Tuesday, January 22, 2013

WWGP Stage 5: Futaleufu Marathon

The Marathon
The official video: WWGP Stage 5: Whitewater Marathon

The marathon was the final race of the Grand Prix. It was a mass start race held on the Futalafu river on a longer run that included the section we raced for stage 4.

This was my personal favorite race of the event. I think that it was a favorite of a lot of racers. This race was held on the Bridge to Bridge section plus two big rapids below: Mas o Menos and Casa de Piedras, and was very very physically challenging. The race was 25ish minutes of paddling hard through nonstop big water. The water level was very high. If you swam it would not be good because you'd be swimming for a while before you could get yourself to shore. The women set safety along the run for the men and then the men set safety for the women. What was neat about this event was that it was a mass start and that you knew who you had to beat to change your overall standings. To keep my fifth place spot I had to beat Louise Jull and Nicole Mansfield. The mass start made the first rapid crazy. I watched 20+ men go through the first rapid at once and it was a mosh pit! During our race of just seven women I ended up getting hit in the nose by the stern of Martina's boat. For most of the race Louise Jull and I swapped between fourth and fifth. I clinched fourth in the last rapid by greasing a more aggressive faster line through the middle right. It was really fun to push yourself with another racer right beside, behind or ahead of you. At the end of the day, I was exhausted and had a smile on my face.

The start of the Men's marathon. Photo by Eric Boomer

The first rapid of the Men's Marathon. Photo by Eric Boomer

During some "free time" the day before the race we ran the Terminator section upstream of the race course.  The pictures don't show it very well, but this rapid is huge.  Here are some photos.

Goeff Calhoun.  Photo by Leif.

Me (foreground) and Marcos in the middle of the rapid. Photo by Leif.

Me and Marcos coming into the last section of the rapid. Photo by Leif.

 Stay tuned for a wrap-up WWGP post with a video edit by Leif of our time in Chile coming in a few days. If you haven't already seen it, the Women's edit is out and you should watch it! Women of the 2012 Whitewater Grand Prix

Thanks for following along and reading about all the stages:
Going to the WWGP
Back from the WWGP
Stage 1: Gol Gol
Stage 2: Puesco
Stage 3: Nevados
Stage 4: Futa Boatercross
And thanks to all those who helped support me financially, emotionally, and otherwise.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

WWGP stage 4: Futaleufu Boatercross

My best finish for the event was one of the heats of the Boatercross and my overall favorite race was the Futaleufu Marathon. After finishing up in the Pucon area with the Rio Nevados Sprint (Also see posts about the Gol Gol Enduro and the Puesco Boulder Dash), the Grand Prix switched locations and spent a few days transporting to the Futaleufu, in the Patagonia region of Southern Chile. This was a minor logistic feat (thanks Emily!). We spent many hours in the car on bumpy roads and chilling out on a few ferries. Leif spent his time on the ferry taking nice photos.

Leif was happy he was not in the Party Bus and he had a shoulder to lie on.

John Hyland checks out the ferry.  Notice the guy in the sleeping bag.

That guy is Kyle Hull catching some zzzs

Rush finds some time to work on his Raps and Dane gets into crafts with the gals.  It was cold, I don't know how he hung out in that sweater vest.
Jakub hacks.
Emily, Pat and Matty B making it happen.
As you can see from these photos, after the beautiful one day of sunshine for the Rio Nevados race, the weather again turned south. For the entire time we were at the Futa, it rained incessantly. During our time at the Futa we stayed at the Bio Bio rafting camp which had hot showers and a wood fired hot tub (although we didn't get this working until the last couple of nights), which helped to alleviate the cold. At this point we had been boating almost every single day for the last week and a half or so mostly in the rain. I noticed that everyone was starting to look a little haggard and by the time that these races finished almost everyone on the tour was sick. I ended up getting a cough that I just got rid of three weeks later! However, the river was incredible, which lifted everyone's spirits. The water rose to above the rafting cutoff, which made for some incredible fun, big and splashy whitewater.

  The Boatercross
The official Video: WWGP Stage 3: Big Water Boatercross

 The Boatercross was held on the Mas o Menos Rapid. This is essentially a huge rapid with some big big waves. We all started with our tails into a big eddy and had to paddle hard to get to the main current. Once in the main current you went through a smaller lead in with a choice to go left or right of a big crashing hole wave. The left line was very narrow. Then you entered the meat of the rapid with big crashing waves all around that tossed you every which way. I liked to try to run it on the left. The run was basically won at the start and lost in the crashing waves.

 The format was like a tournament. The men raced in heats of four with the top finisher moving on. A couple of wild card spots were given to the top times of the racers that didn't make it. For the women, we had a qualifying heat which eliminated one person. Then we had two heats of three, with the top two finishers moving on. The last heat determined your finish. After being a bit down on myself after the sprints I made a big effort to shift my mental focus and come out strong in this race. And I did! My best finish of the entire event was coming in 1st place out of all 7 women in the qualifying heat. I knew that most the women were taking the right line at the start, so I took the riskier left line and nailed it. This allowed me to get away from the pack where I wouldn't get messed up by them. I think (I might have messed up a little the internal finishers) the finish from that heat was 1. Me, 2. Martina, 3. Nicol? Lou Urwin? 4. Noria 5. Lou Urwin? Nicole? 6. Katrina 7. Louise Jull. For my second heat I raced with Noria and Katrina. During my second heat I got a slow start and messed up that same left line that served me so well in prelims. The final results for that race ended up being: 1.Katrina 2. Martina 3. Noria 4. Lou Urwin 5. Nicole 6. Me 7. Louise Jull. As you can see by comparing the prelim heat to the final finishing, this race was a big wildcard as to who would win. Anything can happen during a boatercross. Katrina jumped from 6 to first and I fell from 1st to 6th! This was also true for the men. Isaac, coming into this event in first, got into semi finals as a wildcard spot and ended up losing a few places in the overall standings. Of particular note was fellow team Fluid paddler Adrian Kiernan's performance during this race. He killed it. During the last heat he was in first place, beating Dane until the very very last wave when he got passed by Dane and marginally (almost a tie) by DeGuill.

Louise Jull getting an unfortunate, but awesome, surf at the lead in to the meat. Photo by Eric Boomer.
Me, coming in first for that prelim heat!  Photo by Eric Parker.

In a rare bit of sunshine, Adrian totally stoked on his Boater Cross races. Photo by Leif.

Check back in a few days to read about the final race: the marathon. And in case you missed them, here are the links to my previous posts in this series:
Back from the Grand Prix
Stage 1: Gol Gol
Stage 2: Puesco Stage 3: Nevados

Friday, January 11, 2013

WWGP Stage 3: Rio Nevados Sprint

The Rio Nevados was Leif's favorite run from Chile and the easiest race of the Grand Prix.

The idea of the Whitewater Grand Prix Chile is that it is an event that selects the best all around class V+ paddler. To do this, the athletes race down different types of courses with each course highlighting different skillsets. The paddlers who do the best perform well at all the races. So far we'd raced a pool drop run with big drops (see WWGP Stage1: Gol Gol Enduro), and a nonstop tight technical and steep boulder garden sprint (see WWGP Stage 2: Puesco Boulder Dash). If you were following the Grand Prix from the beginning you would know that Stage 3 was supposed to be a Slalom Event on the Mariman rapid on the Rio Trancura. This was one event that I was really looking forward to as a challenge. A giant slalom race (zig zagging through a short section of whitewater making it through preset gates) tests a whole different set of skills than racing down as fast as you can. Unfortunately it had been raining so hard the past week that the slalom course, which had been preset, was too high to run, let alone race. At high water the entire bottom of the Mariman rapid turns into one giant recirculating death hole. We had to make a quick decision of what to do next as the rain continued to pour down. There was talk of an alternate slalom course on the Truful Truful, but Chile veterans were concerned that if it kept raining that would be too high as well. So, do to logistics, high water, continuing rain and a tight schedule (Emily Merideth, who was our on ground coordinator, confirmed our trip to the Futaleufu leaving the morning after the next race), the slalom event was nixed. Instead we raced a very short, 1 minute sprint down the top two drops of a Pucon region classic, The Rio Nevados.

The Rio Nevados is a low volume, boxed in, pool drop run with lots of waterfalls. It is home of the famous DemShitz drop (which was too high to run the entire time Leif and I were there. It came in just two days after we left). There is an upper gorge of small pretty drops followed by the section we raced which consisted basically two drops, a slide and a 20 foot boof into a narrow canyon. After the race section finish line, the river necked down yet again into another tight gorge with some medium sized drops that ended in an even tighter gorge above Demshitz. After Demshitz I am told that there was another really neat tight gorge. While we were there this lower gorge was too high. Speaking of too high, when we came back to Pucon after the WWGP, Leif ran the middle tight gorge at pretty stompy flows (I was sick that day and I'm not sure I would've done it anyway) with a couple grand prix paddlers and his skirt blew on one of the drops and he ended up swimming. There was mini epic including a lost paddle and a boat - you should ask him about it sometime. The next day two other people swam out of the same spot and their group ended up finding Leif's boat along with theirs behind the curtain a few drops down, at Dulce Amor. Big thanks to Eric Bartle for the boat and paddle recovery!
Leif's out-of-boat experience

Anyway, I've diverged from my focus, which isn't supposed to highlight Leif's mishaps, but my victories (or not).

The Race:

As I said, the race was basically just two drops long. The upper slide and a 20 foot ledge waterfall. Once you run the waterfall there is no way to hike out and you have to run the rest of the run. Thus, each race lap consisted of racing the top section, then running the rest of the run in groups of three. At the end of the run we hiked out and got a ride to the top of the race course for another go. I only had about a 1 minute rest at the top before it was my turn again! There had been talk about including some of the drops below, but it was too tight of a canyon. It would have been very difficult time wise, and a little too dangerous to try to set the media and safety teams in that gorge.

The Slide
Momo on the 20' wall drop
I felt that I could do very well at a short sprint down a steep narrow creek, since this is the type of boating I often do. I was determined to redeem myself from the Puesco race and to not make the mistake of not scouting the little stuff well enough. During the practice day I made sure that I knew where the finish line was and I thoroughly scouted the little stuff. It was sunny for the first time in a week, and I felt confident. Pre-race I got quite a few runs down the slide and section in between the two drops. I didn't run the 20 footer because I knew that I could nail that. I didn't want to run the 20 footer because I didn't want to run the rest of the run and be tired for my races. This was a mistake. While all the athletes were grouping up right before the race I started hearing people talk about this log in the lower section of the race (which I hadn't run that day) that was now exposed due to the water dropping quite a bit overnight. Did I mention that it was sunny and not raining on the race day!!! However, I wasn't concerned because everyone was saying that it was on the side and if you are in the main flow you'll miss it. Well my first race came through and I had a super super fast line through the upper section and the 20 footer. I remember thinking to myself, you've nailed it, now all you have to do is avoid that log and send through two smaller boofs. Well I was in the main current, but on the right edge of it. I didn't see the log until too late, it was just barely submerged and it rail-slided me into an inescapable eddy against the right bank. I watched a few other racers go by as I got out and hiked my boat out of the little eddy. I got back up to the start with just a few racers before me for my second lap. Now I knew where the log was, and I just had to do what I knew to do. Well, all I gotta say is that the pressure of being my second lap and the added pressure I put on myself for thinking that I had to do extremely well in this race and that this was my last chance got to me. I ran the upper part fairly fast, then botched and the 20 footer (not sure how I did this, I felt that this drop was very easy) and watched myself pin ball with mistake after mistake from there. I'm not sure I could go as slow as I did on that lap if I tried.
Looking back up at the 20 footer.  Photo by Wes Schrecongost

After this race, I felt crushed. Two of my goals for the Whitewater Grand Prix were to be calm and race a race without major mistakes, and to keep a positive attitude and have fun with the other athletes. After this race was over I was so disappointed in myself for not reaching my first goal that I was having a hard time getting a good score report from Leif on my second goal. Given a little distance and time, I now see that there was no reason for me to be so hard on myself at this point in the competition. I had been paddling some great whitewater really well and whether I performed by best during the races wasn't the whole picture. When you are in the moment, racing with the best kayakers and not really connected to the broader world, it is easy to loose perspective and be too hard on oneself. I remember while playing volleyball my sophomore year in high school I was too hard on myself and didn't end up having fun or improving as much as I wanted to. I completely changed my attitude my Junior and Senior years when I realized that I just loved being on the court playing. Having fun during the match was more important than the outcome. Because I was less fixated on the outcome during the games, I was more focused, having more fun, and ended up doing very well. For my next kayaking race or competition, I am going to strive to find that place inside me where I am just loving kayaking at that moment. I know it is there, because I have experienced it before and I know that I can find it again.

Leif and I finishing a portage in the upper gorge.  Photo by Momo Castillo.

Dulce Amor
Check back in a few days to read about the Big Water portion of the Grand Prix at the Futaleufu. And in case you missed them, here are the links to my previous posts in this series:
Back from the Grand Prix
Stage 1: Gol Gol
Stage 2: Puesco
We don't have many photos from the race, but we paddled the Nevados quite a few times while we were in Chile and one of those times it was sunny so we did a Nevados Photo shoot. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

WWGP Stage 2: Puesco Boulder Dash

I felt that this was, by far, the riskiest race that we ran.

Stage 2 was originally going to occur on the Upper Rio Fuy.  A classic waterfall section with very photogenic drops.  It was to be a short sprint down four stacked mid-sized waterfalls.  However,  due to the presence of didymo (an invasive algae) in the river, the officials from that region decided that it would be best not to have the competition at that location for fear that our boats and gear would spread the algae to other Chilean rivers.  Didymo is a huge ecologic concern around the world including creeks and rivers in Europe, New Zealand, Chile the United States and Canada.  Didymo proliferates in low nutrient clear mountain streams, forming slimy mats that smothers fish eggs and severely effecting the ecosystem of the stream (Science Daily).  Didymo is native to northern regions of Europe, Asia and parts of North America  Its spread to Chilean Rivers in the Los Lagos Region (where most kayakers go) can most likely be attributed to travelling river enthusiasts and kayakers.  From my experience, most kayakers are not aware of Didymo and their role in spreading the algae.  One drop of water transported from an infected river can infect a new river.   Here is a fact sheet about what you can do to make sure that Didymo is not spread to other rivers.  At the very least, it would be good practice to drain your kayak completely before leaving each river.  When Leif and I went to the Rio Fuy later in the trip, we paid $2.00 each to have our boats and gear disinfected by the river inspector.  Although a bit too long, this powerful video diary of Didymo in the Gunpowder River by Jason Du Pont is worth watching.

Didymo: A Video Diary from Jason du Pont on Vimeo.

It started raining on the first day that the WWGP athletes met up and continued almost every day throughout the entire event.  The month before the event, levels for the Chilean runs were very low, for there had been a few months of no rain.  Due to the rain, waterlevels were coming up and by the time we left a month later they were raging.  Leif and I went back to the Gol Gol near the end of our trip and it was raging so large that there was no way we would put on. All of the rocks and islands were covered at Princessa; it was one raging pourover (see pictures of Princessa from Stage 1: Gol Gol Enduro)

The Race Line
Because it had been raining we were able to do the Rio Puesco instead of the Rio Fuy.  The Rio Puesco is not what comes to my mind when I think of a Chilean river.  There are no waterfalls, just fast paced, bouldery, steep goodness.  As Leif put it: It's like the Homestake race at Vail- on steroids.  The race was held on one longish rapid (it is hard to really pick out where one rapid stopped and the next started) at the beginning of the run, known as Tres Troncos (three logs).  Basically, the steepest section that was accessible from the road.  The race section could also be compared to Gettin' Busy on the Little White Salmon, but steeper.  The race was about 2 minutes in length and was nonstop action.  This style of creeking has you on your toes!  Usually when you run a section like this you stop at as many micro eddies as you can then make your next move.  During the race you had to blast by all the eddies and somehow try to remember where you are so that you make sure that you don't go into the "no go" pin locations.  Leif scouted one of these "no go" spots on a practice lap when we didn't know all the lines yet.   Usually when you boat with a group, the leader makes sure that everyone knows all the lines.  Boating in a group of 30 some odd people down a small steep creek with not a lot of eddies means that if you are at the end of the group a lot of information is lost - kinda like playing that whisper telephone game.  By the time Leif and I were coming down (we were just a tad slow getting ready), let's just say that something got lost in translation.   Leif followed the current into a slot and had a pin that he described as "moderately intense", which is like his code for scary.   On race day, he was part of the safety team and he made a beeline to set up safety right at that same slot.   Mike Dawson couldn't make it for the practice day and he mistakenly went into this exact same spot on his race run and ended up swimming.  Due to some previous injuries which were exacerbated by this episode, he pulled himself out of the rest of the event.  So if you were wondering what happened to Mike Dawson (who won the first event), now you know.

To give you a feel for the race here are some video links
Stage 2: Boulder Dash, Rio Puesco
Stage 2: Athlete Experience (GoPro Vid)
Stage 2: from Kayak Session TV

Gearing up for an exciting day in the rain.  Photo by Leif.
Wide eyed and ready.  Photo by Leif.
The steep section on one of my training laps.  I'm the middle paddler.  Photo by Eric Boomer.

Coming through the crux.  Photo by Leif.
Getting busy.  Photo by Leif
Geoff Calhoun takes the center rock boof.  Photo by Leif

Bad ass back ender.  Photo by Leif.

My race experience
I felt that this run was by far the most dangerous and risky race that we did.  That being said, after about five practice laps, I felt pretty good on the run and was able to recognize the 'no go' locations and avoid them while paddling nonstop down the run.   By the time the finish line was finalized, I had already done a number of practice laps.  The finish ended up being a bit lower down than I had been practicing, with more "flatter water".  I didn't want to tire myself out before the race so I decided to not do one last practice.   I looked at the finish and the scouted the flatter section upstream, thinking to myself, oh that is the flat easy section, just stay right.  This came back to bite me.  Coming into this race I felt that I had a really good chance of doing really well.  I felt that my training on Colorado runs would pay off.  And they did, for the steep section.  My first lap I goofed up some of the top section due to nerves and I also goofed the bottom section that I hadn't run before, perching myself on a rock.  My second lap was great, I was fast and smooth through the top steep technical section, until .. the bottom flatter section, again.   I still hadn't scouted that section well enough.  As I came through the bottom of the top section, I was thinking to myself, whew! that was great, now all you have to do is relax and style this easy stuff.  Which I didn't.  I discovered that when I race, my vision narrows down and I am not nearly as good seeing the whole picture and I ended up going through some shallow very, very slow sections of water. I ended up in 6th and couldn't keep myself from wondering where I would've ended up had I run the easy stuff smoothly.  I was so disappointed. That was going to be my race!  I came out of that race thinking to myself, well that didn't turn out how I wanted it to, but I'll use it as a learning experience and next time I'll make sure to know where exactly where the finish is and to scout thoroughly the small stuff.  The next race is also going to be a short sprint, so I'll redeem myself there.

Looking good on one of my race laps.  Downstream of this boof is the lower flatter section that I kept goofing up.    Photo by Eric Parker.

Stay tuned for my write up on the Rio Nevados in a few days and check out my previous posts on this event if you haven't already.  Why I'm going to the WWGP,  Back from the WWGP, and WWGP Stage 1: Gol Gol Enduro.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

WWGP Stage 1: Gol Gol Enduro

The Gol Gol was my favorite run from the Whitewater Grand Prix.

Leif and I arrived in Chile to warm weather, clear skies, and low water. As the competitors started to arrive, spirits were up and I started to gear up mentally for two weeks of intense paddling. I had never been to Chile and I had no idea what to expect with the races, other than they would be challenging. I was a little apprehensive about racing some of the toughest races I've ever raced, right off the couch. Most the other ladies had already been in Chile for a couple of weeks! I had spent the last six weeks working every day on my research and school work so that I could skip out on three weeks of classes and finals (along the the 6 weeks I already missed in due to field work), and trying to stay somewhat in shape by swimming about four times a week. I was really glad to find out that we would get, not one, but two days of practice on what everyone was saying was the most challenging race run on the schedule, the Rio Gol Gol.

Before our official first practice day many of the competitors ran Salto del Indio, a very powerful 50' waterfall. Although there was a big discussion, we didn't end up including the waterfall for several reasons: 1. It was after a very long section of whitewater and some felt that it would make the race times more about the flatwater than running the rapids 2. The drop is known for very very long down times, with racers going into out of breath at the end of the run, we were worried someone would black out 3. A few days before the race a few racers sustained rib injuries on the drop (Kyle Hull and Eric DeGuill) and sending 30 racers down the drop twice was increasing the odds that more people would be injured before the event really started. Most racers agreed that they would have included it somehow if the Gol Gol was the last race instead of the first.

Paddler Rush Sturges.  Photo by Sergio Videl (best WWGP support person ever).   This drop was not included into the race (see explanation above)

With Kyle Hull out on the injured list, and because precedent was set with adding some other last minute racers, Leif was actually quite hopeful that he would be able to race as well. Unfortunately for him, the event really needed a bad ass timer and kayaker that could access the start line or finish lines because they were inaccessible via hiking. Having Leif be the lead timer was a bummer for me because he couldn't be my super media camera dude. Hence, our photos are a little slim from the event itself.

Leif pouting. He's pretty good at it.

Description of the Race Run
Basically, the race consisted of five big drops separated by short sections of boogie water. You can get a feel for the race run by watching :
Stage 1: Whitewater Enduro 
Stage 1: Athlete Experience 
Dane's GoPro Race Line.

Drop 1: The 5' ledge drop.
This was the smallest drop on the race line, and was part of the lead in to the second drop. Although it was fairly easy, sometimes if you didn't have your edge right as you landed the eddy pulled you hard right and off of the fastest line and into some shallow slower water. This happened to me my second race lap, despite having run it perfect numerous times before. It was the single biggest mistake that I made on my best run, possibly placing me in 4th instead of 3rd place for this race.

Drop 2: Alto
I thought that this was the hardest drop to run a race line on. When the water was lower it was a late sloping boof as you can see in the photos below, which were taken the day before the race. For the race day, the water rose about a foot and was covering the rock on the lip and there were some mean boils at the bottom shoving you into a slower line through the river left eddy. The fastest lines were to the right of the rock with right angle and a big fast boof. However, if you didn't get enough outward speed with your boof you just boofed into the boils at the bottom and got sucked back into the curtain for a little party. I saw this happen to a number of the racers and happened to me on a practice run. What really separated the top tier of racers for this race was their ability to not just keeping their nose up as they land, but retaining their forward speed after they land. I'm planning on working on this skill. I ended up taking a slightly easier line, boofing off the side of the rock. However, it was slower because I ended up committing to paddling around the boils instead of over them. Quite a few people who went for paddling over the boils ended up going around them anyway.

Drop 3: The Vagina Crack
It doesn't take much imagination to picture what this drop looks like.  Basically you put yourself in the crack and go deep into it.  Many of the guys just couldn't get themselves out again.  This drop dished out a number of swims during the practice and race laps, including Todd Wells, Anton Immler and Mike Dawson.  Some of the fastest lines included a boof halfway down, but this also tended to cause you to get worked in the hole in the bottom- hence the swims.  According to the safety team at the bottom, my first lap through this drop was the fastest they saw.  I went deep (most peoples strategy) and popped up paddling on line downstream without flipping over.  I was about 50-50 flipping over in this drop, as were most of the racers.  The trick here was to get your angle so that when you popped up at the bottom upside down or right side up you were headed downstream to the left instead of pushed into the huge eddy to the right.

Natalie Enters.  Video Still: Leif

Jakub Nemec with a boof to flip to chunder.  Video Still: Leif

Drop 4: Feo
I actually really liked this drop.  There was a safe line on this drop and a race line.  The race line was far river right boofing through a big sticky hole near the right wall (I saw Galen get beat down here and swim in a practice lap).  The safe line is a boof further to the left, but then paddling hard right to cut across a current that wants to shove you hard into a huge time-consuming eddy to the left.  My first lap I goofed the entrance, ran the left backward and then surfed all the way to the right.  Surprisingly, it actually ended up being a really fast line.  My second lap I decided to go for the race line and nailed it.  That felt good.
Paddler Natalie.  Left 'safe' line during a safety lap.  GoPro Still: 

Paddler: John Hyland.  Left Line.  Race line is to the right of John, right on top of the rib of water landing on a larger boil.   Too far right puts you in a pocket against the right bank.  Photo: Leif
Drop 5: Princessa

This was the most intimidating drop on the run. It wasn't just a simple waterfall, you had to make a move cutting left through some waves at the top. As the water came up, this drop got really hard to run well. The lip became fairly undefined and the lead in pushed you to the right, away from the sweet spot. After my second race line, I watched many world class paddlers miss their boof, flip at the bottom and carp their rolls. During my first lap I ended up taking an embarrassing swim at the bottom (see my excuses below), but on my second lap, I styled it. I loved this drop. 

Paddler: Natalie   Photo: WhitewaterGP.com

Paddler: Natalie    Photo: Wes Schrecongost

Paddler: Leif   Photo: Wes Schrecongost

Paddler: Leif    Photo: Wes Schrecongost

Excuses for My Swim 
If you watched the videos from this race, then you probably noticed me swimming.  I'm actually quite embarrassed about this particular swim.  It was my first ever swim since I learned to kayak 8 years ago where I swam because I just couldn't seem to roll.  If anyone knows me, they know that I pride myself on the fact that I don't swim unless I really am very stuck.  Me just bailing like that is unheard of.  So what happened?  Here are my excuses.  Sorry if you don't care, I've just got to get it out.  Because I was in race group 2, I ran safety before my race lap.  After running safety I was supposed to hike out for about 10 minutes and arrive back at camp for a quick bite to eat before heading up for my own race.  I ended up taking the wrong trail and hiked an extra 20 minutes with some bushwacking and ended up 1 km upslope of the cabins.  The bus ended up picking me on the way up and taking me directly to the start.  How does this apply to my swim?  One crucial factor, I had no food all day and I got pretty tired on the hike.  During my race I could tell that my muscles had no fuel.  When I didn't get a boof and got chundered a little (not much) and started floating downstream after Princessa, I tried a number of rolls, but was just too tired.  Later I figured out that my knee braces were also set a little too high, so that when I was trying to hip snap my snap wasn't being transferred well to boat movement.  That combined with my tiredness and a lack of mental toughness at that point (I knew I was past the last drop and there was tons of safety) and pooftah, I was out of my boat.  Oh so embarrassing   Well, se la vie. It happened.  For the next day during lap two, I moved my knee braces forward got plenty to eat and styled my lines.

These photos show the order of the top finishers from this race from right to left.  After this race I was in fourth (just 8 seconds behind Katrina).  

After running the Gol Gol eight times in four days I started to feel like I was no longer "off the couch". At the end of the first stage I realized that I felt challenged, yet within my comfort zone. If the Gol Gol was the most difficult race then I knew that I could handle the rest of the courses coming my way.  I felt confident that I could hold my position in fourth and possibly even move up a spot in the next two race. Which was supposed to be a short sprint down the Rio Fuy.

Check back in a few days for my next installment on WWGP Stage 2: Puesco Boulder Dash

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Back From the Grand Prix

Well, Leif and I finally made it home from Chile.  If any of you were wondering where all of our coverage of the Grand Prix is, I can assure you, it is coming!  Leif and I did not take a computer with us on our trip and so we are just starting to wade through the pictures and footage.  So stay tuned, we are going to be coming out with a series of articles in the next two weeks about each race to give you a blow by blow of the event and the trip; our perspective of the moods, emotions, and how the event went.  We felt that this aspect was missing in the official coverage (and see their facebook page) and are excited to provide it to you.

The official videos are pretty short, but I believe that more material will be released in the coming month, so keep checking.  For example, I know that there will be a badass women's edit just featuring the seven ladies!

I would like to thank everyone who supported our trip to Chile: Fluid, Stohlquist, Season 5, Steve Robinson, John Kramer, Nathan Werner, John Blyth, Adam Bathe, Shaina Sabatine, Kirsten Bradley and Family, Brian and Holly Gardel, O'Shay Wood, Arla Yost, Russell Kramer, Beth McVay, Tony Miely, David Frank, Jess Reimer, Colleen Woodward, Jenifer Johnsrud, Ben Luck, and Spencer's Dad.

I competed hard and felt honored to be able to represent for my kayaking family, my friends, my sponsors, Colorado and all women boaters.  In a few days I will put up a post about the first stage of the event, The Gol Gol Enduro, but in the mean time here are a few photo teasers from our travel to chile and first few days.

On the way to Chile we did some paddling on the Great Falls of the Potomac. Check out Leif's photos and writeup here.

A few nights before we left we stayed up pretty late making some badass boat bags. My grandma would be proud! Thanks Kari for your last minute sewing machine loan

Unfortunately we forgot to take a photo of the finished product. They worked really well. The American Airlines agent immediately assumed we has some sort of surfing equipment and we got on the plane for $150 a boat.

Our fist day we paddled the beautiful and classic Palguin.

Pretty fun portage

Natalie on Boof to Swim, photo by Leif.

Natalie on the Middle Palguin. Photo by Leif. For reasons only known to Leif, he did not run this drop. Reminiscent of my descent down Metlako, I was the first one off the drop. The go pro footage of my line has disappeared so this may be the only shot you get to see of my line and evidence is gone that I also ran stout ten. Pero, no importa.

Hunt dishes out a nice line

Leif did not teach her this, she already knew it

Kick off meeting for the Grand Prix in Entre Lagos

We got to catch up with a lot of our kayaking pals, including life stoked Jakub Nemec

It is nice to be home. Now it is time to buckle down and put my science pants on!