Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Junior World Championships, Foix, France

The Podium!
Hiking outside of Foix: Just like 'The Sound of Music'
The purple boat...
Carrying up...

As I drive north to Prague, the vineyards, sunflower plots, and lavender fields of Southern France flash past my window. I leave Foix with something close to reluctance – my time there was wonderful. Training with the U.S. Junior Team and the international C1 Women was invigorating and challenging, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, along with being in such a beautiful place - nestled in the Midi-Pyrenees, with a glacial river, in an ancient town overshadowed by a castle. After over a month, I am ready to return home though. But before I move on – I will describe the results of Junior World Championships – the best race of my life.
Junior World Championships is the most prestigious event I have had the opportunity to attend, the only exception being Senior Worlds. The competitors were multiple, talented, and from all over the globe. I was fortunate enough to compete alongside the most capable C1W’s in the world, as well as to befriend them.
Prior to the races, the city of Foix hosted a jaw-dropping Opening Ceremonies. All of the Nations paraded through the center of the town, through cheering crowds. It was almost a surreal experience, and it was very fun to be there, with my team, and all of the foreign competitors.
Thursday was the Women’s Kayak and Men’s Double Canoe, so I had the day off. The following day, Friday, was Preliminary heats for Women’s Canoe, Men’s Canoe, and Men’s Kayak – I was on. I took my first run and finished devastated by a 50 second penalty. My second run wasn’t much better, although it got me into Semifinals. I finished the day disappointed – I had been anticipating a top-10 finish, and I was in 16th. I needed to clean up my act if I wanted in on Finals.
Semifinals rolled around. The course had changed slightly, although the main crux move was still in place – a heinous wave crossing leading into a deceptive off-set. I walked the course multiple times with mentors, and planned. Finally, I was ready. I took my run. It was clean with the exception of a touch, and I directly approached moves that the other girls looped around. I had made up the time I needed, and moved up to 5th – top-10, and Finals!
I approached Finals with a light heart. No matter what, I knew I was top-10. I could have a stellar run, or a poor run, and I knew I would be happy…although one always hopes to reach the podium. I realistically thought I might not make it. I recharged, and then took my finals run. I don’t know entirely what happened, but adrenaline works wonders. I dropped my time from 169 to 155. Finishing, I was happy, and past the point of caring about placement. But I miraculously clung to 1st place until the very last two paddlers, Chinese and Australian. Shocked, and overjoyed, I realized that I had a medal. Bronze!
The Medals Ceremony was lovely, and overwhelming. I’m still sort of shocked. It was definitely the competition of a lifetime.
With Gratitude,
P.S. Special thanks to Laurri and Medhi, the French International Canoe Coaches; Tom and Trish Littman, for their wonderful homes; Klasinski Clinic and Team Schierl; Darren Bush, Lili Colby, Brian Cook, Tyler Lawlor, Jim Miller, Lynn Rowe, Jessica Lynds, and Dinver McClure, for their exceptional support; My Grandmothers, for their kindness and love; and last, but not least – my wonderful, loving Parents. You are the ones that help make this happen.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Training in Foix, France

Tucked in the foothills of the MidiPyrenees is a small French town called Foix. The narrow cobblestone streets are lined with houses over 500 years old, that lean over you as you stroll beneath them. Then, overlooking the city is Chateau D'Foix, a castle that was initially built in the year 1000 A.D. I've spent the last week and a half in this quaint little city, training for the Junior World Championships.
Training has taken place on a local river which is fed by the snowmelt of the surrounding mountains. The water is big, wavy, and powerful - a drastic change from La Seu D'Urgell. I am learning to love it though, and I look forward to my last two days of training before the race.
The race is this weekend. I will take Preliminary runs on Friday, and Semi-Finals and Finals runs on Sunday.

I will check in as soon as I can. For now,


Seu World Cup

After spending a week training in the lovely Pyrenees, and living in the local school, La Salle, World Cup #3 began.

Yesterday, Saturday, preliminary runs were held. The course was a tricky, off-set spotted thing, that supposedly favored right-handed C1s...despite this, I had a slow and yucky first run, and an absolutely horrendous second run (I flipped at the bottom of the course and missed four gates : / ). I was pretty bummed last night, finishing a dissapointing 18th, and barely making semis. They set the Semi-Finals and Finals course after preliminary runs. I walked it several times with other C1s, and although it looked intimidating, I was pretty determined to just go all out the next day...better to have lost trying than to have not tried at all, eh?
So today, I went down to the course, cheered on a couple of team mates, and then hopped in the boat to warm up pre-race. Seu is lovely, and the warm-up area is this gorgeous pool and canal with a fountain, all of the nations flags fluttering about, and the pyrenees mountains surrounding it. As I paddled around, it really occured to me how awesome this situation is - regardless of my penalty points, race results, etc. - to even be where I am, competeing against so many incredibly talented women in canoes!
I laid down a solid Semi-finals run. It wasn´t quite as fast as I had hoped (I guess that is an automatic athlete response :) but I only had two touches. I hurried to cheer on the other ladies, and once all was said and done, I looked at the score board to see that I had finished 11th. One spot out of finals, but I´ve got to admit, I am more than happy with that result. I was very proud of my fellow competitors, and I can´t wait to catch up to them :)
Tomorrow, I will head to Foix, France (a nice short drive of 2 hours - the drive from Prague to here was more like 18) for Junior Worlds where I will see how I stack up against competitors my age. I am really excited to meet new paddlers from all over the globe - that is probably one of the best parts about competing internationally - the boundless camraderie one experiences.