Ride The Wave Regatta 2013 and the Great Lakes Surfski Series Finale
This past weekend we had our final race of the inaugural Great Lakes Surfski Race Series. It proved to be another great race with a highly competitive field of paddlers
A Pure Downwind Course
Last year we had a strong showing of surfskis in the long distance Marathon Race that follows Indiana’s beautiful slice of shoreline on the southern tip of Lake Michigan. The race organizers were extremely appreciative to have the surfskis and wanted to ensure they accommodated our requests for the next year. We all indicated that the 19.3 miles was a challenging distance and it would be great if it could be setup as a point to point downwind. Sure enough, Ken Stelter and crew made it happen for this year.
The plan was to start at Marquette Beach in Gary, Indiana and head Northeast along the shoreline to Washington Park beach in Michigan City. The organizers thought it all through very well and had the racers meet to stage their boats at the start, then drive to the finish where a bus was waiting to haul them back to the start.
My (All too Familiar) Race Story
I had vowed before the race that I was going to change my strategy and paddle with my nemesis Greg Greene for the entire race and then try to out sprint him at the finish. Of course the gun sounded and that plan went right out the window. I chased Erik Borgnes for the first half mile then dropped back as I realized there was no way I could stay with him without burning out. I was parallel with Mark Anich during this time and thought maybe my best strategy would be to get on his draft. I moved over behind him, but after a very short period concluded that there wasn’t much draft benefit and I needed to see clean water to decipher the small runs that were out there. I also thought it might be a better strategy to head further out away from shore. I was more than content to take up a position in 4th place (Rob Hartman was out in front of Erik). The thought of falling back to stick with Greg did occur to me, but I felt that there was enough wave action that I just had to paddle my own race and focus on catching the runs.
Shortly after moving out I heard Jon Sanborn come up behind me and crack a few jokes. I was surprised to even be in front of Jon and figured that Greg was probably pretty nearby. I assumed at that point Jon would stay right with me, but I was starting to see a few small runs opening up so started putting a lot of effort into linking a few and opened a small gap. Eventually Mark and I were on the same line with him about 30 yards in front of me. We had a lot of boat wakes and rebound waves coming off the various breakwalls which definitely kept things interesting. At about mile 5 it felt like we finally got clear of the confused stuff and had a few miles of really nice small runs.
Should Have Payed Better Attention at the Start
Prior to the race start, I wasn’t able to catch all the details about the midway check in point so as we started nearing that I just tried to follow Mark’s lead. As Mark started getting in closer to shore for the checkpoint the runs seems to disappear and it felt like a long grind into the check point. In my foggy state I hoped that possibly we didn’t need to check in and the safety kayak floating 40 feet offshore would record our numbers. That was not the case and I had to crank a 90 degree turn into shore. Denny Paull was already heading directly for the check-in point and beat me to it by about 20 seconds. I think we were probably running parallel for a long time, but I just never noticed him in my field of view. Getting back into the water after the checkpoint I saw Denny was staying fairly close to shore and thought maybe I could get better runs and gain on him further offshore. By this time Mark had extended his lead quite a bit, holding a very high and consistent cadence, not missing a beat.
Running Out of Gas
I knew Denny would be tough to keep up with and by about mile 14 he was starting to open a solid gap on me. At this point there wasn’t much to be had for runs and/or I just didn’t have the strength left to catch them. I knew I was now well beyond the distance I’m trained for and was just hoping I could hold it together enough to fend off Jon and Greg. I dug deep and tried to really focus on technique, extending my arms, and getting a good forward catch. But whenever I felt the boat on even the smallest run I would take the opportunity to rest. I was deteriorating quickly and watching the GPS just trying to take it mile by mile. By mile 17 I was pretty much finished, with my hands good and blistered up and everything starting to shut down. But still no Jon and Greg so I was using that to keep me moving.
As we neared the final harbor wall, sure enough, here came Jon and Greg making their move from the outside in the last ½ mile. We had several motor boats going in and out along with a large sailboat which made it pretty crazy as we crossed in front of the harbor and at this point I was purely in survival mode and had nothing left to respond to the attack Greg and Jon were putting in.
Jon pushed it so hard to the finish that he puked after crossing the line. He edged out Greg by a few feet and the two of them had 30-40 feet on me. I have to give it to Jon for digging deep into the pain zone for that one.
So in the end I slipped from 4th to 7th place. I failed to start my Garmin until after the midway checkpoint, so I don’t know how the pace was for the first 9 miles, but it felt like there were definitely some fast miles in there. I can see from my Garmin track for the second 9 miles that I actually held it together pretty good until the last 4 miles. 19.3 is just a brutally long distance for me.
Great Lakes Surfski Race Series Awards Time
Following the race it was time to celebrate and give out the awards for the Great Lakes Race Series as well as the Fastest Mile Challenge. Unfortunately I was in no shape to enjoy it. I bonked pretty hard and was really struggling with dehydration and nausea that I just couldn’t shake. Nonetheless, we had prizes to award, so I pulled it together enough to raffle off the hard earned prizes with drawing assistance from my son Hayden. At the suggestion of some of the top series contenders, we decided that everyone who completed at least 3 of the series races would be eligible for the prizes and they would all be simply raffled off.
Epic and Stellar both agreed to donate very generous prize offerings to this year’s inaugural series. TC Surfski also donated small prizes for all the Fastest Mile winners throughout the summer.
I’ll plan to write more about the series in a later blog, but overall it was an incredible first year. We certainly generated more excitement and enthusiasm for surfski racing in the Great Lakes than has been seen before. It was a bummer to lose the legendary Chicago Shoreline Marathon this season, but hopefully it will be back next year, and if not – we’ll find another venue on the Great Lakes to replace it and work to get the prize money needed to lure the international contingent over from San Francisco.
A huge thank you to Ken Stelter, Dan Plath, and the rest of the Northwest Indiana Paddling Associate for another great race. The organization and safety coverage is absolutely top notch, not to mention the prize money, this year they awarded $500, $250, and $100 to the top three finishers.
It is sad to see the season wrap up, but also a good time to go back to the drawing board and start planning for next year. I have a lot of work to do both on my own racing performance and also in organizing the series and driving even great participation next year. I should have more time now for blogging, so will try to keep everyone updated on my latest thoughts and plans and of course I welcome all your feedback and recommendations.
P.S I’ll post the updated points totals and race results on my website as soon as I get them. You can see more pictures on my Facebook Page