The first competition for 2015 is over – and I just booked tickets for more. The ICF World Ranking race in La Seu this past weekend was a great experience, and I am stoked to have met some more nice paddlers along with the now so familiar kayaking faces of the Segre Olympic park.
First of all – I always loved this place. The snowy Cadí mountains are always within view and the country side is tranquil and harmonic. I run and bike almost everyday along the river, and the temperatures are pleasant and the people smiling. The old city of La Seu is full of atmosphere with a lively market on tuesday and saturday, a cathedral from 1100 and small cafés where I sip café con leche and sneakily eat my chocolate croissant. Paradise.
The past four weeks have been fantastic – and I feel very fortunate to be able to walk down the slalom road at the moment. Yes, I love creeking, and I love freestyle, and of course those two have endless challenges in them as well. After all, they kept me well entertained for 15 years! But there is something about the easily measured failure/success in slalom that attracts me. In creeking you can have a lot of bad lines in class four and usually get away with it – in slalom you chose the wrong line in a class three and it is very obvious that you did wrong because you smash some gates. Or your timing is off, or you are a bit late: smashing gates.
I am in my fourth week of hard training, and it is a bitter-sweet mix of frustration and small victories won. At least now my coach, Perí, does not shake his head EVERY time I do an upstream – and I have even learned some fancy techniques that I do not try in competition probably for many more years – but they are still fun. At the moment what I struggle with the most is the transmission between core-muscles, legs and kayak – some muscle activation that all slalom paddlers just seem to have and which enables them to control the boat incredibly well and to whip it in and out of gates… Not having this controll naturally makes me slow in the hard staggers (downstream gates that are off-set) and slow out of the upstream gates. But. I am a lot better than I was four weeks ago…
My goal for the competitions (there were two separate ones) the past weekend was quite simple: To do at least one good run that I could be happy with. Out of three runs I got my one good one so I call that goal accomplished! For my friday run most things went bad – I was not focused, I was hesitant, my rythm was off and I struggled down the whole course. What I changed overnight was simply my mind game: I have to be all in to do my best, to be 150 % in the moment. No, it is not easy to change the mind set overnight, but it is possible.
I told myself to focus on the good parts of my run that day, even if those were the easiest gates on the course. I did not beat myself up over the fact they were so easy that anybody can do them super fast, I merely told myself I did well in those gates. I also told myself that since I have run class five for more than a decade, a class three slalom course is really not that hard – I should at least be able to do a clean run. Everytime I got some bad thoughts sneaking in, trying to tell me that I am really bad at slalom or that I am going to fail I simply pushed them away by telling myself ” I can, I will and shall” do my best. Saturday morning I woke up feeling confident and ready to enjoy the day.
Saturday´s qualification run was a good run for me – and one that put me in 11th place in a pretty stacked field. There were an Olympic bronze medalist in the lead, and I had an Olympic finalist right behind me on the list. But most importantly I was stoked to have made my first good run in a harder competition – I had reached my goal for now. Of course I have a lot to work on – my technique is still light years away from proper slalom paddling, after all I have not put in nearly enough hours to expect anything else. But. I will take my small victory nevertheless.
The next day we had the semis – and I wondered if I could repeat. I think that was already where it went wrong – I did not entirely allow myself to believe that I hadn´t just been lucky the day before. However, I paddled fairly well, nailing the harder moves I had been worried about down the course. As I pulled out of gate 14 and toward the trickiest move on the course, a downstream placed in a pretty tough eddy, I realised I was quite tired. And I think that was why I screwed up in the end. A small thought that slipped into my head as I was really needing to focus on the gate ahead – and woops, there I was frantically scrambling to make it through cleanly. Ten seconds later, I was out -and also far down on the ranking.
After all I ended up 21st – a bit bummed I couldn´t repeat a faster run, but at the same time happy I had reached my goal set for the competition. This is something I am learning as I am getting older – to allow myself to feel accomplished now and then, and not always shake off the accomplishments as if they are the most natural things in the world. I work hard, it pays off – it is ok to tell myself that I did well, and allow myself to bask in the feeling. For a little bit. As it is Monday came fast enough and we are back into another 20 hrs week of training.. phew!
Thank you to all the lovely people I have met down here – both the locals and the foreigners – it is amazing to be welcomed back into the scene with open minds and smiles.