Monday, July 20, 2009

Ninth at Worlds!


I decided to have a second write up just about World Championships. The 2009 Junior ICF Wildwater World Championships, were held in Bouchs Switzerland. I competed in the 2008 Pre-Worlds on the same course. At Pre-Worlds I finished 4th and 6th. Several top countries such as Italy and the Czech Republic were not present at Pre-Worlds. Pre-Worlds definetly gave me a big advantage for Worlds.

I am proud to say I am now ninth in the world. Please correct me if I am wrong, but this is the best that any US junior has done at a Wildwater World Championships. The 2009 World Championships has been the biggest and most important race of my life. I have never trained and focused for one race this much. Worlds was an amazing experience and I learned a lot.
Now I've heard what a lot of people have to say about this river, and most of it isn't good. "Mind numbingly flat" is probably the best description of it. To prepare for this race I spent countless hours training on anything between class II and flatwater.
I took a few runs of the river before the race to refresh my memory. I remembered the course well from last year, but a few features had changed. I followed down the top Italian K1W, a good friend of mine, and learned some things about the river. Viola, the Italian, went on to be World Champion in the sprint and received a silver medal in the classic. Congrats. I also took a practice run with US coach, Maurizio Toganci, following me with a helmet camera. One of the interesting thing about this river, is that it is hard to do fast. In more then one place it seems like the whole river drives up and you can't get a full paddle stroke in. A few of the paddlers I talked to after the classic race said they managed to beach themselves entirely out of the water. The faster water is also always changing sides, who proves a challenge when racing.

The non stop was the first event that kicked off the races. The non stop is not an important, the purpose is simply to seed the competitors for the classic race the next day. I decided to paddle easy on the non stop, but relax or accelerate in the places that I would for the actual race. I also wanted to treat the warm-up the same, as this would better prepare me for the next day. My non stop race was smooth and pretty uneventful. I felt like I hit my line pretty well also. However when I saw the results I was surprised to see that I was in 38th. I knew I hadn't been trying hard, but I still expected to see my name in the top 25.
When the classic finally rolled around, I had never felt more ready. I was very prepared both mentally and physically. As I drove to warm up in the lake I was listening to my ipod and going over the lines for the race. I kept picturing the finish and positive thoughts. Unfortunately I had patched my boat at Maurizio house earlier that week and the resin didn't cure properly. My seat was slight loose, I had a patch coming off on my stern, my bow was fatter then it should be, and I had two sloppy small patches on my hull. This was definitely stressful going into the race. I tried hard to keep the boat problems out of my head, and to just set my mind on the finish line. That's all that I needed to think about.
Despite the slight boat problems, I felt like I had a very smooth race. My lines felt very good and my pacing even better. Now looking back at it, I think a higher stroke rate would've helped. There's always next year for that though. Both Maurizio and my dad raced along side of the river on bikes cheering me on.

Below is a picture of me running the dam. There moving can be pretty tricky in a wildwater boat, but it's really fun too.
The team classic was the following day. I'd like to give a shout out to my Will and Griff who put
110% into the team races. Although our team results weren't the best, racing as a team gave us
some good laughs and a lot of memories.
On my last full day was the individual sprint. The course had swollen due to heavy rains in
the area, and everyone was anxious to take pracitce runs. I was out late the night before studying
the course and trying out new moves on the changed course. With the flooded river, the start of
the race was pushed back three hours. Practice runs were hectic with all the countries trying to
learn the new lines at once. I found one line and felt comfortable with it, as I was watching the
other racers practice, I saw the French also take my line. This made me feel much better. I had
woken up that morning feeling pretty sick with a sore throat, but I put that aside. I had trained
really hard for the race and I wasn't going to let anything like that get to my head. I was 19th
to last to start and had an okay first run. I finished with a feeling that I could have gone harder.
I hit a piece of one wave on my way down which could have cost me a half second. I was too scared
to look at the results, but a Slovenian came up to me, shook my hand, and told me I was in first.
I watched and cheered with my friends and family as my name barely moved back as other racers
finished. I was in 7th by the time the last racer had finished! Seventh in the world is an amazing
feeling, and it got me so excited for the second runs. I had some aspirin for my throat and curled
up in the back of Maurizio's car. All I could picture was the finish line and the podium. There was
nothing I wanted more then to watch the American flag being raised with the two other top
finishing countries. I knew I could go faster and that I would.

Senior Team Trials, Nationals, and FIBArk

This last month has been amazing! I want to apologize for not posting here for a while. I have been unbelievably busy. It's well into summer now, and I have some amazing stories. I spent a week training and racing on the Arkansas river in Colorado, almost 3 weeks in Italy, and seven days in Switzerland at the biggest race of my life. I qualified for the Senior Mens National Wildwater team, placed second overall at Wildwater Nationals by less then .15%, won my third Junior National Championship title, placed third in one of the oldest and longest races in the US, won the head to head sprint competitions against a long time rival, and last but definitely not least I met my goal of top 10 at World Championships in Bouchs Switzerland.

First I would like to say thanks to two of my coaches, Andrew and Middy, who were always pushing me to train harder and smarter. They always made training a lot more fun and interesting, as well as rewarding. I would also like to thank Maurizio Toganacci. Maurizio is the USA Junior National team coach. He organized my stay in Italy and helped me a lot with preparation right before Worlds. Lastly and most importantly, thanks Mom and Dad for giving me the chance in train and compete in my second World Championships.
Well I've got a lot to talk about, but I guess I'll start with FIBArk. First in Boating on the Arkansas (FIBArk) is a huge whitewater festival that take place ever year. There are thousands of paddlers, plenty of events, and numerous vendors. This year the US Nationals and Senior Team Trials, were combined and hosted at FIBArk. One of the events that took place was the head to head wildwater sprints. This was great, because there were lots of spectators and plenty of action. Below is a picture of Geoff Calhoun and I battling it out for first. Geoff was the one that got me into wildwater, and he has been someone I've been trying to beat for over a year now. I managed to beat him in the sprints, but something tells me that every race won't have the same outcome.

The first day of racing was the individual sprint race down Cottonwood Rapid. This was a sweet sprint course. I had two great consistent runs in the class III-IV water. When I saw the results I was first overall with around 8% away from the next junior and over 2.5% away from second place. I was stoked! The following day brought the classic. Now I'm definitely better in the classic then in the sprint, but I really struggled in this classic. Around five minutes in the altitude really started to affect me. My breath was becoming raggy and short. At 7,000 feet in an 18 minute race, being used to the altitude is a huge factor. Nonetheless I have to hand it to Andy Corra and Mike Freeburn, who both beat me in the classic race. Andy Corra became the 2009 US National Champion by less then .15% overall. I was in second and Mike Freeburn got the bronze.

The last big race for me on the Arkansas was the 26 mile downriver race. The longest race I had done before this was maybe 11 miles. The Arkansas river is in a desert, so hydration adds to your worries about the whitewater and your pacing. I was very happy with my third place finish. I was very impressed by Andy Corra and Mike Freeburn again, as they finished first and second. Both of these athletes are well past their prime, and it is inspirational to see them beating out younger paddlers.
Apart from all the racing I managed to have a lot of fun. Below is a picture of Hailey and I racing C2 in the slalom race. We might have missed a few gates, but it was still a blast.

Photos by Susan Hollingsworth, Chrissy Zeltner and Dr. Chris Norbury