UK SUP Clubs series stage 6 was the Hurley to Eton – Bray Lake Ultra Distance 26km.
A firm favourite of mine after winning the 12’6 class last year. It’s a super tough, long race with 6 portage along the way to mix things up.
So far this series the distance races have finished the same way. I was desperate to get some points back agains 2nd place finisher Ben Payne who’s been paddlign so strong this year. He’s an incredible athlete & I knew I needed every advantage to stand a chance of getting him at his home race.
Looking at the forecast on the week leading up it was looking like a hot one. I sought some advice from the guys at H2Pro regards hydration & set a plan of action to try & get myself any small margin. A very worthwhile exersize in the end!
Race day was scorching, 25degrees, little wind.
I got off to a good start, my plan to hold the back of Ryan & Ben as long as possible. The first leg is a short 1km sprint to lock 1. This is like a race before the main race… super tough to keep a rediculous fast pace knowing you still have 25kms to go after… Things worked out & I was sat on Ryans tail going into the first portage with Ben behind, however rumours he’d been training the portages specifically showed through when he jumped me & passed me before we hit the water again. I stuck to him for as long as I could but the pace he & Ryan were setting was crazy. I mde a quick decision to stick to my game plan, paddle my own race, be confident in my preparation & endurance & see how it works out later in the race.
As we progressed through the race the gaps stayed really consistent between the three of us. I could see no-one behind so could relax & concentrate on maintaining a relaxed stroke, conserving some energy. As we got to about halfway I was slowly starting to make ground on Ben. We were going to come to Bray Lock in a few km’s which was lock 5. I really wanted to get past Ben before here to give me some space & stop a sprint finish. He was slowing every KM & I saw him stop a couple of times… It looked like he was going to quit, I later foudn out he had severe stomach cramps. I didn’t want him getting any rest on my tail so I put my head down, pulled wide on the river & went the long way round on the other side of the river round the bend heading into Bray. I managed to put a few board lengths on Ben & heard him shout to the supporters if there was any water… I knew he was suffering & this was my chance. I ran down the steps to hit the water & promptly slipped on my ass, went backwards down the steps & upsidedown into the water! Not good… luckily no cameras 🙂
I jumped back on quick to try & keep my advantage. I was starting to hurt bad now but knew I was in a better state than Ben so got back into a relaxed rhythm & focused on Ryan who was about 500m ahead. We had about 9kms to go now, I felt ok, kept drinking, stayed relaxed & started to wind the pace back up again. Before long I was making ground on Ryan. Coming into the last lock I had about 300m to catch Ryan & about 4kms to work. I still felt ok, (well I mean this is all relative – compared to right now I was really screaming in pain but considering the situation I felt ok) I saw Windsor Castle & the finish was just round the corner. Ryan was only about 150m ahead as we hit the last kilometer.. I kept pushing & crossed the line 2nd just under a minute behind him.
It was an amazing feeling, it had all come together this race. I love these longer races, it’s not all decided at the start. There are so many factors to consider. The tiny details make huge differences. I have a feeling Ben won’t let that one lie so looking forward to some battles at the next race 🙂