Anybody else out there going to race the Loop in Coronado? I'm looking forward to this one even though I know that the net result is some serious pain. How do I know? I'm feeling it right now. I'm wallowing in that all over soreness that knocks the crap out of you.
Kiwi and I practice paddled the course today. This will be my first time ever racing in the Loop and Kiwi's fourth. Since I've never paddled it before, I didn't want my first time to be on race day. When you wait until race day to get out and run the course you deal yourself an instant psychological blow- the unknown is scary and when you don't know where the end is, the race seems to drag on forever. That's why, if possible, I always try to pre-paddle the route. I'm especially fortunate to have a paddling teammate (we're both from Imperial Beach so that automatically puts us on the same team) who's done the race a few times- Kiwi passed on a couple of tips that he earned through sweat and agony. Thanks mate! And, no, I won't share them with you- well, maybe over a few beers after it's over.
If you don't know about the Loop, here's some basic information about the race. First of all, this is a race founded by prone paddlers- our vertically challenged paddling brothers. What that means is that there won't be many stand up paddle divisions (this is my general rule of thumb- if the race is put on by a prone paddler, even if there are twice as many stand up paddlers in it, there will be limited divisions for the stand up guys and gals). In the case of the Loop there is only Stand Up Mens and Stand Up Womens divisions- no age group breakdown and no board type breakdown. What that means is that somebody on an Unlimited stand up board will probably win- those of us who race stock are going to be lagging behind those eighteen and nineteen foot monsters.
Secondly, the Loop is an eleven mile race that somehow comes out to be 11.7 miles- be ready especially if you're one of those types of racers who hangs onto every tick of the GPS mileage counter. This is definitely not your four to six mile sprint-type race you'll want to get into your groove and pace yourself for the long haul. If you're like me and your weekly distance practices are between four and six miles you'll find that the distance starts to affect you around mile eight, definitely come prepared with fluids and food. In the course of those eleven miles you'll be paddling open water and flatwater so practice in both types of conditions is recommended.
Finally, approximately three quarters of the race takes place inside of the San Diego Bay. Depending on the direction of the tide, your trip past the various twists, turns and narrows of the Bay can be a fun little downhill run (if the tide is flooding) or a grueling slog uphill on a watery conveyor belt doing its best to push you back out the mouth. My biggest piece of advice is to go paddle the Loop a couple of times so that you figure out where to be depending on race day conditions. Nothing is more helpful than logging data points out on the course- even if means a trip to the land of Ibuprofen is in your future.