Battle of the Bay, San Fran! 2019 Recap
Disclaimer: These recaps are mainly for me to rehash a race performance, check in with myself and be honest about what I did better, or right, and what I could improve upon in competition. It is not my intent to degrade or offend any other competitors on the course
I had a great race, and a not-so-great race all at the same time. Every race is a chance for personal growth and reflection, and this was definitely one of those days.
The race was on Sunday, so I took Saturday to drive up to Sacramento and demo a few new boards. After hopping on the new 2019 Starboard Sprint, I was sold. I was able to hit and maintain a pace that I had been struggling with for quite some time. The reason I believe I was able to maintain the pace was because the board had better glide in between strokes, something more similar to my outrigger canoe, which allowed me to focus on my strength: my strength.
Some women are lighter, some hold a higher cadence, but I'm heavy and strong and can push/pull VERY HARD and POWERFULLY. A board that allows me to do that is a definite benefit. You'll notice in the start video, I'm taking about 1-2 strokes for every 4 that the two ladies on the left of the screen are taking.
DoGood 1: I didn't blow up off the line
On the start line I was cool and calm, detaching myself from the outcome of the race, but focusing on performing my best and pushing myself to new limits. I was a little worried about the beach start with the recessed rails on the Sprint. However, it was just like any other board, and I glided off the line smooth as buttah.
DoGood 2: incessant beach start practice pays off (and is the most fun part of practice)
From there I maintained my smooth strong cadence, with long, connected, powerful strokes. I felt great about my technique, and I was still breathing through my nose. My goal was to make it the first mile still nose-breathing. I set my desired pace and effort as we headed to the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. My pace was good, and everyone fell in line behind me. Around mile 2, the girls made a move to pull the train, and in their striving I took the opportunity to peel off further to the right into more current and to catch bumps. I figured it would be hard for them to follow me since they were in the middle of making a move and had already likely gone near anaerobic. I was still taking it easy and setting the pace of the race. In my move I gained about 5 board lengths and took this time to start ramping up to secure a lead. I realized I was able to paddle faster and hold more speed than the other ladies, as long as they couldn't draft. Time to GO.
Unfortunately, as we drew closer to the south tower, the water started converging, there were eddies, there were recreational boaters sending off wakes, a cruise ship, a sail boat, a seal, and a few other large waked commercial vessels. My first day on a 21.5 inch wide board got the better of me, and although I didn't fall in, I spent a few strokes bracing, then got a few really lame, lily-dip strokes in and lost a lot of my momentum. It was in my floundering that 3 of the ladies passed by me around the tower. Once out on the other side in smoother water I was able to catch up to 3rd place, but realized she wasn't gaining on 1 & 2. I had given up any chance of a podium finish at this point, so I just put my head down, set my pace and intensity back where it was before, and just paddled in the moment. Much to my surprise, I looked up and had caught up to 1 & 2. We went into two turns from here, and I was taking a quick draft before making another move. Unfortunately after the second buoy I made a beeline for the shore where I thought the tide was more favorable.
DidBad 1: Didn't take the time to read the water
I couldn't have been more wrong, and 1 & 2 pulled ahead yet again. 3rd place took a middle line, and by the time I corrected my course to draft her, there was no catching 1 & 2. She was still moving too slow and I wanted to close the gap as much as I could behind 2nd so I gave it my all. Unfortunately, it wasn't fast enough to leave 3rd behind, so she saved a ton of energy in the draft and was able to push and outsprint me in the last 100m.
DidBad 2: Pushed hard for the last mile for no apparent reason
Right before those last few strokes, I had given up. I realized I had been pushing, and she was resting drafting and I didn't stand a chance. I was just going to cruise. Then I had a thought; "Don't. Give. Up." even though my arms were noodles, the lactic acid was burning, and my lungs were screaming I went into an all out sprint. It was awful. I set a new max heart rate, though. But the bigger win was when I was going to give up, I didn't. I pushed through a painful situation and gave the day my best. These small changes in my thinking are what will ultimately make me a better athlete and a fearless competitor.
DidGood 3: didn't give up
My personal analysis of the race is that I did make a few small, positive changes that worked well:
1. I relaxed at the start and maintained an easy heart rate so that I wouldn't go anaerobic and then have to back off. I've been struggling with keeping up at the start, then falling back in the first mile, before slowly catching back up and closing the gap for the rest of the race. (i.e. I would blow up, go anaerobic, have to slow down to the point my lactic acid would clear, then I would be able to paddle strong again. When I was able to paddle at closer to my maximal power, I would paddle faster than the other racers as was evidenced by the closing of the distance. I recently read though, that if you do that, then even the power you're putting out after your body clears the lactic acid isn't what the power could have been if you never hit that threshold in the first place.)
2. My technique was improved. My strokes were longer, my reach further, and I pulled harder with my bottom lat. I put out more power than usual, and it was better for my body type.
3. Good line selection heading to the Golden Gate, and good timing on when to make my move.
The things I need to improve on:
1. Take time to disregard the pre-race plan and actually use visual cues if it is suitable. In Vancouver and here, I had visual cues but was a little too focused on what I thought I needed to do instead of seeing what was happening and processing the visual information and forming a new game plan that would be more beneficial. As we went into the third buoy, I was planning on heading to the beach to get out of the current, but I didn't even process the fact that the current was going in the RIGHT direction and I would want to be in it! I saw 1 & 2 nearly get pulled into the buoy and still didn't process the information. Very bad. I ended up staying my pre-race plan and it cost me big-time.
2. Make the decision to not "give up" sooner. Better yet, don't even have the thought to give up in the first place.
3. I wasn't confident in my buoy turns on a new board and was too conservative in my turns.
1. In that last mile, when I was pulling hard and being drafted, should I have backed off? Should I have gone so slow that I was conserving energy for the final sprint? Should I have set a slower pace off the start too and conserved energy there? Maybe I could have made money... but fuck it. Even if some people in the money drafted the majority of the race, and some maybe never pulled their weight at all, I know that except for about 4 minutes of drafting, I raced that entire race with my own power and intention and held a better pace than I ever have. I set a new lactate threshold, and a new max heart rate. I pushed through previous mental boundaries and surprised myself. Some would argue I should just learn to quietly draft and sit there until I can make a move near the end and win money or a podium spot. But those people will be forgotten soon enough. In my mind, I want to push myself to my limits, even if there's no chance of winning it. There was no benefit to pushing that last mile, or that last meter... on the outside. And if you're only going for whats outside? then why the hell are you paddle racing? If its for the attention, pictures, and external musings then you'll be out of here soon. If its to see what you've got inside of you, for you, for yourself. To make yourself a better human and push the limits of what you think are your capabilities, then you understand racing and you understand the benefit in pushing that last mile.