Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pre-Worlds in Tacen, Slovenia

Bouncing through some waves
Beautiful Slovenian Gardens
In front of the course at Tacen

Getting a lot of air off of a surge at the Top Drop
Reaching for a cross-bow stroke
The Top Drop at Tacen

Tacen, Smlednik, and Ljubljana, Slovenia have got to be some of the most beautiful places on earth. The towering, snow-capped Julian Alps, the frothy, turquoise rivers, small organic farms, incredible food (black truffle pizza, yumm!), and friendly locals are making my time here unforgettable. I arrived here late Monday night, too late for training, but we pulled into our hotel, the Hotel Kanu (!), and got a great night sleep before my training slot the next day.
The course at Tacen is HUGE. The top drop is a massive slide, that descends about 25 vertical feet over the course of 30 feet…and it’s about a foot deep! So flipping over is a very unattractive option. I was a part of the USA/Slovakia hour-long training slot on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and then we had a 30 minute-long training slot on Friday morning before the course was set. Three and a half hours was not a lot of time to train on such a huge, challenging course, but I felt fairly good about my paddling coming into the race on Saturday morning. I had walked the course multiple times with my coach, Silvan Poberaj, and on my own, watched Demo-boats, and video, and was as mentally prepared as I was going to get.

Waking up on Saturday morning, I was nervous. That terrible, butterfly-like, why-do-I-do-this feeling. And that was no good. My run was later on in the morning, so I had plenty of time to ruminate on how nervous I was. Needless to say, I hyped myself up too much, and it reflected poorly on my first run, where I received two unnecessary fifty-second, missed gate penalties.
I was devastated. But I knew I had to pull myself together if I wanted to come back on my second run. I rested up, grabbed some calories, rehydrated, warmed up, and was fully ready for my second run.
At the start gate, I was there. There is this tangible sensation, where you know what you’re capable of, you know that the results aren’t really what matters, and it’s how you handle the journey. I knew what I was up against, women, incredible paddlers, the next youngest being twenty-one (I am fifteen). So, I began.
I did what I knew I was capable of, and finished in fourth place! I was thrilled! Semifinals and Finals were the next day.

Sunday morning was far better. I woke up calm and rested, and had an early morning run…no time to freak myself out. The course set was harder, an intense off-set move through the hole at the bottom of the top drop, and a tricky surf across a stopper-hydraulic to catch two gates, at the bottom of the course. And yet, I knew I could do it.
I got to the course, walked it once more, watched Demonstration runs, and then warmed up. My run rolled around, and I was ready. I had a very respectable run, and was surprised to find myself in second place at the end of Semifinals!
I had a two hour break before my final run, so I got as rested and refreshed as possible. The time finally came, and I gave it my all. I had a very good run, totally clean, no penalties, but I spent a little too much time surfed in a hole (I lost about five seconds there), and finished in a satisfying fourth place.
Now I am at a hotel on the border of Slovenia and Italy (Novo Gorica), on my way to Spain. I am sad to be leaving such a wonderful country as this, but I hope that someday my travels will bring me back to my home away from home; Slovenia.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tacen, Slovenia

This is a short clip of my first practice run down the massive upper drop at the course in Tacen, Slovenia...not too bad!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The European Adventure, Part 1

Europe is, in a word, amazing.
The first day we arrived, we went to Lake Geneva, had a breakfast of Swiss Breads, Fruits, Chocolates, and coffee. That was before we plunged into the aquamarine-coloured lake, and swam around a 1800’s style lighthouse. When we finished our refreshing swim, we (My family and our Swiss host family) walked all around the ancient city of Geneve.
It was incredible; every building we saw, was at least four centuries old. We toured a beautiful chapel, St. Peters, which was built in the 1500’s, and then continued on, stopping for Gelato, before heading to a local bridge above La Rhone River.
La Rhone is yet another gorgeous body of water, turquoise in color, and swift of speed. The bridge spanning it was about thirty-five feet high, and perfect for jumping. So we did. It was incredibly fun, and we floated down La Rhone for about a kilometer before hopping out and heading to a local “super-store” for dinner ingredients.
Swiss “super-stores” are nothing like American ones. In the Cheese section, they have mammoth rolls of cheese. Not just Cheddar and Monteray-Jack either. There were so many cheeses, (ones I have never heard of) that you could spend days, just reading the labels. The bread section was literally warmer than the rest of the store, rising a few degrees, because of how hot and fresh the loaves were. In other words, the food here, is amazing.
Our Host family prepared a classic Swiss meal for us, Raclett, which is a special kind of cheese, melted, then poured over Potatoes, onions, pickles, and dried beef. Not exactly light on calories, but delicious.
Yesterday we traveled to Chamonix, and hiked around Mont Blanc. It was breath-taking. I love the Alps so much, I wish I could stay here far longer.
Now, I am traveling over the French and Italian countryside, which is quite spectacular, where ancient castles are as common as silos on the roadside, except the fields are terraces, covered in grape vines, rather than corn rows. We are headed to Ljubljana, the capitol of Slovenia, near where Pre-Worlds will be held in Tacen (which is a small town). Hopefully, I will arrive in time to train tonight. Then I will spend the next four days preparing and training for the Race this weekend on the course at Tacen. I’ll be in touch!

P.S. How cool is this? The hotel I am staying in is called the Hotel Kanu!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Open Canoe Nationals

I got home from the road, and got straight back into a boat! I began training up at Wausau's Whitewater course shortly after getting home, and paddled through the week until the Open Canoe Nationals rolled around this past weekend.

Open Canoe generally isn't my main focus, but I hopped in and gave it my all, and ended up surprising myself by bringing home first place medals in six categories! It was a pretty thrilling feeling, and I'm grateful to have had the experience.

Check out this article if you would like to read more: