Sunday, September 27, 2009

World Championships

Well, I can’t say that I know where to begin. This European adventure has been one of the best experiences I have ever had. From Switzerland, to Slovenia, to Spain, I’ve gotten to paddle on incredible courses, meet exceptional people, and immerse myself in diverse cultures.
I came into World Championships with three solid weeks of training under my belt. Walking the course that had been set on the night before Qualifications, I felt pretty confident in my ability to execute clean, fast runs. I was, absolutely scared out of my wits (“Holy cow, this is WORLDS!”), but confident all the same.
I had a bad first run on Qualification day. I was always just a tad off my line, and would have to scramble to make the moves that I had competently made during practice. It was no good. I knocked myself back into line for second runs though, and brought myself up from a dissatisfying (not to mention, barely qualifying) 17th, to 13th. I was really pleased.
The next day was the day of Team runs. My team was composed of all three U.S. Women’s C1s; Myself, Carolyn Petersen, and Micky Reeves. I was able to calm down a lot, and laid down my best runs (I wished I had done so the previous day!), but my team mates were not so lucky, and they ended up accumulating several missed gates…I was a little bummed, to tell the truth, I had been stoked about my first clean runs.
Today was the day of Semi-Finals and Finals. Only the top ten boats were to progress on to finals, and the course had been changed from the previous two days to a far more challenging one. If I had been nervous on Qualifications day, I was really feeling the heat today. I aced the first four gates on the course. But then, I lost my edge coming into the fifth, flipped (I have never regretted flipping more), washed down past two gates, and rolled. I came up in an eddy, and decided, to heck with it, I wasn’t going to quit, so I attained back up a drop, got the two gates, and continued on to the seventh gate. My composure was shot, and I missed both the eighth and ninth gates (I fought like hell to get them, but just couldn’t do it). I was devastated, but pulled it together enough to finish strong (the ridiculous part is that the bottom of the course had the hardest gates on it).
I finished 14th. Not well enough to get into finals. Although I was upset, I realized, it was not because I wasn’t going to the podium. It was because I knew my potential, and it just didn’t happen this time. Not for lack of trying, either. But the C1 Women I was up against are phenomenal paddlers. I stayed throughout finals, sprinting up and down the side of the course, yelling my head off for those ladies who made top 10. And I couldn’t be more proud. Not of them, not of me. We all did our absolute personal best today. True, I’m disappointed that I’m not on that podium tonight. But if anything, this experience has simply made me want to work harder for next year’s Worlds. This has made me realize, that it is not only about the gold. It’s about all of the experiences it takes to get to the top.
In conclusion, I’ve loved every second of this trip. I have learned a lot about myself, as a paddler, competitor, and person. I’ve figured out my strengths, but also my weaknesses. I have a lot of work to do in the upcoming year, but it is a challenge I’m ready to seize.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Training at la Seu d'Urgell

Spain has been incredible. I know I seem to be repeating myself a lot in recent blog posts, but this European trip has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have been here in La Seu d'Urgell for almost two weeks now, training, and World Championships are this weekend (eeak!). I'm feeling well prepared.
To kick things off at Seu, the International Canoe Federation (ICF) hosted a Women's Canoe camp, with help from the best coaches in the world. There were 22 women in attendance from 15 different countries, and the improvement was exponential.
I had an excellent time training with all of the other women, and felt my paddling skills expanding, as well as thoroughly enjoying all of the camaraderie. I was sad when the camp came to its' end and I had to go back to my regular training slot.
But training with my country is going quite well, I'm training with U.S.A. C1W's Carolyn Petersen, and Micki Reeves, coached by Cathy Hearn.
The culture here in Spain is awesome, and I've had a lot of fun. At the close of the C1W camp, Seu held its Festival of Fire, a crazy night of flame and dancing. The past two days were my days off and I went to Barcelona, seeing the famous buildings of Gaudi, the elegant Plaza Real, mystical Ancient City, and pounding nightlife of Las Ramblas, staying with good friends from Barcelona: Alvaro, Yolanda and Otis. When I returned from Barcelona, it felt so good to be back in the mountain village of La Seu. I returned to the school where I am staying, La Salle and heard singing in the hallway. I found friends Mel from Togo, Johnny from Nigeria, Alice from the U.K. and we sang into the evening....
Now I'm getting my final preparations for Worlds in order; I'm so excited for the final stage of this incredible journey!