This is a departure for me, because normally I make my blog post as soon as possible after the race and then do the video afterwards, but it’s the day after, the video is currently uploading and I’ll embed it in this post when it’s done.
This is not my first Armond Bassett (AB) Race. I think my first was in 2009, and except for the two years I spent recovering from shoulder surgeries I don’t think I’ve missed it. It’s usually a hot one, except for when we get thunderstorms. Yesterday’s race was pleasant by AB standards – I think the high was around 85F, and there was a tiny bit of breeze. There was a tiny bit of current, maybe more than last year.
I come to this year’s race slower than I have been in several years. Mostly because when I was looking for work I got depressed and ate a lot, and then in the winter when I should have been building a base and dieting, I instead got really sick and continued to eat. And then when the season started I told myself I couldn’t diet and build speed at the same time, which was a great excuse to keep eating badly. I haven’t stepped on a scale, but I’m at least 20 or 30 pounds heavier than I was last year. And consequently, some of our local paddlers who I was faster than in practices last year have been kicking my butt, and they all decided to come to this race since it’s local. I was hoping that maybe my experience would be enough to keep me ahead of them in a real race. It didn’t work out that way.
On the other hand, I have finally worked out many of the issues I’d been having with the head mounted camera, and I had a brand new carbon fiber front camera mount that I was eager to try out. So at least the video would be good. Or at least it would have been good if I hadn’t gotten a smear of sunscreen or dried sweat on the lens of the head mounted camera. Sigh.
I had scouted the course a couple of times last week, and the biggest potential problem I found was a branch that was just under the water and coming out from the shore to about 1.5 boat lengths off shore. There was nothing to tell you it was there until you bumped your rudder on it. I sent out a message on Wednesday to the local paddling group:
A little bit of secret scouting information for Armond Bassett: about 1.5 miles from the dock heading upstream, you come around a right hand bend and you first see the power lines ahead of you. Right there at the bend there is a branch just below the surface of the water with nothing sticking up to hint that it’s there. It stretches about 1.5 boat lengths out from shore and even with my cut down rudder on my V10 Sport, I hit it every time.
Unfortunately I forgot to send a similar warning to out of town paddlers. I feel kind of bad about that. (foreshadowing)
The canoes all (except a war canoe, more about that later) started in the first wave, and the kayaks in the second, 10 minutes later. As seems to happen a lot at this race, when they called the kayaks up to the line I was the only person who actually moved up at first. This is a disadvantage for me since I can’t choose who to line up next to, but so be it.
As we lined up, we could see two C-2s upside down at the first bend, maybe 300 meters past the start. Don’t know if they collided or what, since I don’t think anybody noticed it happening. I’ve got to give them props – I don’t know if I’d keep going after such a disaster so close to the start, but they remounted and kept going.
One note about the video: I experimented with setting my GPS to “auto pause when stopped” so I wouldn’t have to hit the start button when I should be paddling at the gun, but it caused a tiny bit of sync problems with the GPS overlay on the video because I was actually drifting towards the start when I started so it didn’t pause until I’d completely stopped at the line. I don’t think I’d do that again.
As expected, Jim and Royal took off like a shot. John Hair chased them, and Eric chased after him. Eric was in Matt Skeel’s sleek black Epic V10 GT, which is way faster and way lighter than the Epic 18X he usually paddles as long as he has the stability to keep it upright and apply power.
At first a guy I don’t know in a green Stellar got ahead of me, and as I expected Roger was starting to edge ahead of me. I couldn’t see the other boats, but I assumed I was pulling ahead of them. At the first bridge, John Hair diverted off the line the other two guys were on to go through the middle span. Normally the middle span would be faster going downstream, but he was close behind the other two guys, one of whom had scouted the course, when he suddenly veered off. Seemed like a strange move. Eric looked like he hesitated a second before deciding to go through the left span like the two leaders.
By the time we reached the U of R footbridge just past Egret Island, Roger was well clear of “my” peleton. Jim and Royal were together, followed by John some distance behind, Eric about an equal distance behind him, Roger about twice that distance behind Eric and me about the same distance behind Roger. As I passed the trailing C-2, it was obviously one of the ones from the earlier dumping because they were trailing a huge plant. I think the stern paddler sat on it when she was remounting. I warned her about it, she said she knew, and then in the rear view camera I can see that she actually pulled it out from under her butt.
At the turn, I glanced back and could see a line of people behind me. I can’t actually see any details in a quick glance, but from the video I can see it was Mark, Dennis, Phil and Pete. All four of them are local paddlers, all but Pete haven’t raced more than one or two times before, and all of them are people who I was faster than last year but who have been kicking my ass in workouts this year. I probably should have been more worried about them than I was.
After the turn, it’s always a bit of a quandry. Do you go in close to the concrete wall to try to keep out of the current and breeze, or do you stay further out in the channel because it gets quite shallow and weedy, especially as you get closer to the turn. In previous years I’ve got right in close until there is a clump of weeds sticking out of the water, then gone about 45 degrees to the current to get out into the deeper water. This year I opted to stay further out right from the beginning so as to not have to make quite such a drastic turn at the weeds. I’m not convinced it was the best, but at least I wasn’t like Roger who dragged his way though the shallows and the weeds all the way around the bend.
Coming to the railway bridge, I was just about to pass a C-2 on their right when they veered a bit right towards the bridge abutment. I paused paddling for a stroke to stay behind them until they then started to veer left a bit more, then I passed them as planned. Looking in the rear view camera, I can see it caused a bit of disruption to my train of followers.
Dennis came up and offered to pull. But he was going so fast I could barely keep up with him. Then I guess he realized he was going too fast and slacked off, and I overshot and ended up back pulling again. Then he pulled through again, this time without the huge acceleration and I was able to get on his wake for a bit. Unfortunately, 400 meters later he went through a shallow spot, I thought I’d be clever and leave his wake to stay in the deeper water, but he gapped me and I couldn’t come back. Looking at the video, I can see that although we hadn’t made a lot of progress towards catching Roger, we had got a gap on Mark, Phil and Pete.
A kilometer later, Dennis stopped for a drink and to let me catch back up. I’d started feeling better so I pulled for a bit.
This Means War (Canoe)
I was looking at my GPS and realizing that the bend up ahead was where that submerged log was, so I was starting to swing out a bit from shore to miss it. And there was Eric paddling in the wrong direction, slowly. I realized that he’d probably hit that log, and I’d forgotten to warn him about it. Oh, that’s a bad feeling.
But almost immediately I heard a war canoe storming up beside me. I don’t know how they started behind me, I hadn’t heard any mention of any wave starting behind the kayaks except the 3 Mile recreational race. But there they were. I immediately got on their side wake. Kevin, one of the canoe paddlers was saying something to the other paddlers about the GoPro on my bow when he suddenly noticed the one on my head and exclaimed “Two GoPros!”. I responded “yeah, you’d better have your game faces on because this is going on YouTube”.
After about 500 meters on their side wake, I was tiring and looked to see if I could get on their stern wake, only to discover that Pete G was already there. And Dennis, who had been on my stern wake, saw a good thing and jumped on Pete’s stern wake. So I was left the dregs, trying to grab Dennis’s stern wake in the chaos of a war canoe wake. It didn’t work well for me, I was too tired to put in a burst of speed to match and so they slipped away.
Maybe A Second Chance?
At the second turn, there was a C1 paddler in the water. By the time I got there, he was hanging off the side of the “race committee” boat and the war canoe had stopped to retrieve and empty out his canoe. One of the paddlers who was ahead of me said that when he passed the canoer was quite panicky in spite of the committee boat being right there. Pete and Dennis didn’t have their tow any more, but they already had over 30 seconds lead on me.
As I turned, I got a view back and could see that I had nearly a minute on Mark with Phil a bit behind him.
One funny thing about out and back type races, especially ones like this with two turns, is that no matter how little breath you’ve got left, you start greeting people and yelling encouragement when you’re on the last stretch. And this was no exception. I yelled out greetings to most of the other kayak paddlers who were still coming up, at least the ones whose names I knew, and got encouragement and greetings from most of them as well.
After about 15 minutes, I heard what I’d been hoping to hear, the war canoe coming back after their delay at the turn. I glanced back and saw something I hadn’t been hoping to see – Mark had latched onto their stern wake and had made up that minute lead I had on him.
I got on the side wake of the war canoe, but again I was only able to stay there for about 500 meters. Then I dropped onto Mark’s stern wake. And because I was completely cooked, I barely managed to hang on there for about another 800 meters. And with less than 400 meters to the finish, I had no sprint left to stay with them. Mark ended up beating me by a few seconds.
While I had also taken advantage of the war canoe, I have to wonder if it hadn’t been a factor if I wouldn’t have at least beaten Pete and Mark? I had a good gap on both of them before it came along and both of them passed me while riding in the best position, right on its first stern wake. I probably wouldn’t have beaten Dennis, but at least we would have traded leads a couple more times before he completely demolished me.
But really, more than anything there’s nothing to blame for my performance than my own inability to lose weight. Maybe if I lost some of this I could go back to being faster than the guys I was faster than last year. Maybe not all of them, because some of them were fine athletes who were just learning kayaking, but maybe at least one or two.