for the remaining half mile to the finish line.
After losing site of all the leaders at the start of the race, I really had no idea where I stood overall and was pleasantly surprised when I found out that I managed 6 overall along with an age group victory. Between bike and boat, I definitely had the equipment advantage and my years of paddling and biking were able to somewhat overcome the lack of training and racing I’ve done in the past few years.
Reflecting on My Performance
As I reflect on the race the obvious area where I need to improve is the run. And while I do have a new found appreciation and motivation for striving to improve my run technique and become a better runner, when running gets weighed against other options such as paddling, biking, or skiing, it rarely wins out. I have always been a naturally strong biker and used to ride a couple thousand miles a summer. Since my twins were born and I’ve started paddling more, I’ve been lucky to get a 1000 miles in a season. As a result, my bike advantage is gradually declining. In order to get stronger there I’ll need to ride more and just as importantly I need to do leg strengthening work in the gym, which I have not done for over 12 years now. For the paddle I need to practice doing the multi-sport transition and getting into full form quicker in the paddle because in just over 2 miles you don’t have a lot of time to find your form and get into your groove.
Another Great Year
All in all it was an awesome event and a great day for surfski exposure. The first and second place overall finishers (Denny Paull, Jeff Smoke) were both on Epic V12s and I am pretty certain over half of the top ten finishers were on surfskis.
As usual, the M22 crew did a phenomenal job with organization ensuring that the race went off without a single hitch. It has been truly amazing to see them grow the race from 150 in year one to over 700 in year four, and all without any significant hiccups.
I look forward to racing again in 2013 and seeing even more surfskis out there battling for the top spots.