This year I had many moments of “How did I get here?!” From standing on an SUP to a starting ramp at creek races. Not only did I surprise myself but they became some of the more memorable moments of my competitive year.
There was a familiarity of tension as I worked on my tricks this year, really only starting my training the Monday before the first event of the spring - Reno River Festival. Some tricks came easy, others felt like pulling teeth. I kicked myself for not working on tricks sooner and reminded myself that I knew what I was doing, even if it felt foreign.
Sure enough the first event came and I felt behind, Sage Donnelly could McNasty both ways much more consistently. But I knew what I had as well, and focused on nailing my rides. It was an epic battle, one where you knew it wasn’t coming easy and you also knew it could go either way. We tied, then she was winning the tie breaker, and I had one ride left to see if I could better our tied 830 score or her 780 score that was winning the tie breaker. If only it was a 400 score it would have been SO MUCH easier. But it wasn’t, and I knew I could already score an 830 as I had done it one ride earlier. So off I went and threw down another 830 for the win. For me this was a reminder to have faith in my paddling, my tricks, and my capabilities, which later propelled me into trying new things. I even tried the Surf event at Reno River Festival with the coaxing of one too many friends who laughed as I fell in just about every position. Oh and I did SUP Cross and went WAY downstream minus my board.
While that moment reminded me to simply focus on the task at hand, because I couldn’t control what anyone around me could do, it also reminded me how being calm, collected and focused can really help shape your experience, and ultimately your result.
The next event was the Golden Games, where I entered the ‘Creek Race’ after giving it a peek and thinking, “I would do that for fun.” Instead of writing it off because it had the words creek and race in it. I enjoyed every second and couldn’t believe how controlled and strong I felt boofing over the one “big” hole.
The freestyle event followed and it was powerful, shallow and not a feature I would enter for fun at its current water levels. The incline was steep and the rocks too close. My practice rides consisted of a spin flush…. But the competition came anyways and the girls that previously were shaking in their boots came out and with power and poise. I was mad, I thought we were having a spin off and then Kady Kellogg threw a mcnasty! Again, I didn’t get any of those things in practice so I had to become calm, collective and throw down moves I was hoping to not do in that hole, all the while thinking please don’t hit my head.
After jamming my toe on one too many loop attempts, followed by loop, mcnasty and cartwheel moves, I secured the win, and with it, an AWESOME tent! Thanks Golden Games!
Leaving Golden Games and realizing that the creek race was the highlight for me, opened up the mental possibility of other events. Next week was CKS Festival in Buena Vista Colorado, an event where I often wonder who stole my kids and why they come back filthy and exhausted. This year was quite different, my son Tucker had an emergency appendectomy. I thought I knew stress and pain, but nothing comes close to the emotions and concerns I felt as we waited for surgery and throughout the surgery. We brought Tucker home, into our new Grand Design Trailer, to recover at home with us instead of a second night in the hospital. The nurses were excited to see us try, but warned most parents simply can’t handle getting their kids out of pain. I was just so excited to cuddle him in our own bed.
We got back at 11 and prelims were at 4. I was of no use to Tucker who I had been pushing around in the stroller as he rolled his eyes at me and said he was fine about a million times. So I asked if it was okay if I went kayaking, he said sure and watched me with Grandma from the sidelines. In the past I have always done an amazing job of focusing on ME time when I am on the water, and no one elses. This time I couldn’t stop looking up to check on Tucker, thinking what am I doing on the water; oh no he just sneezed, that’s going to hurt, what do people think of me, I am so tired, oh look its my turn…
My paddling reflected this and I didn’t perform my best. It continued this way to finals the next day, and again I just couldn’t block everything out. I wanted to be in the water, but I also really felt like I didn’t… That feeling left me lost. How could I possibly not want to be on the water?
I didn’t do the Numbers race, but we did sleep, and I appreciated every single second I got. We did the family Milk Run the following Day and Tucker joined in the Dynamic Duo. We kept him high and dry and it was great to see him acting happy, excited and enthusiastic again. I was bold and asked my Mom to come too, along with our daughter Parker. Having my parents, my brother, my two kids and husband on the water together was as entertaining as it was incredible. We each had moments and struggles and accomplished something. I will never forget my Mom not realizing I was watching as she looked at waves with sheer horror, only to look at me and smile and say is everything okay with Parker. What a quick change of reactions, talk about a mother putting the ducklings first….
We drove from CKS to Lyons, CO where our good friends put on a super fun low key event each year along with the Burning Can Beer Festival. The hole was HARD but the event was FUN and once again Sage impressed me with her ability to pull off her best tricks in her competition ride. I had to complete a blunt mcnasty to get ahead and I even tried split, orbit combos. Again being challenged, accepting the challenge, keeping a clear head and performing, man that’s hard, and exhausting and FUN! I also got to test my slalom skills again and as always- I LOVED IT. Missing my slalom days but super appreciative of the Lyons outdoor games for hosting a fun slalom event!
After Lyons we booked over to GoPro Games, a favorite for me as I had my first pro win here many years ago. This year I ended up challenging myself to the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, which involved lots of “out of breath” moments in the water and on the mountain! I had a blast rafting the run with Tucker, KC and Nick, SUP cross (which I REALLY need to work on), running at 10,000 feet (never again), and winning my 11th Mountain Games in Freestyle which has been taken over bunch of juniors who are paddling so well, and I was so excited to share the eddy with them. I also had the joy of competing and doing pretty well in the Dowd’s Chute Race, which replaced the Homestake Race due to low water. I took 4th but not by much! I had my best time in the Nirvana on the down river race and again took 4th by a teensy tiny bit! Maybe I will have to do some down river training in the future if I want to edge anyone off the podium. After kicking my butt in all the events, doing 4 running events, I secured a tie for 2nd in the UMC. Not certain right now if I would do it again but I have a year to recover so we’ll see.
We packed up from Vail and headed out to the North Fork Championships - an event that I usually focus on playing wife and mom more than a competitor, simply due to the fact that I don’t have much interest in being on the North Fork Payette and certainly not racing it alone. But this year I surprised myself. The water was low, I had spent more time this year in my Nirvana and I had the confidence of ensuring I would be safe. The expert division race (and qualifier for the elite race on Jake’s) moved from the bottom 5 to one longer rapid called S Turn, where they also host the Boatercross. When I saw the rapid and noticed that their weren’t any holes that could “keep me”, my mind was open. Unfortunately I had to do million errands and couldn’t find people to take me down or watch the kids before the race, but I did find someone who would take me down during the race. So sure enough I scouted it one more time, made up my mind and raced it following Mike Voorhees, who told me he was going the easiest routes possible - my kinda lines! I was so excited and calm when we were in the rapid. Man the North Fork is splashy and I can’t imagine running the harder rapids with that much busy water going on. I was calm and collected and moved the boat everywhere I wanted it to go. I love finishing a run and having that joy and enthusiasm of “I want to go again.” I was so appreciative of having an event that was challenging but not overly intimidating or consequential. I was so excited to have another first in my bucket for the year and have a year that encouraged me to keep an open mind to opportunity.
While much of the year was the “usual” for me, it always has new challenges, new opportunity, and new joy….
I encourage everyone to try something new, or challenge yourself. And remember that the frustrations of not being great at first can also be the motivation to keep trying and to get better. Without motivation to improve or challenge yourself, you can feel stuck, so I am grateful for the moments of frustration where I took a step back, but it allowed me to take two more forward.
Happy Paddling to you all!