Sunday, October 29, 2006

Cascade Distance Race Report

Last Saturday I took a Cadence to the race. Unfortunately, however, I ran out of time the night before trying to fabricate and install a better rudder and install the smaller 16 tooth sprocket. The end result was that the boat was raced with the smaller sprocket and the same rudder as at the last race, but with some of the trailing surface area removed.

The temperature was a rather cool 44 degrees F, foggy and with a light S-SE breeze blowing onto the lake.

I launched early to make sure that I'd be ready to go at the scheduled 10 AM start, pulling the boat onto one of the floating docks at the Renton Boathouse.

As I had done this race many times I more or less ignored the pre-race meeting and registered. It was good to see and talk with all the folks with whom I had raced over the years.

The few minutes I was at the meeting were spent taking photos.

After the meeting I got myself ready for the short race and launched. It was quite foggy out on the water.

The lake was empty for quite a while. A couple of boats finally appeared - and disappeared into the fog as their occupants warmed up. Where were all the other boats?

The fog slowly began lifting. I took some pictures of my boat's wake at 4 mph and 6 mph, noting that my heart rate was only 90 beats per minute at 4 mph. Very interesting. I suspect that most casual users of the boat would probably find this gear ratio and the effort level to be quite agreeable.

As for me, it wasn't too bad, though it took a bit of getting used to reaching hull speed within a couple of revolutions of the cranks.

The rudder seemed to work better in its cut down state. There was still a pull to port, but it did not seem as strong. Maneuvering at slow speeds was not very good, however. Oh, well - back to the drawing board!

Eventually the 15 minute warning was given. Quite a few boats were now on the water.

About 10 minutes later the 15 minute warning was given - again! Weird.

Having been on the water for nearly 40 minutes my bladder announced that it was getting rather full. I started pedaling quickly back to the dock at the boathouse.

The 5 minute warning was given. Oh, no!

After taking care of matters I sprinted back to the boat, got in and headed for the starting line. About halfway there the starting signal was given - and they were off!

Rats! This must be the 3rd year in a row that I've missed the start of this race!

Watching my heart rate monitor settle at about 144 bpm I headed west down the course. The gps was reporting a speed of around 6.5 to 7 mph, and the water was definitely gurgling quite a bit behind me. Not having a cadence readout on the Cadence, and my watch being occupied with displaying heart rate info, I can't say for certain what my pedaling speed was. However, it certainly was not as smooth over the entire cycle as it is with the smaller gear.

Most of the other boats were ahead, and the leading boats were stretching the distance even further. There was quite a bit of milfoil around the boathouse as well as around the mouth of the Cedar River, so I stopped a couple of times to clear the propeller. That seemed to help improve the speed and pedaling effort a bit, possibly increasing the speed by 0.5 mph with the same pedaling effort.

The sun had come out and I was getting extremely hot. The air temperature had reached the upper 40's, but the wind had become a tail wind. There was no apparent relative air movement. Dipping my hands in the cold water helped a bit, but it also slowed me down. As I was now just wearing two shirts, shorts, socks, shoes and PFD, there was not much I could do to get cooler. Yes, I was also wearing leg warmers, but those had been pushed down to my calves and doing so made no difference anyway.

I managed to pass a couple of boats as we approached the Atlantic City boat ramp buoy at the far end of the short course. Quite a few boats had already passed the buoy, either continuing on towards Seward Park for the 13 mile long course or returning back to the start to complete the 5.2 mile short course.

Soon the turn buoy was behind and I was heading back to the finish. The tailwind was now a light headwind, which helped dramatically to cool me off. Whew!

All the way out to the buoy my pulse stayed around 144. My respiration was somewhat measured, but nowhere near its limits. On the return segment my pulse started creeping upwards, primarily due to my cadence increasing. My legs just wanted to pedal faster.

Since my legs weren't complaining nearly as much as I thought they would be by this time I decided to maintain a rate of 152 to 155 bpm. I caught and passed a mixed double racing canoe, after exchanging pleasantries, of course.

There was a fast laminated strip kayak ahead that I wanted to catch, so I pedaled a little harder. My pulse increased to the low 160's and I was breathing a bit harder, but still not at my limit.

Another patch of milfoil caused me to stop and remove it, giving up some of the distance I had gained. Sigh...

I continued pedaling at the 162 bpm rate until we were about half a mile from the finish. At that point I pedaled harder, pushing the pedals as fast as I could. A glance at the heart rate monitor showed 170, and the LCD of the gps was not able to be seen due to the angle of the sunlight. Rats! I'd have to wait until after the race to see how fast I was going.

I was gaining on the kayak but ran out of course. He crossed the finish about 10 seconds before me.

My time for the 5.25 mile course was 49:37, which is a personal best. My maximum speed was 7.8 mph.

After a bit of a cooling down period I tried a couple of short sprints. The top speed during those sprints was about 8.7 mph, which is still almost 2 mph lower than my personal best in a Cadence. Maybe there were some weeds fouling the rudder or propeller, or perhaps I was a little tired from the race. It is possible that both things were true.

After the race Dan Henderson, the race director, served freshly grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, chicken, salads, etc. It was all very tasty!

Photos are available at the Sound Rowers web site.

GPS tracks are available at my web site.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Medina-Mercer Race

The Medina-Mercer race was held on Saturday, Oct. 7. The morning was rather chilly, with the temperature around 47 degrees F when I left the house at 8:30 AM, and reaching no higher than the upper 50's as the day progressed.

There was no wind, however, which kept things reasonable and the waters of Lake Washington nearly mirror flat.

Surprisingly enough there were still a couple of choice parking spots directly adjacent to Medina Beach Park. Folks probably got burned in years past trying to find empty spots there and suffered when they tried to turn around in the tiny cul-de-sac at the end of the road with long boats on top of their cars. Oh, well.

There were quite a few new racers registered at this race. Most were in various sorts of kayaks, but a couple of new rowers were there, too. As usual I was the only pedal boater present. Apparently none of the other pedal boaters in the area are interested in racing - at least with these folks!

Adrian Storb ran the pre-race meeting. The courses had not changed from previous years. The short 6 mile course and the long 14 mile course both had the same start and finish. The short course turned back after passing one of the sets of four pillars supporting the I-90 freeway bridge from Bellevue to Mercer Island. The long course continued onward, circumnavigating the island before returning.

After the race would be a variety of freshly grilled hot dogs, bratwurst, knockwurst and other sausages. After all, the was the Medina-Mercer Sausage Pull!

The water was rather chilly as I launched my Cadence. There was no dock, so one had to wade into the water a bit in order to get into the boat without it grinding into the sand and stones. Brrr!

I pedaled backward for 50 feet or so with my hands in order to free up some beach space while I then attended to drying my feet and putting on my bike shoes. That was much better!

The new rudder, which was merely the old rudder used at the Lake Samish race the previous weekend but with a chunk of it nearest the hull removed, seemed to maneuver fairly well. There was still a pull to the port side, but it seemed to be not quite as strong. I guess the best solution is to make it extend a couple more inches into the prop wash in order to balance the thrust.

After a few loops among the other competitors, taking photos whenever possible, the 5 minute warning signal was heard. Even though the early sunny skies had given way to a fairly thick overcast I was getting pretty warm. Off went the windbreaker, which was then stowed beside the emergency canoe paddle. I was now wearing bike shorts, long sleeved nylon shirt, lightweight long sleeved wicking shirt, socks, shoes, PFD and my trusty Sound Rowers baseball-style cap. That would be plenty!

The starting signal was heard and off we went!

As usual, the surfskis and other HPK's were among the first off the line, with the rowers not far behind. Most of the rowers soon overtook the paddlers and gradually headed off into the distance. Of course, there were a couple of strong paddlers who kept up with the faster rowers, such as Joost Zeegers in his custom Z-1 boat, but most of the rest were more or less grouped behind.

The GPS reported speeds in the 7 to 8 mph range as I headed towards the I-90 bridge. This was not going to be a sustainable pace for 14 miles, so I dropped down a bit after deciding I couldn't quite catch the OC-2 being paddled by Bela Kovacs and Steve Bennett. Rats! They could have given me a "free" ride all around the island, too, if only I could have caught their wake. Oh, well. Taking photos does have its downside if one is also trying to race.

I caught a white surfski paddled by a guy in a red shirt. He was going about the same pace, so I asked him if he was doing the long or the short course. "Long", he replied. With that I decided to trail behind until the bridge, figuring that I could save a bit of energy and then dash off for photos of the returning short course racers.

That didn't last long. There were some very fast boats in the short race, so I split off and tried to snap a few photos. I also managed to get some shots of a rower who put in at a nearby private beach, apparently to fix his riggers. Since a safety boat went to investigate I decided to continue onward.

Shane Baker in his green OC-1 was traveling nearby as I passed under the bridge. It appeared that he was also going the same pace as the white surfski and, as it turned out, a guy in a gorgeous laminated wood kayak. However, between having to clear my propeller of a small weed infestation a couple of times and taking still more photos, I managed to drop behind a couple of hundred feet. I managed to keep ahead of Shane through most of this, eventually passing the guy in the white surfski.

A light southerly breeze started up, helping to cool me off. It was going to be a tailwind on the other side, though. Rats!

The guy in the wooden kayak was now several hundred yards ahead by the time I reached the south end of Mercer Island. The pack of faster boats, including the OC-2 with Bela and Steve, was over 4 minutes ahead and barely visible in the distance. I figured that if I was going to ever catch them I had best start doing it now.

Putting the pedal to the metal, i.e., pulling as well as pushing on the pedals to make a smoother pedaling action, my speed crept up by about 0.5 to 1 mph. It seemed as though the distance between the Cadence and the wooden kayak visibly shrunk in a much shorter time than would expected.

I caught the kayak in just a couple of minutes, trailing in his wake for a while. We talked for a moment about catching the OC-2, which the paddler said was what he had been concentrating on for the past several miles. I responded with "Let's go get them!" and pedaled off at the same rate of speed I used to catch the kayak.

This I kept up for perhaps 5 or 6 minutes. The kayak was not able to keep up and was quite a ways behind. Oh, well.

Mercer Island has a wide bay on its west side. It is is actually shorter to cut across the lake towards Seward Park and then towards the eastern rise of the floating section of the I-90 bridge than it is to hug the island shoreline. During this crossing I was making pretty good time, but my strength was starting to ebb. I finished the last of an energy gel and the last of one of the water bottles, hoping that it would keep me going. All I knew was that my arms were very tired from forcing the rudder to the right and my legs didn't really want to move very fast.

About 2 minutes ahead of me I could see the OC-2 making the crossing to Seward park. They were able to maintain that distance until we reached the northern tip of Mercer Island, though their zig zagging navigation certainly helped as my speed dropped primarily due to exhaustion. I also made sure the propeller was clear of weeds by stopping every so often. Nope - just my imagination, though there certainly were small mats of milfoil floating around.

During the crossing from the northern tip of Mercer to Medina I focused on what I thought was Medina City Hall. The OC-2 and several other boats were going quite a bit to the south, so I thought they had the wrong landmark in view. I picked up the pace as best I could.

As it turned out, we were both wrong. They had veered too far south and I had gone too far north. I corrected my course and found that the OC-2 was now perhaps 30 to 40 seconds ahead. Could I catch them?

Much to my surprise I saw Shane in his OC-2 a boat length ahead and to the right. How did he get there?!?

I picked up the pace further. There was no way that I was going to let Shane beat me!

Shane also picked up the pace. He asked why I had gone so far to the north, and I explained it as navigational error.

I was now behind his outrigger, then pulled alongside. There were only a few hundred yards before the finish. After taking a final snapshot I had to make my move!

I poured what was left of my energy into the pedals. The Cadence leapt ahead of the OC-2. Shane paddled furiously for a few moments, then went back to his previous rate.

Meanwhile, I continued to pedal rapidly. Shane was now several boat lengths behind when I crossed the finish line, with a time of 2:16:05. Whew! What a finish!

Recovery from the effort took a bit longer. I pedaled slowly back onto the course, taking some shots of the remaining incoming racers.

When I finally landed my legs were not quite as steady as they usually are. I definitely needed some lunch and a bit of a rest!

The bratwurst were very tasty.

A number of folks in surfskis and rowing shells complained about all the weeds. Ha! That's a first, because I had very little trouble with them this year.

With the two races and all the different classes of boats and competitors there was only one person who didn't walk away with a ribbon. He ended up getting a string of wooden sausages instead. Lucky guy!

My best time for this race was 2:15, so perhaps if the rudder had been correct I would have been able to complete the course much faster. We'll see next year!

Photos and my stats can be found at the Sound Rowers Photography page