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,

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