Team USA

Team USA
Sloan's Lake

22 June 2015

Final Race

After many weeks of phone calls, emails, crying and paddling I have decided it’s just time to return to Colorado. On top of all the political red tape I’ve been running into, my hip has been giving me lot problems.  There is likely a serious issue but I was hoping to be able to push through. I need to see my surgeon and honestly probably give my body as a whole a break.  I’m struggling with this decision but I figure if my hip isn’t as bad as I think or the pieces fall into place with the paperwork, Burton and will return. 

Before leaving I wanted to do at least one more race. The whole team traveled up to Bellingham for the Bellingham Regatta 2015. Lake Padden is beautiful and the Kenmore~Cascade Team had a WONDERFUL time. I raced hard and fast. I raced the 2000m, the 1000m, the 500m, and my favorite the sprint 200m!  I had so much fun racing able-bodied athletes and walked away feeling so blessed!

08 June 2015

Back in the USA

After Germany, it was very difficult to know which way to turn. I didn’t know if things were going to work out for me and Paracanoe but I felt all I could do was keep trying, keep training and hope that it would all come together in my favor. My fellow paddlers there were so happy to have me back and everyone helped me hold my head high and not give up. I continued to train and paddle with the Kenmore Cascade Canoe and Kayak Club. 

Not long after my return to Seattle there was a race at Green Lake. I had spent several extra days off the water at home in Colorado and I did not feel prepared for the Ted Houk Regatta. I decided to enter because you can’t win if you don’t try and “no time like the present” right?

When things warm up in Seattle, it generally means it gets windy. The weekend of the Ted Houk Regatta, was no exception. There was warm, sunny weather with high winds, and therefore rough water.  

During my 500m race I was paddling really well, digging deep and was going to finish very strong. Unfortunately, I got caught off balance with a cross wave, wasn’t able to recover and went for a swim ~20m from the finish. DNF. Bummer.

The following day was my 200m races.  The morning had gorgeous, flat water but by my afternoon race time it was rough once again.  My practice with Time Trials at Green Lake paid off. I did not have any personal best race times but I had two really good 200m races and had my personal best times at Green Lake. Good enough for me.  

26 May 2015

Things are not always as they appear

I worked very hard in the weeks leading up to the World Cup in Duisburg, Germany. Heavy intense workouts on the water, gym workouts off the water, all pushing my body to the limits I could push.  I wanted to not only do my best but I wanted a faster time than I had gotten in OKC. Every time I dumped myself into the water, every time I wanted to stop the workout early, I reminded myself that I wouldn’t get faster if I didn’t keep pushing! My usual training partner wasn’t able to train during this time and so one of my fellow paddlers from the Kenmore~Cascade Canoe and Kayak Club, Monika Armitano volunteered her time and energy to being on the water with me while I shrived to get faster.  She was amazing and helped me tons.

When I left for Germany I felt prepared and ready.

We arrived very early with plenty of days so that we could get equipment sorted and go through classification. The classification process is how it is determined what disability class you will compete in, KL1, KL2, or KL3. Up to this point, nationally I had been put into the KL2 category.  
The Regattabahn  is a beautiful venue created specifically for fast paddling. It was incredible; I was so excited and couldn’t wait to get onto the water. The following days we had to share boats so we took turned doing our workouts and getting our race plans dialed in.

Then came classification day.  (dun dun dun da dun dun)

Everything got turned upside down for me.

There had been several rule changes for international competition earlier in the year and part of that was a change in the classification system. We knew things were different to years prior and this was exactly the reason we needed to go to World Cup, was to get classified in the new system to make sure things would go smoothly at World Championships.  Well, things did not go smoothly in Germany. I was told that I was not eligible to compete in Paracanoe. :(

I had read the rules, I had my medical forms and I meet the requirements for minimum eligibility… except apparently I don’t!?!  I was devastated!!

I spent the following days crying, reading rules, making phone calls, going to the venue and basically doing whatever I could do to help myself so that I could race. Things did not go my way and I ended up sitting the sidelines. I watched some amazing paddling from world class disabled and able-bodied paddlers. I was able to see friends from Finland and make new friends from other countries. I cheered on my Team USA teammates and tried to make the best of the terrible situation.

26 April 2015

Trials... and tribulations

Sprint kayak racing is not an easy sport. I may have mentioned this once or twice, it’s actually rather tough. It’s physically and emotionally demanding, especially when Mother Nature doesn't cooperate. Thankfully, I am training with Dan Henderson and the Kenmore-Cascade Canoe and Kayak club and it makes things a LOT better.

U.S. Team Trials were held in Oklahoma City. 

Dan drove our boats out there. Dan made a training schedule and set arrival dates so we had plenty of time to prepare, Dan organized for the Team to eat together and leave together. Basically we have an awesome team who helped each other out and Dan Henderson is a great coach and a really good person to have in your corner when you are trying to qualify for an international race in a sport that is cutthroat.

The months of training leading up to my ONE 200m race (that would potentially qualify me for World Cup) were brutal. I worked hard, I paddled hard and I felt prepared. I knew I was capable of reaching the time standard I needed to reach but there are so many variables I just didn't want plan on it until I had done it.  The weather the days prior race day had varied from great to terrible. Wind speeds and directions changed, and we had fought with rain and lightning, so it was a wild card. They changed the ladies Paracanoe race from mid-afternoon to 08:00am to give us the best chance at good weather.

Thankfully Mother Nature was kind. We arrived early to the boathouse so we could go through our warm-up and be ready to go for the first race of the day.  My parents drove out from Colorado to be there, and another Paracanoeist and his wife came to watch as well.

We got called to the starting line… ready, set, go! I got a bad start; I didn't get the strength I wanted off the line to pull away. I had watched video after video of athletes recovering from poor starts to win, so I dug in, tried to breathe, look forward and push to the finish line. At ~50m to go I had a serious chat with myself about finishing strong. How could 200m hurt so badly? My body was revolting against me; it was hard to sit tall, the water felt heavy, my legs were screaming, but I did everything I knew to do and kept digging towards the finish. When the horn sounded as I crossed the line, I didn't win and that hurt. I wanted to win.

I caught my breath and went to the scoreboard, I may not have been first across the line, but I had met my time standard and accomplished a PERSONAL BEST time.  I was going to Germany!! Holy moly, I qualified for a World Cup event for the first time in 5 years… in a new sport!!! Best part was my parents were there to see it. 

Hard work does pay off.  4 of 6 of the Kenmore~Cascade team members qualified for the international spots we were hoping for, a darn good effort by everyone!!

I have a couple weeks before I leave for Duisburg, Germany and I am training hard to improve on my time and my performance! 

12 April 2015

Paddler’s Cup

The sprint race season has begun with Kenmore-Cascade Canoe and Kayak club! As a 200m paddler this is very exciting! The Gig Harbor Paddler’s Cup was a really fun event. There was something for everyone; distance, sprints, SUP, and fun booths. Unfortunately the weather was not so kind and we had everything from rain, wind, sun and hail. Thankfully it blew out as fast as it blew in so it wasn't terrible for long. My good friend Lisl came out despite the weather to watch me paddle... which made it all the better. 

I did well in my races and I was award the “Para Paddle Queen” for the weekend. 

31 March 2015

Racing For Cookies

Paddling at Kenmore-Cascade Canoe and Kayak club is always interesting and things have improved for me, almost exponentially the past couple weeks. The stability and control I’m finding in the boat is so much better! That is not to say that I have been staying out of the lake every workout, but it’s on occasion, not regularly.

We are doing weekly time trials at Green Lake and those have been some of the most challenging moments I have faced. It feels like pulling it together for 200m is nearly impossible, but I’m not giving up. Each effort I try to draw something positive for the next time.

On the 21st of March we had our Race for the Cookies at Squire’s Landing. It was a 2km, individual start, race. Thankfully we did the whole 2km on the river because that day Mother Nature was NOT happy. We had strong winds, rain, and clouds. Of course after it was all done the sun came out, but that’s how it goes sometimes. I raced a lot faster than the previous distance races I've done, doing about 7:26 minutes per kilometer, my race in November was just under 8 minutes per kilometer. Measurable improvements feel good.

Pre-race meeting photo credit Karol Osuský

Me, Diane, and Thomas. photo credit Karol Osuský
Just under a month to go until Trials in OKC and I’m pushing to find speed.  Each day is a challenge but I truly believe hard work pays off! When I reach my time goals in OKC, I will be qualified for World Cup so the fundraising push is on to get me to Germany... as well as races later this year. I'm so appreciative to all the people that have donated already but I need much more for international competition. If you know of anyone that might be interested in helping a Paralympic athlete be successful please send them my way. 

19 March 2015