Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hennessey's International Paddling Championships: What A Day!

What a killer, stomach churning, shoulder burning, huffing and puffing, mad-scrambling... day! The Hennessey's race was straight-up awesome. The event was well organized, timely and most of all, super fun. Here's a hit list of my thoughts and experiences:

Photo: Early morning... check in, eat a Clif Bar, drink some water... try to keep the butterflies in check.

1. Practice pays off: Two weeks before the race (starting the day after the Chainsaw Massacre) I paddled four miles every day, timed, for two weeks. Man, am I glad I put in that water time! I was cashed out at the finish line- but coming around the last corner, I felt strong. Not strong enough to catch the guy on the Starboard race board in front of me (or Kevin- you little 25 year old dirtbag) but strong enough to finish six seconds behind Mr. Starboard, pass another competitor and fend off two fast guys on good looking yellow race boards. Practice is where it's at- and, with the Battle of the Paddle coming in five days, I'm back out there tomorrow!

2. I know where I suck the most: The start. The whole bust-out-of-the-gates-as-hard-as-you-can and fight your way to clear water madness has got me totally confounded. I lose seconds (probably minutes) handling the mixed up water right behind the fast guys- the water is so torn up by fifty competitors all paddling at top speed that I can't get into rhythm and I find myself just hacking along trying to get into some type of groove. It's the worst part of my whole game. Stamps and I are looking at some design changes to add a little more stability but really, it comes down to more practice, and a whole hell of a lot more conditioning- I need to explode off the line!

Photo: This is always a bad time for me. Check out the messy water in the back and the clean water out in front- next time, I'm out there in front!

3. I know where I suck... Part II: Man, I need to keep my head in the game. Especially if I have a strategy- which I did. Listen to this: Some of my really fast prone paddler friends clued me into the fast routes through the Bay- describing how the incoming tide swirls through the basin and telling me where to be. I'm coachable, I followed their advice, I was in the right spot and, to my amazement, I was doing pretty well on the first leg of the race. Problem is, I didn't verify if there were required buoys to follow on the course- I assumed (we all know about that word- right?) we just had to get to the turn around mark any way we could. So, when I found myself cutting a corner while everybody else was taking a twist in the bay to the left of a set buoy, I was suddenly in a bad position.

Photo: Here I come, digging for all I'm worth- I almost had that guy in front of me. How cool is it to hear your own name over the loudspeaker as you pound it in to the finish line? I'll tell you: It's extremely cool.

I had two choices: keep going and possibly get disqualified. Or, stop, turn ninety degrees and round the buoy- all the while watching eight or nine fellow competitors go zipping by me. I am sure I was the topic of a few post race conversations that started with, "Did you see that guy who had to backtrack the course around the buoy at the bridge... what the hell was he thinking!" Yep, that was me. I should have verified the course before paddling. That mistake probably cost me twenty or thirty seconds.

Last time (Chainsaw Massacre), it was the finish that snarled me up- this time it was the course that got me. Never again- I hope!

Check back for more race reminiscing!

4 comments: said...

Nice Post John! Keep Paddling

John Ashley said...

Thanks Hound- I'm on it today... gonna surf and then do four miles prep paddle for B.O.P!

Anonymous said...

John, I really like your posts. I just started racing and purchased a Hobie Elite about a month ago. A bit tippier than my wife's Bark but seems fast. My first race is the BOP next week. Next year I will try and race more with your help.

John Ashley said...

Yeah Windjunky- let's do it! I'm super fired up to do more races. I'll be at the BOP too- gonna do the surfboard division with a friend. Keep an eye out for us (you know what I look like, right?)!