SEA Paddle Recap

SEA Paddle NYC Race Recap and A Note on Recovery

Grateful. Really Really f-ing grateful.

That’s about sums up SEA Paddle NYC 2016 for me. For those that didn’t know, I had double shoulder surgery on May 11th. It was arthroscopic and nothing was getting rebuilt or re-attached, but still…kind of a scary thing for anyone to do. Honestly, I was terrified. I knew I had to have the surgery and the prognosis for a full recovery was great. But I was very worried that I would not be able to train and compete at a high level ever again. Things don’t always heal at age 42 like they do at 22. Julia Nichols gave me the best piece of advice: “Re-hab like it is your job.” And I did. I did everything my physical therapist said to do and not to do. If she told me to stand on one leg while soaking in a vat of ketchup I would have done it, no questions asked.

102 days later I am standing under the Brooklyn Bridge talking race strategy with Kai Lenny, getting a hug from Trish Miller, seeing and getting caught up with great friends and paddlers I have a ton of respect for like Jorge Quintana, Tony Galang, James Gregario, Ryan Matthews, Brian Pasternak, Mark Colino, and 100 others. I’m rested, hydrated, mostly pain free, and ready to race what I consider the hardest SUP race on the planet. Grateful doesn’t begin to cover it.

SEA Paddle Recap

SEA Paddle NYC is unlike any other event. Yes, it is long…26 miles around Manhattan. But it isn’t just the distance that makes it such a challenge. There are so many variables. It was my fourth time doing this race; I should know the course really well by now. But every year NYC throws a little something extra at us. The conditions this year were fantastic. Temps in the low 80s, light winds, some cloud cover, and favorable currents…kinda…more on that later. The start at the Brooklyn Bridge was pretty swirly this year. We had current going with us so it was fast and choppy. I couldn’t get comfortable until around mile 5 when the water started to smooth out. It was fast though, I looked down at my speed coach and it was clocking 9 MPH. I tried drafting with leaders but the draft train was doing a lot of snaking and I felt like I was using more energy just trying to stay on it. I saw Jorge Quintana break off from front of the train and I decided to break off the back and settled into a good pace. (note: lead draft train did not include Kai Lenny, he torched all of us right off the start and was gone).

Coming up to the halfway point at the top of Manhattan Island, I was starting to get frustrated. I was paddling well, but the lead draft train was opening up water on me. Often in these long races I will have a short discussion with myself at some point when things aren’t going as I planned. Usually it involves slowing down, getting a good long drink, taking a salt tablet, refocusing, finding some angry music, and reminding myself that I didn’t do all that training and resting and clean eating to make a bunch of excuses. You are as good as your results…it’s go time.

SEA Paddle Recap

I came out into the Hudson River in seventh place…11 miles to go. Currents in SEA Paddle are a funny thing. I researched the tide markers and everything in the days leading up to the race. Everything said the current should be pushing well behind us at that point. I took a wide angle into the middle of the Hudson to get that push to the finish. But all I was doing was getting slower and farther away from the leaders. What I was doing clearly wasn’t working so I decided to go to the inside and take a risk. As I worked my way to the inside my SpeedCoach kept going up. +0.75mph faster on the inside. I settled into a good pace at a lighter gear. At the George Washington Bridge I caught the lead draft train that was still in the middle of the Hudson. Eight miles to go, second place.

The hardest part of SEA Paddle for me is the last two miles. I’m tired from almost four hours paddling in the NYC summer, I’m out of hydration, my legs are shot…and then here comes the Holland Tunnel and the water taxis. Water taxis drive just like street taxis in NYC except they are the size of small cruise ships, kick up waist high chop and there seems to be a bazillion of them. I took a peak behind me a few times and couldn’t see anyone close. I’m feeling good about second place. With a mile to go, out of nowhere Jorge Quintana pulls up right next to me looking much stronger then I felt at the moment. I don’t know where he came from but he sure did it quickly. I was done, I had nothing left. Jorge powered past me to the finish, it was his day. I was so stoked for him, he put in a ton of work getting ready for NYC this year and it showed. Jorge is a good friend of mine and I was honored to be on the podium with him and Kai.

SEA Paddle Recap

SEA Paddle NYC for me is a race that I always say I am never doing again. It can be a brutal race, but every year I learn a little something about myself I didn’t know. There is a special camaraderie at the finish line and when I see other SEA Paddlers at other races. I haven’t had the privilege of racing Molokai yet, but I hear people who have describe a similar feeling. Crossing the finish line and walking up the docks at Chelsea Piers, it is hard to describe. It is a race where everyone who finishes is a winner and everyone FEELS like they just won something. 26 miles, The Brooklyn Bridge, The East River, Hells Gate, the Harlem River, Yankee Stadium, Spuyten Duyvil Creek, the Hudson River, George Washington Bridge, the Holland Tunnel, water taxi hell…NYC…I swear I will never do this race again.

Until I do it next year.