Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Double Header SUP Race Weekend

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Whew! After the first week back to teaching at FGCU I had a fun but tiring weekend of standup paddleboard racing. Saturday was the Sunshine SUP Series in Pompano Beach, and Sunday was the CGT Summer Time Trials in Bonita Springs. This is how it went down:

Friday morning- Drove across "Alligator Alley" to the South Florida Water Management District offices in West Palm Beach to give a presentation about algae on seagrass.

Friday afternoon- Drove back across the state to FGCU to sign a student's thesis document just before the deadline.

Friday evening- Came home to pack the van and to coach my own poor grad student in dog-sitting. Then my sweet wife Rhonda drove herself and me across the alley once more to the Sea Horse Motel in Pompano Beach.

Saturday morning- Rhonda dropped me off at the race site for early morning registration, then she went back to the hotel to sleep. I schlepped my 14' x 24.75" Fanatic Falcon down to the shore and got it all set up with my speedcoach GPS. After a bad experience being late for the start in another race I wanted to make sure all my gear was ready way ahead of time. I also brought the 11'8" Exocet WindSUP to the beach to be a snorkeling platform for Rhonda after the race.

I only paddled a tiny bit to warm up because it was really hot with no wind and no shade besides the vendor booths. Mostly I stayed cool and energized by swimming in the water, drinking and refilling cups of water over and over again, and eating bananas and orange wedges from the registration tent. They ran the 6.2 km "rec race" first so it was a long time before the 10.3 km "elite race" started. The course was a north-south rectangle along the beach, about 2 km per lap, 3 laps for the rec, 5 for the elite. (You can see my GPS track and speed + hr data on strava.) The tricky part was that you had to come into shore at the end of each lap, run through a little corral, then hop back on your board, which a "handler" would be wrangling for you at the water's edge.

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Rhonda was at the beach by the time my race started, and it was nice to have her in my corner. The race start was from a lineup on the beach, which is always kind of nerve-wracking and chaotic.
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At least they gave a good starting countdown. I didn't miss the horn, but my running into the water and jumping on the board wasn't quick enough to immediately bust me out of the big crowd of other competitors, which would have given me a good advantage. I at least managed to not fall off on the way out and around the first buoy. On the first leg I passed most of the 12'6 guys and some of the 14' guys who started well but faded. I was behind the real good 14' racers but doing my best to close the gap so I could draft them. That plan was modified when someone behind us called out that we were heading the wrong way for the third buoy. Whoops! Instantly I was ahead of the former leader but behind the new leaders as I backtracked to the correct buoy. I awkwardly rejoined the pack, falling off in traffic at the buoy. I worked on passing some people again, then the fast guys wove through doing the same. I felt a gentle "knock" on the back of my board when eventual winner Kieran Grant was subtly telegraphing that I needed to speed up or get passed. He went around me and I drafted him a bit, but he and some others blew me away with aggressive sprints and buoy roundings into the first beach run. I realized I should have sprinted there, too, because I was just slow enough to get caught in and contribute to an ugly jam at the beach run spot. The board handlers were still wrangling my board when I finished the run, and womens' winner Victoria Burgess' sharp-nosed Coreban board (picture) got wrangled into mine and gouged a divot in the flank. Oh, well.

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In the second lap I regained some positions and settled into the 4th place spot that I would hold for the rest of the race. There were times I thought I miiight be gaining on the 2nd and 3rd place dudes, but as more laps went by it was clear I wasn't. In the end the race was won in 1:11:17 by the very talented young surfer/racer Kieran Grant (HovieSUP).

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Kieran was followed by bearded musclebeast Josh Smart (BlkBox) in 1:11:52.

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Third was handsome highschool athlete Joey Huempfner (BOTE) in 1:11:55. My time was 1:12:47, which I'm pretty excited about. If I keep practicing I might eventually be able to get on the podium in this level of race.

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Saturday afternoon- Rhonda and I paddled out over the reef at the race site to snorkel while trailing our sups on their leashes. There wasn't a lot of live coral, but there was a lot of rock with soft coral, sponges, parrotfish, etc. Any snorkeling in clear tropical water is a win in my book. On the drive home after snorkeling I discovered I had a huge bruise on my leg where the keys in my pocked must have gotten jammed into me by a paddleboard during the race start or one of the traffic jams.



In the 12'6 class it was 20-something Zach Rounsaville, then skinny teenage Connor Rush, then SW Florida 50 year old hero Mark Athanacio. Zach is to my right in first pic, almost as fast on his 12'6 as I am on my 14'. From left in second pic is Connor then Mark.

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Other heroes were Mary Ann Boyer (MAB) and Mini Cunha Marageth Lagace, who seem to have switched from riding BlkBox boards to riding MHL boards.

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Sunday morning- Woke up, had breakfast, and walked down to the Imperial River with my board for the CGT Summer Time Trials. The guys at the shop offered to let me try out a Riviera 14' x 27" raceboard in the race. The Riviera is nice. It's the fiberglass version so it's a bit heavier than carbon, but it has a good blend of cutting the water and gliding on top of the water. In the race I started alongside Mark Athanacio, who rode his 14' Boga Typhoon. Both Mark and I were tired from the Sunshine SUP race the day before (Mark got 3rd in the 12'6 class) so we were happy to trade "pulling" a draft train. Matt Kearney hung with the train for quite a while, too, which shows he's continuing to improve. The current was strong in the river due to it being the height of Florida's wet season, so heading downriver was a lot faster than upriver. We stayed in the channel going down and skirted the edges coming up. We reached the most upriver point in the course, the "bat bridge" during one of the periods when I was pulling the draft train. Mark said something to the effect of once we hit the bridge it would be all-out racing for the final leg back downriver to the finish. So I did my fastest turn around the bridge pylon then my fastest sprint downriver to drop him out of my draft and not let him catch me again until the finish. It was real exciting with the extra speed of the river and all the turns and trees, plus hearing Mark splashing right behind me. I managed to barely stay ahead and got 46:10 to his 46:16 for a squeaker of a win. He still leads me in the series, though.

Next Sunday is a race that Mark is organizing: the Naples Water Tri Challenge. It's a 1 mile swim, 5k run, and 5k sup at the beach, but you can pick and choose which parts you want to do if you're not up for the whole thing. I'm just going to do the run and sup.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

High on low pressure; 4.2 Windsurfing in July in Florida

Two Sundays ago it was really windy and I went windsurfing with 5.5 and 4.2 sails on my smallest board, an old Starboard Evo 83. Caught Dr. Alex Owens getting some air on his Fanatic and Ezzy 5.3. Beware heavy metal music in the video. \m/

Big Wind at Wiggins 7-26-15 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Dusting off my smallest windsurf board (a Starboard Evo 83) for a freak high-wind session in mid summer. In this session I alternated between 5.5 and 4.2 sails. Song is by Volbeat.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

SUP Technique and Training Links


Note: As a modern nerd, I believe that the answer to any question, about anything, can be found somewhere on the Internet. Of course there is no guarantee that the Internet's answer will be easy to find, helpful, or even factual. It takes lots of critical picking-through-the-rocks to find the real gold nugget answers. That's what I've tried to do here with this list of standup paddleboard (SUP) technique and training links. This list is mostly focused on flatwater and race paddling and does not cover how to ride waves, which is a whole 'nuther thing.

SUP Technique and Training Online Resources
Organized by James Douglass
Last Updated 24 May 2015

Larry Cain- http://www.larrycain.ca/sup.html - Larry Cain was an Olympic canoeing medalist for Canada a while back. He’s now a top-level coach and competitor for canoeing and SUP. He’s a good writer and really good about breaking down the details of technique. There’s tons of info on his site to go through, but here are some of the things that I’ve found most helpful.
·      Video of Larry Cain cruising using perfect stroke technique: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oN8GtBh0sU
·      Video series that breaks down each phase of the paddle stroke into a drill that you can practice
o   Applying the catch drill: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dosMoqZa80w
o   Middle of the stroke: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXzZRk8GLtA
o   Achieving max results: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ep2zN4Ne0Y
·      Why it’s sometimes GOOD to fall in: http://distressedmullet.com/2014/11/06/race-faster-fall/

www.ridingbumps.com - Serious (maybe too serious) athletic training tips for paddleboarding. Site is run by a bunch of insane former triathletes. It’s mostly about working out, but there’s some about paddling technique and racing strategy, as well. They have a book and training guides that you have to pay for, too.

www.distressedmullet.com - Sup racing news site that posts a lot of “how to” articles and videos. It’s pretty entertaining and less macho than ridingbumps. These are some good ones from there:
·      Mindset and manners advice for sup racing beginners: http://distressedmullet.com/2015/03/19/view-from-the-back-how-to-be-a-good-beginner/
·      Basics on how to do a pivot turn: http://distressedmullet.com/2014/01/20/how-to-do-a-pivot-turn/
·      Beau Obrien explaining how to do a fast pivot turn, also known as a kick turn: http://distressedmullet.com/2014/03/19/sup-kick-turn/
·      Titouan Puyo cruising vs. sprinting stance tips, and buoy turns video: http://distressedmullet.com/2014/12/11/starboard-sup-racing-techniques-titouan-puyo/
·      How to paddle out through breaking waves: http://distressedmullet.com/2014/09/30/sup-surf-instruction-paddle-breaking-waves/
·      How to brace with the paddle to avoid falling off in bumpy water: http://distressedmullet.com/2014/02/08/bracing-technique-learn-from-werner-paddles/

Dave Kalama Videos: Dave Kalama is a surfing / windsurfing legend of the same vintage as Laird Hamilton. He was one of the original SUP racing dudes and is still a top racer especially in downwind races. His videos are really short, simple, and helpful, mostly focusing on basics of how to feel better and go faster.
·      How to “slow down to speed up”: http://distressedmullet.com/2014/07/31/slow-speed-quickfit-tips-dave-kalama/
·      Mindset and technique advice for workout paddles: http://distressedmullet.com/2015/01/20/get-head-straight-training-paddle-mindset-dave-kalama/
·      Mindset and warmup advice for right before a race: http://distressedmullet.com/2014/12/22/quicktips-pre-standup-paddle-race-prep-dave-kalama/
·      A grip trick to get you to use your torso and core muscles instead of your bicep: http://distressedmullet.com/2015/01/08/quicktips-standup-paddling-roll-fingers/

Jim Terrell Quickblade / Mad Scientist blogs and videos- Jim Terrell is a former Olympic canoe racer who now owns Quickblade Paddles and gives lots of sup gear and technique advice online.
·      Advice on how long to cut your paddle and how low down to grip the paddle with your bottom hand for maximum power and efficiency: http://distressedmullet.com/2014/12/02/quicktips-generate-speed-hand-position-standup-paddle/
·      Stroke analysis comparing different techniques for going fast: http://distressedmullet.com/2014/02/03/quickblade-paddle-stroke-analysis/
For anything not on this list, www.standupzone.com is a good set of online forums to ask specific questions about SUP and have them answered.
Thread about training and racing in Florida heat and humidity: http://www.standupzone.com/forum/index.php/topic,27273.0.html

Maximizing Early Planing on Exocet WindSUP 11'8

A while back I sold my formula windsurfing board. I did it because I wasn't in love with it and because I had too many light-wind watersports options between racing paddleboards, windsurfable paddleboards, and even windsurfable racing paddleboards.

The remaining board that comes closest to filling the early-planing niche of the absent formula board is the Exocet WindSUP 11'8, which is 360 cm long by 80 cm wide, 220 liters volume, and 16 kg (heavy). That is far from the optimal early-planing stats of a formula board (~235 cm long x 100 cm wide, 165 liters, 9 kg), but the WindSUP is not as far behind in planing ability as you might think. With my 9.5 Ezzy Cheetah sail, I could get my formula board "over the hump" to planing in just about 10 knots of wind, whereas on the WindSUP there's a gradual entry to planing between 10 and 12 knots. The type of planing is a little different, though. On a formula board you're really zipping along "riding the fin" and you can go upwind easily. But on the WindSUP, at least with the 44 cm stock fin, you don't have much upwind drive when using a big sail, like the fin is not quite balancing out the weight and pressure of the board and sail so you don't quite get the flying over the water feeling. In my experience the 44 cm fin is plenty for sails up to 8.0 meters squared, but not for the 9.5.

SO, I ordered a 50 cm Hydrotech fin to test with the 9.5 sail. The first time out was one of those frustrating days where the wind was good when I left my house but had sunk to just below the planing threshold by the time I got to the beach. So I didn't plane that time and of course couldn't tell much difference between the new 50 cm fin and the old 44 cm one. Yesterday, though, I got a good session in 10-15 knot winds, and the 50 cm fin really showed its worth. I could put tons of pressure on it with my feet in the outboard footstraps, and translate that pressure into upwind sailing angle. I think it also helped a little bit with early planing and with maintaining a plane through lulls. The next step is to try it with an 11.0 sail to try to find the ultimate early planing limits of the board. :)

Here's the big fin in the board.
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Here you can see the stock 44cm fin and its sheath next to the sheath for the new fin. They say the maximum useful fin size for a board is approximately equal to the width of the board underneath the fin. The old fin was considerably less than that, while the new one is close to right on. Of course, with smaller sails and for waveriding and stuff the WindSUP handles best with smaller fins. The whopper fin is just for early-planing with the biggest sails possible.
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PS- After I got this fin, which I ordered online from Sandy Point Progressive Sports, I realized I probably could have gotten something just as good from the more local Ace Performer shop. Next time I'll try to remember to order from them because I like what they're doing up in Fort Myers, teaching lots of people to windsurf and sup at the Sanibel Causeway, keeping windsurfing somewhat alive in Southwest Florida.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Rare Midsummer Wavesailing Session

Summer in SW Florida is generally a really bad season for windsurfing. It's rarely windy enough to plane, even with the biggest boards and sails. But yesterday was an exception, with a big low pressure system roughing up the Gulf of Mexico and bringing a stiff onshore breeze to Wiggins Pass State Park. I got out on a 106 liter Exocet Cross II board and a 6.4 KA Kult sail and took some video with my GoPro. The song in the video is by the Misfits.

July Wiggins 7-25-15 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Rare windy day in the middle of Florida's stagnant summer season. I'm riding a 106 liter Exocet Cross II and a 6.4 KA Kult sail. Music is the Misfits.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Post race analysis of SpeedCoach SUP 2 data

Today was the second of the CGT Summer Time Trials paddle races in the Imperial River. For this one I used one of the shop's demo boards: a 14' x 27" 404 v3 raceboard in PVC construction. The board is 2.25" wider than my own board (Fanatic Falcon), making it a lot more stable and a wee bit harder to maintain at top speed. My time was 47:54, second place after Mark Athanacio who got 46:34. Both Mark and I were slower than we were in the first race, probably because we weren't drafting each other like we did that time. Also it was really hot- 31C already when the race started.

This was the first race where I used the NK SpeedCoach SUP 2 and heartrate monitor during the race. Over the last week I've been fidding with the SpeedCoach a lot and figuring out how to do some more stuff with it. There are two formats that the device can export data in: .csv and .fit. The former file type is a data table that can be opened in Microsoft Excel and used to make graphs, etc. The latter includes latitude/longitude coordinates and can draw your path in a mapping program. It's not entirely straightforward to draw your path, though. Here's how I've done it so far.

1. From the "NK Link" program that goes with the SpeedCoach, you export the data as a .fit file.
2. You upload the file to an online fit to tcx converter and download the .tcx file.
3. You use the website "GPS Visualizer" to generate a Google Earth format (.kml) file from the .tcx file. GPS Visualizer gives you lots of options for the conversion. I picked "colorize by speed" to show different rainbow colors to my track depending on how fast I was going. I'm not satisfied with that feature, though, because the colors aren't a smooth blend. My track just looks like a birthday confetti of colors and there's no easily readable key to what color is what speed.
4. You download the .kml file produced by GPS Visualizer and open it in Google Earth. Then you can get whatever zoom and angle you want to view your track.

I've combined the GPS track and some of the data from the race into the graphics below. Getting the axes to look right in the Y versus elapsed time graphs was tricky. I had to tell Excel to use 0.000694444 (which is [1/24]/60) as the major unit on the x axis so that the numbers would go minute by minute instead of in weird decimals. Also, you need to make the graphs as scatterplots, then choose "no markers" for the markers and add a connecting line. If you try to make a line graph directly it doesn't work as well. Anyway, here are the pictures and some story to go with them:

The course starts at the dock at Riverside Park in Bonita Springs, and goes East, downriver, towards the Gulf of Mexico. The river is tidally influenced so sometimes, like this morning, the water actually flows upriver. So we were paddling against the current a bit on the first leg. You can tell that going upriver was favored because of the boost of speed I get at 17 minutes, which is right after I turn around the downriver buoy and start coming upriver with the tide. The next part of the race I mostly get slower and slower, which is probably due to a combination of fatigue, my technique slipping, less favorable current, and the upriver section being narrower with more bends.
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Looking at the heart rate graph you can see some neat patterns that don't show up in just the speed alone. One is that after the strain of the initial 90 seconds of sprinting, my bpm actually declines for a few minutes. That's because I'm drafting behind Brandon Gunderson's Hobie Apex 4R 14-5.75. I didn't have to paddle as often or as hard to maintain my speed then as I when I wasn't drafting. I passed Brandon after 5 minutes and he drafted me off and on until the buoy turn at 17 minutes when I lost him. Even though I was a little faster, it might have been a good strategic move to keep Brandon along and have him lead for a while so I could rest. My heart rate got really high going hard upriver in the blazing heat, sometimes getting above my age-based maximum safe heart rate recommendation of 184 bpm. At 25 minutes I could feel my heart skip a beat and thud in an uncomfortable way. That happens to me occasionally when I'm in the middle of a long hard stretch, but this is the first time I got to capture it on the heart rate monitor. I eased off the throttle to recover back down to 170ish bpm, and tried to keep below 184 until the very end of the race. It's interesting that my speed was getting slower and less consistent in the last 25% of the race even though my effort (heart rate) was steadily high. That might have something to do with my technique slipping. When fitness trainer Mark Athanacio (who had started about a minute behind me) passed me on the way to the upriver buoy he reminded me to straighten up and recover a bit between strokes to get a better breath and to be able to load more weight onto the next stroke.
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I find that stroke rate is the hardest thing to interpret from the SpeedCoach data. For one thing there are always some spikes of weirdly high or low stroke rates. Low stroke rate might happen when switching sides paddling, and apparently high stroke rate might be the result of the sensor getting bumped or jostled by stepping around on the board or rocking in the waves. Despite the blips, there does seem to be a trend of high stroke rate being associated with faster speed. I think one of my instincts when I get tired is to take slower but deeper strokes. However, in terms of speed gained vs. energy spent, it might be better if I can train myself to keep a relatively fast tempo when I'm tired but reduce the power a little to not get exhausted.

Although this post has been almost all about me, I should make sure to congratulate everyone who raced today. It was a tough, hot day, and lots of people still trucked through the whole course, many of them without the benefit of fancy raceboards and weed-shedding fins like I had. I saw more than one birds' nest of pine needles and sticks shake loose from finishers' fins when they finally stopped paddling at the finish line. I'd say weed fins are essential for freshwater paddling in Florida even for non racers.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Got a new GPS gadget - SpeedCoach SUP 2

This afternoon the UPS delivery person dropped off my new geeky toy - a SpeedCoach SUP 2. It's a GPS with a high refresh rate designed to give accurate, by-the-second speedometer readings, and it has an internal accelerometer that can sense every paddle stroke you take. (It can display your strokes per minute and your distance traveled per stroke, the product of which is, of course, your speed.) Also, it uses bluetooth wireless communication to talk to a heart rate sensor that you wear around your chest. The bluetooth lets you extract the data from the unit to your PC for analysis, which I think is super cool. You can also use the wireless to download timed interval "workouts" to the SpeedCoach, which will then tell you when to go fast, when to rest, etc. There are five workout programs already in the machine when it comes out of the box, and you can tweak them and save them if you want to.

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I had to rush to get on the water to try the toy today because the radar showed a thunderstorm coming in from the east. I did a 1.61 km (1 mile) paddle downstream in the Imperial River, then took a rest and did the same thing coming back upstream. Going downstream I didn't start the SpeedCoach data recording properly, so I didn't get any data for that section. Going upstream and upwind after I was already a little tired I didn't get the most impressive times, but the data was still useful. Here's what it looked like when I graphed it in Microsoft Excel:

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Speed- It took me 20 seconds or so to get up to speed. Quicker acceleration is something I need to work on, since this could really hurt me in a race with lots of buoy turns where you have to stop and then accelerate again. I also notice that there are lots of little ups and downs in the speed, which might have to do with wind, current, and water depths changes as I was going up the bends of the river. I definitely noticed just by looking at the screen on the SpeedCoach that I was a lot slower in shallow water, and a lot faster when I could find an eddy in the downstream current. I'm sure there's a "human element" to the ups and downs, too, with my wavering will and focus. Strokes per minute- I take about 56 strokes per minute on average, but when I take more strokes per minute I'm faster. There are times that my stroke rate seems to suddenly dip really low, which may be when I'm switching paddling sides or may be when the accelerometer fails to pick up strokes. Heart rate- My resting heart rate (not shown) is 65-70 bpm. My "warmed up" heart rate (after paddling hard for a mile then taking a couple minutes to rest) is about 120. It took about a minute of paddling hard for my heart to go from 120 to 170ish, then it gradually got up to 180ish after about 10 minutes. I think around 180 is my hard-workout max.

Hopefully the data this gizmo delivers will give me some better insight into what works and what doesn't work for going faster. :)