Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Those were the Trials that were....

Its almost exactly a week since I got back from Team Trials on the Nantahala.  Its a long time since I've been down there, but I'm glad I did go this year.  My motivation since getting back from Tasmania has been severely lacking.  This is due, in part, to the fact that I am not racing internationally this year, at least in wildwater.  So putting myself through the wringer, getting up early in awful weather to train, and cutting all kinds of tasty things from my diet has become more difficult.  Add to that some weather issues (4 feet of snow blocked parking anywhere near a training site for a few weeks) and a back/neck injury and I'm a fat boater again with waning physical fitness.  So, my trip to the Nantahala was supposed to help me regain my enthusiasm for racing now that the weather is getting better and I'm dealing with my back issues.

For those of you who have raced on the Nantahala the idea of going there to gain motivation may seem a  bit nonsensical.  But, it kind of worked.  It was nice to hang out with racers again, and it made me think about my training regimen carefully, so that I will (hopefully) be in good form for Team Trials/Nationals on the Skigat in early November.  My results in the sprint were about as good as I could have expected.  I was about 5% back from Peter Lutter in a non-technical sprint that was about 70-80 seconds long.  If the race had been longer I think I would have been quite a bit further back, but I felt fast and my boat control wasn't horrible (but it could be quite a bit better).  The Classic was significantly worse, reflecting a lack of fitness, as well as the fact that a 13 minute race on a shallow course doesn't suit a short armed fat balding guy (the lack of hair doesn't seem to make that much difference).  I was over 8% back, which ended up as over a minute back from a resurgent JP Bevilaqua, and behind Tom Wier.  I figured Tom would beat me, but I still didn't like it.  So now I know how much work I have to do.  Hopefully it will get done.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Team Trials Build Up

Well, I'm sitting here in a motel in Bryson City, North Carolina the night before US Team Trials, with selection for the World Championships in Sort on the line.  Which is all well and good, except a summer of grant writing will preclude me from going to the Worlds, so selection is not really a concern.  A good performance is not really on the cards after a back/neck screwup left me unable to even sit in front of my computer at my desk a few weeks ago.  So, why am I here?  Well, I'm hoping to have some fun and gain some motivation that will help set me up for a spring and summer of training and racing at a domestic level, and a good performance at National Champs out west, especially if they are selection for the pre-Worlds in 2011.
The downside of having fun is that the race is on the Nantahala.  Its shallow, flat with a whole bunch of shoals, and it completely featureless so you have no idea where you really are at any given time.  Being fat (yep, I'm a fat bastard again) really doesn't help on this course as the bottom drag is awful. However, the non-technical nature of the "whitewater" kind of suits me just now with so little time on the rough this year so far, and my Corvette is good for the river.  I just got the boat weighed and was pleasantly surprised at how light it was (just over the limit with airbags) - shame about my fat gut. 
I'm traveling with Stacy Gricks, a newbie in her wavehopper who is regretting not bring her glass boat.  Kurt "Gigantor" Smithgall and Colby "Motivationless" Zebel are also here, hanging out in our hotel room just now before they head to the mountains somewhere to sleep out in the cold and wet (by choice).

I have no idea how I'm going to go tomorrow in the sprint, but hopefully I can feel good and get in a few nice runs.  I hope to write more after the race tomorrow.

A Toke of the Hickon

I know I've been pretty bad about keeping this blog updated over the winter - it sucked to try to get some motivation back after Tasmania, and work kicked my ass and my motivation for a long time, untl I finally kicked back a bit.  My training has been "poor" and that is being enthusiastic about it.  But things might be turning around a bit.  Last weekend Colby Zebel and I headed to Tohickon Creek, just north of Philadelphia, for a few wildwater runs.  And it was fun.  In fact, it was really fun.  My last few times on the tohickon have been with a group of folks, including some teenage girls who like to whine (maybe they have improved by now, who knows?).  These runs were not fun.  But removed from any responsibility, with the exception that I still had the responsibility for motivating Colby past his hangover, car sickness and "food digestion" to actually get on the river, it was all good.  We (and by we, I mean I did it once, Colby did it every other time) biked the shuttle on single speed bike that can be politely referred to as "sketchy", but it was all good, even with a single speed on a pretty reasonable hill.  I had forgotten how good the Tohickon, site of the 2001 US Team Trials, was - it is narrow, fast and ledgy, so you need to know where you are going - it would make a perfect World Cup course.  The lines often need to be inch perfect to avoid hits (mine weren't) and there are a LOT of playboaters who tend to peel on to a wav just in front of you as you enter a ledge.  This time the playfolks seemed to be a better than normal, and moved out of my wave most of the time.  I responded by only shouting "MOVE!" as I saw someone peeling in front of me, rather than the typical "GET THE F**K OUT OF MY WAY YOU F**KING RETARD SHORTBOATER".  Maybe I am mellowing in my old age, but it seemed to work a little better.  Maybe we can actually all get along.  I guess I'll see this coming weekend when I go to US Team Trials on the Nantahala.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The US Team has left the building....

Well, that was the World Cup 2009.  Yesterday Her Indoors and the Bloater Boater saw off Tom and Jennie at Hobart airport, and today they are winging their way back to the US.  This won't even be close to the last post about the World Cup though, so please keep reading and you will see some fun stuff, including interviews I recorded with top paddlers.  These will take a while to transcribe, but I'll keep them coming over the next few weeks.  We'll be in Tassie for a week or so having a vacation (WC was NOT a vacation for sure).

The last race at Cataract was a short sprint, with a couple of significant drops, a lot of flatwater, about 2000 people watching, live commentary from John Borojevic and stunning weather.  In fact, it was so damn hot I was dripping with sweat onto my glasses during my practice run and couldn't see a thing.  To compensate for this in my two runs I walked up early and sat in the shade underneath the scaffold  erected to allow competitors "easier" (and still very tough) access to the start.

My runs were ok, better than I have paddled to this point, perhaps because I had been very economical about practice runs.  My first run I tried to be smooth but Her Indoors described it as "leisurely" so I upped it for the second run (pretty brutal assessment really).  My lines weren't as good and my sprinting wasn't as smooth on the boily water at the end, but I was 2 seconds faster.  After the first run I was 7/10ths up on John Gallagher, an Irish paddler I was yet to beat in the World Cup, and was also beating Yoda!  Unfortunately Yoda went 8 seconds faster in his 2nd run to whip my butt again, but I held off John and was satisfied to move up a place in the final race.  Maybe it was Borojevic's commentary telling the crowd I financed my trip by stripping on the side that spurred me on? Tom had a reversal of my position, with Tadgh Macintyre just pipping him in the sprint at the end.  Jennie had been tiring throughout the series and had struggled with the top drop the entire time at Cataract.  However, it was the bottom drop that did her in, and she broached for a few seconds before flipping in this drop.

Here's a pic of me and some of the Japanese team - Yoda is the one on my right - as you can see he is not small and green, but I believe he is still well versed in the ways of the Force.

Overall I would say we were pretty happy with the races given our preparation.  I'll be doing an assessment of my own performance in a future post.  It looked like all the right folks won the World Cup rankings, including Jessica Oughton on her 21st birthday.  Hannah Brown won her first World Cup race, and Gerhard Schmid held off Johnnie Schofield (who had the fastest single run of the day) to get his first win.  There were some very happy, and very relieved folks, that night at the end of World Cup party at "Sporties" bar.  However, much like Vegas, what happened at Sporties will stay at Sporties.  I left reasonably early so I can't speak to what happened later anyway.  Note to future US teams - why do we always schedule our flights so we have to leave early the next day after the end of World Cup party?  Seriously?  The Irish (ok, so they are the Irish...) schedule a hangover day and travel the day after - doesn't that make the most sense in the world?  We can learn from this.

On that note I'll move on - Top 10 World Cup moments, my assessment of my own bloater performance and some interviews to come.......

Friday, November 6, 2009

World Cup Final Today

The final race of the World Cup is this morning, and I was the only one whose start time was not published in the paper.  Because I missed races 4 and 5 they weren't giving me a World Cup ranking, so I had to be added to the start list later.  I am off first of the Men's kayak, never a good place to be off.  The course is ok, a lot of flatwater at the end to give the expected crowds of 5000+ something to see.  I don't have a lot of time on the course as it was hot, I am still not fully recovered, and the carry back up the course was pretty brutal.  So 5 runs will have to be enough, along with a warm up run this morning.

Here goes nothing.....

Thursday, November 5, 2009

More media

The transcript from a radio interview a bunch of folks did (including me).


I'm famous! (or infamous)

Check out

Apparently the Advocate (NOT the DC Gay rag) is renowned for getting stuff wrong (and they did, almost everything actually), but its nice to be recognized.  Hopefully I can get a copy of the radio interview I did and post that too.

A vague threat to the Americans at home

So far I have zero entries for the competitor/parent competition, so either no-one is reading this blog, or you are just not entering.  Don't make me concoct fictitious entries that I will then label with easily discernable initials and locations (e.g. J.P. from Atlanta).  These Aussies are nice folks and deserve some interest - a lot of the juniors know half of the answers anyway (yep, talking about Spood, Slutter and the rest.....).  So enter already, before I start making stuff up.  You have been warned......

Si, somos Americanos

So there was a "slight" screwup with our accomodation that could have been a disaster, but everything turned out fine in the end.  We originally had a cottge booked at Deloraine for the Meander race (which the Ouse replaced) but when we arrived they had never heard of us.  Stef Vallee of the Canadian team, who we traveled with for a few days, dealt with the folks in Deloraine for us for which we are very grateful.  As it turned out the a cottage was available even on the weekend of the Deloraine Craft fair, so we had a place to stay.  Our accomodation had actually been swtiched to Launceston, the site of the next race, but our place there had been taken by a couple of suspiciously non-English speaking individuals.  Still, most of the US speaks Spanish anyway, right?  And you can't ignore the resemblance between the Bloater boater and Esteban Arakama (http://wapedia.mobi/eu/Esteban_Arakama).

Fortunately it all worked out well for us again, and now we are in a spacious apartment while the thieving Spanish live in two hotel rooms.  Seriously though, I wish I spoke better (any?) Spanish, as Esteban and Xavier are super cool guys - check out their video of the Brady's sprint (but turn the music down!)


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Recovering, but not recovered

Quick update from my phone (now it finally works). Today is the start of practice for the final World Cup race on Cataract Gorge. We'll be heading to Launceston in an hour or so and the water comes on at noon. I'm hoping to do well, or at least feel good about my runs here, as the only time I've felt good so far was the Lower Upper Mersey race. I know I am not recovered fully as my resting heart rate is still pretty high, and my recovery heart rate during my first paddling session for a few days yesterday was 20bpm above normal. Still, this is the last chance - no pressure!

Will try to write something mildly amusing later when I have my Mac online.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

...And the parents

And now for the parents in this little competition.  I know for a fact a few of them have been waiting with baited breath to find out what I am going to say.  Before I go any further I must reiterate how cool it is to have so many dedicated parents who have helped their offspring go so far in the world of wildwater.  Good on yeh!

So, who shall we start with?  Who else?

  These are Sue and Rosalee, both mothers of competitors.  I’ll be a little careful what I say about Sue – she seems like the hard but fair mum and as my mum was like that I’m afraid I’m a bit intimidated.  I’ll be reporting all guesses at the identity of her offspring directly to her, so be careful!
Rosalee seems to particularly appreciate the sarcastic admiration meted out by this blog. I’m not sure if this is a reflection of slightly masochistic tendencies, or just a welcoming attitude to recognition for years of driving the van around Australia.

Steve, the first father, has been around the World Cup constantly this year, mostly lifting heavy things, offering sarcastic abuse (we get along quite well) or arguing about whose turn it is to provide the beer.  I get the feeling he will be following closely behind his offspring for many years to come….

Judy is a true Aussie character who supports her offspring, doesn’t handhold, but will pony up for an expensive visit to a European Hospital (no questions asked).  A true gem!

Finally Peter, who we, as the US Team, must thank a great deal for ferrying us around at the Mersey when we didn’t have an additional driver.  And as payment we had the pleasure of paddling with his offspring, when we could keep up (not often).  Peter has become an importer of wildwater boats in Australia to feed the family habit.
I’d like to apologize to all the other competitor/parent pairings, including the other parental halves of those mentioned here, for not including them.  In the interest of time I couldn’t get photos of everyone in a timely manner, and too many photos just take WAY too long to upload at the local cafes/bars/stolen residential wireless connections.  At the end of this trip I’m gonna try to compile a full list of folks I have met, who have helped us out etc, and please hassle me to include you in that.
How to enter the competition?  Well, email me your pairings to mhc_antigen@yahoo.com as soon as possible.  I should get the email on my Blackberry now I’m back in civilization (or at least what Vodaphone call civilization) within minutes.  If you are first I’ll email you back and ask you what 2009 World Cup T shirt size you want,  hopefully there are some left.  If not you get an XXL USACK polo shirt (I’m kidding).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Match competitors and parents competition

Ok, Here it is - first one to email me the correct combinations of paddlers and parents gets a Wildwater World Cup T shirt - entries from Australia (or from people at the World Cup) will not be accepted.  I'll split the post into two to save space and time - I'll be posting pics of the competitors first.

Here is Stew Bennett, wearing some sketchy sunglasses and hanging off a parent (possibly his).  Stew is a clean cut young lad who enjoys cuddly toys and hanging out with older women.

This is Rob Mcintyre, an upcoming junior who raced as a forerunner and beat many of the World Cup competitors.  Rob has boyish good looks and was apparently a potential love interest for one of the junior US women's competitors in Switzerland this summer.  He enjoys listening to Dane Cook on shuttle runs and needs to be more old school in his choice of helmet to really be a succesful wildwater paddler.

This is Ben Maynard, a molecular biologist who works on DNA vaccines for salmon in his spare time when not training for wildwater.  According to his “parent” he has had a succession of “wonderful” girlfriends but they have never managed to compete with wildwater for his affections.


This is Ben’s brother, Andrew (clue - they have the same parent) who is “an important employee” of Hydro Tasmania.  Andrew likes to flaunt the fact he is paddling at home by racing a 10 year old Savage 2000 down courses that crush all of our new faster (and more breakable) boats.


This is Ruby Hodgetts, a junior who is racing the World Cup and holding her own well against much more experienced competition.  As she was in Swtizerland this summer at the Junior Worlds, Ruby is the subject of much male attention by individuals from mainland Europe, particularly Carlo Mercati and Mariano Bifano.  Thank Goodness Francois Beauchard has gone home…


Finally, last but not least, This is Matt “Foo” French, who got his first top 10 placing in a World Cup yesterday on the Ouse.  Foo is legendary in World Cup touring circles, and a bevy of red clad beauties from his fan club hung off of his very word yesterday and likely contributed to his successful run.  Foo is rumored to be the product of an alien mating ritual, so its possible that he may not have a parent in the other half of this posting….

The Oozing is over

After 15+ days of training and racing, during which I have missed 3 training days and 2 races through two different illnesses (I'm sure having the first contributed to getting the second) we have a couple of days of with no water.  It was a bit surreal to be around the race yesterday after a few days off, and with no idea what the race course was like.  A glimpse of the Czech C2 pinning horribly within sight of the finish, along with brutal boat damage for a few folks, was enough to convince me that the reports of a very tough course were not exaggerated.  More runs were clearly better, and Matt "Foo" French tuned this into his first top 10 placing in a World Cup with a  fine 8th place - nice job Foo!  Jennie survived, but spent a lot of time flailing (her words, not mine), and Tom came in a solid 6th once again.  I was pretty frustrated at not being able to participate, but I have one last shot at doing ok in the sprint at Cataract in a few days.

In the meantime I hope to amuse you with the paddler/parent competition, and before all the athletes leave I hope to be able to get some interviews that I will run in the blog over the next few months. 

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Poopapalooza and the Ouse

First up, I’d like to warn readers (if there are any) that some on the contents of this entry may be a little graphic.  Be warned.
About 12 hours before we would be leaving Tarraleah for World Cup #4 at Brady’s I started feeling a bit rough.  This rapidly transformed into a vicious sickness that resembled projectile vomiting, except from the other end.  I won’t be drinking chocolate milk anytime soon, that’s for sure.  This went on for about 6 hours, then I managed to get some sleep.  But I was completely empty in the morning, aching an in no shape to race at all.  In fact, I spent about 16 hours on the day of World Cup #4 flat on my back asleep in the cottage.  It was frustrating to miss a race I think I could have done ok in but this trip I have been trying to recover from my initial illness, and I think this contributed to my susceptibility to a second infection. 
The worst part of being sick for Brady’s is that it pretty much puts me out of a possibility to race the Ouse, World Cup #5.  The Ouse is a backup site that the race was moved to after a valve malfunction on the Meander Dam.  But the race location meant everything had to be moved up, with the first practice on the Ouse the afternoon of the Brady’s World Cup, a further 2 runs the day after, and then the race.  The Ouse is not a course that the Aussies paddle that much, and descriptions ranged from “just waves” to “technical class III for the final 3km” of a 25 minute run.  I simply don’t have the energy to devote to a hard training paddle now, so I’ll be sitting out World Cup #5 and trying to get healthy for the World Cup Final on Cataract Gorge.  Having seen Tom and Jennie come back from the Ouse I’m actually kind of relieved to be sitting this one out.  Both of them seemed pretty wiped from such a hard day, and Jennie described the Ouse as the hardest thing she had paddled in a wildwater boat.  At a Team Leader’s meeting last night a vote of 8 to 6 passed in favor of racing the Ouse, but with such limited practice (most racers will have 3 runs on a very tough 25 minute course) there could be substantial carnage.  There is no access to take photos but photos of the aftermath, such as a wavehopper with a 6-inch split in the bow, may be common on Monday night.

  After banging up my boat a bit at Brady’s I’m happy to be sitting this one out, especially in a weakened state. 
Hopefully I’ll have better net connections in Deloraine when we move tomorrow and I can finally post the Aussie Parent/Competitor competition, along with some of the cool pics I have from Brady’s.

Update - a storekeeper in Bronte Park told me the Australian slang for what I was suffering from - apparently I had the "Green Apple Splatters".  Sums it all up really.

Friday, October 30, 2009


We arrived at Brady’s Whitewater Course, site of World Cup #4, after our “interesting” drive.  I’d seen some video, including helmet cam, on Youtube, so had an idea of what e might be getting ourselves into.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Brady’s was the site of a Slalom World Cup on the 90’s, when the size of the water and the steepness of the course stunned many of the World’s best paddlers.  Slalom has moved on to more and more artificial courses, but this remains a very challenging wildwater course, with big waves, big holes and vicious eddies ready to grab your bow at any time and spin you out.  The course is very short and the winning K1 times will be under 50 seconds, meaning that the top guys will go flat out, with absolutely no margin for error.  But th potential for error on the course is enormous, and I’m thinking that at least 20% of the top paddlers will commit an error on one of the sprint runs that will drop them well down the leader board, and might even mean that they don’t finish.
At the bottom end of the leader board (i.e., where I am) life is much simpler.  Make it down without too many major mistakes (e.g. swimming, spinning out) and you will be fine and you won’t be last.  But avoiding those outcomes is the trick, especially if you are fat and old like me.  The course is super short but drops precipitously and a mistake at the top screws you up for the rest of the run.  There is a flat left hand corner that drops into the first waves (Campsite wave), followed by a small rock island as the gradient picks up.  Coming off of Campsite wave you need to avoid having left angle, or you will be pinned on the island, But you do want to cut the corner around the island tight as if you run wide you are struggling to get back left.  Try too hard to get back left and you hit the bank and run the whole thing backwards – been there, done that, not looking for that kind of excitement again.  A bit further down the gradient picks up even more and there is a deep hole (named after the steepest street in Hobart) which will stop you almost dead, killing any momentum.  If you are on the left above the hole the water will take you around to the left, but its essential to avoid putting in a hard right hand stroke above the hole, or you will into the bank and do the whole thing backwards (yes, I’ve done this too – seems to be a theme here!).

Then there is a shallow hole with a rock that has an upper coating of gelcoat on it from all the boats that hit it.  There is a line to the left of the hole, but it is inches wide and going for it could mean eddying out.  A scuff of the boat is acceptable here, but run too far right and a bit stern hit will kill all your momentum and you could flip pretty easily (I haven’t done that  see, I’m in control here).  I did swim on one of my practice runs (pics will be coming soon – really bad connection here), but generally I did ok as long as I eased off a bit and adapted to where I was coming off of the Campsite Wave.  Tom is looking pretty good and hasn’t had many screw-ups at all.  Jennie has done a bunch of runs but still doesn’t have it down (just like me).  Her speciality is going deep in the hole,

but she hasn’t had any swims and should do fine as others around here screw up trying to go fast.  Its a great course and I’m looking forward to racing consistently and well here.

The "Marlborough Highway" is a Goat Track!

I’m writing all of the current updates to the blog offline, and hope to be able to update with a bunch of entries when we move from Tarraleah.  Even though there are quite a few ways to get on the net here, none of them actually work reliably, so I’m stuck working offline.
The drive down from the Mersey was “interesting”, as both of my technicians have a habit of saying.  First of it seemed like the entire World Cup, excluding the hosts, congregated in the Deloraine Woolworths and it was good to see how much fun the Swiss (Fun/Swiss – how many times do you see those two things in the same sentence?) were having with the shopping carts.
We hurried out of the Woolworths, eager to get on the road before the Swiss because, although they are speed demons with shopping carts, they drive very properly (i.e. like old ladies) so on a long and winding road being in front would be better.  We headed out to immediately drive into road works where the gravel road had just been watered, turning it into a skating rink.  We got back on paved road pretty quickly, but then either the cloud came down, or the fog rolled in, reducing visibility to about 20 yards on a drive that included many 35km/h (that’s about 20mph) corners.  I took it pretty steady and pretty conservative in the bad conditions, but still managed to catch Matt “Foo” French on the road.  Foo is apparently a bit mad when it comes to driving, and once we got out of the cloud and stopped for a bit of a natural break he was quick to explain how well suited our car was for the road, and how poorly adapted his car was.  Whatever dude. 
Shortly after our stop we turned onto the “Marlborough Highway” which, in short, is a goat track.  Populated by 18 wheeler logging trucks doing 100km/h in the opposite direction and unwilling to yield even an inch to oncoming traffic on a single lane dirt road.  As I said – “interesting”.  We managed to survive the trip, and pulled safely into Tarraleah, our home for the next few days.  We examined our “cottage”, which closely resembles the Palace of Paddling Accommodation – simply one of the best places I have ever stayed when paddling (except they lie about the reliability of their internet connection).    Shortly after we had cooked dinner Her Indoors (not her real name) arrived after a harrowing drive from Hobart on the wrong side of the road.  Apparently some of the Aussie Mothers are hoping that I will be a little less outspoken now that my partner has arrived.  Her Indoors knows better – good luck with that folks!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

World Cup #3

So this was the last race on the Upper Mersey, and tonight is our last night at Silver Ridge Retreat.  As you can tell from this shot is a truly horrible place to stay and we can't wait to get out of here.

The race today was short, on easy choppy water and was really a "lactic for 7+ minutes" kind of race.  Now I can't go lactic for 7+ minutes o I eased of in a few places, while trying to keep the boat moving.  It worked, and I was pretty happy with my pacing - I could have maybe picked up a few seconds but certainly not many.  My sore muscles now tell me I went pretty lactic.  From the look of pretty much every K1M who finished after me we were all in the hurt locker, big time.  Gulping down breaths of air while maintaining a look of disgust on the face was most common as if to say "That was so easy - so why wasn't I faster and why does it hurt so damn much?".  Luckily (or by strange foresight) I had dropped off a camera at the finish on my warm up run, so I got over 400 pictures of the finish, a place that could not be reached by spectators without a boat.  Here are a couple of examples of the pain on racer's faces at the end.

Gerhard Schmid (4th)

Nejc Znidarcic (2nd)


The C boats didn't look anywhere near as tired when they crossed the line - the course was a bit shallow in a few places and they used that excuse to not go as hard (or so it seemed).  It really wasn't a classic C boat course, and to prove it I took 17 seconds out of Tom over the short course when he was less than 6% back on the winner once again.  I was over 3% up on my race result last weekend, and hope that this reflects my full recovery from being sick.  I'm still on course to beat Tom in every race, but there is a 25 minute mini-marathon with big boat breaking potential on the horizon, so I would be foolish to count my chickens.  Maybe I won't race that race?  I almost counted my chickens yesterday when I said the Japanese had arrived and I might have more people to beat as they all beat me convincingly, including Yoda.  So, I can avoid the Dark Side for some time, at least if I stay away from Foo for now.  I was much close to John Gallagher, the Irish paddler in front of me, and I'll be gunning for him at the next race (probably unsuccessfully, but you gotta try you know).

Anyway, tomorrow we drive to bray's whitewater course for some practice.  Its a 1-4 hour drive, depending on who you ask, and is mostly along an unsealed road.  I bet we get stuck behind Brian Wilson like we did on the way home today - someone needs to teach that boy how to drive downhill!

Next post will be the parent/paddler competition, although it might not be today as it takes a long time to upload the pics from this connection.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One day to go on the Mersey

Tomorrow will be World Cup #3, a short Classic on the Lower Upper Mersey Course.  It will be the end of our time at Silver Ridge retreat, where we will have been staying for 8 days.  It is a great site - the cabins are very comfortable and the setting is idyllic.  There is a platypus in the dam next to the site office, and night walks by the owner allow you access to possum and wallaby.  Quite a few of the teams are staying here - the Slovenian and Austrian "Family" is next door, the French are up above and Sydney paddlers Sean, Mad Brian and Liz Wilson are down below.  The Wilson's hosted us for a true Aussie "Barbie" last night, complete with pavlova for dessert.  I was at the end of my antibiotic regime, so I managed to steal one of Brian's beers.  Our drive to the river takes about half an hour over a large mountain pass - it is a classic drive and we stopped to get some pics on the way home to remember how stunning it is here.

We were back on the river today, trying to work out the pacing for such a short classic.  It is a pretty straightforward course with absolutely no bank access, and a 10 minute paddle out at the bottom.  I'm gonna try to stash a camera at the finish to get some shots of folks finishing.  The Japanese finally turned up today - that might give me one of two more folks to beat, but I don't ant to speak to soon.  It does mean that I will be racing a guy called Yoda - makes me feel like a Sith Lord if I beat him.  That will make one of my students who put me on the acknowledgements of his talks as a Sith Lord pretty happy.  Hopefully I'll have some good pics tomorrow - in the meantime I posted a lot of pics to my facebook page.  I'll also work on getting pics for the "Mum/Dad vs Aussie paddler" competition tomorrow.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tassie Wildlife

The organizers of th World Cup 2009 have laid on a number of "social functions" in addition to the race program.  Today a bunch of competitors, coaches etc visited the Trowunna Wildlife park in Mole Creek.  It was a very cool experience, and we all got to hold a young Wombat, an older Wombat (the difference is pretty big!), to pat a Tasmanian Devil (holding those might get a bit painful) see some native eagles etc and witness kangaroos chasing each other around in what looked like a bizarre foursome mating ritual.  On of the coolest things was watching hulking athletes like Italy Mariano Bifano transform into gentle giants when holding the baby Wombat.  I missed a pic of Mariano, but here is the Brit Jon Schofield.

We also learned lots about the animals, such as the viral cancer that is wiping out Tassie Devils, the fact they can smell for over 5km, and the fact that Wombats can stop on a dime, turning the large bone plate in their butt into a weapon that can stun anything chasing them as it runs into them!  Overall a very cool time.

I also practiced on the Lower Upper Mersey course for the first time today (I know, its confusing isn't it).  The course is pretty straightforward, some waves but not a lot more, and is very short - winning K1M may be less than 7 mins 20 sec.  I did a few runs with Tom, trading off lines, and I think e have it dialed in.  I'm feeling better and better, and will hopefully do a good performance on Wednesday, the next race.  I'll try to get some pics of folks paddling up before then.  Also coming,  competition to match the Aussie paddler to his/her mother, with a World Cup T-shirt as a prize.  Aussie residents need not apply....

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Opening Ceremony (Fire and Small Kids - a perfect combination)

I forgot to post about this, and I'll try to add photos later.  But the opening ceremony in Deloraine was pretty cool, with Aboriginal dancing and kids paddling boats representing our countries on the Meander River through town.  But the highlight was the display of fire handling from school kids - swinging pots of fire around their heads, juggling fire sticks, walking on stilts with them, brushing them off of their bodies and my particular favorite, clap push ups over a jump rope that was on fire.  I think the organizers would be in court for some time for this in the States, but it was a very cool display and really impressed a lot of folks.  I didn't get a chance to congratulate the kids doing the display afterwards, but I thought I would put it in print (well, on the web anyways) - nice!