Sunday, April 12, 2009

2009 Icebreaker - Golden Colorado

Well folks, as I mentioned in passing during my last cheerful and upbeat post ("CSU can suck it!"), Jeremy Allen and a couple other people got pretty fired up and managed to recruit Natalie and me to the CSU Canoe & Kayak Interdisciplinary Team. (Since that's such a mouthful, I'll just call it by the acronym; CSUCKIT.) The basic reason for forming the team was that the 2009 Spring Icebreaker, put on by the Colorado School of Mines, was going to be happening this weekend, and in order to compete for prizes, we needed a team of 5 people, with at least one of them female. As I described in an email to the kayak club, "The water is low, and even when the water is high enough, the spot's not that good. I'm mostly excited about the awesome team name." But whatever the causes, Natalie and I were hooked.

For all you lazy illiterate bastards out there, I put together a slide show, so you don't have to read too many words. It's like a movie, except everyone is holding still a lot of the time. The slideshow should appear below.



For those of us who DID graduate elementary school, here's a far more enlightening writeup of the day's adventures. It has all kinds of words and stuff, written down, so prepare yourself for that. If you reach your daily reading limit, just keep in mind that there's the slideshow waiting for you right up here at the top of the page.

Since registration started at 8:00 AM, we had a 6:00 departure from Fort Collins. During the drive, we fuelled our enthusiasm with some cold pizza and tried to think up more puns involving the team name. With just minutes to spare, I relied on a ten year old memory to guide me through the streets of Golden to a deserted parking lot. We huddled in the car and watched as some hungover race organizers started to trickle in at about 7:55.

At this point, I was growing nervous about the rest of the team. I hadn't really talked to anyone since thursday night, and there weren't any familiar faces out there waiting to register. I picked up my phone to call Jeremy, and found the following text message waiting for me:
from: Jeremy Allen
Hey, just got your
message. Everyone
backed out cause of
easter plans
Apr 10, 11:45 PM



What do you mean, "not showing up"?


Needless to say, I was confused, and called Jeremy several times until he woke up and answered. Everyone backed out? Well, clearly not everyone, since Natalie and I were at the event right then. Jeremy and I conversed for quite some time, and eventually decided that he would stay in Fort Collins, in his warm bed, and Natalie and I would defend the honor of the CSUCKIT. We agreed that we would all have a good chuckle about it later. Much later.

With this settled, I decided that we would just tackle all the team challenges by ourselves. Natalie pointed out that a two person kayak polo team versus a five person team would face a serious disadvantage, so I was eventually convinced to hold tryouts to recruit a whole new CSUCKIT. The bulk of the tryout consisted of me loudly asking whether or not the applicant had a team yet, followed by them looking nervous and asking who I was. Eventually, despite these exacting criteria, we finished the selection process by taking the first two people that answered yes, along with our friend Brooke, who appeared out of thin air in the nick of time. (She appeared without any kayak gear at all, I should add. Apparently Natalie and I had enough spare stuff in the car to fully equip an extra kayaker. So next time someone tells me to clean all the crap out of my car, they're getting an earful, let me tell you.)


The team roster. Imagine Brooke's name penciled in at the bottom. Also, imagine one of the names crossed out and replaced with a different one.


Since I was the most nervous registrant, along with the rudest, and possibly in the top ten for sobriety (or at least not-hungover-ness), I was the first one to get bibs for my team, and managed to secure numbers 1 through 4. And 32. I figured that way, I would be able to recognize my team, since I sure as hell wasn't going to remember their names. Of course, I am number one in real life, so I went ahead and assigned myself the number 1 bib. Natalie was number 2. A girl named Number Three got bib #3 (convenient), and some random guy got bib 4. I ended up giving him the nickname "Number Four," since he was kind of like #5 on the command chain. Brooke got 32, since 32=25, clearly.


CSUCKIT. Game faces, people! This is serious business.


We started things off with a bang. The bang was a giant boot kicking our asses at polo. Apparently, although a two person team faces a serious disadvantage against a five person team, there are rare, unexplainable cases where even a five person team faces a serious disadvantage against a different five person team. Who'd a thunk it? With our tails between our legs, we hurried to the slalom course to get our two slalom runs each done.






In the slalom, results were mixed. There was a wide range of skill levels that we were competing against. For example, there was my old friend Dave Brokering's team, the Fly (Fishing) Ladies, which was composed of Dave himself and two girls that had never been on the river before, ever, and there were also two teams from the Alexander Dawson school, with paddlers rumored to be Junior Olympic slalom paddlers. Our team was mostly composed of the scraps and leftovers from this field, so we ended up about middle of the pack. Natalie, Brooke and I all kicked ass, of course. However, our unnamed teammates ended up missing a gate or two, which is not too bad if it's your first slalom race, but is a serious time penalty. I won't bother assigning any blame to any particular team member. Everyone paddled better than I had hoped. Especially me. I was totally ripping it up, even though I was in a playboat instead of a slalom boat. Because I'm number one, baby.

Anyway, with our polo loss and our middle of the pack slalom times, I knew that the pressure was on for the rodeo. I delegated numbers 3 and 4 to the boatercross, and went to do some yoga to prepare my mind and body for the trials ahead.

The boatercross was a fun event to watch. Similar to the Vail Games' 8-Ball competition, there were paddlers stationed along the course for the sole purpose of knocking the lead paddlers off line. There were also a couple gates that the competitors had to go through. Our paddlers almost made it through to finals, but the cut was just a little too harsh, and we didn't make it.


Pileup at gate number one


This put the weight of the team squarely on my shoulders in the final event: the rodeo. (Oh, and on Natalie's shoulders, and Brooke's shoulders. They competed, too.) As predicted, the feature was terrible. It was literally worse than flatwater. My plans were almost entirely crushed when I was told that despite the low caliber of the judging, tricks that were purely flatwater would not be counted. I had (honestly) planned to cartwheel in the eddy for my entire ride. However, there was a loophole in their wacky set of rules. Since the hole was so flushy and terrible, they decided to count any move that started or ended in the hole. This meant that I could cartwheel in the eddy, and so long as I continued throwing down until I drifted into the backwash behind the hole, it would get counted. I should mention that the reason I was so fixated on cartwheeling was that they were using a crude version of the obsolete "technical/variety" scoring system.


Brooke gently working the clean spin. That trick was hard.


For those of you who know all about this, or don't care, I'm sorry to waste your time. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, here's the deal. Back in the 90's, when freestyle was sort of being invented, there weren't many tricks that could be done, and none of them were very impressive to watch. So the judging was based on how many times you could turn your boat around (this was the technical score - how many times you did each trick). Even then, people realized that it was boring to watch a boat spin around like a log in an eddy, so they tacked on another score to keep track of what different tricks you did (the variety score - each type of trick was only counted once). At the end of your ride, the scores were multiplied. Now, of course, there is a standardized system of judging that is basically only a variety score, to encourage more exciting rides.


Each competitor was allowed to count one trick which could be completely on flatwater. Natalie threw some flatwater cartwheels, which put her near the top of the pack right away.


So, with this old scoring system, I knew that if I could just spin more times than everyone else, I could take it. Variety was also sort of important, but it just meant doing some paddle spins and stuff, sacrificing your pride for some cheese points. Also, cartwheels were worth a lot more than spins, and since they were impossible, nobody was doing them except for me with my faltwater cartwheels into the hole. It was my moment of glory. It was also a moment of glory for Brooke and Natalie. Brooke managed to make clean spins look easy in the small Nemesis, which she had never even paddled until this event. I had tried to clean spin for hours before the rodeo, and had dismissed it as impossible. Natalie also paddled the small Nemesis demo, and managed to cartwheel into the hole a time or two, giving her a huge edge on the competition. I took first, and Natalie ended up in third. Basically, the CSUCKIT kicked ass, finally.


Paddle tricks were a crucial part of any ride here.


With our intimidating rodeo scores, we were able to offset our polo loss, and even earn back a little extra time on the slalom event. Our team CSUCKIT ended up in fourth place, just barely off the podium. Natalie and I were pretty happy with our rodeo results, and we did score some sweet booty as individuals, even though the team as a whole didn't. We'll be back next year, with a whole team to back us up. Hear that Jeremy? A WHOLE TEAM next time, I said. Like, ahead of time.


We'd especially like to thank Jeremy Allen, Pat, JD, and everyone else who contributed to the team effort.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

CSU can suck it!


We've got pool sessions again. We don't need your help, CSU!

So, as many of my devoted followers already know, the CSU pools and rec. department are a bunch of jerks. Over the past few years, they have worked diligently to pretty much outlaw kayaking in the CSU pools. Your average school of this size would probably have a roll session that was put on by the school itself. However CSU not only doesn't put on a roll session, once we got together and put together an informal kayak club (informal because CSU wouldn't fund the club) and made our members pay in order to rent the pool, the school started introducing bogus rules to make the pool sessions unviable. They limited the number of kayaks in the pool to 8, which was nonsense. We had about 30 people standing around chest deep in the pool (glaring at the lifeguards), and only 8 of the paying people could be in their boats at a time. Then they upped the rule to say that there could be only 8 kayakers (not kayaks, but kayakers) in the pool area at one time. This meant that we had to raise our prices, and basically killed what was left of the informal kayak club.

Since those times, we've been trying to bring the club back to life. Natalie called all over town, seeing if there was anywhere other than a campus pool that would be cheap enough for us to rent and would allow kayaks. After many searches and interviews, she found Stephanie at Pulse Fitness, who would give us a reasonable rate and was excited about having kayaks in the pool! Tonight was our second weekly pool session there, and it ROCKED! I thought I'd take a couple photos, so that I could say: IN YOUR FACE, CSU! Pulse is AWESOME!

You know where to shove these, CSU.

If you're a parent considering schools, really, CSU is just about the worst choice that you can make. Honestly. I am a grad student in the physics department, and I can definitely say that the math, physics, and engineering departments are of terrible quality. Classes are overcrowded, and the standards of education are quite low. Consider sending your kid to CU Boulder. In the meantime, here are some photos of the CSU Canoe and Kayak Interdisciplinary Team (a.k.a. CSUCKIT) rockin out in the Pulse Fitness Center pool.

It was a little shallow for looping, but it was possible.

Natalie working on the bowstall in the small Nemesis


Jeremy Allen, shown above, was the one who proposed forming a new organization, taking a lot of the qualities of the CSU kayak club, but bringing it to a new, more competitive level. We eventually decided that we would call it the CSU Canoe and Kayak Interdisciplinary Team. However, Jeremy quickly noted, "that's a mouthful," so we decided that we would mostly just use the acronym; CSUCKIT. We're going to be attending our first formal competition this weekend, in Golden CO, possibly aided by the CSU Canoe and Kayak Assistant Support Squad.

More fun in the pool

A last little bit of splashing around.