M22 Challenge 2013 – A Family Affair
After three flights and an overnight of travel, I just re-oriented myself with a Red Bull and I’m now on a bus from Gothenburg, Sweden to Jonkoping. So what better time to write up my recap of the 5th Annual M22 Challenge.
First a little background leading up to the race. To say that the last several weeks have been a whirl wind would be a serious understatement, when it rains it pours. I had meetings in Amsterdam the week leading up to the challenge and returned home Thursday evening. Worked from home Friday then quickly got the bikes prepped and boats loaded to head out to Glen Arbor for packet pickup and boat staging and to deliver a new Epic V8 for a customer/racer on Glen Lake.
My Wife Kim Decides to Go from Support Crew to Racer
This was the first year that my wife Kim decided to join in the fun and go from support crew to racing the Challenge. Kim had not done any form of racing in over two years and felt the pressure when I said it wasn’t an option for her to embarrass TC Surfski (joking of course)
In the crazy weeks leading up to the raace we managed to run/ride/paddle the course once and got in two other road rides and two paddles together. Kim focused hard on getting her running form back with a stealth plot to beat me in the run leg. She did several short 3-5 mile training runs with a good friend who pushed her hard.
Between travel for my day job and the expos, immersion camp, surfski series, spring orders, and customer demos for TC Surfski, I had very little time or energy left to train and did not have any expectations for this year’s race other than to put up a good paddle time so I could represent surfskis well.
After a restless night of sleep working through race nerves, jet lag, and excitement for a big day of surfski exposure, we woke up the kids, loaded up the car and headed out to Glen Arbor. The race morning conditions could not have been better. Absolutely no wind, some cloud cover that kept it from being too cold and held the temperature at a very comfortable mid to high 50s.
The Race is On
We didn’t leave a lot of time to spare when we arrived and before I knew it we were lined up at the start, paused for the National Anthem, the gun went off and the race was on. As usual the first third of a mile to the sand dune was an all out sprint. I didn’t even bother to look at my heart rate monitor as I didn’t even want to know where I was at. We hit the dune and I tried “drafting” another runner, stepping in his exact steps. It seemed to help and I got up the dune for the first time without settling for a walk. Once off the dune and into the grass I was still not out of the woods as that is where I sprained an ankle a few years ago and so I am always very cautious and never relieved until we hit the pavement.
Getting onto the bike always feels good and this year was no different. The lack of wind made for a fast and very enjoyable ride. I had not rode my Cervelo P3 time trial bike once all spring, so I opted to keep it real with steel, and race on my 2001 Lemond Zurich. The rusted out steel Zurich made for some good entertainment with other riders during the race, but I can’t complain with the performance. I’ve road that bike for so many years that I’m convinced I have a lot of muscle memory built around it and it is probably equally as fast as the Cervelo P3 when I haven’t logged any miles on it. Additionally, I am trying to sell the P3 because I just don’t have time to race it, so I didn’t want to risk any wear and tear.There was a group of about five or six of us that battled back and forth throughout the ride with everyone being conscious and respectful not to break the drafting rules, but this made it a lot of fun and helped us to push each other.
Hitting the Water
By the time we got to the bike I really had no idea how many people were ahead of me and when I hit the water I still didn’t really have a clue where I stood in the overall and just assumed it probably wasn’t top 10. Nonetheless I was determined to push hard on the paddle and pass as many people as possible. As we rounded the first buoy I came up on Kenyon Fatt who was paddling my very first surfski a Valhalla Victory. The Valhalla has been through some repairs and probably weighs close to 50 lbs before it starts taking on water, but Kenyon still managed to power it through to a top 10 victory.
This year I was padding my Epic V12 Ultra. Normally it would be a toss up between that boat and the Stellar SE, but my Stellar was in for repairs so it made the decision simple. I know the V12 is probably a faster boat, but personally I haven’t yet posted time trial results yet in the V12 that surpass what I’ve done in the SE.
It always amazes me how awkward paddling feels when you transition into it from running and biking. For the first mile or so I don’t feel like I have any form whatsoever. It feels like I am just frantically slapping at the water. I don’t usually settle into something that resembles a decent paddle stroke until after we turn the final buoy for the last ½ mile to the finish. In the end, I managed to make up a lot of ground on the paddle and passed probably 6 or 7 racers. Coming through the finish I still had no idea where I was in the overall standings. I heard some people saying 5th place but I really thought that was too good to be true. But in the end, I guess somehow I pulled it off and managed to maintain my run at M22 with another age group victory.
Upon finishing I quickly took the camera from Stephanie Meyer who was kind enough to take photos and watch our kids as Kim and I raced. I wanted to be sure and document all of my surfski customers coming through the finish line with huge grins on their faces.
Kim ended up with an equally Epic (no pun intended) race performance taking 5th place overall women and winning her age group. After pushing hard on the run (she did not beat my time but came close) she fell back on muscle memory from many years ago when she used to be a real road bike ride,r and posted a very respectable bike time. By the time she hit the water she was on such a high that I think she forgot she was racing and transitioned into surfski promotion mode chatting it up with all the paddlers along the course. She posted a very respectable 26 minute paddle in our demo V8 Performance boat. Pictures at the finish (which she withheld from Facebook) show her with the paddle upside down, but we’re assuming that only happened when she got lodged on the sandbar at the end. If she actually paddled the entire race with an upside down paddle, then I would be scared to imagine what could have been possible. In any case, she is now requesting a V8 Ultra for next year, equipped with a weedless rudder. (we won’t tell her I had a few weedless rudders in the shop but I really didn’t think they would make a difference for her so didn’t bother to put one on)
A Fast Day Overall
The overall results showed it was definitely a fast day. Jeff Smoke set the unofficial course record. I believe Craig Webb logged the unofficial fastest bike time ever at 40 minutes and change. Denny Paull said he was doing 26 mph when Craig flew past him like he was standing still. Denny and Jeff now share 2 wins a piece and the Epic V12 Ultra has now been first through the finish line the last 4 years in a row.
Another Flawlessly Executed Race by the M22 Crew
As usual for the M22 crew, the logistics for race setup and prep were flawless. It was hard for me to believe that the race actually had 850 participants as it felt no different than in the very early years when they only had 250 racers. This is a true testament to the thought and planning that they put into making this a first class 100% professionally run race.
Awesome Day for Surfski Exposure
All said and done it was a great race weekend for TC Surfski. I feel we hit a tipping point with surfski exposure and now everyone who does the race knows what they are and that they are hear to stay and will continue to dominate the podium in paddle racing events. It was great to see my customers coming through the finish line smiling ear to ear as they made up so much ground on the paddle.
Racing M22 is Just the Tip of the Iceberg
I couldn’t be more excited about the exposure and really want to make sure that people realize padding a surfski at M22 Challenge is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how much fun you can have in these boats. There will certainly be an explosion of triathlon racing options for paddlers over the next couple of years, and we are also working very hard to get a full scale Midwest pure paddle race series featuring lots of open water and down wind padding.
It is also important to realize that having a surfski alone will not substantially improve your paddle time. Paddling is a very technique intensive sport much like swimming and cross country skiing. It can take years to get to the top level of paddling, but this can certainly be accelerated through lessons and putting a lot of emphasis on practicing technique. Craig Webb and Steve Andriese (3rd and 4th overall) both attended the TC Surfski Immersion Vacation and I can assure you would attest to how much that helped them achieve a strong paddle performance.
Check out lots more pictures at: TC Surfski on Facebook