Monday, July 18, 2011

the clearwater midwest masters on lake geneva

Get ready...
This Saturday I competed in my second and final race for the season before I start focusing 100% of my training attention on my upcoming Lake Michigan crossing.  Clearwater Outdoors in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin hosted the race, held on (you guessed it) beautiful Lake Geneva.

... get set...
Lining up at the start I was feeling good... well rested, fully hydrated, fueled with a great breakfast and ready to give it my best.  The little bit of pre-race anxiety I was feeling was completely stripped away by the camaraderie of the paddlers.  Everybody on the start line was chatting, pointing out the markers we had to paddle for and exchanging tips .  It felt more like the beginning of a group fun paddle than the beginning of the race.  Once again, I am blown away by the spirit of this fantastic group of people.

... GO!!!
That is, until the horn sounded... then everyone burst into action.  I knew I had an edge on my 14' Naish Javelin since most guys were on 12'6" boards, so I really hammered out of the start and it payed off. I managed to find my own line (that's me on the left) and took advantage of the quiet water to take an early lead.  

In most cases, SUP is not the most spectator-friendly sport.  The course on Lake Geneva was a 6.3 mile loop around the bay, and after the first few minutes the paddlers are out of sight from the beach until they come in for the finish.  The girls found a nice shady spot to hang out and enjoy the view.  The park around Riviera Beach where the race was held is super nice.  This was a great spot for a paddle event.

This photo is kind of blurry but I had to post it... my first ever SUP race win... What a great feeling!  But it didn't come easy... here's the race recap: Like I said, I took an early lead out of the gate, taking full advantage of my longer, straighter-tracking, faster board to get away from the pack.  I kept up my sprint pace as long as I felt I could without over-fatiguing myself, then settled into my normal race-pace rhythm.  I managed to stay in the lead until about mile 5, when my FIN GOT TOTALLY MIRED IN WEEDS!  This was my big learning experience for the day... BE PREPARED AND KNOW THE CONDITIONS YOU'LL BE PADDLING IN.  I hadn't checked to see if weeds were a problem on Lake Geneva, and I didn't have a weed fin.  The upright fin on the Javelin makes it track really well, but in weedy conditions it's a nightmare.  By mile 4 or so it felt like I was paddling through molasses, and when I looked back to see Westy, a paddler from the Yolo team, right on my tail, I knew I had to get my fin cleared.  I jumped off the board and reached under the tail, pulling about 10 pounds of weeds off my fin.  Westy passed me while I was in the water, and I was so frantic to get back on board that I fell off in the process of getting up.  When I finally got back up and paddling, Westy was around the next mark and paddling strong.  I put my head down, focused on my breathing and paddle rhythm, and took after him.  It took me a mile or so to catch him, but once I did I was feeling good again, ready to finish strong.  Westy and I paddled together for a bit, then I pulled away to come in first. 

Post-race I was interviewed by James, a journalist from SUP magazine.  Wow, I was feeling like a real celebrity... I'll let you know when the article is up.

And finally, here I am at the trophy ceremony.  I was fully prepared for the photo op in my Windy City Waterman t-shirt, hot off the press.  If you'd like to support our two great charities, you can order one of these stylish, organic cotton t-shirts for yourself... but not just yet.  I'll have them up on the web shortly...

Thanks to David and Sarah from Clearwater Outdoors in Lake Geneva for putting on a fantastic event.  Now I'm off to train... still have my big paddle ahead, so enough back slapping... time to get back to work.

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