Friday, January 10, 2014

Thank you, good bye and hello

2013 was definitely one of the most intense years in both my still young career as an athlete as well as my studies (being in my last year of the master programme). A big dream had died, but another one rised,  now giving me huge motivation to fire it up. Full of changes, and adventures, and I even got some more creeking in. Not enough, of course! I can’t get no satisfaction, and for next year, I have some ideas to fix that issue ;)

Whitewater sprint world Championships Solkan 2013

In the cold months of winter, slalom training was full on! I had completed a season of great achievements racing three slalom world cups in C1. However, this still wasn’t the feeling, I wanted more, so I trained as hard as I could, eager to go big in 2013. I wanted to make a dream of a lifetime reality: the canoe slalom world championships. By  the end of the winter, I felt better in my boat than ever before. However, life had different plans.
I screwed up the first race of the season, but didn’t worry too much. Dealing with the mental game in a slalom race had never been easy for me, but I was still confident I would adjust to this very special pressure in time for the team selections. But for some reason, it only became worse and worse. I failed every run and missed the team.
The work, dreams and hopes of months and months literally were washed down the river. Leaving me sittin’ by the shore, watching the others celebrate their victories and wondering what I should do now. I finally came to the conclusion that racing maybe wasn’t meant to be my thing and decided to concentrate more on creek boating. The previous year, Canadian Trading had made me a teamrider, giving me an open boat which made me discover a new dimension of creek boating I really loved. Plus the open canoe community has strong bonds around the world and I got invited to come to the famous Ain’t Louie Fest in Tennessee in march. 10 days of the most awesome creeking I had ever experienced in my life, plus becoming friends with some of the most amazing people in the world. The way the US open canoe scene welcomed me with their warmth and friendship was incredible. Never before had I felt such a spirit.
photo by Nathan Zumwalt

photo by Dale Briggs

photo by Colin Moneypenny

photo by Dale Briggs
That’s what I was thinkin back to, when I decided to stop racing and finally become a pure-blood creek boater. And it was just for fun that I took part in the downriver team selections two weeks after my slalom disaster. I had an old, wrecked downriver C1 that was nearly falling apart and took on water so quickly I could finish one run down the course before being so full I would lose control over the boat. Hopeless and beyond repair, but good enough to mess around a little. Unlike the cramped faces at slalom races, I saw smiling  people and some even cheered for me during my runs, even though they didn’t know who I was. I did somewhat well, and there hadn’t been many C1 girls, still they were looking for someone to complete the team for the world championships. I hadn’t even finished drying my tears when I suddenly found myself  being a member of the german downriver racing team.
I could hardly believe how lucky things had turned out, but for once life had brought up not just questions, but a useful answer, which I really loved. The following weeks were intense! I was already being in the last year of my studies, running for a masters degree in engineering. Apart from exams and all sorts of essays to complete, I was the team leader for a big study project that included the geometrical and structural design plus manufacturing of a carbon composite race boat.  It’s the most amazing opportunity to work on such a project, combining the two passions of my life – whitewater and engineering – plus being blessed to work with a great team.
the boat being made

the finished project prototype in full Action - photo by Jan Krause

Amazing and intense, time  was short and we hardly slept.  I finished working on the boat one hour before driving off to Solkan/Slovenia to the worlds, writing the project report in between training sessions and after the races.  
The upcoming competitions should show me a new way of life. Of course, racing goes never without various degrees of nervosity. But while the year before the anxiousness had become bigger every race, suddenly there was a new sensation at the start line: fun!

Not to forget the amazing feeling when suddenly you understand how a downriver boat works and it starts gliding, which feels magic and better than flying!
The worlds and the worldcup; too, where despite my little preparation I could even win the classic race, were an outstanding experience. I loved training, I loved racing, and I loved traveling with the team. From the very beginning, I was given the feeling of belonging to the group.
Another good part of downriver racing is that the season finishes early enough to have a few good weeks of summer left to go creeking. So I gladly accepted a friend’s offer to join them on a trip to Norway.
Did I already use the word intense? And massive? We arrived up north mid-august, and water levels were low. So I was told, with the low levels, I should not worry, this would be easy. That was all I could hear, looking at this massive rapid ahead featuring the biggest holes I’d ever seen with my own eyes. How this would look at normal flow, I didn’t even dare to ask. If a river wasn’t big, it was steep instead. Some rivers, I didn’t even look at. It was two weeks of constantly being scared. If you’re a solid class V paddler, you’ll have tons of craic in Norway. If you’re below this skill level – I was not too experienced in running class IV stuff – you’ll have a somewhat exciting time and walk a few, too. Though, this was fun! And another great chance to get some solid creek training in.

A couple weeks later, I got a small car and put in all my belongings to leave my beloved home of A-Town. It was time to start my master thesis, and making true another dream, this would be done in France. I had gotten the chance to work in Toulouse, and hopes were, the old car wouldn’t break down on the 1300 km drive.
Now, I’m enjoying the French way of creeking/life. We may be speaking different languages but in the end, I discovered, paddlers are the same sharing the same passion all over the world. Toulouse is surrounded by various sorts of creeks to enjoy and also offers training facilities in town. I’m looking forward to the upcoming races and creeks – I’ll be ready!

Saturday, September 01, 2012

the inner lion

Bratislava is big, challenging, and fun. Accompagnied with bright sunshine, one of my favourite places sine august last year, when I had been there as a forerunner for a teenscup race. If you want to get anywhere in this water, you have to make sure to constantly push your boat forward. Now this is one of my greatest weaknesses, since I lack a lot of water reading skills to put the right strokes at the right places, but a few lessons I have learned in prague. I applied them to bigger, pushier water wich made training real fun. What was not soo much fun was doing upstream gates on my offside at the big Niagara drop at the end. The eddyline is kind of a stopper, wich is even harder to cross since you arrive there nearly vertical. The kayaks and more skilled C1ers boof off and over the thing, but my abilities don't reach that far yet. Before I figured out - thanks to our coach for helping me doing it – a way to hit it more or less well, I took quite a few hits and nasty rolls in the fast, but shallow water.

Off the water, I was having a real good time! I shared a cabin with the two other german C1 girls and they were, as well as all the friends I knew from previous races, good and fun company. Sometimes I think, that's the best on an international race – meeting all these great people.

I also prepared for the race mentally, trying to figure out how to form nervousness into positive energy and paddle aggressively while being calm and concentrated in the same time. I know it's possible, I had even managed to do it once in Seu. But somehow, though I always prepare my races in the same way and mostly feeling sort of strong at the start, the result are hardly ever of the same, good quality and I could in no way figure out why. I thought like: I must let out my inner lion!

I know how this feels, but somehow during the race I can't get access to this emotion...

Apparently I'm not the only one dealing with this sort of issues, when I read a post of my friends Claire and Mel on facebook, wich said:

Advice of the day: Let out your inner lion!

Yeah, my friends, your are so right! Now you only need to tell me what to do of this lion doesn't feel like leaving his cosy cave....

My lion seems to be an especially lazy lad, it didn't show at all during my qualification heats. On the hardest course I've ever seen, I fought my way down, and I did fight hard. Finishing 10th of 17, and getting one run down without 50 penalties, it wasn't too bad, but it was not a nice performance. I know I can do better.

My semi final wasn't good neither - finishing 13th is ok on paper, and my run could have been worse, but it's nothing to be proud of, and nothing I'm really happy with to be honest. Not my big day, now I have too look ahead and keep on fighting

There are a few more races to do this fall, and many decisions to take and things to learn. Only one thing will happen for sure:

Some day, I'll find a way. I won't let the lion sleep

and finally: pictures

Prague - a hard lesson

After the few days of creeking the Oetz slalom race was scheduled. There's not much to say, just that the race course was hard, and I didn't do a good job this time. There's so much to learn and so much to work on, it will be a long way. As I had it confirmed in Prague. My result, 16th of 24, for my standards not really bad, but my runs were nothing to be proud of neither. It was the mental game that I didn't really master. I'm on my way to get to that point, but obviously it's all baby steps. I don't have pictures, since I had left my camera with our coach in the team's hotel. Since the C1 women category is not financially supported in 2012, I was travelling on my own and slept in the car. I had heard many stories of car robbery, so I considered it too dangerous to leave the camera there.
It sounds strange, having wanted to go to the world cups and now (leaving Seu aside) not really enjoying it. Of course I was not having a bad time, but it was all a bit about being faced with all of my weaknesses there wich never feels nice. It is necessary to progress, but the moment you have to do it it's not exactly a piece of cake, especially when it's about one of those things that matter to you most

here's pictures and results

on the road again

finally, university and other obligations could be put aside for a few days. A friend of mine and me shared a car to Lienz, where we met an old ECBA veteran, Niels from Belgium, and we took him for his first class 4 ride on Isel and Defereggenbach. Good company, sunshine and great rivers, what else could one wish for? After the day, Niels continued to the Soca valley to meet some other open boaters, while we stayed in the Isel valley, enjoying the company of three other german boys who we were lucky to meet and who proved to perfectly match our river profiles. Often, I have trouble finding buddys to ride with on the rivers I'd like to go for. They either are still beginners not yet ready for some of the challenges I'd like to encounter. Or they are highly skilled hardcore whitewater warriors, paddling one or two levels above of what I am capable of. And the ones who are on the same levels or willing to back down to paddle with me mostly are busy when I get a chance to ride. Don't get me wrong, I don't look down on lesser skilled ones, but if I want to progress (and yes, I do want to do so), I also need to touch and cross the boundaries of my comfort zone, and this doesn't happen on a class 2 river anymore.

It doesn't happen every day that you can hit the water at the right levels, a good crew – and this time, we were really lucky. Another sunny day, after scouting a section that finally seemed too dangerous, we went for the waterfall section of the Defereggenbach.

The river guide said it to be a class 3-4 river, with two waterfalls. I didn't feel like going big that day, but the waterfalls were described as portageable – and carry my boat I did first. But what I saw from above made my mood change. The boys had decided to run the falls both, and they made such a good spirit fill the air, that I pulled my boat back to the river and ran them as well. Successfully. My first rapid ever in this level of whitewater. Another milestone had been passed, giving me the strength for challenges laying ahead.


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

I'm late with my posts - I was really busy getting the final steps of my bachelor's thesis finished before heading off to South of France for a CVA summer school at French Air Force Academy. However, the races were just as exciting as I had thought. Friday afternoon, time to fight! I was super excited before my run. You don't get the chance to race a world cup event every day, so if you have it, you definitely don't wanna screw it up! A last few kind words from our coach helped to lift my mood a little, then it was time to take off. Somehow I managed to direct the nervosity into positive energy and pulled down a really good run for my standards, ending up 10th after the first of the qualification heats. For the second run, I had wanted to do even better, but obviously, wanting it too badly is not a good base, I had a chaotic run, but hey, at least a funny picture came out of it!

It put me one place behind at 11th position, but since all of the 17 girls were headed on into semifinals, it didn't matter. The next day again, I was extremely nervous. But this time it didn't go so well. As I said, wanting it too badly mostly doesn't help. At the end I missed the finals by about 3 seconds and finished 12th. This is a good result for me, though I am not too happy with it. In the semifinal run, I paddled hectically, not bringing the boat onto a line, touching many gates and buzzing around instead of staying calm and concentrated to control my race with strong, vigorous strokes. I had not mastered the psychic game, wich doesn't feel good when you know you can actally do it. Still, I can pull something good from it. These races have shown me what I am capable of and also what and how - I had a long and good talk with our coach afterwards - I need to work on. In the end, it was a great experience after all. I have learned a lot, had lot's of fun and even made new friends, wich is for sure helpful to progress as well, the one or the other way.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Now, I've spent quite a few days here in La Seu d'Urgell (a stunningly beautiful place), training was all well. Spanish weather kept it's promises so far, it's warm, nice, friendly people,flower's smell in the air and the most delicious fruit you can think of .

The course looks easy, but it's incredibly hard to keep the boat gliding and moving smoothly on this water. Took me a while to get into it, but the last training sessions felt quite good, so I'm fired up for the races. My greatest goal at the moment would be to make the final, wich is pretty hard looking at the high levels the girls got going internationally! I'll give my best and see how it goes....

Friday, June 15, 2012

2012 - a new story

There was not much activity in the last few is busy and and the few minutes off I rather spend surfing the river, not the web ;) While last year was not so much of a blast canoeing-wise, 2012 was real savage so far! It definitely was like paddler's fairytale, when I got an e-amil from Markus Schönfelder of Canadian Trading who wanted me as a team rider for his company! Canadian Trading soon provided me with an Esquif Prelude, wich turned my long-time dream of becoming an open boater suddenly a cool is that! A few weeks later, I successfully ran trough team selections for canoe slalom world cups, I'm in again and another dream came true, getting the opportunity to race at the real big events internationally. I'm curious what more adventures this year will bring......stay tuned and follow my way to the world cup races, for sure there will be at least some ace photographs to see.

Being used to tiny fast slalom boats, open boating proves a slightly different story. But a good story! The Prelude demands time to get used to it - but gives it all back by being a strong, reliable and also fun partner on any kind of whitewater, especially when the pace of the game is stepped up.
Fitting it was fun since the boat barely fit in my room 

After the maiden voyage in the snow on easy waters, and regularly getting used to the boat on my home course, my new partner was soon about to enter the jucier rides. Strubbach, a river I had longed for for ages but never hat seen the right water levels, I could finally hit. What a ride! Fast, steep, fun! Not too easy for me, but the dirty bitch, as we now call the Prelude, did it's job very well! Though I have to admit, it's great secondary stability saved my butt quite a few times ;)

The next adventure followed last weekend, when we went for the Lofer region again. Heavy rainfalls had supplied the Weißbach, a creek you find seldom running, mostly dry, with water. There you go! Pretty exciting, I can say. My technique and boof stroke still need some work, but it was a savage run with no problems at all.
In a few days, the next journey is going to start - my first international competition out of germany!