So far I haven't taken the training too seriously. I've done some training paddles but have never really pushed the distance or pace. I went into Sunday's leg of the Norfolk Endurance Paddle Challenge, more eager to see what the Turtle Bay 14' Prototype could do, rather than what I was capable of doing. The board did not let me down.
It was time for the men's catagory to line up for the start of the 29km race. This wasn't the widest stretch of the river, so with 28 men in the line up, it was quite crowded. Race starts are always quite choppy, so I was keen to keep some space around me and hold back, with being on the 23" wide board. The air horn blew and we were off! The initial choppy water wasn't too bad, I stayed with the pack and as the water started to settle down, I could start to get into a rhythm and pick up the pace.
The first 5k or so went well, I had gained quite a few places, settled into 7th place and the board was feeling good. At this point the gap was building behind me, but so too was the gap in front of me. The next 5k was all about sticking to my pace and hugging every corner to minimise the distance. It was during this next 5k that a guy on solid flat water board had caught me and slowly crept ahead. This was actually quite good mentally, because I now had someone to try and keep in my sights. I picked up the pace a little and was slowly closing back in on him towards the half way point.
The half way point was a very welcome sight. The great thing about the return leg is that you get to see how far the people behind you are. All was going well up to about the 20km mark. It was at this point that I was starting to fatigue. The headwind had picked up, I had nobody in front or behind me that I could see, my slightly dodgy knee was starting to play up and then I realised that my water was all but gone. From this point til the end it was a long hard slog. My pace was dropping significantly and I was feeling the effects from the lack of an evening meal the night before and a good breakfast. The last few kilometers saw three guys catch up an pass me. I usually like a little sprint at the end of a race, but the finish line was in sight and I had nothing left.
On reflection I had a pretty good race. The board was certainly quick and it had the pace to pass and pull away from a lot of people at the beginning. It dealt with the choppy start and the wake from the boats just fine. It tracked well and felt comfortable underfoot for the duration. My lack of fitness on the day probably saw me lose between 5-7 minutes on the return leg, so not as bad as it felt at the time.
I ended up 11th on the day, with a time of 29km in 3hrs 55mins, which I think sums up my performance fairly well.
The board performance was a much better story. On the day, it was the 2nd fastest inflatable! It was thanks to the board that I had such a good first half of the race.
So now it's time to step up the training and start taking it seriously again. In September I will be competing in the 92km Great Glen Endurance Paddle, along with other paddlers from my SUP Club. This was probably the last major outing for the Turtle Bay 14' Prototype. The production boards, which will be significantly lighter, will be arriving very soon, and I can't wait!