January 9, 2012 Photo: J. Chandler

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Jay: Note to Self

The Jay was the longest distance flat water paddle I've ever made, but not the longest in duration. I've SUP surfed numerous four hour sessions and I figured that I could do the 12 miles in three hours or less if I could maintain my usual paddle/workout pace of 4 mph. The big difference between surfing and distance paddling in a "race" is that there are plenty of times to rest while surfing. But really, you can also rest when flat water paddling. My biggest concern was paddling from the start at Capitola to the turn around at Cowells almost six miles distant. I had to get there in 1.5 hours or risk begin disqualified. So, that was my personal race. I was glad when I got there with about ten minutes to spare. From Cowell's it was a challenging paddle in 8-14 mph crosswind and cross chop to the mile buoy and a then very forgiving downwind/calm wind paddle all the way back to Capitola.

Here are some personal observations: 1) Hydration is important. My usual flat water paddle workouts are in the 6-8 mile range. I usually don't bring water with me. But for the Jay I slung my full (1.5 liters) hydration pack on, and I nearly drained it during the course of the race. About three miles from the finish I started to feel like I was going to bonk and drank a healthy part of the hydration pack down. Minutes later I was invigorated and felt like I got a second wind. I will not neglect bringing water with me from now on for all my three mile+ flat water paddles and workouts.

2) Nutrition. I carbo loaded the night before with my usual servings of fat and protein while heaping on the calories from carbohydrates. This seems to work pretty well for me. I eat my usual light breakfast on race day, a balanced snack of crunchy peanut butter on low carb, high fiber toast with a single slice of turkey bacon in the middle, and a big cuppa coffee.

I don't like the high carbohydrate gel/goo packets. Instead I cut a Balance Bar (yogurt honey peanut and carmel nut blast are my two favorite flavors) into quarters and put them into a plastic zip lock bag that I keep in my boardshorts pocket. 20 minutes or so before race time I ate two quarters, and left two for later. I also drank half a bottle (4 fl. oz.) of Redline (highly) caffeinated sports drink for a little extra boost out the starting gate. This race day fueling regimen worked well until about four miles from the finish. As I stated under hydration, I started to hit a wall and the only thing that brought me out of it was a large infusion of water. What I should have done, and what I learned, is that at the halfway point (the mile buoy) when I took a short sit-down break to video, I should have eaten the remaining two Balance Bar quarters. The bars liquify pretty easily while chewing and I start to feel my blood sugar rise in about 20 minutes. Next time I'll eat.

3) Race Strategy. Honestly, I don't have a real race strategy, because the only person I'm racing against is myself. The only thing a paddler has to do in the Jay is to get to Cowell's buoy from Capitola in an hour and a half or less. So my first goal was to do that, and my second, and overarching goal was to finish the race in three hours or less. I tried to pay attention to my paddling technique; keep up a steady and consistent pace; set up a series of short distance, realizable goals; keep breathing and remind myself that I can rest at any time or keep going; and stay positive. "Yes! I can do this!" I also monitored my physical condition so I could stay on mission without injury and stay within my physical limitations for the entire event.

4) Mental perspective aka Attitude. I was in this thing to have fun, which at my age (65 y/o) is the only sane view one can really take. There is no reason to overdo it and get hurt because of misplaced, unrealistic or short-sighted priorities. Winning is finishing, participating and enjoying the company of our diverse and joyful community of paddlers.

5) Results. At right is a graphic I took from my Sports Tracker smartphone app. I was very happy to have this data which provided me with confirmation of some of the goals I was trying to accomplish and it also provided a couple surprises. First, I was very pleased that I averaged 4-5 mph overall. The second lap paddled into a headwind with white caps on a choppy, rolling sea was my slowest. That's really no surprise in hindsight and it kind of justifies all my grumping until I got into the smoother water. Next year I'll take a more inside line to Cowells sooner from the green buoy. That will put me out of the wind and into calmer water quicker. I was very gratified to see that my fastest lap was my last lap. Half of lap #4 and all of lap #5 from the mile buoy were downwind or in calm wind, but the Bark 12-6 is not a great downwind board. A better flat water paddler, the Bark and I both performed well on that last calm wind lap. I really tried to concentrate on form and consistency and I think the data proves that I did a pretty good job.

6) Equipment. It all worked well. I have a 12-6 Bark Competitor, and a QB Kanaha FG/Carbon (90) paddle (Covewater has an excellent selection of QB paddles in stock). This set-up is "one-size-fits-all" for all my flat water paddling/racing/training activities. I have two hydration packs, both from Nathan. I used the Nathan backpack " race vest" for the Jay. It hold 1.5 liters of water and has two compact zipper front pockets that hold all my stuff, ear buds, video camera, energy drink, etc. There is also a nice and secure pocket with button down flap on the back where I put my waterproof DryCase smartphone accessory. The second hydration pack is smaller and worn around the waist. It holds a smaller water bottle (20 fl. oz.) and has a gel pack pocket with velcroed flap. (Check with Covewater for availability.) The backpack is heavier (water weight) but comfortable. It is made from very light weight material and has held up well with light use. The waist pack is super comfortable and I hardly even know it's on. I can wear my DryCase and phone on the waist pack belt by sliding it through the built-in belt loop on the DryCase. I'm on my third DryCase, the other two have failed and fortunately my phone wasn't damaged. But the company made it right both times and sent me a replacement "free" covered under warranty. Fortunately the DryCase is made to pull a vacuum on it prior to use. This "seals" the phone in. If you can't get a seal, it's not waterproof so the user has a fail safe.

7) Clothes. Why would anyone mention clothes? Cuz it seems like everyone wonders what to wear, especially in Santa Cruz where it can be downright cold and foggy with drizzle, or so warm and toasty you almost think you're in the tropics. All in the same morning. Oh yeah, the water in NorCal is always cold. For flat water paddling, ensemble is less a mystery that downwinding or surfing though. I run cold so I usually need more insulation than less. Usually. Flat water paddling is the exception. As long as I don't fall in too much (and I rarely do in flat water) I maintain body heat and need to shed it, not keep it. So t-shirt and boardshorts are good. I wear a visor, not a hat, to keep the sun off my forehead and face while allowing head heat to ventilate out the top. This paddling wardrobe is usually good for all conditions during the race paddling season. I keep three different types of t-shirts with me in my paddling bag. Cotton, Quiksilver synthetic polyester "bamboo" weave and Kore-Dry synthetic. I like the feel of cotton but it gets wet (from sweat or falling in) and stays wet. The bamboo weave is really nice and I scored one in the Quiksilver Jay Race swag bag. I wore it for the race and it was an immediate favorite. Unfortunately it looks like Quik may be fazing out the bamboo weave product from their website. Other vendors sell it though. The Kore-Dry is the warmest of the three and tends to be a wee bit hot in flat water with little to no wind. But for downwinders and cool mornings, it is perfect.

My goal in writing this post is to provide a journal entry for myself which I can read and refer to. Also, since I am a fairly voracious internet researcher, I hope that some of what I've written and learned can be of value to others.

Aloha and see you at the Jay in 2013!

1 comment:

  1. Great entry and tips! So enjoyed meeting you finally, and yes to all you've said! What a great feeling of accomplishment just to finish the race! I did the short course, and am hooked...