Team USA

Team USA
Sloan's Lake

12 December 2014

“The Art of Racing in the Rain”

My plan in going to Seattle was to check out the local paddling clubs and accredited ultrasound programs. What I found was amazing people! I cannot believe the experiences I’ve had here. I may not have found an ultrasound program for me, but my time here has been astounding!

The 1300 mile road trip up here was without incident. Thankfully the weather was good until we were just outside of Seattle, then it started pouring rain.

During my travels around Washington and the Seattle area I listened to a book that was perfect for my time here… The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.  The book is narrated by a dog and the title refers to racing cars in the rain, but I got my fair share of driving and kayak racing/ training in the rain. I don’t think I have ever gotten as wet as I did while paddling here … without swimming. The worst day was the day I went and paddled with the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team, the rain just saturated every layer I had on. Yet another moment of growing stronger through perseverance! 

I had so many good things happen here in Seattle I cannot even begin to address them all but I’ll try to touch on some.To start, my close friends opened their home to Burton and I and gave us a great place to stay. Then, I was able to paddle at three different locations in my first week in Seattle. Within just days of arriving I met a nice friend of a friend who introduced me to a great coach, and then subsequently let me stay at his house which was very close to the KenmoreCascade boathouse where first distance race of my career would take place.  

I chose to race the 5km the following Saturday. It was a rainy, cold morning and I traded boats with my friend Alana she could use a seat designed for her. Unfortunately, I struggled with the other boat. I finished the race but zig-zagged the whole way. I paddled ~6km in total, not great. I was tired but happy to have my first distance race completed.
Finished the race

Vadim, myself and Alana- post race
After that race I attended the Frostbite camp and race with some great coaches with the Seattle Canoe and Kayak Club, in the rain of course. But the race there on Green Lake went a lot better! I improved my time by MINUTES, I had a mini fan club, the sun even came out, and I walked away with a blue ribbon in my hand!
Post race at Green Lake

The following weeks I had the opportunity to train regularly with the Kenmore Cascade Canoe and Kayak Team. The coach, Dan Henderson, is incredible! I have improved leaps and bounds! I extended my stay so I could train with him as long as possible. I am so excited about the progress I’ve made working with Dan and I will be returning after the holidays to continue to train!
Lake Washington. Photo credit: Spike Kane

Photo credit Spike Kane

08 August 2014

U.S Canoe/ Kayak Sprint Nationals

Since I did not make it to World Championships this year I decided to attend U.S Canoe/Kayak Sprint Nationals. It was an opportunity to represent Paracanoe on the national level and possibly improve my times.

I had about 3 weeks to train and work on my boat set up after Lake Placid. With the help of some great friends I had some good quality training and finally figured out a boat set up that worked. I didn't know if I was ready for the races in Georgia but Burton and I loaded up and headed south. Our travels were uneventful and we arrived to fairly calm and warm waters on Lake Lanier. I had a couple days until my first race so I took advantage and paddled, rested and worked out.

I raced my first 500m race on the 1st of August. We didn't have many Paracanoe paddlers so we were mostly racing together. I didn't break any records but I paddled really well winning the women’s race and didn't finish far behind the guys. I was the 500m Paracanoe K1 National Champion!! I was really pleased with my paddling and I wanted to use the momentum for the next day for the 200m races.

The following day the weather was in our favor again, with warm temperatures and only a slight wind, that was mostly a tail wind shifting occasionally to the side.

Being classified as a TA I can race both the TA and LTA divisions of Paracanoe. The first race was the K1 200m LTA race. I came off the start okay and paddled strong to the end. There is plenty I know that could be improved but I gave it everything I had and I was 3rd of 5 racers! I won the women’s race and even beat one of the guys. Best part was that made me the 200m Women’s LTA National Champion! I was very pleased and my time was much improved from the Lake Placid race. I still had another race to run; I had 2 hours to come up with a way to improve my time even further.

Paddlers ready…set… HORN (go). I got a decent start but the wind direction had changed. I really needed to push. 
I sat up straighter, dug my paddle in as much as I could and really tried to move the boat forward. 
With 50m to go I was right with the guys and knew the opportunity for an improved time was at my fingertips, literally. 
I dug just a little too deep on one paddle stroke and nearly dumped myself... BUMMER! 
I didn't stop but I had to regain my balance in order to finish my race as strong as possible. 
I crossed the line well behind the men but knew I did my best. I didn't better my time but I was happy, and best of all... the 200m Women’s TA National Champion! Not a bad week of racing and the results were good! :)

I was really glad I went to Georgia! I had an amazing week with wonderful people and paddled well. Now it’s time to train harder and improve more… always striving to be the best!

Group shot

Paracanoe Women 500m K1 TA National Champion!

Paracanoe Women 200m K1 LTA National Champion!

06 July 2014

Lake Placid International Regatta

I was so excited after my trip to Finland to show off my new found skills but unfortunately things just didn't go as planned.

The days leading up to the race I had some nice days on the water and enjoyed getting to know other paddlers. I was there with an excellent group of people and it was great to be on the water twice a day. We also had a few very strong rain showers that tested our strength but ultimately Mother Nature with the power of lightening won and we fled the water.  I took the time on and off the water and to try to use other people’s experience and worked on different seat and paddle adjustments.  I felt like I made positive changes but nothing fit  perfect.

Come race day the sun was shining and we had gorgeous water with a strong side wind. I was eager to race and hopeful for good results. I had one race to paddle as fast as I could to qualify for the World Championship Team and go to Moscow one month later. In that race, I had troubles in the start and just couldn't make it up. I finished strong but just not very fast compared to the winner. 

I had two other races to improve my time but that didn't work out either. My second race I tried another boat that was lighter but had a malfunction with my rudder and zig-zagged down the course. My third race was the best of the day, but I only improved my time by a few tenths. Click here for results

Overall, I enjoyed my time on Mirror Lake and in the town of Lake Placid but I didn't qualify for World Champs. The silver lining was that at least I paddled decent and met the emerging time standards.

10 June 2014


I would have never guessed that getting into the right that boat would make my life so much better! From that moment on I felt like a different person! The next days at Marjanienmen were spent getting time on the water paddling rather than struggling to balance. 

I was fortunate enough to borrow the Viper 55 to go to the training camp at Kisakallio in Lohja. This was an opportunity of a lifetime. I joined the camp of paddlers from all around Finland including the Finnish National Teams for kayak and rowing. The best part was that an Olympian and former Finnish National Team member, Anne Rikala personally coached me. She is an incredible person, terrific paddler and a wealth of information. My week in Kisakallio was incredible and I made huge leaps of progress with my paddling in my time here. I am truly blessed for these opportunities!

My next step is returning to the USA to attend LakePlacid International Regatta in the beginning of July. That race will serve as a qualifier for the 2014 U.S. Paracanoe team as well as a selection race for World Championships in Moscow, Russia. No matter what the outcome of the race next month, my big goal is going to the Summer Paralympic Games in Rio 2016 and that is where my focus lies. I will take everything that I have been so fortunate to learn here and apply it to being a better paddler, athlete and person in the future. Dreams don’t come true without the support of many people and my road to Rio just got shorter with the help of everyone here in Finland. Kiitos!

Below are some photos by Katja Saarinen from the camp:
Happy Day!
Start practice- photo by Anne 

Anne with the boys

02 June 2014

Paddling in Finland

Had such a good day at the Marjanienmen today. The weather was not in our favor so the gentleman that I was supposed to work with thought I’d be better off working on the Kayak Ergo. This was a good way of working on my technique without the balance issues and concerns of taking a swim in the almost dangerously cold Baltic Sea. This session went really well and he was pleased with the progress I made. Although I must admit I wanted to push harder and go faster, but apparently that technique equals speed and speed does not equal technique so we worked on my stroke.

My day got a lot better as it turns out that the club does indeed have “my boat” the Viper 55. I was able to try a back rest that Katja’s dad had fashioned for me to try to help my muscle control and balance. I simply paddled around the dock but already felt LOTS better than the previous days. We then worked on some different strokes in the water for positioning. I had a huge smile on my face leaving the boathouse today!!!

With my back rest in the Viper 55

27 May 2014

Helsinki, Finland

I had a long winter of skiing, snowshoeing, gym time, and school.

It seems like forever since I have been on the water! Today was my first day back! Ironically I am in Helsinki Finland (Suomi). This trip was a graduation present from my parents. I am so fortunate that I have parents that are so loving and kind to help me and my dog to skip the country for a month!! 

The ideas started to flow in January when my dear friend Katja was staying with us in Winter Park while training and racing. She thought I should come visit her this summer… and amazingly here I am… with Burton!

I came here with the expectation to have fun, spend some time with her and maybe put my paddle in the water a few times. Now it seems I have training on and off the water arranged for many of the days that I’ll be here. Marjanimen Melojat is a club here in Helsinki that I went out with yesterday. They do not have too many sprint paddlers left in their club but they are gracious enough to help me get on the water and offer some advice to improve. Also while I am here it sounds like I will be traveling to Lohja for a short camp. In addition I will be working with Katja’s conditioning coach in her studio doing Pilates.

Below are a few photos from my first day ever paddling in the Baltic Sea!