Saturday, October 8, 2011

The 2011 Tale

Training before Worlds in Bratislava....
Croatian blue....
Competing in Worlds....
Homecoming my senior year....
Pulling through the gates at National Championships 2011....
Happy to be on the podium....
The season of 2011 was a mind-blowing experience. I found myself traveling all over Europe for a solid three months – the longest I’ve ever been away from home on my own – and I learned a great deal about myself and the world. After my first month of training in France, I traveled across Belgium and Germany with my coach, Pierrick Gosselin, to Prague, CZ, where the fourth World Cup was held. I trained hard in the week leading up to the race, and felt good about my chances. Once I got the actual race, however, things did not go precisely as I had anticipated. The day of qualifications was rough, with me barely slipping into semifinals. My semifinal run was even more of a disappointment to me. My speed wasn’t up to par, and a final disheartening blow was dealt to me when I passed through boat inspection following my run and discovered that I would be disqualified due to an underweight boat. Not exactly how I’d hoped the race would unfold, but it happened and I learned from it. With such a bitter pill behind me, I moved into training for Worlds with fervor. For the First several weeks of training, I lived and paddled with the U.S. team at the incredible course in Bratislava, Slovakia. The Danube River is the second longest river in Europe, and at one point along its meandering journey, is passes through a dam just south of Slovakia’s capitol. In the center of the dam is a chute which channels enormous amounts of water through the man-made whitewater channel residing on an island in the middle of the river. The channel moves swiftly, pouring down its gradient at incredible speeds, plummeting over a grandiose 16-foot-drop, and undulating in fabulous waves. Training was intense with two-a-days most every day, and I wore myself out, but splashing through such water was addicting. The days passed, and my friendships with the U.S. team members grew deeper (as did the life-jacket tan-lines), and I became more and more competent on the course. After long moths of separation, my parents showed up in Slovakia! I was overjoyed to see them…although it’s admittedly every seventeen-year-olds dream to go off on adventures all by themselves, I realized in my time away just how much I love being around my parents, who happen to be some of my closest friends. I trained for several more days after their arrival before we decided to take a short family vacation in Croatia. This turned out to be well timed, for in my last training session before we left I had a minor drama involving me flipping over above a shallow pour-over and smashing my forearm against a rock…thankfully it ended up being a deep bone bruise rather than a fracture, but our time in Croatia gave me a little time to recover before Worlds. Croatia, by the way, is HANDS DOWN, the most stunning country in the World. I won’t go into too many details, but to sum it up, this small country is a narrow strip running along the azure Adriatic Coast, with Mediterranean terrain, rocky coves, olive trees, raw, beautiful mountains, and, a ways away from the coast, a host of thermal towns, and national parks with brilliant turquoise lakes and waterfalls. Just think, that was without the details! After our short gypsy-jaunt, my parents and I returned to Bratislava for my final week and a half of training before World Championships. Upon my arrival, I re-joined the international training team (with 18 athletes from North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa partaking), and enjoyed my time preparing for the competition physically and mentally while surrounded by such enjoyable, cultural company. Finally the race arrived, rang in by a fabulous opening ceremony involving flags, speeches, rock bands, opera artists, cultural dances, live DJs, the best hip-hopping group in eastern Europe, and of course, fireworks. It was quite the show. The course which had been set was simple in concept, with a flowing gate sequence, but what many racers overlooked was the very simple possibility of making a cumulating mistake (being slightly off-line in the first gate, more so in the second, then completely missing the third). I was wary of this, but still, my first run had a few too many minor mistakes, and I landed in 17th. My second run, I was prepared for, and I ran the upper two-thirds of the course flawlessly before I ran into trouble at gate 17 (seems like a bad number for me!). I was too far left, and had to loop back up for the gate. I knew this lost me valuable time, and I paddled like a mad woman to make up for it, but in the end I finished 20th – right on the edge for semifinals. The last boat was from China, and it was a close race which ended in me missing semis by one-tenth of a second. I was devastated to say the least, and knew that is would take something extravagant for me to forgive myself. The European Journey had come to its close, and although my cultural and training experiences had been out-of-this-world, I was bitter about my race performances. I returned home gratefully – three months is a very long time to be away, and it was wonderful to see my friends and family again (granted, not so great to make up the two weeks of AP Calculus I missed) and I spent my days catching up with all of the work and people I had missed. Homecoming of my senior year came and went - glittering girls in their candy-colored dresses, boys in their pumped-up kicks, tuxes, and shutter-shades, and school spirit the equivalent of nationalism in the cold war – and I grew conscious of one last opportunity for me to redeem myself in my eyes, for my performances in the past season. Nationals. Initially, I had ruled the race out of the possibility. I had missed so much school, and to fly to North Carolina for the race would mean missing more. But with the encouragement of my parents and a personal desire for redemption, I went for it. So three days before the race, I hopped on a night-flight to Charlotte, and found myself once again in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I had three training sessions before the race (only one of which was on the race venue), but I felt the deep-seated desire to perform. The race day came, and I did well during my runs on qualification day. Overjoyed, I moved into semifinals in first place. My frustration from the summer became channeled, and I plunged into my semis run with gusto. I finished happy and fairly confident, even though the course had been more challenging. To my intense joy, I progressed on to Finals, still clinging to first. As I paused in the start gate before my final run, I realized that this was it. The point I had been reaching to get to since that bitter beginning in Prague, and a final spark of aggression filled me. The timer sounded, and I took that last once of frustration and channeled it into my run. I negotiated the gates with an intense desire to perform to my personal pinnacle. Although I had several touches, my speed was enough to carry me through, and passing the finish line, a huge smile broke across my face. That was the performance I had worked for. My friends and fellow competitors bobbed in the eddy at the bottom of the run and we hugged one another, laughing and grateful to make it as far as we had. The U.S. Team leader, William Irving came running down the side of the river, and shouted to me, “Hailey, you are in first!”

It was a long summer, with an incredible number of highs and lows, but the joy I felt at capturing the Gold at Nationals was purely relieving. Two of my best friends, Colleen Hickey and Catie Vuksich stood on the podium next to me, and I felt so grateful to be there with them, and to have reached that point at the end of my season. There are so many people who I have to thank. Joel McCune, the coach who helped me kick off my season, Pierrick, Vincent, Manu, and a whole host of wonderful French coaches, Jakobe, my Slovakian coach at Worlds, Darren Bush and the folks at Rutabaga, Werner, Keen, Pyranha, and Level Six….but most of all, my Parents. Without them, none of this ever would have happened. And thank you, for reading this, and following this whitewater story wherever it leads.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The First Month of France

So many things have happened since Junior National Team Trials. For one, getting on a plane and flying to France. Once I arrived I joined a group of international competitors (from Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Finland, France, South Africa, Mexico, Germany, Senegal and Canada, and of course, USA) to begin intensive training. Our first week of training was spent in Montreuil Sur Mer, a small French town in the north, about fifteen minutes away from the Sea. Training was wonderful, learning rapidly from our multiple coaches, Vincent, Manu, Thibaut, Christophe, Gonz, and Pierrick. We usually had two long sessions each day, and would intersperse on-the-water training with beautiful trail runs (past ruined castles, pastures, and turquoise rivers), visits to the sea to swim, and exceptionally French (and exceptionally fun) activities like Cart du VoilĂ©, which is like sailing except for the fact that the sail is attached to a small cart, rather than a boat, in which you fly across the beach. The first week passed, and we took our group to a town tucked far up in the French Alps, called Bourg Saint Maurice. Bourg is famous in the paddling community for being the most challenging natural river which is raced on…in the world. What seems to always be left out of the descriptions is the absolutely breath-taking place through which this river tumbles. The mountains plunge upward, grazing the sky with their snow capped, craggy peaks, and the valley is full of wild flowers and highland pasture, and then of course, the Town of Bourg St. Maurice, which is so quintessentially Alpine it almost seemed unreal. My first impression of the town was that I had died and landed in heaven, and the impression was only made more substantial after my first training session on the river which flows through town. The river is absolutely marvelous, a roaring torrent of icy-blue, glacial water pouring over mammoth drops and forming crashing waves. Initially, training in Bourg was quite the barrier for me. The water was massive, and mentally, my approach wasn’t aggressive enough. If I got one thing out of Bourg – it was learning to approach each training session as if it were an international competition. After a few days, my coaches decided my abilities were good enough to attack the upper section of Bourg, which is even more powerful and fast than the lower section. I ran it smoothly, with no mishaps, and was incredibly stoked to have made peace with such an impossible set of drops. Our time in Bourg seemed to pass to quickly, lost in the rapid succession of training sessions, afternoon climbs up the surrounding mountains, swims in alpine lakes, and visits to Bourg’s incredible gelato shop. Soon, we were back in Montreuil, where we repeated our first week of training. The days passed, and we traveled here, to Metz, which is in eastern France, close to the German border. The town is lovely, a Venice of Northern France, with lovely, intricately carved churches and palaces threaded by green canals and rivers which are home to hundreds of white swans…so perfect it’s almost clichĂ©. The course here is nice – smaller drops, but fairly quick water. I have been competing in French Nationals as a fore-runner (demonstration boat, as I am not a French citizen). My first day went well, with two solid runs (one which would’ve landed me in second if I were competing officially), but that night I suddenly became really sick with a burning fever. The next morning I woke up with terrible body aches and a head ache. I raced poorly in the morning, and spent the day trying to sleep in the car as the rest of the team from Montreuil competed. By the end of the day I was exhausted, wracked by feverish burns and chills. Once I got medication, I felt much better, but this morning I found out that I was still pretty weak when I attempted to race. My run was painfully slow, simply because I had run out of strength. I am hoping to make a full recovery soon, so that I have a good chance at performing well in Prague for World Cup #4. I shall share more as the journey continues!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Junior National Team Trials and the Departure to Paris

My lovely friends Sam and Sarah from Colorado...

C1W: Gold Medal

So first come the house guests. It’s a dead-giveaway, the prelude to races in Wausau, when the number of paddlers residing at my house spikes, as it did about a week and a half ago. They came from the East coast, the south, and the west to compete in Wausau’s Junior National Team Trials this past weekend. In addition to living together, we trained together in the days leading up to the event (when it consistently poured rain for about 5 days in a row). The weather wasn’t ideal, but the athleticism and camaraderie exhibited most definitely was. The Friday before the race the weather miraculously cleared into the crystalline blue skies with puffy white clouds which are so classic of Wisconsin in June, much to my relief. Those beauteous skies held out as racers nervously anticipated the race. As procedures go, we went through the gear checking process, watched as the race-day gates were set, and then prowled the banks of the river, planning our lines and watching demonstration runs. Once activity by the river quieted down, I headed home for a calm, early night before the race. I had three marvelous friends from Colorado and Washington DC staying over and the four of us watched video of demonstrations and discussed the multiple approaches to the race the following day. With a plan whirling through my head that night as I drifted to asleep, I dreamt of whitewater.
Saturday morning arrived just as blue as the previous day, and I headed to the course. I was set to race in both Women’s Canoe and Women’s Kayak so I knew the day would sap whatever energy I had. I hopped in my sparkly purple canoe up above where the water plunges into the rapids to warm-up. As I paddled, what nerves I had accumulated dissipated and I felt myself sink into race-mode. Before I knew the time had passed, I found myself launching out of the start gate into the first run of Junior National Team Trials. I passed through the gates smoothly and without any major incident, but I finished disappointed and feeling slow. I pushed the feeling down and immediately prepared for my kayak run. The kayak felt far more successful, and after my run I grabbed some food, rehydrated, and located a nice shady patch where I could await the second runs. The afternoon came about and I found myself in the start gate again. I gripped the t-grip of my canoe paddle in frustration with my first run, and this time, when I broke the start line, I channeled my energy. When I passed the finish, I found that I had shaved 11 seconds of my time! Overjoyed, I hurried to my kayak and the fourth run of the day. I performed, but not as well as intended…my energy was sapped. I finished the first day of competitions in first for Canoe and in third for Kayak, and not overly disappointed. The course was re-set and I walked it several times that evening before repeating my quiet pre-race routine. The next day, I altered my plan. My Canoe runs the previous day had been good enough that, if I laid down a good first run, I could skip my second to conserve energy for kayak. The plan worked, as I finished my canoe run in first, so I decided to channel everything into my kayak performance. My first kayak run of the day wasn’t going to cut it – I remained in third, and in all honesty, I wanted gold. So that afternoon, with the full knowledge of how close the race had become, I powered out of the start gate. I maneuvered through the course with an intense focus, and passed the finish line with a time six seconds ahead of the next competitor! So, to my surprise and pleasure, I finished Junior National Team Trials with not one, but two gold medals…what an incredibly fortunate experience. These past three days have been just as whirlwind, even if I haven’t been competing – I’ve been packing up my bags because tomorrow, I fly out to Europe for the next two and a half months. I’ll be competing and training in France, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia; and I can’t even say how thrilled I am for the experience to begin.
So thank you…check in every now and then, and I promise, I will have more stories to share. Peace,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

U.S. National Team Trials 2011

Swinging tight on an upstream gate...
Driving through the waves....
Coach Joel McCune with C1W Natl. Team: Colleen Hickey, Hailey Thompson, Lisa Adams
U.S. National Womens Canoe Team: Lisa Adams, Hailey Thompson, Colleen Hickey

I’ve spent the past ten days living and breathing for my iridescent purple canoe. Not in a bad way at all, simply all of my energies have been poured into training for, and then competing in the U.S. National Whitewater Slalom Team Trials. Trials were held on the intensive, roaring, man-made rapids of the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. I spent the week training two sessions a day, under the precise coaching of Joel McCune and Scott McKlesky (both former elite-level competitive racers), alongside some of my fellow C1Ws, Colleen Hickey, Lisa Adams, Catie Vuksich, and Jen Singletary. Our days were entirely dictated by our training schedules, consuming enough food to keep going, and crashing in blissful sleep at night, trying to escape anxiety about the upcoming three-day race. Practice, however, had been undulating, and by Thursday afternoon (the last day before the Friday-Sunday race) I was feeling only a mediocre amount of confidence about my paddling on the course. I went back to Coach McCune’s house (where some of us competitors were home-staying) and tried to rest a little bit before returning to the man-made river to see what challenging gates the course-designers would set for Friday’s race runs. I made my way to the course, and attended the competitors meeting where we obtained our racing bibs and our start times. As the racers meeting ended, the athletes rushed to the concrete banks of the river to see what challenges lay in wait on the course set for us. I paced the shore, taking in the several crux moves on the course, trying to devise a plan as to how I would maneuver my way through the gates. All of the racers then gathered and watched as several demonstration boaters ran the gates, trying to follow and mentally record the lines they took. Once the demos were over, I found Coach McCune and McKlesky and walked the course with them. They both gave me valuable feedback on my plan, and helped me build up a little confidence for the following day’s race. I slept deeply that night, and woke up the following morning without a trace of my usual pre-race nerves. Initially, I was thrown off a bit, but quickly decided to embrace the lack of butterflies. Several of the C1 women headed out early to do what would become our routine workout, and headed to the course. I watched as first the men C1s, and then the women K1s headed down the course, before doing a final warm-up. Then it was game time. I took my first run, and although the top way flawless, I had a major collision with one of the large plastic, feature-forming bollards on the lower portion of the course…unfortunately, that threw me off line a fair bit. My second run on the first day was better, and I finished day one ranked fairly soundly in first for the women C1 class. That evening, after leaving the venue and refueling, the athletes returned as they had the evening before, to see which gates had been moved to form the course for Saturday’s race. The course appeared more challenging than that of the former race day, but my calm remained, and again I walked the course with McCune and McKlesky, and formed a plan. I repeated my routine, of heading back to Coach McCune’s and resting up for the following day. Day two was exciting. First of all, I became sick. With those wonderful stomach aches that decide to come and wrack your body at the most inopportune of times. That was manageable, however, and the first run of my second day was quite good, without a single touch to a gate-pole. After that, however, a massive storm rolled tumultuously over North Carolina. The race was pushed back for an hour, and only later did we discover that what we experienced was only a tendril of the fully fledged storm which killed 45 people in that region….we observed, with a shout, one of the kayak men sprinting out into the torrential rain to try to recapture his airborne, spinning kayak. I truly am sorry for the horrific loss many of the families in that area suffered. After things quieted down a bit, second runs took place, under a deceptively innocent blue sky. My second run was even better than my first, and again, I found myself clinging to the first slot for women C1. I was still pretty sick, so I went back to our homestay and slept. When I awoke, to my dismay, I had nearly missed demos, so I sprinted hastily to the course. The gates set for Sunday looked challenging, but no more so that Saturday had been. The routine of racing now drilled into my head, I rested for the evening. The next morning came, clear and warm, and I felt deep down that it was going to be a good day of racing. At the course, my first run was nearly perfect in respect to the lines I took, but I felt slow and accumulated four time-penalizing touches. Although I hadn’t felt superb about the run, I found myself still seated soundly in first. That was it, I had officially made the team…the only question of the final run was if I would win trials outright, or take second. As I waited in the start gate, for my final run, I made the conscious decision to, as Coach McKlesky put it, “take the boy lines” a.k.a., the risky, high speed moves that many of the male competitors take. It was a chance, but I knew I had secured a team slot, and so I took it. When the final beeps emanated from the start timer, I took off, hurtling through the gates in a wild exertion of the last ounces of my energy. As I pounded over the last mammoth drop of the course, passing the finish line, I knew that I had just landed the best run of my life. I had, because when I checked the scoreboard, not only had I shaved 30 seconds from my previous run, but I had just succeeded in winning every single one of the six runs of the race. The next several hours blurred together, from climbing to the top of the podium to receive my team jacket and “gold medal” (we were given these beautiful pieces of stenciled glass instead), to going through team processing and deciding which races to attend in Europe this summer. As of now, it’s confirmed, I’m going to the 2011 World Championships in Slovakia this fall! This has been an incredible journey, and I feel so fortunate to have been on it. Now, my wonderful mother and I are driving back into Wisconsin – a bit of a climate shock from the 80-degrees we left behind (here in the dairy state we’ve received no less than eight inches of snow in the past twelve hours), and I’m daydreaming of the places this whimsical sport will take me. So thank you, for all of those who read this, and for all of you who have supported me on this wild ride. Peace and happy paddling.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Coach McCune

Absorbing some words of wisdom.
This post isn't really a story. It's more of a shout-out to one person who has really impacted my paddling career. His name is Joel McCune. He's been my friend, fellow competitor, and coach from the start, and his unwavering kindness has made him one of the biggest influences in my life. So, thanks Coach McCune.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The U.S. Open 2011

C-1-W: Colleen Hickey, Myself, Catie Vuksich, on a fun training day.
Getting in those vertical strokes.
Focused on the course.
Pulling heavily during a kayak run.
Ferrying out across the falls...
Reaching deep for a cross-bow stroke....
Standing atop the podium for Canoe! Colleen Hickey, 2nd, and Jennifer Singletary, 3rd.
*All photos by John M. Thompson*
The Nantahala Gorge is beautiful in spring. The surrounding smoky mountains seem to be emerging from a winter of sleep, with mist rising from the valleys, the redbuds’ soft blooms popping open, and the purple slate faces dripping with icy spring water. I spent the last several days of the past week training there, shivering my way through morning sessions on the fast mountain stream that is the Nantahala River, and spending my evenings with fellow paddlers, tucked away in a cabin up the gorge. At the close of the week, it was time to turn my focus away from training, and towards competing…because this past weekend was the first major race of my season: The U.S. Open. Friday evening, I scrambled along the shore of the river accompanied by my marvelous coach, Joel McCune, and analyzed the gates which had been set above the rapids, planning my lines, my strokes, my movement. That night, after the memorization and visualization of the course had been imprinted on my mind, we athletes, parents, and coaches went out to local hot-spot, Guayabitos, for some pre-race Mexican food, and then hit the hay in preparation for the early morning to follow. I arose to the unfortunate sound of a steady rain pattering away on the roof of the cabin. Paddlers are used to getting wet, don’t get me wrong, but it’s never fun to have a race when it’s 40 degrees and raining…this said, I decided to turn the weather into a positive. Conditions that could detrimentally impact some competitors were going to stimulate me. This mindset really helped me, as I made my way down the course in my first canoe run. I finished it, fairly content (although one can always improve), with an hour before my first kayak run. I checked in with Coach McCune, and then sprinted up to the Subaru, with the glorious heat and cliff bars and water bottles it contained, to while away my hour. The kayak run went well, not my best, but not bad at all. I refueled during the brief lunch break, and then geared up for second runs. My canoe run was better than anything I had laid down yet. I remembered how I had felt at Worlds last year – the incredible, raw, powerful, yet graceful sensations that flow through me when I become the instinctive paddler I’ve trained to be. Afterwards, I took my final kayak run of the day (not quite as good as my earlier run), and went back to the cabin to warm up and get (finally!) dry. That evening, the racers gathered for a banquet (a.k.a. pasta!) at the restaurant above the river, and then retired early in preparation for the next day’s race. I awoke, to my relief, to the sound of birds, but not rain. However, the mist and cold, and swollen river, reminded me of the downpour of the previous day. Speaking of the swollen river – things on the course had changed. Several gates had been switched from down-streams to up-streams and changed positions, but more significant than these changes were the changes in the way the increased volume of the water increased the velocity of the course. I walked the course again with my coach, and reworked my plan for my runs. Confident, I watched the demonstration boats, and then walked up to warm up for my canoe run. It went incredibly well, although there was a lot of time I felt I could have cut. By the end of my run, the sun was seeping into the valley, warming the humid river air. My first kayak run was perfect – but at one of the final gates, I mindlessly blew by an incredibly easy down-stream gate…earning myself a 50 second penalty, and plenty of mental self-flagellation. I went to meet with faithful Coach McCune, to review video and refuel, and he helped me to let go of some of my frustration, and focus on the final runs. My final canoe run was an enormous, wild expenditure of energy and impulse…which almost worked, with the exception of one brief, but costly, roll. My final kayak run, however, was just as impulsive and energetic, but it worked. My run time was far faster, and I only incurred one touch (a 2 second penalty). I warmed up in the sun, laughing with the pleasure of finishing a race, and being on a beautiful river with wonderful athletes, and incredible friends and family on shore. I eventually got out of my boat, and got dressed to go to the awards ceremonies – where I was given gold in Junior Women’s Kayak, Junior Women’s Canoe, and (!) Senior (that is, all ages) Women’s Canoe! What an incredible feeling. True, I’ve been snowed in up in Wisconsin for a few months – but I sure am glad to be back on the waves where I belong…and I’ll be back here in North Carolina before I know it (Three weeks!) for National Team Trials. Peace and happy paddling.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Charlotte Season Opener

Pulling over the massive lower drop...
Hitting a wall of water in Finals
The paddling buddies, Simon Ranagan,
Cole Moore, Peter Lutter, and Hailey (Me)
Smiling after a satisfying run
Race Day 1
Training Day
Well, guess what? Today I turned seventeen. Yikes! And I’m spending this birthday, as I have spent my last four, here in sunny and warm North Carolina, how lucky is that? This past weekend was my first time on water (which wasn’t solid) in four months, so I was definitely a little rusty when I competed in the 2011 Season Opener Race, the Charlotte Open. But man was it fun! My balance was not quite what it was at the end of last season, and it took me a little while to convince myself I was no longer skiing, but once I got back into the flow of things (pun intended), I was smiling non-stop. At the end of the race, I found myself in second place for Women’s C1, and 6th place for Women’s K1. Could have been worse! Since the race, I’ve been doing some yoga (wooohooooo!), and maximizing my time on the undulating, rioting course at Charlotte. The next big adventure? This weekend, the U.S. Open in Nantahala Gorge, North Carolina. I’m very excited, and hoping that the training I’m doing this week will pay off.
P.S. On my way over to the U.S. Open, I’m stopping in Ashville, NC, to tour UNCA again….yay college!


Happy to be next to such awesome people! Darren Bush (Center) and Pam Boteler (Right)
What a weekend! Each paddling season is officially begun with the most stimulating event of spring: Rutabaga Paddlesport Shop’s famed Canoecopia. The expo was held from March 11th to March 13th at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin, and drew canoe-loving crowds in the thousands. I’ve been to this expo just about every spring, and this one was spectacular as always. The enormous hall is packed full of vendors…everywhere you look, there is eye-candy for paddlers, boats, paddles, gear, clothes, tents, shoes, the whole works…it’s your basic nirvana. For me, this event is also a great opportunity to catch up with friends, sponsors, and paddling gurus. For the past two years, I have been fortunate enough to be invited to speak at Canoecopia, about my experiences competing. Year One didn’t go so hot. I had some technological difficulties, and was very freaked out. This year was much better. Public speaking still scares me more than competing in World Championships, but I was a bit better at hiding it, and thank goodness, my Power Point functioned relatively smoothly! In addition to telling the stories about Junior and Senior World Championships, I was fortunate enough to have my friend/mentor/hero, Pam Boteler there with me, and she spoke for a bit about the Women in Canoe controversy, and the struggle to be included in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. All in all, it was a fantastic weekend, and I’m already getting excited for next year’s expo!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Winter!

Ski racing in Rhinelander, WI, at the Hodag Challenge!

With my skiing buddy, and one of my best friends, Lily Kraft on New Years
This was a very important event for me this winter: Saving Auto (Pronounced Otto), the
Barred Owl. He had a horrible accident with a car, and is getting better at Raptor Rehab!
Racing at 2011 State Championships in Wausau, Wisconsin.
My incredible parents with me after a race - so much love!
The Tutu Trio: Ski Teammates Jessica Timmerman, Hailey Thompson, and Lily Kraft, all decked out for our last race of the season, the 25 kilometer Lakeland Loppet.
To say I've been remiss about my posts would be an understatement. I have been absolutely pathetic. But I have been pretty busy with other things - let me tell you about my winter!
Well, after Worlds (man, that was ages ago!) the Fall came, and hit me with the full force of Wisconsin's natural beauty. With the golden leaves and crisp mornings came my junior year of highschool, the advent of a whole slew of new classes and friends, ACT and SAT tests (my absolute favorites!), the beginning of college searches, dry-land training (essentially, running up lots of big hills) for my upcoming ski season, and weight training for this upcoming paddling season.
Winter took it's own sweet time arriving. For a person who lives to ski in this season, it was infuriating. But by the time soft snows started falling in December, I was absolutely thrilled to hit the trails. My ski team is rather like my family - after school, just about every day of the week, my team mates and I would head out to the ski lodge, and lay down between 8 and 20 kilometers. The beauty of nordic skiing is that not only does it make winter bearable, it makes winter lovable. I can't even tell you how much I cringe when I hear complaints about snowy precipitation.
Then, on weekends, we skiers and our incredibly supportive parents would make the trek to all corners of the Northwoods, to attend races with names like "The Hinder Binder" or "The Hodag Challenge" or "The Snekkevik" or "The Lakeland Loppet"...definitely a predominantly Scandinavian sport, hahaha.
Skiing has infected my family - both of my parents have taken to hopping on a set of skis in the evenings, and wandering around the woods that surround our house. My dad has even figured out a way to groom our own set of trails (His real name is MacGyver). My mom loves nothing more than to go out to Iola (our local ski area) and spend hours skate skiing. It's phenomenal to have a family passion that keeps us in shape and in love with the snow.
My Competitive Ski season wasn't too bad either - I made it onto Varsity this season, which was pretty exciting, and our Girls Varsity took 4th at state! I'm hoping to get some better individual rankings next season - but that is for the future to determine.
Speaking of the future! Canoecopia is this upcoming weekend! YAHOO! Canoecopia not only means attending an awesome expo put on by Rutabaga the Paddlesport Shop, listening to some incredible speakers, and getting to hang out with a host of cool paddlers - it means that the paddling season is about to begin!
This season is looking exciting already! The U.S. Open, National Team Trials, and an International Canoe Federation Camp in July in France are on the schedule for the season, and depending on whether or not I make the National Team this Year, I may or may not be adding World Championships in Slovakia to that list...holy guacamole!
So, if you get a chance, swing by Canoecopia this year. It's in Madison, Wisconsin, and the Alliant Energy Center from March 11 to 13. I'll be giving a talk at 11:30 on Saturday at the expo, so stop by if you have the time and want to visit (although I give no assurances of the speech itself...public speaking, the fear of all teenagers!), but I'd love to meet you, and see where paddling and the outdoors has taken you in your life.