Last week I participated in my second SUP 11 City Tour in Holland. The 11 City Tour is a 220klm (136 miles) 5-day standup paddleboard race through the northern part of Holland called the Friesland. The race is extremely unique for several reasons.
1.) The shear distance of the race 220klm, is extremely long. The is definitely and ultra-distance event. Today there are a handful of other ultra-endurance paddling events, but when the SUP 11 City tour started 9 year ago, it was certainly one of a kind.
2.) The 5-day stage race format is something not seen in other SUP events just yet. We this this format in other sports, cycling for instance, and in fact this race is often called the “Tour-de-France of SUP.”
3.) The entire race course is inland 95% on man-made canals. There are a couple of small lakes to cross, but otherwise you are paddling quite literally through fields, farmlands, and right through the center of the 11 cities.
4.) Most of the competitors stay on 3 large Dutch sailing ships that travel with us as we race and are always at the finish line, the next city, when we arrive. Its like SUP summer camp.
It is pretty far out! If you’ve never experienced a race like this or been to Holland before, it is an incredible way to see the country. That is if you remember to look up every now and then from your draft train and take in the scenery. ;)
In 2015, my first 11 City Tour, I paddled primarily by myself with a pretty substantial lead on the rest of the female competitors. With the daily distanced between 25-28miles, (5 1/2 hrs a day for me and up to 8 hours for some) it was a long way to paddle without taking turns on leading a draft train. But I was able to go at my own pace the entire time and easily won all 5 stages of the race.
This year was quite different for me. I ended up winning again all 5 stages of the race, but the margin was much smaller. And I believe I had to work much harder. I could tell from the get go that something wasn’t quite right and it egged on me the entire 220klm. My average speed this year was slower than last year and I know for a fact that I am a faster paddler than I was in 2015. So what was the problem? I am never one to complain or make excuses, so I did what I needed to do to make it happen. I used a different strategy and tactics, paddled my ass off, and I won every single day. I never let on to my competitors and other participants that I was struggling. I pretended like I was just taking it easy, but really I just could not find my power nor my speed the entire race… I am thinking that I made the wrong decision on which paddle to use. Trying to travel with the least amount of gear, I only brought one paddle, my smallest blade, thinking that over the long distance it would fatigue my body less. I wish I could have switched to a larger blade after the first day to try it and see, but I didn’t have that option. My board sponsors, Mistral, tried to bring me one of their paddles to use but then made a mistake while cutting and gluing rendering the paddle useless.
I took the whole situation as a sign and a well learned lesson.
“Use what you got to get what you need” – I ended up with the win regardless
“Live with your mistakes. Move forward and don’t let them get into your head” – I could have given up when my normal stroke rate of about 48 had to be increased to over 58 to maintain a decent speed and my body just didn’t want to cooperate. Instead I put my head down and pushed harder.
“Always bring a spare paddle” – It’s not like it weighs all that much. Lol. But 3 times in the last 3 months I have had paddles broken during transit, so I figured just bring one and pack it up real good.
I am so grateful to have had Petronella, the second place female to work with the entire race. It made the distance go by much faster because we were able to share the lead position and help to push, challenge, and motivate each other every stroke of the way.
Everything happens for a reason and It always works out in the end whether it seems like it at the time or not.
136 miles is a LONG way to paddle, let alone RACE! But we did it. We all did it. One of my favorite things about this event are the people that you meet while doing it. We are all as unique as this race and everyone has a different motivation for wanting to complete the challenge. When you get tired and exhausted and you don’t want to keep paddling and you never want to paddle again and you can’t remember why in the world you ever thought this would be a good idea and absolutely every muscle in your body is hurting, knowing that there are over 100 other people right there with you all experiencing the same thing, well, it helps. Because at the end of each day you get to commiserate and share with those people and you leave Holland having made a bond that very few people in the World will ever understand.
I want to say a huge thank you to the organizers of the Race!!! Once again a fantastic job.
Thank You so much to Mistral SUP for bringing me out here and treating me like a queen! The Vortex 14 does it again!
To my sponsors at home for their continued support and incredible products Remedys Nutrition Carbonerro Paddles, Sweet Waterwear, Vest Pac, VMG Blades, Surfstow, Key Mobile Chiropractic, Kaenon
Blessings and Gratitude to ALL!!!!