Getting out to the race site is a little different than most races. I'm used to driving up to a busy beachside parking lot, taking my board off the roof and getting all of my gear set up. For this event, my board was already shipped out to the site on a big barge and all racers had to board the transport boat at 6:30am to get out to the site. It's exciting at first to be out on this big boat in the warm sunny waters but trying to prepare for racing makes the novelty wear off somewhat quickly.
My heat wasn't for a few hours which meant trying to find somewhere to stay and relax before the race. This wasn't easy to do given the option of being up on deck in the beating sun or being down below in the stale hot diesel smelling cabin. It's a really cool experience being on the boat with so many people in the SUP world but if I could choose my ideal spot to prep for a race, this wouldn't have been it. I decided to just get off the boat and float on my board to watch the other races from the water. This was a much nicer option but meant I had to try and manage my sun exposure and hydration before my race.
After watching the prone heats, women's SUP heats and the first men's SUP heat I was up next. I had managed to avoid what I thought were the two toughest heats (3 and 4) but I knew I still had my work cut out for me to crack the top 4 against the paddlers in my heat. We lined up on the start line for a standing water start which I am used to from all of our Tuesday Night Races. At the sound of the horn we took off and I managed to get a pretty good start keeping pace with the top guys. After about 1 minute my pace dropped slightly and the top guys pulled just in front of me creating a bit of challenging water for me to deal with. I dropped back about 1 board length behind the top 4 guys leading into the first buoy. I was in decent position still having the top 4 in sight.
In a lot of races the first buoy is often a very critical point in the race. Sometimes the order at the first buoy is the order the racers will place at the finish. I managed to round the buoy in 6th place but a momentary loss of balance caused me to brace and lose a couple strokes. This was enough to watch the top 5 paddlers pull away and create a gap of about 3 board lengths. I didn't give up but part of me knew that based on how strong those guys were in front of me, it was going to take some luck for me to get ahead of any of them. These technical races are never over until they are truly finished. Waves and conditions can cause people to fall and change position quickly so I tried to not let them get too far away and quietly hoped that somebody in front of me would make a mistake.
The 3 lap course was short with plenty of turns which made it tough to get used to the varied conditions on the day. Current from one direction, swell from another, and wind from yet another direction made for some very strange and challenging water to put in full power. After a fall I dropped back into 8th place which left me feeling pretty down. But I had trained for too long to give up and so I figured I would have to give it all I had just to make it a respectable race. I squeezed back into 7th place and wasn't far behind 6th in the end. I figured a slightly better performance and I might have been able to crack 6th place but getting into the top 4 ended up being a little bit out of reach for me given the talent in the heat.
I finished the race with a much needed plunge into the ocean. I think the best way to describe my feelings were that I was 'comfortable' with how I finished. I gave it everything I had, I trained hard prior and I finished pretty close to where I thought I should have. I would have liked to have performed a little bit better on race day but that could probably be said by everybody who didn't win!
Race 1 complete. My second race was the very next day. I was excited to get right back at it which allowed me not to focus on my first result and look at really giving it all on the distance race. We got back to land and started it all again; hydrate, eat, sleep.