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.

1 comment:

Goodness said...

Hi Hailey,

I checked your blog and read up on how you did at the world's.
Congratulations! When you return home and have some time I would love to learn how to roll and try out the kayak. Take care and safe travels.
Matthew Goodness