Ride the Wave Regatta 2012
I have to admit I’ve been dragging my feet on writing up this Race/Recap but I figure better late than never and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to write and help promote a great race that I believe has lots of potential to grow into a big paddling event. I would really like to thank Alisha Redelman and Rodney Loosemore for the phenomenal photos they took of the race. I was reluctant to post a blog until I could locate some pictures and these truly capture the beauty of the event.
It has certainly been a busy summer with starting the business and trying to get the word out about surfskis. I’ve ended up doing more racing this year than I ever have in the summer and my family’s enthusiasm and appetite for race weekends is starting to fade. As a result, I was on the fence about whether or not I would make the 4 ½ hour trip south for the Ride the Wave Regatta in Michigan City. Additionally, I knew they had added a 19 mile race for this year and if I went all the way down there I would feel obligated to race it, even though I’m really not trained to go that distance.
My Brilliant Proposal
I remained on the fence most of the week and traded e-mails back and forth with Greg Greene who said he would race if I did. Around the same time I was working on buying a boat trailer from a guy in Lake Geneva, WI. I proposed to Greg that if he could do me a huge favor and pick up the trailer and bring it to the race, then I’d commit to doing the long race and battling it out with him. (Greg and I have been neck and neck in both of the 2 races where we have competed together). Greg agreed to the plan, so it was a done deal and I headed south to Michigan City on Friday evening (the family opted to stay home). It also worked out well that KAS Transport was coming through the area with 3 Stellar S18S boats I had ordered, so I was able to meet them and put the trailer right to work.
I met Greg and Daniel Sikora for dinner in Michigan City on Friday night. I had never been to Michigan City before and was quite impressed with the downtown/beach front community, shops and restaurants. We had dinner at a great Mediterranean restaurant named Sahara. Greg of course downplayed all the hassles with picking up the trailer and said it was no big deal, but the more I probed I could tell it was anything but convenient for him. I knew I had to put up a good fight at the race on Saturday to make it all worthwhile for Greg.
We gathered Saturday morning at Washington Park in Michigan City where the morning temps were brisk but the winds were very light. It was shaping up to be a beautiful mid September day. Lake Michigan appeared almost flat calm.
After a brief safety meeting and course overview we all put our boats in the water and started getting ready for the start. We had about 10 surfskis paddling the long 19 mile course. Rob Hartman and Simon Longdill were preparing for a rematch after their last race together at the TC Waterman.
Another Wicked Fast Start
The gun went off and as I suspected, Rob and Simon launched off the start at a wicked pace. I had no delusions of staying with them for long but was hoping to just keep them in sight for as long as possible. It felt again very similar to the TC Waterman race where I took off at full speed and probably clocked the first mile somewhere in the 7.5 + mph range and then faded from there as I realized there was no chance I could keep that pace for 19 miles. Rob and Simon were paddling side by side as I slowly watched them get further and further ahead of me mile by mile.
Challenged to Stay Present
While the water appeared calm at the start, as is usually the case with Lake Michigan, it was definitely not flat. There was just a gentle rolling movement in the water, what I refer to as “soupy” feeling. There were times on the first leg that while you were generally going into the waves you would also find yourself catching small runs. It was just those strange type of conditions I know we’ve all experienced. The biggest challenge for me was to keep my focus and stay present (practice what I preach) This proved amazingly tough as I felt like I was out there alone almost the entire race doing a long 19.5 mile time trial. I found that as soon as I would let my mind wander, a wave would catch me from the side and throw me off my rhythm. It was never enough to dump me out of the ski, but just enough to throw off my stroke and cost me a couple seconds. Adding these up over the course of 19 miles would definitely cost me real time.
As we neared the turn around point (9.7 miles into the race) I was definitely starting to fade. I had some Clif blocks in my life jacket and was planning to gobble as many of those as possible when I pulled up on the beach at the turn around. I also planned to fish out my camel bak hose and get some much needed hydration.
After completing the check in and heading back out I realized (as I somewhat suspected) that Greg was not far behind me. He was clipping along next to Steve Horney and Matt Meersman who where in a tandem outrigger. I knew Greg would be coming on strong on the return leg and I would have to really push hard to keep my lead.
Feeling Good After the Turnaround
The first couple of miles after the turn around felt great. I was able to get some fuel in me which really helped and also we had a welcome change of conditions. I was now catching some small runs and feeling pretty good. (In hindsight – after reviewing my GPS I wasn’t moving as fast as I thought – lesson learned – keep the GPS in site where you can see the speed – this may have motivated me more). I even managed to convince myself that I was opening up the gap on Greg and securing my 3rd place finish in the money. It was not to be, at around mile 16 just as I was really starting to fade the conditions were changing, the lake was waking up and it was getting choppy. From around mile 16 onward it became sheer survival for me. I was optimistically hoping I could still hold onto my position, but I knew Greg had excellent endurance and great stability in his Huki S-1X and he would be closing the gap quickly. Sure enough, at around mile 18, Greg came into my view and took the lead. He had chosen to take a wider line and angled offshore in the first few miles after the turnaround. This allowed him to keep an eye on me and catch some nice runs as he angled back closer to shore and toward the finish around the pier.
The Bonk Begins
In addition to all my energy systems shutting down and the choppy water, there also seemed to be a current running closer to the shore coming off the pier / harbor walls. Knowing the way water moves around objects, I should have anticipated this and taken a better line, but it was all I could do at the time just to keep moving.
When Greg first pulled ahead I tried to respond and stay with him but just flat out couldn’t do it. In the end our third race together ended much the same as the prior two. I had the lead for a good portion of the race, but just couldn’t hold off Greg at the end. There is definitely no shame in losing to Greg, although he is nearly 20 years my senior, he is a phenomenal athlete and great inspiration proving that you can compete at an elite level well into your late 50s and 60s.
The biggest lesson I learned from this race is that to remain efficient in choppy / beam type conditions you have to stay 100% focused on keeping your paddle stroke going consistently. It only takes a split second of losing this focus and the waves will catch the boat just enough to cause you to throw a less than optimal stroke. I was paddling my Stellar SE Excel in this race, which although is a very stable boat, like all light high performance skis, if you aren’t always in control and paddling aggressive, it will react to even the smallest waves.
I recently purchased an Epic V12 Ultra to have for personal racing and for serious racers who are interested in doing a demo. This boat has a reputation for being very reactive and challenging for intermediate paddlers to paddle efficiently in choppy/mixed conditions (as evidenced by Rob, the elite paddlers appear completely un-phased and they actually consider the V12 to be more stable than many other high end racing skis). I’ve only been out a couple times, but I’m finding that again the key is cadence and even more specifically you have to keep the legs connected in the boat at all times. This means as soon as your leg drive/heel pressure finishes on one side it should be starting on the other side. An analogy (as Jasper Mocke mentioned in his Power Paddling Clinic) is to imagine someone is constantly pushing you from the side (the waves). When standing on both feet with knees bent you can resist this push pretty easy. Pick one foot up off the ground and all of a sudden that push really impacts you. I equate the foot off the ground to not having heel pressure in the boat. It makes you susceptible to the waves. My theory is that the pros can manage the most unstable of boats in the gnarliest of conditions not only because they have years of experience and amazing balance, but also because they have wired into their muscle memory this high cadence and constant leg drive/heel pressure, which keeps them always on the offensive and controlling the boat versus being hesitant and timid and letting the boat and waves take control.
Tough Distance But Great Race
Although the distance was tough, the Ride the Wave Regatta was a great race and I believe has the potential to continue growing with more promotion. The entire 10 miles of shoreline that we covered was all beautiful big white sand beaches. Lake Michigan is always very warm this time of year and this Saturday was no exception. Based on the location and direction of the course, I suspect there will always be some runs to catch on the return leg (assuming a prevailing west wind). I think the race organizers are open and flexible so maybe in the future we can plan for a point to point downwind based on conditions. The option for the 8 mile race is also very appealing as this is a good challenging distance for beginner paddlers (would have been my preference if I wasn’t committed to battling Greg . If you haven’t been to Michigan City it is truly a great little beach community not very far off of I-94 and definitely worth a short detour to explore.
Below are the race results and some additional great shots of more racers who participated in the 19.3 mile challenge.
18 Mile Lake Michigan Water Trail Marathon
Boat Place First Last Time
103 1 Robert Hartman 2:31:58
105 2 Simon Longdill 2:33:31
102 3 Greg Greene 2:52:28
106 4 Nick Murray 2:54:07
101 5 Barry Bowman 3:07:15
109 6 Daniel Sikora 3:15:35
108 7 William Feiges 3:27:53
110 8 Cliff Alfiche 3:35:26Tandem Sea Kayaks, Men
104 1 Steve Horney 3:02:42
104 2 Matt Meersman 3:02:42
Sea Kayaks, Women
111 1 Bonnie Jagiella 4:10:55
Sea Kayaks, Men
107 1 Kevin Starr 5:00:02
8 Mile Short Course
Boat Num Place First Last Time
202 1 William Bellinger 1:08:35
215 2 Eric Haas 1:13:49
209 3 Ken Stelter 1:28:19
Sea Kayaks, Women
206 1 Cynthia Manestar 1:58:58
203 2 Marlene Bertolozzi 1:59:09
205 3 Mary Beth Lies 2:01:25