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

12 March 2015

Good Luck Charm

Things at Kenmore-Cascade Canoe and Kayak club have been productive and busy the past couple of weeks. My friend Spike Kane returned from his travels and has since joined me for the daily training sessions. Last week I went 4 straight training sessions of working hard without dumping the boat over. I was so excited about not swimming! I told Spike I was so happy to have him paddling with me and he was my good luck charm. 

The next training session (without Spike) was meant to be timed runs on the course at Green Lake… and unfortunately Green Lake got me again. I took a long cold swim before I reached the finish of my final attempt at a fast 200m. I was paddling hard and just lost my balance. I’m grateful there were lots of people there to offer help and support. 

This week I have also been training quite hard and making progress with my technique, but progression for me seems to bring instability and time in the water. Thankfully it has become less frequent.

The weather is not supposed to be very kind come Saturday but I’m hoping to finally get a good time… at least for 1 of my 3 attempts.  This  Saturday my good luck charm friend will be with me, so maybe luck will be on my side J

28 February 2015

Don’t quit

Another week of working hard completed. This week with Kenmore-Cascade Canoe and Kayak club we went to the VA hospital and in conjunction with Team River Runner got some guys in sprint boats. That was a new experience for me and I had a good time.

Unfortunately I ended up catching a really bad cold. The benefit was that I got to enjoy a pleasant workout with the master’s ladies on Monday but ended up taking Wednesday off of training to let my body rest. When I returned to the water we mostly worked on technique. Later in the week I was happy that another Paracanoe paddler, Josh, came out for training with me and kept me working hard and pushing forward. The water conditions weren't the easiest but we got a beneficial workout in and it felt good.

Today did not feel so wonderful. Coach Dan has decided that Saturdays until Trials are sprint days and we are doing time trials in the early morning on the Green Lake race course to prepare ourselves better. When we arrived at Green Lake it was sunny and windy. The water had significant waves and occasional white caps. I watched as my able-bodied teammate navigated his way off the dock and I just gulped. My nerves were high. The water was rough and swimming seemed pretty much inevitable for me. I was uncertain if it was worth it. Dan gave me the option as I sat at the dock in my boat.  He wanted me to at least sit there and feel the boat move underneath me for a bit.

After a while the wind seemed to die down and I decided to give it a shot. Another Paracanoe athlete Vadim was there and I didn't want to let him or Dan down by not making an attempt. I pushed off, put the paddle in the water and headed down the side of the race course. I got turned around and lined up with Vadim and away we went, except I was going right, and further right, and more right… not straight and not fast. It was not a good effort at getting an accurate time.  

I circled around and headed out again, I wanted to have at least a semi straight line down the course. I worked on sitting up and relaxing thinking about the timing of my stroke as I paddled out. I paused to make the turn to go back to line up. Just as I was ALMOST fully turned around and back into the course, I tipped over. UGH! I righted my boated and waited for my motor boat rescue. My day was over. I was cold and wet but glad I didn't quit.  

19 February 2015

What Doesn't Kill You, Makes You Stronger

A long time ago while on the road at a ski race, a teammate had purple toes from very tight ski boots mixed with cold temperatures and I was appalled! He just looked at me and said, “Eh, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.” At the time, I thought it didn't exactly apply to the situation but reflected on his words. I have since repeated them, to myself and others, many times in many different situations because often times part of growing stronger does come with some pain.

The past couple weeks paddling at Kenmore-Cascade Canoe and Kayak club I have been getting stronger. I am getting better in the new boat and I have had some absolutely sensational days on the water! We were even fortunate enough for the sun to bless us with its presence for several days in a row!

Not so fortunately, I have also continued to fall out of the boat. Just when I think I’m figuring things out and doing better, SPLASH, back in the water I go. I get hauled out of the lake, climb back in the boat and continue with the workout. During this process I keep being reminded that everything that makes you go faster also makes you more unstable.

It seems just when I start to worry that I’m never going to figure it out, Mother Nature smiles at me and then the next workout goes better than any prior day. The other morning was no exception. After a true test of perseverance the previous day, I didn't even want to train. I made myself go anyway, and when I showed up the air temperature was whopping 38 degrees. I was so tentative because I just didn't think I had it in me to go swimming. That’s not a good way to train. Finally, I let go of my apprehension and relaxed, started putting more weight through the paddle, and worked on my reach. I am glad to report that I thankfully kept my boat upright and my body out of the water for the WHOLE workout! I needed that! Hard work really is rewarded! I will keep pushing, and I will get faster and stronger!

U.S. Team Trials race in Oklahoma City is just over 9 weeks away, and I plan to be fast enough to qualify for World Cup! 

02 February 2015

"Just keep swimming"

A friend of mine told me this recently because my training with Kenmore-Cascade Canoe and Kayak club has been challenging to say the least.  The Nelo ML has not been an easy transition for me. I've been in the water more times than I care to admit to. Plus, tipping over and swimming is not productive or good for confidence, but it is part of the learning curve. Rather than tell you what to do to stay upright, I can tell you what not to do: 1) Don’t get back in the boat after getting dragged out of the water and try to hurry too much, take your time and get in the boat properly 2) Whatever you do, don’t stop paddling!! The paddle is your best friend to keeping upright.   

Each day I have been going out with the goal of getting more comfortable in the boat. The positive is that I have improved in how far I’ve made it before swimming. The 47 degree water is mighty chilly, and a strong motivator to stay relaxed and do everything to avoid going in the drink. The past 3 workouts I thankfully haven’t swam at all! The negative is that my swimming fun times wore my body down and I got very sick and had to take several days off. It’s hard to sit around and try to feel better when my brain is constantly thinking about paddling, and the nice days on the water I was missing.  

Thankfully I was able to return to training today and I made it over 10km, without swimming! Hopefully confidence breeds confidence as I move on to interval workouts this week. If not, I’ll “just keep swimming” until I get it. 

21 January 2015


My planned month at home and off the water ended up being longer than expected. The transmission in my car started making a strange noise when I got back to Colorado. By the time I finally got an appointment with the dealer they determined that I needed it replaced, and that took a while.

For piece of mind my Dad was nice enough to drive out with Burton and I to make sure we didn't have any trouble. We didn't have any mechanical problems, thankfully, but I was very glad that my Dad came with us as we did have an unfortunate flat tire. We got the spare on and then proceeded to get the tire repaired in the next town and back on the road.

Kayaking is not dangerous like ski racing but it is a hell of a tough sport. Technique is important for speed and muscle memory is imperative. The risk of injury is low but there is a high chance of getting wet and cold.

I was so excited to return to Kenmore-Cascade and get back on the water. The sun was out and the air was brisk. Dad joined Coach Dan in the motor boat and we headed out to Lake Washington. More than a month off the water took its toll. The water felt heavy on my hands and I felt off balance. It seemed like my body forgot what it was supposed to do. With a few tips and reminders from Dan I started to get back in the groove. By the end of the workout I was feeling much better.  

During the time I was at home Kenmore-Cascade Canoe and Kayak club acquired a new Paracanoe boat the Nelo MLThis is a much faster but also more tippy boat. We had some time and decided to try it out. I was a little nervous especially since my wonderful back rest didn’t fit in the new boat. Without a back rest I am not able to use my legs as much and therefore I’m more unstable, in any boat. I tested my balance a little at the safety of the dock, and then we started down river. After getting a feel for the boat I figured I shouldn’t test my luck too much and we turned around. We were nearly back to the boathouse when I lost my balance and dumped into the cold Sammamish River. Dan pulled me out of the bitter cold water and into the motorboat and proceeded to get us back to the boathouse where I had a dry change of clothes.  Needless to say, less than 24 hours of being back in Seattle I have already earned a day off.