Time to reflect
I think after a several down days I am ready to evaluate my Chattajack. Overall that was a tough tough race and anyone that attempted let alone finished that race has massive “street cred” and respect in my book. This was as tough as SEA Paddle NYC 2014 where we had 25mph+ headwind for the last 10 miles and nowhere to hide. While these types of races don’t usually peg very high on the fun-meter, in my opinion they are critical to our individual development as athletes and bond us together as a community. In this type of race we can each mentally go back when the going is tough and say “This isn’t as hard as Chattajack 2016, I can do this and I can do it well.” These are the races that, when you pass someone who also raced it at a future event, you can just nod at each other and know “we got this.”
Overall I am pleased with my race.
It wasn’t the best race I ever had, but it was the best I could do that day and I feel good about that. I was very pleased with my start which was less then desirable last year. I got off the line quickly with the leaders and got to the flat water on the inside to link up with the lead trains as they were forming up. Improving my starts was a big focus for me the last two months. I hate practicing starts, but the 3×30 seconds on the three minute at Level 5++ that have been a staple of our Paddle Monster programs were very beneficial to me. My start strategy was based on stroke rate that I worked out during these programmed start practices. I wanted to do 100 spm for the first 30 seconds, low 80s for the next minute, low 60s for the next 3:30 and then settle into my race pace of 54 spm. I also focused heavily on NOT SWITCHING sides. Minimizing switches at the start when trying to get on a fast draft train is critical. By evaluating the graph below from my Speed Coach data (first 5 minutes of my race), the bottom spikes in Stroke Rate are when I switch. I switched 15 times in the first 5 minutes, that’s an average of every 20 seconds. Not bad, but an area for improvement. If I can reduce that to 11 switches over the first 5 minutes that will result in a couple board lengths of distance over the start and can be the critical factor in what draft train I am positioned for. Additionally, my stroke rate dropped below 40 spm during the switch which is too low. I have been practicing my start switches to be at 40spm. Most of my switches were below 40 spm, so that means I wasn’t as efficient as I practiced.
I made one critical mistake…
…that goes against a fundamental of racing. I tried something new on race day…kind of. As I trained through the steamy-hot Virginia summer I was freezing my 3 liter hydration pack the night before a long workout. Like, solid block of ice frozen. That worked great in the 90 degree heat in August and September. I failed to take into account the temperature change in ‘nooga and about 20% of my in-race nutrition was still frozen after the race. I had no hydration the first 1.5 hours and then just little sips after that. I am sure it had some impact on me physically but it really threw me a curve ball mentally. I dialed back the middle of my race a little because I was worried that every little twinge of pain was the onset of race-ending cramps. As a result I took myself off one of the lead chase-trains which I was not happy about, but I felt it was a good decision given the hydration issues. Those guys were crushing it up there and it was a lot just to stay in the train. I felt pretty good around mile 27, probably too good for that point of the race, but that allowed me to put a great final push in, drop my draft and run down a few guys coming in. Every race is a learning experience and this one was no different.
A Special Race
We all have a few races that are special to us for some reason or another. Chattajack is my favorite of all of them anywhere. I love this race…the city, the gorge, Dottie’s bonfire, base camp, Suck Creek, check-in, chocolate milk at the finish, no prize money, Sherpa maps, Taco Trucks, the gathering of the tribes, everyone freaking out about the flow, Aretha Frankenstein’s, the sunrises, the sunsets, Kim and Ben, people smiling after 32 miles, cow-bells, Melia’s cookies, the Hobo-Squad, Paddle Monsters, Mullet Heads, 100/100 peeps…it is a special place and a special event. Can’t wait for next year!!