Reflections of a SUP racing year

Some of the trophy haul!

Some of the trophy haul!

Totally stoked! An amazing season of sporting achievements for me, a reflection of all the hard work and quite a lot of uncontrollable elements (luck!) going my way. Still hard to believe….started with 2nd overall in our Frostbite series in April, through to 3rd in the last UK SUP clubs race in the Gower mid-August. Total series points meant 3rd overall and 1st Masters in the UK SUP clubs’ 10 race series (12’6″)!!

From February to end of August, I’d been training 6-14 hours a weeks, having to think about what and when I ate (and drunk!), getting up and going to bed early. I loved the excitement of competition, the adrenaline rush of the start and the elation of achievement could keep you on a high for days afterwards……Until July. I started to lose the buzz, guess this was due to the physical and mental fatigue and carrying injuries over a very long race season. Because of this, I decided to back right off the paddle training, but kept up cross training (swimming, biking, running, strength/conditioning and the occasional surf).

It turned out that it was the best thing to do; I slept better, joints felt looser and stronger. I also did the maths and found out who was going to Norfolk in early August, so didn’t attend this race and saved myself for another 2 weeks until the Gower. I believe this was an excellent tactical decision as it postponed increasing my training intensity for another week or 2.

Although my body felt better now, my mind (and heart?) didn’t want to play along so still found it hard to intensify my paddle training in preparation for the seasons last 2 races. I think this was also due to my realisation that where I would come overall in the series was now out of my control. The way the points system worked meant that if Aaron Rowe came to Gower and completed the race in any position, he’d jump up to 3rd overall and I’d go to 4th. If by some miracle he didn’t race, I’d keep my 3rd. I didn’t need to race to affect this; all I could positively do was reset my goal to improve my series points by dropping one of my 5th places earlier in the season if I got a 4th or better.

Jockeying for position at The Gower

Jockeying for position at The Gower

Fortunately, the other aspect of fitness, such as physical conditioning, gets through a lot of these mental hiccups. Because all the training, your body just goes from the start gun like a bullet! Coach Ryan’s training plan carried out by the BaySUP crew every week, pushing each other hard makes all the difference. So well-conditioned, that on race day its automatic-into the zone of optimum performance…boom!

To top it off on the 23rd of August, our club BaySUP won the National club champs at Eton Dorney!  My personal efforts meant I won the Masters and came 2nd overall in the 12’6”. I feel like I’ve been loaded with competitive recognition, especially in the last half of August, which made all the personal efforts and sacrifices worthwhile.

My SUP racing dreams came true! Massive thanks to:

• My family for supporting and putting up with my single mindedness.
• Coach Ryan James (especially having someone to chase and the shoulder fix mate!) and the Bay SUP crew for the motivation pain and laughs.
Starboard SUP UK team for all the sponsorship, equipment and logistical support…
Super Vitality for the great, natural performance nutrition and sports supplements.
Surf Steps – Bournemouth Surf School for all the time to train and race:-)
• Everyone involved in the UK SUP teams race series, Joanne Hamilton-Vale, Pete Holliday, Ali Pereira and all the rest of you, the aloha spirit you embody made this better and greater than I thought was possible!!

Reflecting on this, the most important things I learnt:

1. Never give up: people can fall 200m from the finish, not turn up on race day, go round the wrong and/or miss a buoy or turn, equipment can break and injuries can spring up. If you’re just behind them doing your best you can take advantage of this and win (or at least improve your position)!
2. Expect the unexpected: I know it sounds cliché, but if you mentally and physically prepare for the same things happening in number 1 above, but to you, you have a better chance of overcoming these obstacles if they arise. Always have a plan B-life’s like that:-)
3. Know when to back off/fire up your training by recognising over and under training: It’s a knife edge to balance your training and all that goes with it, rest, nutrition and other aspects of your life. Every individual has different capacities in regards to these factors. This means the beneficial amounts of volume and intensities of training for one person might not be enough for you or worse, might destroy you physically and mentally. If you hurt or simply can’t stand going to train-DON’T!
If more time needs to be focused on your family do so, the psychological benefits of spending time with them might be a greater benefit to your performance than banging out more hours of training.
If you feel unwell or lacking in energy, try changing what and how much you eat, rest and sleep…….sleep, sleep! If you can’t sleep 6-8 hours solidly a night it can be as likely that you are training too much as training too little. Training is a form of stress and if it isn’t controlled and released it affects you just like other forms of stress.

In Closing:

Now I can see all the hard work and focus had paid off-I’d set out to get into the top 5th this year, give the racing all I’ve got to see what my best could be. It turned out better than I ever expected! My focus next year will be on some personal SUP challenges- including fund raising for worthy causes. But never fear, there will always be a race or 2 on my mind.
Thanks for the memories and the experience…..looking forward to the 2015 SUP year……..
After a long rest:-)
If you would like discuss any of the information here, please feel free to comment or contact me!



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