Bray Lake 26km distance race – The Thames

This race is looking to be the most challenging race distance wise of the whole 2013 season.

Coming off a Euro trip & a lot of racing I was feeling good about the prospects.  I’d had plenty of rest, conditioning was good & I know by board on the flat was very competitive.

I arrived nice & early to check out the logistics & get prepared for the race.  I was fuelled & hydrated & all was going to plan.

I got hold of a copy of the race map & had a good chat to organiser & fellow competitor Ben Swails to understand some of the more complex parts of the race (6 portage around various locks) Having listened to Mitcho a couple of weeks before – it’s the small preparations that need attention, especially when you know some of the competition would be very close.

What a great group of participants
What a great group of participants

We hit the water and lined up for the start.  personally I didn’t think the start lcoation was very good, it squashed us all into a small channel so positioning was vital.  I was slightly wide of the best line but was comfortable with who was around me & knew I had to push hard the first 20 yards to get to the corner first or second.  Ryan James was on the inside line & he is always fast away from the start (providing he stays on his board!) 🙂

Go, go, go!
Go, go, go!

The horn went and it was go go go… I got the perfect start and as I expected Ryan took the lead but I tucked in close to try & get a bit of drag to pull me away from the field.  Ryan was on a 14ft & I was on a 12’6 so always hard to keep pace but if its ever going to happen it was at the start as the first portage was only 1km away.

Taking a quick look behind I saw Ben Swails & Paul Simmonds working together close… I pushed hard to the first portage & was right on Ryans tail.  The first transfer was hectic to say the least… crashing of boards, running up stairs & through gates… Ryan & I hit the water together & had probably 20 seconds on the guys behind.

Lock 1 - I'm only a couple of seconds behind Ryan
Lock 1 – I’m only a couple of seconds behind Ryan

Ryan pulled clear & I was on no-mans-land. I could hear Ben & Paul behind working together so I knew I had to keep my pace high to keep them at bay.  I knew I was good for the long distance so had to reply on keeping them off my draft as long as possible.

On the third Lock the guys had really pulled up on me… as I hit the water after the portage I heard a massive splash… I guess (and found out correctly later) that Paul had done a running jump full speed onto his board, throwing it out in front of him as he ran to the waters edge… a risky move but it rocketed him off the line & right up close to me.

I kept him at bay until about 10kms or so into the race.  At this point I’ll be honest it was getting pretty boring!  Ryan up ahead, paddling on my own, it was getting hard to pace myself. On an upwind section Paul caught up & pulled into my draft… before too long he came past & I took a turn to sit in his wake.  We exchanged places a few times.  Fortunately Paul was with me at the 4th Lock as he knew the route, I would have gone the wrong way! it was all a bit manic but we hit the water again.  Paul ahead.  After a KM or so I pulled out to take my turn… Paul seemed to slow a bit… I saw an opportunity and paddled hard… Paul didn’t respond so I kept the pace up & my head down!  I felt really strong having a second wind. We must have gone another 5kms or so before the next lock – I didn’t look back until then & he wasn’t even in sight… this brilliant news! I slowed for a good drink then set off again focusing on smooth technique & efficient paddling.  I still felt good & knew there couldn’t be too long to go.  I had actually lost count of the locks so wasnt sure when I was at the last one, but when I saw Windsor Race Course I knew it was the home straight.  A quick bite to eat & a good slurp of drink I started to get a really nice rhythm going, before I knew it I could see Windsor Castle, this was the finish… In

the distance I spotted Ryan paddling back towards me, he had just finished & rounded Eton bridge.  he cheered me on & I cracked on the last 500m to the finish ecstatic to have taken 1st place against a really good competitor Paul but even better, 2nd overall after 26kms!

12'6 Podium - 1st Pete Holliday (BIC), 2nd Paul Simmonds (Starboard), 3rd Charle
12’6 Podium – 1st Pete Holliday (BIC), 2nd Paul Simmonds (Starboard), 3rd Charle

This was a real racers race.  Tough, super tough in fact, strategic, technical… all round bloody brilliant.  Thanks to Ben Swails & the Bray Lake crew for organising.

Thanks to ZRE / Chi / BIC / Bomber – for such great products that help me through the events. My new 14ft BiC Race Pro is on order… RJ you better watch out, I’m coming for you buddy 🙂

The next big race on the horizon is Paddle Round the Pier 14mile team race.  Today we agreed our team, it’s going to be a stormer… wait & see…