Tentative 2019 Race Schedule

  • 11 May – ‘Round The Mountain
  • 8-9 June – Madrid Canoe Regatta
  • 29 June – Tupper Lake
  • 30 June – Celebrate Paddling
  • 6 July – Armond Bassett
  • 13 July – Electric City
  • 14 July – Barge Chaser
  • 28 July – BluMouLA-BuFuRa
  • 8-11 Aug – USCA Canoe & Kayak Nationals
  • 17 Aug – Wells Bridge
  • 6-8 Sep – Adirondack Canoe Classic
  • 14-15 Sep – Lighthouse To Lighthouse
  • 21 Sep – Long Lake
  • 29 Sep – Seneca Monster
  • 13 Oct – Onondaga Cup

Video stuff

I found a really cool Final Cut Pro plugin that puts a motion tracked point on your video and builds out a title that moves with the tracked point. I’ve experimented with it a bit and I think I’ll be able to use it to point out people and other points of interest in my videos. The only problem I’ve found with it is that if the point you’re tracking is even briefly obscured, it will lose tracking and its mind.

2018 Look Back

2018 started out pretty shitty. I was unemployed, and my unemployment insurance had run out. Depressed due to the long employment search and other things, I started the year out of shape and overweight, only to be hit with two massive bouts of sickness that pretty much wiped out my winter training and dieting, meaning I hit the racing season with very few miles under my belt and a lot more fat under there.

I got a job in February, and while it was interesting the pay was quite low – I’d actually earned more as a full timer with benefits in 2001 than I was earning as an hourly contractor with no benefits at this job. So midway though the year I left that job for another which paid much better. I hate to be a job hopper like that but the difference in pay was hard to believe.

Because of the reduced financial circumstances this year, I didn’t do a lot of the “away” things I’ve done in previous years – no TC Surfski Immersion Weekend, no Canadian Surfski Champs, no Gorge, no Lighthouse to Lighthouse. Instead I concentrated on doing as many NYMCRA races as possible, even camping out to save money instead of getting hotels for away races. I did several races I’ve never done before, including the two days of Madrid and the lovely Blue Mountain Lake race.

Even better, the USCA national championship races were held in Syracuse. I had two really good 10 mile races – unfortunately both races were 12 miles. Both times I lead a pack of racers for the first 10 miles, then faded and got passed by all of them in the last 2 miles. Definitely something to work on this year.

I started the season completely out of shape with the intention of racing my way into shape, hoping to peak with the USCA Champs. It worked pretty well, and in spite of my tactical errors there, I had a really good race at Long Lake. I was hoping to continue with the final race of the season, the Seneca Monster, but it got cancelled.

In other good news, I really dialed in my video production workflow, aided by the fact that I now have a high end iMac. Also, I got a really amazing carbon fibre GoPro mount for the front of my kayak – not only lighter than my older aluminum one, but also more aerodynamic. After the end of the season, GoPro released a new camera, the Hero 7 Black, with a much touted “Hyper Stabilization” mode. I bought one and tried it out and it is pretty amazing. I can’t wait to use it for races next year.

I also bought a new boat – I did some side work for a pilot friend of mine and used part of the money to buy a V8 Pro, a more stable boat than my V10 Sport, but still pretty fast. During interval workouts on the bay, I found I could just put the power down instead of bracing and trying to keep upright.

One of my daughters got engaged this year. I really like her fiance and they seem really good together.

Both of my parents had health setbacks this year. I think this coming year’s travel plans will have to mostly involve visiting them.

Long Lake Long Boat Regatta 2018

I don’t know how many times I’ve done this race. I suppose I could trawl through my blog posts and find out, but I think it’s around seven or eight. It was my first “out of town” race where Dan convinced a couple of us newbie paddlers that there was a short course available, and then basically strong-armed Brian into putting a short course on just for us. And it’s been a favorite ever since. The scenery never disappoints, even if the weather can vary from hot and still to howling gales to freezing cold.

When we left Rochester on Friday, the weather was hot and extremely windy, but was forecast to be cold and light to moderate winds in Long Lake on Saturday. I wasn’t sure I believed that we’d be free of the strong winds, so I brought both boats just in case. (Oh, did I mention I bought a new boat? No, I don’t think I did. I bought a V8 Pro so I’d have something to paddle in conditions that I’d find too gnarly in the V10 Sport. I’ve used it a few times on Lake Ontario and Irondequoit Bay and it’s exactly what I hoped.)

On the drive up, I had to stop and tighten the roof rack and the boat tie downs a few times and nearly got blown into the next lane, but we all arrived safe and sound. And Saturday dawned exactly as promised – freezing cold and still.

It did warm up a bit by race time, and the wind came up a tiny bit, but it was nothing I hadn’t seen in previous years. The number of boats was quite a bit down from previous years. And absolutely nobody went out to warm up before the paddlers meeting – I can’t speak for everyone else, but I didn’t want to strip down to my paddling clothes until it was absolutely necessary. Because of the smaller than normal crowd, Brian elected to start a single wave. But he also said the start would be 10 minutes after the meeting, so I rushed down and tried to get a warm up. Well, I was anything but warm, but I was just behind the line and ready when he started the paddle wave. The canoes were spread out before the wave, but they bunched up in front of me and the other kayaks, so we ended up starting a boat length behind the line.

After the go signal, there was the usual confused mess of waves that you get if you’re not in the lead pack. The mixed C-2 that I’d ridden off the line and then passed last year was well ahead and there was a mess of boats between us. There were c-4s that were going all over the place, one of them going nearly 90 degrees off the direct line and cutting Mike off badly. I tucked in behind a war canoe and relied on them to find a safe path through the mess.

After we got under the bridge and things were calming down a bit, I realized that this was world’s slowest war canoe and they weren’t going to drag me to the front like the war canoes did last year. The stern guy was actually singing. I couldn’t make out what he was singing, but I was disappointed that it wasn’t a voyageur song. I could see the fast war canoe well ahead, closely followed by that mixed c-2 and Jan in his ICF sprint boat. Mike was drafting behind this guy in a Lake Placid boat (who I’ve mentioned in this blog before – he’s pretty damn fast considering that he’s in a poor excuse for a wannabe kayak), and was slowly pulling away from me. I could have chased him, but I decided a slow start would be a good thing after my inadequate warm up. I decided to continue to ride the war canoe wake until I felt warmed up, and monitor Mike to make sure he wasn’t getting too far ahead.

I told myself that 3 kilometers would make a good warm up, but as the turn point boat looked up ahead I decided I was warmed up enough and I put down the hammer. Mike and the LP guy were about a minute ahead when I made the jump and I probably got half that back by the turn. After the turn I could see LP guy’s technique falling apart as he tried to continue to lead Mike – it looked like Mike would make a move to go around him, and he’d hammer, but it must have been killing him. Mike dropped him a few minutes after the turn.

By my reckoning, it took me ten minutes from the time I jumped from the war canoe to the time I got on Mike’s tail. Just as I got there, he was struggling with his drink system. I could see the collar he wears for it sticking out over the edge of the boat under his elbow. He stopped paddling at least three times to fiddle with it, but he was still having problems with it.

As we got close to the bridge, I decided that Mike had been leading long enough and so I pulled ahead. As I passed him I said “I’ll pull for a while”. I found out from him afterwards that he hadn’t realized I was there – he thought it was still LP guy behind him, so seeing the red tip of my boat had been an unwelcome surprise.

Mike was on my stern wake as we passed under the bridge. Both of our wives were up on the bridge cheering us on.

One of the reasons I wanted to be ahead is that the wind was coming from ahead and Mike tends to go straight up the middle. By taking the lead, I could head to the side behind the point and maybe get a bit of relief from the wind. And so that’s what I did and it was working. But after a kilometer or so I looked around for Mike and he wasn’t behind me – sure enough, he was chugging up the middle. He said afterwards that he had stopped to try to get a drink from his messed up drink hose, realized he couldn’t close the gap directly and tried to cut me off at the pass.

After the point, the lake widens out and the wind was now coming from almost 90 degrees from my left. The lake was too wide to go to the edge to get out of the wind, so I was basically going right up the middle. I was half hoping Mike was going to catch me in this part, and half hoping I was leaving him in my dust. I may like him, but I’m as competitive as he is. I wasn’t looking behind to see which it was – I was watching ahead of me to see where the leaders were turning. Jay was the nearest kayak ahead of me and he was easy to see because he was wearing a Mocke PFD. The only other kayak ahead of me was Jan and he was impossible to judge his exact position in his dark clothes and black boat. The only other boats ahead were the war canoe and the mixed c-2 and maybe a c-4 or two and I couldn’t judge them either. I didn’t really get an idea where the turn was until Jay got there. By then Jan was cruising past me in the other direction in the wake of the war canoe.

Jay was a minute or two ahead of me, but at the turn I could see I had about a minute on Mike. If things had been closer, I would have waited for Mike and tried to work with him to catch Jay, but Jay was too far ahead and Mike was too far behind to make that work, so I concentrated on maintaining my pace all the way to the finish. Every time I slacked off I imagined that Mike would catch me and then it would be game on. Mike demolished me at the USCA Nationals because I faded after a strong first 2/3rds and I didn’t want to let that happen again. A couple of times I looked down and my heart rate had dropped to the sort of numbers I’d expect on a moderately strenuous training paddle and I’d remind myself to pick it up lest Mike come cruising past me. He told me afterwards he’d start to think he was closing the gap and then I’d start to pull away again.

After the point the finish looks tantalizingly close, but my GPS was telling me I still had a few kilometers to go, and I could see that Jay was still paddling. It seemed to take forever.

I don’t recall the official results and they’re not up on the website, but I think I was 2 minutes behind Jay and a minute ahead of Mike. Jan is under 50 and Jay was in a touring class kayak, so I ended up winning the over 50 class in unlimited class, with Mike second. That’s what happens when the fast guys stay home.

USCA Nationals, Day 1: Touring Class

The Preliminaries – Getting a boat

This weekend is the USCA (United States Canoe Association) National Championships. Yesterday was sprint races and youth, so I didn’t go. Today is for Men’s Touring Kayaks (and a bunch of other categories, like Women’s Unlimited Kayak). And I wanted to compete. The regulations for Touring Kayak, as stated on two separate pages on the USCA website) say the boat has to be at least 18″ wide at the widest spot at the 4″ waterline. My normal boat, an Epic V10 Sport, is just slightly narrower than that – their official spec has them wider, but that’s not at the 4″ waterline. So for over a month now I’ve been asking anybody I know with an Epic V8 Pro if I can borrow it. I started by asking Roger at the Electric City race, and he said yes. But then I heard from Eric Young that Roger had said yes to him earlier. So I asked Frank Cabron, who didn’t know that there was going to be a touring race this year, but once he heard he was quick to say he was going to use his V8 Pro. I asked several of the Baycreek paddlers, since a whole bunch of them have upgraded to V8 Pros this year. I asked Ken if I could borrow the Baycreek demo V8 Pro, in spite of the fact that it is “club layup”, which makes it way heavier than everybody else’s. Epic doesn’t even make the “club layup” anymore because nobody liked it, so I can’t quote you the official weight difference between it and the ultra and elite layup boats I was trying to borrow. Then last weekend Roger once again emailed me to say that Eric had decided not to borrow his boat, so it was available if I wanted it. I immediately wrote him back and asked him how I could get it – but then he never responded to my email. So I went back to Ken. And Ken was under the impression that he’d promised it to Jim, not me. I knew that Jim was paddling K2 today, so I straightened that out and picked up the Pro. I found out later than Roger had heard I had borrowed Ken’s boat, so I didn’t need his and loaned it to Scott Visser. Meanwhile Mike had also been unable to secure a V8 Pro and was going to have to paddle his extremely heavy West Side Boat Shop EFT. EFTs aren’t normally terribly heavy, but he’d taken it to somebody to have it re-gelcoated and the guy had added a very thick layer of resin and gelcoat.

Then last night, Frank emails Mike and I to say that he’d just been at the race venue and had talked to one of the official jiggers who said that the V10 Sport now qualifies as Touring class. I couldn’t believe that, so I went to the USCA website, and on a page titled “USCA Kayak Specs (from the Competition Rules)” and another one called “USCA K1 Touring Kayak Specs and Models”, I found the official rule – 20 feet maximum length, and at least 18 inches at the 4 inch waterline. I even built a hillbilly jig out of three pieces of wood and verified that my V10 Sport is too narrow under that rule. What I hadn’t counted on, however, is how bad some organizations are at updating their websites – it turns out that buried in a 31 page PDF copy of the Competition Rules, there is the updated rule: 20 feet maximum length and at least 17 at the 4 inch waterline. But because it’s a PDF, it wasn’t what came up on a Google search, just two separate pages, including the one labelled “from the competition rules”. So I could have skipped all the hassle and false leads of trying to borrow a V8 Pro, and had a lighter faster boat. Oh well, only one of the boats that beat me was legal under the new rules but not the old one, so I guess I don’t have much to complain about.

Because of the doubt about the rules, Mike and I brought our “touring” boats, the EFT and the V8 Pro respectively, because we were driving together and so could only bring two boats. Frank was coming alone with two racks on his car, so he brought both his V8 Pro (in ultra layup) and his V10 Sport (in elite layup). And when he confirmed the new rule, he said he was going to paddle the V10 Sport. But Mike was quicker off the gun than me and asked Frank for his V8 Pro, so he ended up in a much lighter boat than me. Like I said, I don’t know the official weight difference, but the ultra layup is 8 pounds lighter than the performance layup, and club is heaver than the performance.

The Start

Today is Friday, and tomorrow is both on the weekend and is Men’s Unlimited, so of course the field was a little smaller today. So all the touring class kayaks started in one giant wave instead of being separated by age class like they were at the last USCA nationals that I went to. I don’t know what tomorrow will be like – I guess I’ll find out.

The race course is a bit convoluted – it’s a giant Y shape and we had to do it twice. But we started basically at the top of the leg of the Y, headed down towards the bottom, did a buoy turn and went around the left arm and then the right arm before returning to the bottom of the leg, and then doing it again. The distance between the start and the first buoy turn was just barely enough to get things spread out a bit so it wasn’t massive carnage. I dread what it’s going to be like tomorrow. The 2016 USCA nationals I think was a bit smarter in that instead of one 180 degree buoy turn, they had two 90 degree turns a distance apart, which allowed a smoother transition to a more ordered line of boats when we turned upstream.

Now I’m typing this from memory, and I haven’t looked at the video yet, so I’m probably going to get some details wrong. But by the time we passed back through the start, we had a pack with young Scott Visser in the lead, then a bunch of us strung out in a line behind him. Dave Wiltey was there in his usual West Side Boat Shop boat (possibly an EFT), and I knew from experience that he hasn’t going to take a turn in the lead. There was another guy in a club layup V8 Pro, a guy in an elite layup V10 Sport, and a guy with a blue boat that when I originally saw it from afar I thought it was a Mohican (which is a very expensive and very formidable boat) but as I got closer I found out it was home made and looked it. He also had terrible technique, which made it even more annoying that he was ahead of me. There were probably other people around, but that’s all I remember. Eric Young was way ahead, as expected, and way out ahead of him was this guy who looked like an Olympian, who just kept pulling further and further ahead and was soon out of sight.

At the buoy turn, Wiltey and the blue boat guy both had over-stern rudders, and they turned like they were in sea kayaks – ie they put on the brakes on the inside and did big sweeps on the outside. Unfortunately I was behind them which meant I had the choice of slowing down before the turn to avoid crashing into them or trying to go around outside them in the turn. I ended up losing some ground on them and having to sprint to catch up. But a new order quickly established itself. Scott was still leading. The blue boat guy was second. I didn’t want to be third so I was on his side wake. I think the other V8 Pro guy was next, but don’t hold me to that. Blue boat guy’s technique was bad, and so I couldn’t get in sync with him and we kept clashing paddles. He didn’t get his paddle very deep in the water, which meant he had to paddle faster than me to go the same speed. Which meant every few strokes I’d have to pause so I didn’t clash paddles with him, although I didn’t always get it right.

This status quo pretty much lasted until we were approaching the buoy turn at the other arm of the Y. Dennis Moriarty came charging past. I know from previous conversations exactly what he was doing, too – he was trying to give me a wake to ride and break up the pack. And it actually worked. I got on his wake and pulled away from the rest of the pack, except I couldn’t hold his wake. Not too far after the turn I could feel that the whole pack was now on my wake, while Dennis pulled further and further away. Not optimal that I was leading, but I kind of like that feeling of being in front and being stronger than everybody else.

And So On, and So On

The buoy turns were great, because you got to see everybody coming in the other direction, regardless of whether they were behind you or in front of you. Eileen Visser, Scott’s mom, had started a wave or two behind us, and she was always cheering on Scott as we passed. That’s how I realized that after the right arm buoy turn that we were dropping Scott. The pack was down to just five or so of us. It looked to me like Dennis was going almost the same pace as Eric Young, or maybe even closing the gap a bit.

For all the way down to the foot of the Y, I was leading. Again, not smart strategically but man it felt good. At the turn, I ended up side by side with the blue boat guy. As we passed the dock where we’d put in at race headquarters we could hear an announcer call out our names, and he said something about a “strategic battle going on”, which was cool. That’s when I found out the guy in the blue boat is named Steve and the guy in the other V8 Pro was named Bob. Steve and I were side by side, but sort of using each other’s wakes, but he said something about the freeloaders we had behind. The freeloading was so bad that I heard Dave and Bob having a conversation that was something about a bear and somebody’s fiancee.

Again at the right arm’s buoy turn I had to go outside around the “sea kayak style” turners, sprint to catch them. But again, after catching them back up, I would recover a bit and decide that I could go faster than these guys were doing, and take the lead again. Not smart.

About half way between the left side buoy turn and the “crotch” of the Y, I suddenly felt like I was completely blown. First Steve and Dave jumped ahead of me, then a minute or two later Bob and the guy in the V10 Sport Elite dropped me. I was barely keeping it together – my speed was terrible and my arms felt like they were going to drop off. I would have given anything to just quit right there. But I didn’t, although I did stop paddling for a second or two to try and regather something.

Dave and Steve looked like they were catching up to Dennis. That was a surprise – Dennis is a triathlete and is a lot fitter than most of the rest of us. They didn’t quite manage it, but if the race had been much longer they might have. According to the results they were only 12 seconds behind him at the finish, and of course Dave out-sprinted Steve. That’s what he does.

Bob, who I’d realized some minutes prior was the only one in our pack that was in my age class, ended up finishing 20 seconds ahead of me. Judging from the results, the guy in the V10 Sport was named Bill and he finished 18 seconds behind Dave and 29 seconds ahead of Bob.

I ended up second in my age class behind Bob. It was a hard fought race and I’m pretty happy with it, but I wish I’d paced myself better and not blown up so badly. Like I tell anybody who will listen, I had a great 10 mile race – shame it was a 12.5 mile course.

Now I’ve got to somehow recover and prepare for tomorrow.