Training for two weeks in Charlotte for Olympic Trials with my new slalom boat, my kids, and the slalom racers was an awesome experience. The racing was also incredible, as I got 6 tries to lay down some good runs, and while I never had a “good” run, not even for myself, I did have lots of good moves and fast sections. I just need more time to get my brain reacting properly in all situations, as I failed to capitalize on some great boat positioning, and failed to keep my boat online when it was easy to do so in some cases. All of it lead to time mistakes that were easily prevented, and wasted energy. Like all any sport, you want the perfect performance given your skill, strength, stamina, etc.. I never had that experience during the racing, but had it enough during training to feel good about it. Watching the top guys in the final day was truly inspiring as it was all or nothing and Scotty Parsons truly came through, in Richard Fox style, which is to beat everyone going at 90% speed, not 100%. Scotty was online, using very safe technique, and just nailing the moves like it was easy. He wasn’t the flashy guy redlining himself the whole way, but he was the best guy to watch for me. Watching Dane race was also very inspiring, as he didn’t have two weeks of training, but less than a week. He picked up on the techniques so fast it wasn’t funny. Speed, precision, and driving hard the whole way were his strong points, making his boat move where it should. Getting a little too close to the poles was his weak point, hitting an average of 4 or 5 each run. If Dane trained slalom, he would be amazing.
Watching the ladies was also an emotional experience, mostly because I was watching my daughter attempt to make the USA Team. Ashlee Nee and Caroline Queen are better than Emily right now and generally raced better and were faster. Emily, however, has a mental game that is hard to beat and she never blew out. She actually won one of the runs, getting first among the women, but generally was 3rd or 4th. By the time all was said and done, Emily took the 3rd position on the USA Team and is still in the running to make the Olympic team (has to get the first position). In order for her to go to the Olympics, she has to get 17th or better at the first world cup and the other two girls get 3 positions behind her or more. (Emily has 28 points, and the other girls have 30)
I thought they did a good job with the event part of the race and the activities were super fun. Concerts, fireworks, food, beer, sunshine! The racing part, however, was not well done in that results were impossible to come by due to the system and lack of a score board. Instead of having a race each day, there were percentages on each run, and it required a calculator to know what was going on. I didn’t know what place I got until two days after I left Charlotte. I would vote to simplify the system and race for position, period. Forgetting percentages. Winner, second, third, etc.. I am sure that this will be a discussion for next year. To be clear, I truly enjoyed racing there, just offering a suggestion.
Switching Gears…. NOC is the home of the 2012 World Cup final, and the 2013 World Championships for Freestyle Kayaking! It will be the first time in 20 years that the World Championships were held in the USA!
NOC is building a hole behind the NOC store, right on campus for the World Championships. The first attempt at doing this failed miserably, however, and there was not a hole to play for the past 9 months. NOC is fully committed to not just making a hole, but making an Epic hole, which is great news for all paddlers wanting to have a great place to play here, or to compete. Over the winter, with tons of input from many paddlers and the course designers, and NOC staff, the next generation was planned out for the hole. They had to wait until April 16th to work on it due to the fish spawning. The fish have done their business and the two days of work were completed using some big machinery. The first day produced a hole that was fun to paddle in, but only about a 4 out of 10 for my personal rating. (10 is the best hole in the world) It was only a 1 before (lowest possible rating, other than no hole existing). The second day of work improved the hole quite a bit, and I would rate it a 5.5 or 6 out of 10. This doesn’t sound that good, but I like it better than what was here before by a good margin. I would have rated the NOC hole from the last few years a 4 out of 10. What is super exciting about this process is that NOC can continue to work and improve the hole until it is World Championships ready! The Southeast will have an epic hole in the most convenient place to hang out and play!
When I arrived at NOC to work on the hole, I was a little bit torn, as I wanted to start paddling and training freestyle, or go run rivers, but neither was an option. The Nanty was turned off for construction and there wasn’t a hole if it went on. However, the work went ahead of schedule and the water went on the second day and I got to play in it a little. Then the construction was done for the second day and yesterday I got to play for a couple of hours in the hole, training with Nick Troutman, doing timed and scored rides again… Awesome! I am getting ready to do my next session now, and can’t wait! Finally- training freestyle again. Good physical work, great technique work, and super fun! Right now you can do some basic combos in this hole- like split/phonix, loop/lunar orbit, etc.. It doesn’t offer up big air yet as the feature drops off into a deep pool below. Heavy rains have stopped any construction for a week, likely, so we are going to compete as is this weekend. It is good, as is, so that is just fine.
The International Canoe Federation’s Freestyle Committee are having meetings here this week. Lluis from Spain, Terry from England, Ingrid from Germany, Jon from France, and Kristine from USA are meeting all day every day. Uh… anyone want to come watch KC so I can go kayaking? Today they will get to see what the IT department at NOC did to create a new electronic scoring system that will blow away everyone when they watch the World Championships next year! It is amazing and just what the sport needs! They have a lot of business to attend to here. Freestyle World Championships is going to be an epic event next year. If you are thinking of going, you should try to reserve your lodging, etc. now. I expect 15,000 people to be here each day. Being able to stay nearby or on campus is going to be the ticket.
I am not starting this season off with strong freestyle training. I didn’t do a trip overseas to train this winter, and Rock Island was high and we did a ton of river running. Three weeks of no freestyle until yesterday means I am starting from here and need to get up to speed fast. I am relearning the basics. We’ll see what scores I can put down this weekend and next. I am not stressing, but recognize that I have some catching up to do. I am light (159), strong, and not injured in any way, so nothing will prevent me from training hard and having the potential to catch up quick.
Here we go! Chapter 1- Olympic Trials- done….. Chapter 2- competition season- 2012! Freestyle this weekend. Triple Crown next weekend (Freestyle/Wildwater/Slalom combo), and so it goes! No more underdog… I get to be the big dog again… or at least one of them!