Spring racing season is hard to beat here in the Pacific Northwest. Loads of great races, venues and fast racers. We've just wrapped up the Bellingham Bay Rough Water Race and the PNW ORCA Winter Series Championship Race... and we're only at the half way mark with the Dan Harris, Tour De Indian Arm (both part of the Think International Challenge), Lake Whatcom Classic and the Ski-to-Sea looming large on the horizon. Particularly stoked to hear that we'll have some visiting elite paddlers with Carter Johnson and Austin Kiefer in addition to our usual cadre of fast paddlers to test myself against.
If that weren't enough, the mid-week race series will all be up and running again soon. If you're a racing junkie like me living in Bellingham, you can race Tuesday in Deep Cove, Wednesday on Lake Whatcom and Thursday night in Vancouver with the Big Chop series... Wow we have it good, and the sport is clearly booming.
Bellingham Bay Rough Water: After having the race cancelled due to gale conditions the race itself went off a week later with the exact opposite of conditions: glassy water, no wind and sunny warm skies. Despite a schedule conflict with another race, the turnout was solid with a lot of the region's paddlers eager to test their conditioning in a fast, tough race over 10 miles in Bellingham Bay.
The race unfolded like many do when the conditions are flat, with an initial burst off the line and a hang-on-for-dear-life pace to the first buoy marker.
Our initial mix involved two fast double skis, Kirk Christiansen, Brandon Nelson, and myself with Jeff Maloney chasing hard. The double ski's were powered by Joost Jeegers / Paul Clement and Eric Wermus / Elana Ecker. Joost and Clement choose a slightly faster line to the buoy and put a touch more steam into the pace, with Brandon and I happy to have their wash.
After the initial turn, the hammer came down and myself and Joost / Clement got a small gap that grew over the next mile to become about a minute on the chase pack led by Wermus / Ecker with Kirk and Brandon in tow, and Jeff Maloney just out of reach behind them.
I traded a few pulls with Joost and Clement, and we worked to keep the pace in the low to mid 8mph range. Our gap grew with the hot pace, until the final couple of mile's when the double team offered up some testing accelerations.
In a race that is in the 10 mile range or longer, it's impossible to think that you'll go full tilt the entire distance the way you might in a 10k race (6.2 miles). You simply can't, so planning for brutal over-max intervals and then using threshold intervals to manage your reserves carefully is key to getting the timing right to make your best move really count... but not letting the pace drop too much to let other's back into contention. In other words, you have to find a way to turn a ten mile race into a three or four mile race.
I decided to hang tight and wait to make my move in the last kilometer to the finish. I gave it all I had and managed to get a small gap on the Joost / Clement which I held on to until the finish for the win. Having missed the race meeting, I was a bit unsure of where the finish line was but won the race none-the-less. Note to self: finish what you start. Wermus / Ecker were the next boat in, with Kirk Christiansen the next single ski followed by Brandon Nelson, and Jeff Maloney rounding out the front pack.